Going home after a long time…

going home after long trip

I am going home after a long time

As you are reading this, I’m finally boarding the plane that will take me home to Italy. If I planned everything really well and there haven’t been any delays, in this exact moment, I should be taking off from Bangkok and toward Myanmar, India, UAE, Germany and eventually, home. I am finally sitting on board that same plane that I’ve already cancelled and postponed 3 times. It’s bittersweet, I’m still shit at saying goodbyes to old friends, new road friends and places, despite the millions I’ve already said in the last few months. But it is time.

I’ve finally accomplished all the things I wanted to do during this long solo journey and this chapter of my life is now completed. In the best way possible in fact. I could not ask for more since the main goal has been achieved. That is becoming a calmer, wiser, slower, finest, better version of myself. The world and its beautiful people have shaped that little, scared, lonely “girl” that was desperately crying at the airport in Istanbul in September 2015. That  girl does not exist anymore and she has been replaced by a stronger, fulfilled, empowered woman who loves herself and the world around. I can travel alone. I can travel alone for twenty months (and counting). And not only I can, I LOVE travelling solo! In fact travelling solo is THE BEST and nothing compares to it.

I am ready to go home also because I’ve managed to achieve my second, accidental goal. After so much struggle and hustle, doubts and failures, today and for the past few months, I am standing tall on the tiny successes of my location independent lifestyle and since it’s been exactly 12 months that I’ve been able to travel only with the income made on the road, I can finally call myself a real digital nomad and for thsis I stick a little invisible DN badge on my chest. YAY!! I made it. I freaking made it.

The journey has been incredible and so powerful and so amazing and especially humbling. The places and people I’ve met made me the person I am today. And I gotta be honest with you, I’m having a massive crush on me right now 😍. Like my first real self love in 32 years, mate.

As I have learnt so much about myself, I realised that I was more scared of the known than the unknown. I realised that the fear that normally entangles people to stay in normal lives was what boosted and fuelled my trip. Where others remain stuck in the intricated world of doubts, fears, insecurities, I took advantage of them and decided to shape new opportunities just for myself.

And I forgave myself. I realised that all the things I did, I said, I wanted were necessary. Every single little thing. Finally, I looked up to the mirror, deep into my big brown eyes  and while hugging my naked self, I said the words: “you are forgiven”. Because in life, sometimes, you can prepare yourself, but you cannot predict what life throws at you and you can’t blame yourself for wanting more, for having bigger dreams, expectations, love for life, for loving the unexpected more than the expected, for loving freedom more than boredom. You can just be you. And I can just be me.

And I am finally ready to go home 

In the past 20 months, I have had some of the most incredible experiences of my life, I have slept in the middle of  deserts, I climbed on top of mountains, volcanos and rocks, I’ve swum with turtles, dolphins, sea lions and clown fish, I have seen countless sunrises and sunsets, I have slept in 543875426043 hostels, campgrounds, luxury hotels and in my tiny tent on the side of many Aussie roads. I have been blessed by incredible people, my time was wasted by a couple of assholes too (hello, f***ing German mechanic in Cairns!!).

I’m scared but also excited for everything that lies in front of me during this Italian summer that I’ve been dreaming for a while. I am mentally getting ready to be overwhelmed with emotions, smells and tastes. I am already physically ready to welcome all those familiar hugs, kisses and strokes I’ve been missing for so long.

649 days.

20 months.

13 countries.

4 continents.

25 flights.

15 trains.

43 buses.

6 cars.

35 scooters.

3 bicycles.

1 camel.

Everything is exactly as it is meant to be

During all this time, I have planned little, the few plans I had were normally cancelled, postponed or changed. My return couldn’t have been any different. During my journey around the world, I always tried to get off the beaten track, often missing the must-see, must-dos, must-bes. Some days I was plain lazy, others too busy with work, others too sad to leave my bed, some days I was filled with such an intense joy that I thought my heart would explode. On this trip, I learnt what pure happiness means. I was blessed by it when I was staring at the Taj Mahal while the sun rose on the horizon and my incredible friend, Prabu took the beautiful photo that symbolises my trip.

I was overwhelmed with true joy when surfing for the first time in Sydney, but also when I was lying naked and alone on a beach in Western Australia or when I hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, danced the traditional dances in Fiji and Samoa, when I first tried Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, when I relaxed tubing in Laos, or while seeing my business blossom naturally and effortlessly after so many stops and failures. I was happy surfing again in Canggu, hugging a dear friend on top of the rice fields in Ubud, or while talking about love and commitment with a long-lasting stable couple or when I realised that perfect love does not exist and we are human with another favourite couple I am lucky to call my friends. And I was happy to discover that life is all this. It’s made of little, brief moments when everything is exactly as it’s meant to be and nothing, absolutely nothing, could be any better.

Because everything is already perfect. It is as it is meant to be.

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Am I ready to go home?

Of course not. I thought I would by now, but the thing is that no one ever feels completely ready when the moment to board that last plane comes. Surely no one who has the bad habit of setting super high expectations for themselves. And I’m guilty of that, of course. Nobody feels as changed as they had planned to be when they firstly left home. Personally, I don’t know if I have truly changed or if my current conditions and mindset make me act as a different person to whom I was before. What I do know now, and I know it really well, is what freedom tastes like. And it tastes like sea water and honey, watermelon and chilli. And it tastes like Life.

During my journey, I also learnt the meaning of losing everything. Of feeling lost and really alone. Of not knowing who you are or what do you belong to. But the most important lesson of the entire trip was that Another Life is Possible. If you really lose everything, if you don’t have anything else to lose, then you gotta start all over and build something new, something amazing just for yourself. And believe that you can

I am scared. 

I know I’ve lived as much as I could. Not by ticking off things off of a list, I’ve only been to 13 countries in 20 months, but by embracing the people and the world around me. By letting it go under my skin, day by day, person by person.
I am not going home only after 20 months of travel around the world, I am going home exactly after 10 years of living abroad and away from my family and friends.

It’s freaking scary. It’s overwhelming and is frightening and exciting. As I walk down into the tunnel to the plane, there are thousands of emotion exploding inside me. While I was packing Frank (my big backpack), one more time, I had tears in my eyes. Today, I learnt to welcome all these emotions as I know they are all part of the journey, they are all part of life. And I also know that soon enough I will be going back to the other home I’ve created for myself. The one up there in the sky. Or on the road. Because I feel home everywhere. The world is my home. Because my home is everywhere and anywhere I have been. But also where I haven’t been yet.

