Category Archives: Experiencing Life

6 Reasons to Try Slow Travel

Last week, my family and I headed off to Canada for a long-awaited and much needed holiday.

Truth is, the last few months of 2014 have been intense and I’m feeling more than a little burnt out. I had great intentions of pre-scheduling posts over the Christmas period, but at some point I had to decide between sleep and work, and sleep won. Besides, running myself in to the ground is pretty much the opposite of slow living isn’t it? So I thought I’d better walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

After over a week offline and without so much as a word written, I’m feeling good. In fact I’m feeling more positive than I have in months – the passion, the excitement and the drive are back and I’m excited to see what the New Year brings. I guess sometimes all we need is to take a few steps back in order to see the bigger picture.

So while my family and I are still on holidays and will be until late January (and I will be mostly offline for that time – checking in very sporadically) I have some new posts scheduled between now and January 1. After that I have a 26-part series due to go out once a day until I return on January 28.

I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy a safe and happy New Year.

For us, this trip is all about slow.

Slow travel – to us, at least – is simply saying no. No to rushing. No to cramming. No to endless touring. No to nameless museums and galleries that are simply an item on a to-do list, a photo on a memory card, a thing we can say, “Yep, did that. What’s next?”

We’ve been looking forward to this trip for over a year, and will be away from home for just over a month. And what’s been interesting is the number of people who have asked if we’ll be touring around a lot, considering the length of our holiday. Aside from a detour to Disneyland on the way home (I know, I know, it’s the antithesis of simple living, but our kids are 4 and 5 – what are you gonna do?) we’re staying in one place the entire time.

And while it’s occasionally tempting to try and cram as many destinations, tours, sights, museums and galleries into our time, it’s really not appealing to us. Instead, we prefer to view our holidays through the lens of slow: quality over quantity and depth over breadth.

I know many people see that as a lost opportunity but we don’t see travel as a reason to be on the move constantly. Rather it’s an opportunity to reconnect, relax and spend time together as a family – time that doesn’t involve endless early mornings, transfers and airports. Neither Sparky nor I find that in the slightest bit relaxing, so it was a no-brainer to stay in the one place.

Besides, spending a month in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies is hardly a chore, you know?

I also think the desire to cram as much as possible in to a holiday has something to do with fear – fear that we will miss out on Something Amazing. Fear that we won’t get to see all the sights we want to see. Fear that we won’t get the chance to tick off every bucket list item. Fear that someone else’s experiences might be more impressive.

And I get that. I really do. But the reality is none of us will see every sight, every wonder, every monument, every ocean, every pyramid, every festival, every tribe, every mountain, every village, every church. Even if you started travelling now and didn’t stop until the day you died, you wouldn’t see it all.

So isn’t it better to see – and I mean really see – one or two places? To get amongst locals? To play where they play? To eat where they eat? To gain a better understanding of different people, places and cultures?

Slow travel helps us have:

  • deeper experiences
  • a better understanding of the places we visit
  • a less touristy experience
  • a more restful holiday
  • more time for experiences
  • less time travelling

Take today for example. I’ve spent the morning writing in the library and am about to walk in to town and have a coffee and some lunch. I might take the long way back, through the woods (although I might not, considering it’s -10C) and when I get back to our apartment we will probably watch a movie together.

 

To some this probably sounds like a wasted opportunity (think of the sights we could have been seeing! the tours we could have been doing!) but to us it’s what makes a trip worthwhile. I feel part of a community when we travel like this. I’m more prone to talking to strangers. More likely to discover a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. More inclined to have an afternoon nap and a glass of wine before dinner.

 

It’s more of the good stuff and less of the stress. Life, but simpler.

 

 

Instagram or it didn’t happen.

Instagram or it didn't happen

We’ve just come home from a quick, lovely weekend away.

Sparky and I are in the midst of a really busy period, the kids have just finished pre-school for the term, and life has been feeling very un-slow lately. Without sounding too much like the personification of a First World Problem, it was a break we were very grateful to have.

On Sunday morning we headed to the beach despite the fact that it was grey and cold and windy. Personally, I was keen to sit inside and drink coffee, but the kids have been itching to get their feet in the sand since winter began, so we walked down to the water anyway.

It was so beautiful. The ocean was all steel greys and navy blues, with crests of white and turquoise as the waves broke on the sandbars. The sky was gunmetal. The sand was a cold yellow. I sat up on the dunes and watched little flashes of red and pink as Sparky played with the kids on the waters edge. Yes, I’m waxing poetic, but damn it was gorgeous.

As I sat and watched them play and squeal and chase each other through the water, I was hit full-force by ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Love. Terror. Peace. Gratitude. Incompetence. Pride. Completion. Vulnerability. Sadness. Joy.

Bam! Right in the kisser.