They say home is where the heart is

But my heart is wild and free

So am I homeless or just heartless

Did I start this, did it start me

They say fear is for the brave

For cowards never stare it in the eye

So am I fearless to be fearful

Does it take courage to learn how to cry

So many winding roads

So many miles to go

(Passenger)

I am always gonna be fine

But as I went through security, as I got another exit stamp on my passport, as I am sitting on this plane, I feel stronger. Stronger than ever. Because the road taught me that I will be fine. I will be fine always and everywhere. Nothing can break me because nothing was fixed to start with. The truth is that not only I found myself. But I found that little, permanent home, just inside myself. The perfect place to rest after a long day, the cosy home I made for me only. In a world where nothing is permanent, constant, I learnt that I AM my own constant element in the equation of life.

Only me on both side of the equal sign. And it’s more than enough.

going home after a long time

Embrace Life as it comes

It’s impossible to know what might happen next. Or why. What this situation will bring to you. Or which way you will take when faced with a big decision. Why some things will be destroyed. What makes some other blossom, die or change. How people get sick, change or leave. How people can love you, make promises, break them, break your heart. Live without you. Forget you. It’s impossible to explain why children die while the sun still rises every morning. It is impossible to understand. But it is unavoidable.

It took me 5 years, 1 month and 2 days to become the person I dreamed to become. To fully transform the little girl I once was into the woman I imagined I could be. I aspired to be. I ought to be. It took so much out of me. It broke me into a million little pieces, but they say that sometimes you need to smash a crumbling house in order to build a stronger one. And so I did.

Set fire to your boats

I set fire to the boats of my safe life, I scratched my title and experiences, I chose freedom while fear, hustles and struggles were burning all around me. And I fell. Oh gosh, I fell so deep. I burnt myself too.

I felt more alone than ever. It was like I was the only person remained in the universe. But that was ok too. Because alone was what I needed. What I wanted and because by learning to be alone I became much stronger, so much wider, so much better.

I no longer beg for attention, for love. I no longer need love to fix me. The waves crashing on the beach, the birds singing, the clouds moving above my head, a familiar tune in the background, a smile of a stranger, my own smile. All of this are enough. They are more than enough, they are everything.

They are everything.

My life, my wonderful life, like all lives, so impermanent, so imperfect, so fragile, yet so powerful, so mesmerising, so scary. So remarkable. So mine.

going home after long time

Live life to the fullest.

Exit your comfort zone. Feel uncomfortable, feel scared. Do something on your own. Miss your friends. Feel lonely. Eat the food you’re not used to. Pack your backpack, sweat. Sleep on bunk beds. Sleep in the middle of the desert. Don’t sleep and party all night. Rise early. And feel strong, feel connected. Lose yourself. Lose everything. Just let it be. Breath. Look at a beautiful sunset on the other side of the world. And feel at home wherever you are. Feel that you are exactly where you need to be in this moment. Live in the present, forget the past, don’t stress about the future. They do not exist. Be. Here. Now.

Make it remarkable. 

So yes, after these last 20 months exploring the world, exploring myself, loving the world, loving myself, I am ready to go home. I am ready to go home after a long time.

 

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going home after a long time

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Dear Fellow Traveller, it’s ok to feel sad while travelling

sad while travelling

Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the longest teak bridge in the world in Mandalay, Myanmar where I had a deep and intense conversation with a friend who felt lost and sad while travelling. Last week, chilling and watching a sunset on a beach here in Canggu I had a similar conversation with another friend who was also overwhelmed by sadness as an early departure had to cut her trip short. I, personally, have cried more frequently in the past 19 months on the road than in my entire life.

What’s wrong with me?

Sadness while travelling can seem illegal and dishonest because you are not supposed to be sad while travelling. For a long time on this trip, I thought I was done. I thought I had to give up because sadness and depression had taken over the joy of altogether. I knew I was ruining my once-in-a-lifetime experience but the truth is that I will always thank my ex for that. My reaction, my heartbreak, my deep fall in the hole was simply normal and I cannot blame myself too much.

Being sad while travelling sucks. And it sucks, even more, when all the people around you think you have no right to be sad. But don’t worry, accept that strangers – but also some friends – have no clue about travelling long term and they are talking without any direct experience.

If you aren’t on a two-week holiday in Australia, Malaysia or Samoa, yes, you might want to push back any feeling of sadness for a later date. But when the road becomes your home, you are a digital nomad and your lifestyle is full-time travelling like mine, then life happens wherever you are. And emotions and feelings follow.

The world does not stop when you travel. Nor does life around you.

In the year and a half, since I have started travelling, several tragic events have happened in my family and life and I was alone at the other side of the world to cope with them. Often hugging myself to bed crying and without anyone to hold me tight. Two of my uncles died, my sister got diagnosed and cured of cancer, she also got a divorce, I got cheated on and dumped by my ex [all without a face-to-face meeting after a 4.5 yrs relationship WTF] and only a few days ago my 10-year old cousin died of brain tumour after 2.5 months since the diagnosis. [we are raising money for the hospice which took so much care of him in his last weeks; if you wish to donate click here].

If family tragedies and heartbreaks aren’t enough, there are also plenty of other things going bad on the road. As I was exploring from country to country, looking for something meaningful to keep me going, I lost my identity. Professionally and personally, I fell into a massive, black hole where I did not know who I was or wanted to be any longer. Facing myself in the mirror became a daily battle because my ego was crushed, my self-confidence smashed and my lack of self-esteem was overwhelming.

I always had so many expectations and goals for myself and suddenly, leaving my public role in society, my title and losing the only thing that kept me connected to my old self just crushed me. I was a lost traveller with no direction and no plans. During the same time, my freelance gigs went from bad to terrible and I soon started losing faith and confidence which were soon replaced by fear and anxiety. Slipping into depression again was certain and before I knew it…

I was stuck in muddy waters

sad while travelling

I had a motorbike accident which could have ended in a much worse way if I was distracted. The last time I checked, my ex – in the usual selfish style – was posting pictures of this new amazing “love” in OUR favourite London spots [WTF 2], completely crushing any sort of respect for me or what we had. Once again, proving what a heartless, calculating and lying narcissist I fell in love with (and wasted SO much time for! WTF3).

As that wasn’t enough, I also bumped into a few shitty clients who decided that I was going to work for them for free, a scam job offer, another client who cut our project (and budget) by 75%. Everything was falling apart. The little things I had built slowly and with so much effort were disappearing day by day. I fell apart.

I fell apart.

I had every right to be sad.

Yet I was still travelling.

And I kept travelling because that became my personal dimension, it is my home and the “place” where I can heal my soul. A year ago I wrote one of my most-read article “No, travelling did not solve my problems ” and today, 9 months later, I’m here to confirm what I wrote there.

No, travelling doesn’t solve problems.

Yes. It’s ok to feel sad while travelling.

Remember that EVERYONE eventually gets sad travelling. It’s unavoidable and probably necessary to get back up and enjoy the rest of the trip with renewed energy and joy because exactly like the roller coasters of life, without the downhill part and the following rise back up, your travel would just be flat and boring. So, I am not telling you to fall into depression, but to feel ok when sadness hits. You are going to be OK.

It is OK to feel sad while travelling, my friend. And you know why? It is important to remember that while we are quite egocentric human beings, the world around us does change. It isn’t static as we’d like to think. The conditions and the people around us take other, unexpected ways. Nothing is permanent. You, me and the world around us. Sadness included. So, when she comes to you next time at night, welcome her in bed, hold her tight, have a little cry together and in the morning dry your tears and tell her to go. Till next time.

The road is waiting. 

James Ferrux – from Joke Writer to Professional Poker Player

remarkable

After the successful first 10 interviews of the series of “They made it remarkable” in Italian and because of a growing demand to translate them to English, I’ve decided to switch to this language from now on and move the future interviews here.

Welcome.

 

*

 

JOB: Poker player and writer
LIFESTYLE: Digital nomad
SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook
AGE: 32
NATIONALITY: French

 

Where are you from?

I was born in France, raised in the Antilles, Cuba, Canada, Asia, and currently still growing in Morocco

Education?

I managed to stand it only until the end of high school. I started working when I was 18.

What did you do in your previous life?

I had many jobs but the last one was joke writer, comedian assistant and baby-sitter.

What do you do today?

I play poker, travel, still write for pleasure and baby-sit myself.

Why did you decide to take the jump?

I had reached a certain goal, an apartment in Paris, a fancy job for a famous TV network, I could buy all the sneakers I wanted each month, had finally that great DVD shelf I had always dreamt of, but I felt like Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean, I didn’t have taste for life anymore, an empty vessel… So I let myself hit rock bottom, I was like in a balloon that cannot stretch anymore, I felt I needed to get out, get some fresh air. When I realized I could get out I punctured my way out, I did it the quick and noisy way!

Did you need to study something new or go back to uni to change your life?

I felt I needed to change my perspective, to take some distance, flip the microscope the other way around. Let everything go, went to Asia for a while to figure out what I would miss, what would survive in me. I understood it was all shitty because of me so I needed to work on myself. I changed my energy, I was not resisting anymore so finally I was able to see and accept the opportunities to try something different. It all started with a “group therapy” kind of thing, where I learned to reposition my ego and then I went on reading, learning meditation, travelling, putting myself first and all that cool stuff…

make remarkable

Since you’ve changed direction, have you ever thought you made a mistake?

Yeah of course, mistakes are like drafts, experiences, tests, try-outs, warm-ups, it’s just a way to learn and improve… It’s what makes great bloopers in movies so they are indispensable. Trying not to beat myself too hard for each one I make is what changed. I repeat to myself the cheesy Zen line

“it’s okay not to be okay”

What were the hardest challenges and tough moments before and after the change?

The toughest if I can call it that is what is still going on today and what has always been, it’s feeling “forced” to explain and justify the way I live, the way I think to friends and relatives and all those who think they know me better than I do. “Why the heck did you leave the herd ??” I seem to read in their eyes. So it’s always the same 20 minutes small talk to finally hear them saying:

“oh you’re probably right, maybe I too should take control of my life and do what I want before I turn into compost…”

And then they go back to their predigested life and talk behind my back like I went completely rogue.

But who cares? I’m happy.

make remarkable

And the biggest satisfactions and achievements?

Becoming a profitable poker player like I planned 10 months ago, being able to leave France for good, living anywhere I want and pretty much doing whatever I want without owing shit to anybody. I am free.

Do you think your new lifestyle is sustainable in the long run?

I completely stopped projecting myself in hypothetical futures, I am right here, right now. Whether it’s poker or something else I’ve managed to make a living so far. You know the saying,

“The bird doesn’t fear the branch he’s lying on breaks, he trusts his wings”.

There’s always a way to make it.

Considering your new life: what is more important education or experience?

To me, education sounds with “educastration”. I wouldn’t trade my years travelling in different cultures, my adventures, my disappointments, my discoveries through experience for any certificate in the world. “Diploma is the deadly enemy of culture” said some famous French guy (Paul Valery).

How important was knowing other languages for your change?

Lucky for me I’ve always loved English and I learned Spanish in Cuba so that covers pretty much a lot. I understand it can be an issue if you can’t communicate, but don’t worry you’ll find a way.

remarkable

How has your life changed since you jumped off of that plane?

Actually, I’ve never taken so many planes since I left the old me. I love to play with my senses and change decor. Everything that happens now is the direct result of my actions, no one else to blame or to thank, that’s what changed.

What would you recommend to people who are hoping to pursue a similar career to yours?

Nothing, just listen to your heart, your guts or whichever organ you like to converse with and go for it.

“Listen to your heart, there’s nothing else you can do. I don’t know where you’re going and I don’t know why, but listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye” – Roxette

Have you read any books, listened to podcasts or watched movies/vlogs that have inspired you to exit the loop?

Yes, a few classics, Eat Pray Love, The Power of Now, The Four Agreements, Liberez votre cerveau by Idriss Aberkane, to learn thinking outside the box, and probably a list of 30 more mystic books that some fellow travellers keep adding titles to…

make remarkable

Would you say your life is remarkable* today?

YES. AND IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING…

 

*remarkable: extraordinary, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvellous, wonderful, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, miraculous, phenomenal, prodigious. HAPPY. 

*


If you are also tired of your life and feel as there must be something more beyond what’s “normal”, join the 
Make It Remarkable revolution on Facebook where we share successes, failures, tips and practical info to leave the cage and CHANGE your life. Yes, Another Life is Possible.

*

NOTE: Yes, the links above are affiliated to Amazon. If you chose to buy the books using them ca 0.00001% of the price goes to support this website.

Lost and Found in the South Pacific – Fiji: from honeymoon destination to singles’ paradise

Disclaimer


This is a personal, heavy and bittersweet post. I recommend you to stop here if you are not into failed relationships, cheating bastards and heartbreaking stories. I don’t often share my personal and most intimate stories here, but today I want to tell you one. Maybe because I still have some dust and detritus on my chest that I want to get rid of, or more likely because I want to tell you that it does get better. If you, like me, have been unlucky enough to fall in love with a selfish, dishonest, horrible person who broke your heart and torn your confidence apart, let me tell you, there is hope. There is always hope. I started writing this post almost two months ago when I was dancing with the devil who kidnapped my personality and self-confidence. I’m publishing this here now, from Chiang Mai, where my heart is healing, my mind is light and that person belongs to a past that I don’t ever want back. There is also loads of swearing and bad words below so readers should be older than…um… 15? Not sure, but if you mind offenses and bad words, then stop here 🙂 thank you and see you next week with my about Samoa! 