—-

Did I mention it was beautiful?

It was an unrelentingly photographable moment. A moment you want to wrap up and preserve and revisit on those days when there’s chalk ground in to the carpet and the kids have taken more than you have to give and there’s nothing in the fridge apart from leftover Chinese from last Friday. And it’s Thursday.

But I didn’t have a camera. And I didn’t have a phone.

I had my eyes. I had my heart. I had my brain.

So instead of worrying about the angle, or trying to get the best capture of the moment, I simply sat and watched my heart run around outside my body and I soaked the moment up and tucked it all away in my temporal cortex.

I didn’t Instagram it, yet it still happened.

I guess the question is, had I taken a photo of this moment, would it have made such an impact? Would I have felt it so deeply?

I don’t think I could have. I felt all the feelings because I was completely present.

A photo would have been gorgeous, I have no doubt. I might have had other emotions and recollections when I went back and looked at the camera roll, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

The irony of writing about this moment on my blog is not lost on me. But now I’m going to level with you.

I love Instagram and I’m quite fond of most social media. (Except FourSquare. It’s creepy.) I regularly capture snippets of my day-to-day life, things like kids, pets, gardens, sunsets and coffees. I love documenting sweet moments in my day, and sometimes I love sharing them with others.

But not always.

I believe some photos just need to be for you. No sharing. No likes. No comments. Just documenting a little moment and revisiting it on those days that seem like too much hard work.

And even more importantly, I believe some moments just need to be revelled in. No camera. No agenda. Just eyes and heart and brain.

Trying to capture the essence of these moments in a photograph does a disservice to the people we share them with, and it does a disservice to our memories.

So this week I’m challenging myself, and you if you’re up for it, to go and make memories. Real, skin and dirt and laughter memories. Don’t be afraid that you won’t remember those moments without a photo. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But in the doing, you will be living, not just observing.

For me, that’s real life. Right there.

 

(*And for anyone curious, the photo above was taken months ago. Same weather, different day.)

 

Facing up to fear

Facing up to fear

This weekend I did something that absolutely terrified me.

At the Problogger event I stood in front of a roomful of (mostly) strangers and spoke to them for an hour. By myself.

As I watched them file in to the room and take their seats, I realised I had nothing and no-one to hide behind. It was me, my words, my ideas, some slides on a screen and about 300 eyes.

After 6 months of preparing and 284 potential excuses to not do this, I was doing it.

So I took the stage, got my notes prepared and just started.

(Can I preface this by saying that I am a blusher. I get red when I'm nervous. Then I know I'm getting red so I get more nervous. I then get flustered because I know I'm nervous and I'm red.)

I was nervous. I went red. My voice wavered as I began to speak. But I was doing it.

And as I continued doing it, the nerves disappeared just a little. People were interested, they were taking notes and no-one stood up and pointed at me, shrieking, “She has no right to be here!”

Which, of course, they wouldn't. But that didn't stop me from fearing it.

When I finished, people clapped. Someone made a joke about drinking vodka. I laughed and thought, “No. Seriously. Where is it?”

I won't lie. I was utterly overcome with emotion at having done this thing I was so scared of. I was initially terrified, then it started and it finished and I found myself crying weird adrenaline-fuelled tears when it was over and I had retreated to the bathroom.

But after all that, I was proud.

At any one point, the fear could have stopped me. It could have caused me to give one of those 284 excuses and opt out. But I didn't. Instead, I actually faced up and did the thing I was fearing the most. And I've grown as a result.

Recognise, feel and do.

You've no doubt heard the saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Yes, it's cliche. Yes, it over-simplifies. (If you come face to face with a bear while hiking, I'd personally suggest you feel the fear and get the hell out of Dodge.) But it also applies to a lot of those fears that hold us back.

You know those fears? They're insidious, internal fears that tell us we're not good enough. They sneer at our dreams. They make us doubt ourselves and our abilities. Those particular fears deserved to be brought out into the light, examined and then cast aside.

Much like any emotion or reaction that tries to hold us back – be it anxiety, cravings or something else – I think we need to recognise our fears, examine them, feel them and continue on our intended path anyway.

You can still:

  • Feel the emotional pull of decluttering sentimental stuff, but don't let it stop you from simplifying.
  • Feel the desire to stay in bed, but don't let it stop you from getting up and going for a run.
  • Feel the need to buy clothes to keep up with fashion, but don't let it stop you from living a more mindful, less materialistic life.
  • Feel the hankering to watch another hour of TV, but don't let it stop you from getting 7 hours sleep.
  • Feel the cravings for junk food, but don't let it stop you from eating well.
  • Feel the anxiety of trying something new, but don't let it stop you from moving forward.

Have you allowed yourself to really feel or do something uncomfortable? How did you react? Did you try to run away? Did you ignore the feelings? Or did you meet them head-on?