*

It’s precisely because of the pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it.  ― Haruki Murakami

As you probably know, I got my heart broken (aka smashed, torn, ripped out and pierced) on November 4th (yes, today  exactly marks the 3rd anniversary, since that horrendous day when my insensitive ex decided to leave me over the phone at 15 thousands km of distance), while I was travelling around New Zealand as a guest of Pure New Zealand. The frick, after four and half years together, didn’t even had the balls to jump on a plane and tell me this in the face. No, the usual spineless human being let the message being carried on a freaking weird and long Whatsapp conversation that went on like this, while where I sobbed and begged, begged and sobbed:

 
I-still-love-you-SO-much.
I think about you every day.
When I have sex I think of you.
I imagine touching your skin and I can still recall exactly the smell of your skin. 
This new person is nothing compared to you. But.
But I wanna see what happen with this new fucking buddy because you are far and hard work for me.
And I am lazy. Fucking lazy.
 

WTF, right?

Redundant to say, that I spent my final weeks in New Zealand crying like a baby, barely eating and knocking myself to sleep with cheap bottles of horrible red wine and tons of sleeping pills passed on by a friend. I had awful thoughts. I had scary intentions. And I fell. Down, down, down that endless hole. Maybe you don’t know I also chopped my hair on a particularly drunken and freaking scary night in Franz Josef when I couldn’t stand my reflection in the mirror any longer.
Yes, my ex left me for someone else, which is the most humiliating and painful thing that can happen in life a relationship.

 

*Pro tip here: Ladies & Gentlemen, NEVER-EVER tell the person you are leaving behind that you fell in love with someone else.

 

NEVER.

 

Tell them you are confused, tell them you need time for yourself, tell them you might be gay, tell them you want to become a monk, tell a huge, fat, freaking lie. But. Do. Not. Ever. Say. There. Is. Someone. Else.

 

EVER.

 

As a last option, grab your balls and tell them you don’t love them anymore perhaps. Tell them your heart doesn’t beat the same way anymore. And yes, this is LESS painful and more bearable than been cheated on and being left behind like a bag of garbage or a used tissue.

Please. I beg you. Listen to me.

Do it for me and do it for the person you once loved/cared about.

Please.

So. I was saying that in New Zealand I was mentally and physically shattered and, at that point, dating other people was out of the question. The one and only goal was to stay afloat. AKA stay alive and nothing else. New Zealand is incredibly beautiful, but my eyes were constantly blurred with tears and the lush landscapes were filled with sad thoughts and intentions. New Zealand probably hosts the saddest memories of my life and it’s such a pity because it’s such a wonderful country. I make a promise here to you, to go back when I will be in love again, happy again to create new and remarkable memories. With someone better, someone stronger, someone worthy.

I had considered stopping my around-the-world-trip and book a very expensive flight to go home and beg my ex to love me.

One more time.

Just one more time.

But thankfully I have incredible friends and family and everyone said the prick should have run after me after all this time. And especially after ALL the chances I had already given the fucker to come back to me and the endless times I forgave already in the four and half years together.
The cheater was the one turning the back to me, not me. The lier should have run to the airport and book a very expensive flight to get me before I flew off.

But I did. I flew away.

Fiji – Expect the Unexpected

I’m not Beyonce or Angelina Jolie, but I did happen to have a few guys chasing me. For the entire time since we had been apart, in fact, I did have a few guys flying around me but I always waved them away as you would do with bees.

[I am allergic to bees BTW.]

But let’s be honest for once, I have no idea if the time on the road relaxed my London stressed and wrinkled forehead or if the tan made me more attractive because I never had so many guys running after me before. But I had a few in Fiji. More than a few actually, plenty in fact (I know my ex reads this blog so let the sucker suck a little.)

And yes, the pics below are a metaphor of the amount of human fish swimming around me in Fiji.

I have no idea why, but it was only in Fiji that, still inebriated by the incredible amount of alcohol and drugs my body had endured in the previous weeks, that I let go of all my principles, constraints and hopes.

I finally let go and life just started flowing back through my veins.

And in that moment, finally and for a while, I enjoyed being single. I have no idea how many flirts and salty kisses I had on those stunning, palm-fringed beaches, I don’t even know how many new flags I’ve added to my global collection (thanks Jon for the idea!)

What I can tell you is that Fiji is no longer a honeymoon destination, but a singles’ paradise.

Try to believe. If you are single, book your flight now and test it for yourself.

Fiji – Singles’ Paradise

Let me put this straight from start. Fiji is no longer a honeymoon destination, but quite the opposite, it’s Singles’ Paradise. Yeah, you read that right. And no, I did not know that before. And yes, I had so much fun indeed.

There, among the crystal blue waters and white, palm-fringed beaches is where I started healing my broken heart. Or maybe not, it’s just where I said F**K YOU and pressed the Pause button to my pain.

 “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami 

I didn’t know there was one, but it does exist and it’s like the fire exit when there is a building on fire.

I knew there was something strange right from the beginning. I knew that my time in Fiji was going to be extraordinary as I met my first friends right at the airport and ended up sleeping in a stranger’s room in the wrong hostel that first night. The next morning, I bumped into some New Zealand’s buddies on the ferry to my first destination and that’s it, as soon as I landed in Waya, my life was -positively- upside down. 

I don’t know how or why it happened, but suddenly I had more guys (and girls) swarming around me than in my entire lifetime. I have no clue of how that could be possible, again I am not Jessica Alba, I can only think it was a sign of the universe (or god if you believe), telling me that the world is full of hot, interesting, smart people and the one I had lost was just a tiny person unable to love. It was the universe talking to me and telling me:

Hey Sabs, look around. First, you are not alone; second: pick and choose who you like.

And so I did.


I picked and choose.

I picked and choose.

And had fun.

Loads of fun in fact.

I was a whole. Again.

No longer half of a broken One.

I was me.

And people loved me for who I was. They did no try to change me.

From day 1 to day 22 on the gorgeous Fiji islands, I had fun, fun, fun with the sexy travelers that like Robinson Crusoe were landing on my sunbed shore. And I don’t know why, but a female, married friend who’ve met on these stunning islands told me:

 

Sabri right now, you are like a magnet, it’s impossible to stay away from you.

 

At first, it didn’t make any sense to me at all. I didn’t think my self-chopped hairstyle was attractive, nor my mosquitos-bitten legs or my far from the perfect body. It was something else.