 

One Little Spark

Robin Williams

This probably isn’t the first post you’ve read about the passing of Robin Williams, and my guess is it won’t be the last. But it will be the first and last you read here.

I’m not one for celebrity and apart from Princess Diana, I don’t think I’ve ever cried at the passing of a famous person, no matter how much I enjoyed their films/music/art.

Until today.

When I heard about Robin Williams’ death, I spent 20 minutes scrolling through news and social media sites, fixed my kids some morning tea, closed the door to my office and I cried my eyes out.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why for the better part of the day, and I’m still not sure.

I think part of it is my own experience with depression and the fact that I’m in a bit of a down phase. But there’s also just an acute sadness that a brilliant spark has gone out.

I don’t know of anyone my age who grew up without regular viewings of Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire or Hook. (“Ru-fi-ooooooooooo!”) At the heart of these movies, and many others, was a playfulness and the desire to stay in a childlike joy. The underlying message: “Don’t take things too seriously, whatever you do.”

There will be much talk about mental health today, as a result of this great actor’s apparent suicide, and I hope with all my heart that these discussions help tear down the walls of stigma and silence that surround depression and other mental illnesses. God knows they need to come down, too many people are going under.

But maybe we can keep space for that childlike joy too. The mischievous grin, the glee in a well-placed one-liner, the joy of a middle-aged man dressed up as an elderly lady, the unbridled delight in a Neverland food fight.

After all, as Peter Benning put it at the end of Hook:

To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

When we can, I think we should live that adventure with as much childlike joy as we can.

there you are, peter.

RIP, Robin Williams.

How to Be An Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences

How to be an Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences

I am firmly introverted. I’m not shy necessarily (I used to get the two confused, but they are very different things) but I find the idea of a room filled with strangers both exciting and exhausting. I love my alone time. I also love talking to new people about things we are passionate about. I am happy and content with these opposing elements of me.

There are times, however, where being an introvert can be challenging:

  • Going to a party solo. (How do I get involved? What if I look like a loser, sitting by myself? What if no-one wants to talk to me?)
  • Turning up to a networking event alone. (Small talk, strangers, awkward introductions. Exhausting.)
  • Attending a conference without knowing anyone. (These people all know each other. They don’t need to talk to me. Argh!)

Over the past few years I’ve been to a number of networking events, parties and conferences on my own, and the experiences – while terrifying at the time – have been phenomenal.

The first time I went to an event solo I hid in the toilets for half an hour, trying to work up the courage to mingle in a room full of strangers.

How to be an introvert and still succeed at conferences

But eventually I bit the bullet, applied my lipstick and faked the fact that I was confident, until I actually did feel confident. I met wonderful people, learned a lot and may have ended up sharing a few (too many) cocktails late in the evening.

How to be an Introvert and Still Succeed at Conferences:

1. Body Language Matters:

  • Be open – don’t stand in the corner with your arms crossed, eyes cast down.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Smile readily, at lots of people.
  • If you feel awkward, hold a drink in your hand and wander the room.

2. Speak Up:

  • Say hello. (What’s the worst that could happen? The person ignores you? So what – that’s their loss. You’re awesome and they miss out on your company.)
  • People attend these events to connect with new people. So take a breath and introduce yourself. Ask them questions about their website/company/blog.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone you recognise/hero worship.
  • If you run out of things to say, simply ask questions about the person you’re speaking to. Married? Single? Kids? Pets? Travelled to be here?

3. Ignore Your Inner Mean Girl

  • Despite what your inner-critic may be screaming at you, you are not the only person in the room who has arrived alone. There are likely many others in exactly the same situation. If you see someone standing alone, go up and say hello.
  • You are interesting.
  • You are there – which is fabulous. Do you know how many people were too afraid to even take this step?

4. Be Yourself:

  • Not everyone you meet will be your new best friend – and that is perfectly OK.
  • Be open, be confident in who you are and what you do and expect others to do the same.

5. Be Prepared:

  • If applicable, bring business cards along. They are a great ice-breaker/conversation booster.
  • Have a brief description of your blog/job/company/website/book prepared for the inevitable question of, “And what do you do?” Resist the urge to spew this out robotically though – people don’t want to be pitched at. (Check out this episode of the Fizzle Show for a great how-to on creating the perfect elevator pitch.)
  • Have some go-to topics in mind for when conversations slow down. If all else fails talk about the sessions you’re attending.
  • When a conversation moves to its conclusion, just excuse yourself. No-one expects that you’ll be talking exclusively to them the entire day.

And that is how I didn’t fail miserably at my first conference. I didn’t have a group of friends to rely on, and the whole experience was actually better for it.

{ Images: via Gemma Correll on Medium + INFP problems }

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