Not only in my sexy dates but, finally liberated by the weight of a failed relationship and moved away from the burden of a person who was flat, boring, old and dishonest, I blossomed in my social life too. I suddenly remembered who I was before changing and adapting to the bastard: my energy was back, my love for life too, my interest to meet new people and get to know them was finally part of me again. And I made many friends without feeling guilty or worrying about what the cheater would think.It was the energy of my internal fuck-you-process and the consequent sense of freedom that perspired from my persona.

I think.

I can only think of this, because man, I was as shocked as you are now.

And maybe this sounds like bragging, and maybe it is for once, but I had never had such a success ratio in my life. LOL! But this is life, ladies (and men) the moment you really are NOT ready to open your legs arms, men (and women) from all over the place start just falling right at your feet. And it’s like this, that night after night I was feeling better and stronger and wanted and desired than ever. No longer rejected. One empty person rejected me, the world still wanted me. I could stay. Just a bit longer.

Is there better cure than slutting around when your heart and ego are broken and the person you love dumps you FOR SOMEONE ELSE? 

Perhaps. I don’t know. But for me, for those three weeks, it was a god/universe-sent break from the lying-on-the-floor, face-buried-in-the-pillow crying healing process that I had been on for weeks in NZ. 

And of course, it wasn’t just the sex, the salty kisses or the summer romances. It was putting things into perspective.

It was stopping to admire the incredible beauty that was surrounding me, it was appreciating the lucky star that allowed me to be there (instead of being home begging a selfish-cheating-human-being to love me!!!).

It was just falling in love. With life again. In all its simplicity. And with some of the most extraordinary people I’ve met in my life. Friends, flirts and my old self, most of all. If one person in this world did not want me, it didn’t mean the world was rejecting me. It was just this, one, specific, extremely selfish and horrible human who rejected me and hurt me like no one else before in my life. 

People are sent to our lives to teach us things we need to learn about ourselves. – Mandy Hale.

My Fiji realization hit me there and then. I knew I was ready for all of the things I had feared up to that moment. I sobbed once more and I realised that I want to be happy. I acknowledged I deserved to be happy. I wanted all the things everyone wants. A stable, committed, strong, faithful person next to me. Nothing more, nothing else. And I was so shocked and also deeply relieved that I’d finally gotten there.

Life and Love were all around me.

Fiji – The little things that matter

And it was embracing the little things that soothed my broken soul, day after day. 

Running on the beach when the first lights of the day were peaking through the mountains. 

Breathing in and out with consciousness at my yoga classes looking into the endless ocean at dawn. 

The hysterical laughs with Theo, Jon, Charlie, Lou and Stuart. 

The amazement in front of the miracle of every single day starting in those gorgeous islands. 

Hiking up a mountain at sunrise under a torrential rain when I kept going anyway because it’s only when you reach the top that you can see the other side.



The hours spent meditating while chasing colorful fish in one of the best reefs I’ve seen in my life.  

The newly acquired (even if unwanted) freedom that being out of a relationship can bring to the mind. 

The infinite shades of blue and orange and red and yellow when the sun was sinking into the horizon.

The sand between the toes, the hair and everywhere else.

Getting lost in dark underwater caves with a bunch of strangers. 

Katie and Steve who told me that compromises are what make love last, and Sonia and Mike who revealed that “not sweating on the small things” was the secret sauce to their +40 years marriage.

Sam and Rosie, young, beautiful and in love.

It was admiring the beautiful and perfect bodies of the local rugby player on a hot Sunday afternoon surrounded by only locals. 

And the kids on top of tree supporting their favourite handball team.

It was the incredible connection with a Dutch guy over the span of 12 hrs.

It was Mina, from China, her beautiful tattoo and the selfie stick she gave me as a gift. 

It was the hugs with Kim and Laura.

It was kayaking with Irene and Joe.

It was learning to fish with a bunch of lovely girls and a cooler full of champagne and beer.

It was the flirts, the kisses, and the meaningless sex.

It was the drinking games and one wild night washed away by far too much gin &  tonic.

It was the lightness of no promises, no expectations and there was a taste of freedom and possibility.
Of what I could have. If I could only hold on to myself and no one else for a little bit longer. 

The local dances, songs and vibe. Their incredible culture and attitude to life. 

And, just like that, by the end of the third week, I was just free. Suddenly, emotionally and happily free.

And there I was on the last day, hoping to stay just a little bit longer. To allow me to add a few more memories to the load to take away with me.

Excited about the future and what it could hold for me. Excited about the countless options and possibilities. Excited about the people I had met and their stories. No longer thinking that that fraud was my One. It definitely wasn’t.

And Fiji taught me that I deserve someone who’s excited about me, who chooses me over everybody else. Every day. Someone who doesn’t need breaks from me, someone who isn’t scared of love, someone who doesn’t only take, but gives back too. Someone without commitment issues. Someone who isn’t damaged from the past and knows how to fight. Someone who believes in us.Not forever. But forever, for now

Vinaka Vaca Levu Fiji

There is where my new life began. These are the memories I will best remember from my months on the road. Where I blossomed again like a very late spring flower. Where, like a prisoner, I was finally freed after being caged for almost 5 years.

These are stories that take the highlight of this incredible journey.This is where I found my true self again. The person I want to be. The version of myself that belongs to me and suits me so well.

No more compromises, no more faking to be someone else. 

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; 
and we travel next, to find ourselves.

 

Reading suggestion for your single holiday in Fiji:

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

The Power of Now, Eckart Tolle

 

All underwater pictures taken with my new baby Olympus

 

Note: there are affiliated links above. As usual, I only recommend products I have personally tried and loved. if you buy through the links above, a few pennies from your purchase come my way so that I can keep maintaining this blog <3

My Minimalist Escape – How Minimalism helped my Travels

 
We were never meant to live life accumulating stuff.
We were meant to live simply, enjoying the experience of life, the people of life and the journey of life – not the things of life

This is what Joshua Becker wrote in his bestseller “Simplify” and as a newly minimalism disciple I couldn’t agree more. Whether you are an avid follower of  @MarieKondo or never heard of her obsession with tidiness, you must have heard of the new “less is more” thinking trend which I already mentioned here and here.

Back in 2013 when I started looking critically at all the stuff in my wardrobe, I was still in my full-time corporate job in London. Appearance back then was crucial and I really struggled to make the first steps into a less-cluttered life. However, with the purpose to have a bigger budget to travel with, I started selling my designers’ shoes, bags and clothes on eBay, putting everything I got from the sales into my “To Travel Is To Live” Saving Account. Things got much harder when I started decluttering my sentimental and personal boxes filled with letters, books, pictures, postcards and other notes. It was much easier for me to get rid of my material stuff without a blink of the eye, but throwing away drawings of my nephew and old letters felt distasteful and rude. So…I didn’t.

I decided that there is a limit to the things I feel good without and there are less-expensive but more valuable things that I will never throw in a bin. I had to accept my personal limits. You have to find and accept yours.

Hotel HotelA year ago, I stored all my remaining belongings at a friends house, (Thanks Duncan!) and left with a 12kg backpack on my shoulders and a 5kg camera bag as a carry on. Fast forward to a few months later and I had collected shells, books, clothes, souvenirs from all over India and Australia, which weighted me down enormously. So, once again I was faced with the tough process of letting go. But of what?

One day back in my hostel in Darwin, I pulled out all my belongings which I guess were well above 30kg by then and distributed them all over the floor. I started a rough Project333 with all the clothes I owned, realising soon that some things I bought in India were not suitable for the rest of my journey in Australia; several books (which I already read) were taking most of my bag’s space; and two pair of shoes were so destroyed and disgusting after hundreds miles that it was a huge relief to see them in the rubbish. I made a bag of clothes to leave in the free for all basket of the hostel, left most of my books on the exchange shelf and picked only one promising myself -once again!!!- to switch to my kindle permanently. Since that episode, I decided to keep the number of things I own and travel with down to the same number. If I acquire a new item, I will force myself to get rid of something that’s already in my bag. This is my new rule and has been working for the past four months.

But there are many things I would do differently if I could start this trip all over again, that’s why I’m sharing the following tips to start your transition into a minimalist life b e f o r e setting of for a long trip or a relocation abroad.

Don’t Pack. Just Go! 

I am not a pro at this minimalism game, I still struggle to let go of things while I try to accumulate/buy less, but I’ve learnt that living and travelling with less is much easier and cheaper (just think of the price of extra luggage every time you catch a plane!). First and foremost, forget all the packing tips you find online, I would just recommend you to leave home with a fraction of what you think you will need, not half as some suggest, but a 10th. It will be too impossible to resist the temptation of buying new clothes and various souvenirs  especially if you are travelling to cheap countries, so be smart and leave plenty of room in your bag right from the start, and don’t fret you will reunite with your favourite t-shirt or jumper upon your return, I promise!Image-1

Sell it or give it to charity. 

It’s hard to get rid of things you paid and it’s even harder to get back the money you spent on it, but my philosophy is that it’s better to have $50 rather than a $100 jacket I never use. Start slow with a winter clear out, go through all the things you own and make groups: old-but-I-love, never-used-once, too-small/too-big, emotional-value and start getting rid of all the things you know you don’t need. Put them on eBay or Gumtree or even get down to your local market or charity shop. I got so used of using the same 5/6 outfits I own, that I love having a restricted choice to make every morning a bit like Mark Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt and jeans work uniform.

…But Keep What Makes You Happy

As I struggled to get rid of books and things of emotional value, I’ve decided that I don’t have to get rid of everything, I can and must keep the things that bring happy memories to me, photos and letters that belong to a distant past perhaps but that still make me happy today. Some minimalism fundamentalists would shout at me for writing this, but I don’t believe in owning a set amount of items is the key to happiness, I believe in owning only things that add value to your life and this is even more true while travelling.

You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.
Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains

Do You Really Need It? 

VaranasiBefore buying anything new ask yourself: do I really need it? This is something I ask myself every time I’m in a shop and I’m tempted to spend a few bucks on something. Most of the time, the answer is “Nope, I don’t” and leave the shop empty-handed but proud of myself. Something that I started practising back in London, it’s now a useful habit I cling to while browsing stores in Port Douglas, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. Here, the things I need are very few and often are just things I need to replace because they finish (toiletries, food…) or they worn out. So, once you learn to make a distinction between what you want and what you need, you will soon realise that your life is already pretty complete and you will start saving hips of money on useless stuff. If on your travel you see presents and things you love for your family and friends, my top tip is to pack it and mail it immediately. Don’t make the mistake to drag it with you across country as I did, the gift will get ruined and your money will be wasted.

Clutter is a manifestation of a) holding onto the past and b) fear of what might happen in the future.
Leo Babauta, Clutterfree
 

Buy Experiences. Not Stuff. 

YAY!More importantly, I am a big advocate of experiences VS things. In a world where we are all summersed in stuff, unique experiences can really stand out. I remember the face of my parents when I bought them a cruise ticket for their 40th anniversary. They expected the usual material thing, but once they came back they told me it was the best experience of their life. I also bought swimming courses, amusement park tickets and dance classes to my nephews and friends. These are things that you can keep in your house, but the memories you make are going to stay within you for a very long time. What’s more important that happy moments?

The best things in life aren’t things.
Joshua Becker

Digital Decluttering

But minimalist is not just about material things, it’s also about our busy digital lives. Since I’ve been away, I’ve unsubscribed from most of the newsletters I once found interesting but actually never read, I consciuously cleaned my Facebook wall and Instagram feed by all the negative people, cat-lovers, depressive attitudes to have my rare moments of connectivity only filled with joy, happy moments and real friends instead. And having a limited or no internet connection I quickly developed a very harsh filtering system for what emails I want to read or reply to. Similarly, I found it surprisingly easy and calming to ignore a lot of social media updates and stuff, even though that’s the industry I work in, and I’ve been amazed by the positive effects this change has had on my creativity and how much time I now have to spend on my writing, photography or simply enjoying my occasional free time instead.  The idea is that your real life is more important of your social media persona, and you should rather spend time living life rather than sharing it online.packing

Do something incredible. Don’t tweet about it.
Colin Wright

And while it’s easier to travel with a minimalist mindset, it’s also true that travelling helps you become a better minimalist. After all this time away, I’m dreading the moment I will have to go through all the stuff I left behind and I already know that I should have binned most of it before leaving. And travelling with less is less stressful. I’m no longer scared of losing things behind (well except my camera gear, laptop, hard drive and passport) but I learnt that all other things are simply replaceable.

 BECOME A BETTER MINIMALIST WITH THESE PROS: 

BOOKS: 

  • Everything that remains, The Minimalists
  • Simplify, Joshua Becker
  • The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, Francine Jay
  • The Power Of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, Leo Babauta
  • My Exile Lifestyle, Colin Wright

The moral of the story: we don’t really need that much stuff both at the home and especially while travelling. You may have been forced into thinking that you need that brand new car, that you need to upgrade your phone, or that dress but the truth is that you don’t. I’ve learnt to spent the money that I would have otherwise spent on buying new clothes and stuff on experiencing life and seeing the world. I couldn’t recommend you enough to do the same.

Love people, use things. The opposite never works.
The Minimalists

No, travelling didn’t solve my problems. I (almost) did.

The internet is full of bloggers and websites telling you how quitting your job, selling your possessions and travelling will fix all your problems. Most of the various social media personas brag about their successful career switch or their amazing lives as digital nomads obviously accompanied by beautiful pictures of tropical beaches, cocktails in bikinis and incredible palmed sunsets. It’s easy to slip in the trap of thinking that life on the road or away from home is easier.

Last year, when I quit my corporate job in London, I was also guilty of that or maybe I was just naive enough to think that my uncontrollable anxiety, broken heart, memories of violence, control issues, insomnia, addiction to tobacco, episodes of depression and many other things, will magically disappear from my life as soon as I set foot on that plane that was taking me away from my normal life and comfort zone. Eleven months have passed and among many other little things I’ve learnt on the road, I also acknowledged that despite travelling is an enlightening experience, it cannot solve your personal issues. My big and small troubles have not  suddenly disappeared, they didn’t solve themselves once I arrived in the Emirates, nor when I was doing sun salutations in India or catching sunset waves here in Australia. No, if I’m honest to myself and you, travel has in fact amplified them.

Why do we think that travelling has a soothing power? 

If you have nothing inside you, you will never find anything outside. It’s useless wandering and looking in the world for what you can’t find in yourself. Tiziano Terzani.

Travels and migrations have always been part of the human history, the desire to leave the known for the unknown has characterised the human species since ancient times and the most amazing minds of the past and the present have shared important thoughts on this subject. I am no-one and my purpose is far from adding something new to the topic, but to share what I’ve learnt in my almost-year-long adventure so that you can make a conscious decision if you choose to travel long-term.

The ways we move today have radically changed: we no longer take dangerous long boat trips to reach the shores of another country, no longer we need to cross deserts with camels and our own legs to find a suitable spot to settle, neither we have to sustain months-long train journeys to see a relative; we are now able to cross continents in a matter of hours, but the spiritual and personal purpose is still exactly the same: we were and are old and new peregrines, we aim to conquer even a small patch of land that hasn’t been discovered yet, we are searching for good fortune or hunting for something deeper that will change us, we are all anxious to leave a mark on this planet, to make memories and to be remembered. Some of us leave with a set return date in mind or a plane ticket booked; others, like me, leave, without knowing when or if they will be back. For some, the exact purpose of travelling is coming back, for others is just about going, leaving. Some travels to return home and tell their tales of what they have done and seen, counting countries as they were boxes to tick on a ridiculous seen-it-all list. Others are driven by the need of nomadism, of being free of the usual existence.

But I believe there is something that unites all who travel. We all travel to see new things, meet new people, learn a new language but deep down, we travel to become better people, a better version of ourselves, a self which we love and respect more. We travel to see if we there is a solution for that issue, to recover from our broken hearts, to lose weight, to forget someone and to become healthier.

Why do we leave our homes hoping to come back as better people? 

And there are new kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them.
― Robyn Davidson

Seneca didn’t think so as he wrote: “Why are you surprised, as it it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind?”  and Socrates put it even better when he remarked: “Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you?”

They were both probably right. The only person that is truly, constantly travelling with us, is ourselves. Your problems will follow you wherever you will go, they won’t stay behind, because they belong to you and you are the only person who can indeed make them disappear. As Seneca continued:

“You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. Thought you may cross vast spaces of sea, and though as our Vergil remarks “Lands and cities are left astern”, your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel”.

I need a career change. Travel will tell me what to do with my life. 

Most people decide to leave their jobs and travel, thinking that away from home they will have some sort of illumination that will make them millionaires or they will come across an idea that they never thought of and finally find the purpose of their life. My friends, it doesn’t work that way and if you trust me a little bit, do not your leave your job if you are looking for a career change but have no idea of what you want to do with your life. Invest in a short sabbatical if you can where you can start thinking about a new career, meet people, share ideas and stories, but don’t expect travel to give you the answers to the questions hanging on your head. Sure, you will meet loads of people with different backgrounds, jobs and lifestyles, you will learn from them and be inspired sometimes. But unless you leave with a rough idea of what you want to do or you’re going to end up right back where you left. Jobs and ideas aren’t just going to pop up in front of your eyes while you are admiring a sunset in Bali or drinking caipirinha in Rio. They only happen with an effort on your part. Personally, even before leaving my corporate job, I had already set my own business up with a rough plan ahead. I had very little knowledge of starting a freelance job, but I used all my spare time asking around, reading online from people who had done it before me, I designed a website, wrote countless pitch, approached thousands of companies even before booking my plane.  I was not sure about the future, I had no idea if it would be sustainable and that’s why I saved every single penny of my London life as soon as I took the decision to leave three years ago.

I have no money. Travelling is cheap. 

Whatever you do, don’t try and escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from pain creates more pain. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

That is partially true. There are countries in the world where a Western average monthly salary is what a normal Southern Asian person would earn in a year. There are other places like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, US, Europe where your money will last much less. If you are deep in debt and are trying to escape it or leave behind a bad spending habit, travelling – once again – won’t fix your issue. At the contrary, travelling in a poor country will make you feel richer than you are and you will end up spending more than you think, because “It’s so cheap!” What you need to do is try to fix your financial habits and problems at home, before leaving and setting a very clear budget and spending target at your disposal.

YAY! Travelling will turn me into a healthy person

So many people, including myself, think that leaving home will put them in the position to eat fresh mangos and drink papaya juice every day in between a run, a surf and yoga session. The truth is that while you are travelling, alone or with friends, time becomes very limited. Yes, exactly like at home. While I was able to run my 5K in Sydney every other day, I dropped my newly acquired healthy lifestyle on my first longish trip across the Australian outback. There was no way for me to run across the desert in +40degrees temperatures or to squeeze time on a already planned schedule with other 16 people. I’ve given running up in April and I haven’t been back on my yoga mat since June. Exercise and healthy habits, I learnt, are easier to acquire and maintain when you have a routine in place, when your time doesn’t depend on other people and when you can be flexible with your schedule.

Even if I have been very bad with the fitness side of things, I’ve finally learnt to eat slowly and appreciate what’s on my plate without thinking about what’s next or ready to leave, exactly as I appreciate the present moment without making plans for later, tomorrow or next year. I briefly managed to stay away from cigarettes too, but fell into the trap again when I faced a few professional challenges back in May. My addiction remains my weakest point and where my willing power constantly fails me. I am still working on it and I hope one day, I will be in the position to update this paragraph with positive news 🙂 I’ve been literally on the road since April non-stop, I’ve eaten more tuna cans and tin food in the past four months than my entire life and I’ve realised that eating healthy and exercising are both very difficult to do on a regular basis while traveling (which for me does not mean a couple of weeks on a resort, but the type of trips I do). All in all, in the past 11 months, I broke all my walking and hiking records instead, I’ve climbed more mountains and surfed more waves than ever. I feel healthier and lighter than ever and even my skin seems to say so.

The truth is that fit people at home will be fit people on the move and if you wish to be healthier, start a routine at home that you can take with you wherever you go. Once again, don’t expect travel to make you healthy.

I want to be a digital nomad and work from the beach. Oh dear!

Starting an online business while being based in a cheap destination is a very smart idea indeed. Having to face a lower cost of living is also very handy when you are starting off. But what are you starting? Do you have an idea? I have met countless people asking me to hire them because my job seems too cool to be true. So many backpackers and travellers think that what I do is to sit on a beach while I write (have you ever tried?), or make millions with my photography. I’m not complaining, but it’s not so easy.

You need to have an idea in mind of what you want to do. Possibly, you need to start you new adventure while back home in the safety of your job so that you can test the waters and possibly adjust your plans.

I’ve also learnt that to run a baby business you need to give it time and attention constantly. It is certainly impossible to do while travelling and that’s why I’ve decided to postpone or even refuse some jobs because this trip for me is more about my personal growth than my newly-born business.

I want to forget the past

Past

When you know yourself you are empowered. When you accept yourself you are invincible.

I hear you. Some of us have scars and memories that are hard and painful to dig out from the memory box. Some of us have a void inside that seems to never fill.  As a victim of violence, I know how you feel and how strong you think that moving away can heal your wounds. But it’s not true, I am sorry, I’ve run away for ten years and only now I know that I was only running away from myself. Travel can help you a lot on the surface, but it won’t help your under-the-skin scars. You need to start an healing process alone – or with a specialist – to really solve your issue for good. But the main step is to admit to have a problem. To yourself. No one else. Once you’ve done that, you are half way through and you will really be able to go on with your life. Travelling, as mentioned, has amplified some issues since sometimes you put yourself in situations where you don’t want to be, or where just being outside your comfort zone can make you feel extremely unsafe. But you will learn to feel better. You will feel stronger every day out there.

Travel is the best thing that can happen in your life. But it’s not a solution to your problems. Everything depends on your attitude. If you leave home expecting life and yourself to be totally different just by going you are going to be deeply disappointed. If you choose to travel to dedicate precious time, so hard to find in our normal lives to yourself, then, you might be on the right path for a better life, a better you.

Eleven months later, working on myself with the clear goal to become a better version of myself I learnt many things. I learnt that I can’t do everything by myself, I learnt that asking for help is not a weakness, I know now that if there is something bothering me, I need to let the steam out before I explode. I learnt to control my emotions, I learnt that whatever people think of me does not affect me because it’s none of my business. I learnt to appreciate those still, lazy moments of calm, because I’m no longer afraid to stop and think, in fact I cherish those moments with jealousy and look forward to them in excitement. I’m learning to accept people who are totally different to me (except lazy individuals who will never have a place in my life!), but I’ve come to terms with people who have a different lifestyle to mine. I no longer judge myself or others based on appearances or the job they do. I’m trying hard to stop comparing myself to others. I try to feel equal and no longer less than others today.

So, did travel made me a better person? 

Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart. Haruki Murakami.

Partially yes, but certainly not because I was chasing sunsets in india, or waves in Australia, I managed to solve my problem, because it was the first time in my life when I HAD THE TIME to do it. I made the time to face my issues. I decided to pick them, one by one and lie them on the table and carefully analyse before proceeding to come to terms with each of them. It sounds easy now, but it wasn’t. It was a slow, painful, scary process; it has been difficult, depressing at time, very often frustrating. But this was for me the only way for moving on, the only way to really travel within me and let go.  It was also the first time where I accepted that no, I am far from being perfect, but it’s ok, I love myself very much anyway. It’s the first time I want to spend time with myself, without feeling lonely or sad, I actually love the time I have for myself, I crave it after weeks with strangers or new friends. I need it. Because the time with myself are the ones when I grow. I learnt to think since I’ve been away. To elaborate my thinking and loving each part and bit of myself. To get lost in my thoughts and travel within them, a sort of Inception but while day-dreaming and I discovered the power of thoughts all over again. I’ve dug deep into my past and forgave (some) people who hurt me, I apologised to others I’ve hurt, I’ve picked memories I thought I  had lost long time ago and decided to nourish them like little plans in the garden of my memory. I decided to love myself and to love others, I recovered from my broken heart and prepared myself to love again, to welcome a new person in my life with open arms, with no prejudice, no expectations, no constrictions, but just love and acceptance.

You can still enjoy travelling lightly if that’s what you want without getting lost in some dark tunnels of your mind, but remember that turning your back to your issues or crazily skipping from country to country hoping that they will just disappear, won’t do you good, but quite the opposite.

{ l i g h t and w a t e r } @passionpassport #calmversation

A post shared by s a b r i n a ANDREA s a c h s (@the_storyteller) on

I know I am not perfect and I will never be.
I accept this and I love myself even more for it. 

 

January Book Club: Big Magic

what is creativity

I’m an old-fashioned bookworm, the kind that smells books before buying them, the type that touches the pages as they were some precious, ancient manuscripts. I love physical books, but one “habit” and guilty pleasure (and probably the hardest), I had to give up for my year of wanderlust and travels, was to stop buying them. I struggled -lots, failed – twice, but I also didn’t want to carry kilos of stories in my backpack. The solution was to bring my trustworthy, old kindle with me and fill it with all my favourite classics and all the new releases I could get my hands on. I have to admit that I can’t read only one book at the time, but isn’t that also part of the fun? 🙂
So, in January I was reading a blogging manual, The Corrections by Jonathan Frenzen, 30 days in Sydney by Peter Carey and of course, 
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The world-acclaimed author of “Eat, Love and Pray” is back again with something different this time. A manual to creativity generated as a written form of her famous TED Talk, she also called a self-help book written with the voice and the tone of a friend who has been there, done it all.

I guess that if you are reading this, you’ve probably read it too or are going to.
If you haven’t read it yet, maybe you should stop here and come back when you’ve done so to avoid spoilers; if you have finished and put it down already then we are finally ready to kick off the first edition of this digital, long-distance book club (please subscribe now on the event on my Facebook page and send me a message with your email address so I can add you to the hangout).

WELCOME!

A couple of Side Notes

  1. As you know, this is my first time that I not only attend a book club, but also the first time I run one (yeah, I’m crazy I know!), so bear with me while I learn the tricks and forgive me if it isn’t perfect…Any tips & tricks, help and suggestions are always welcome 🙂
  2. During our Google hangout session, we will be focusing on the following topics & questions, the virtual seats are limited to ten and you can check here and if you confirm your attendance you will need to send me your email address so that I can add you to the event. If you miss out the event, don’t fret, you can obviously read through and leave your views below. I’m really curious to read your take on the book.

Creativity

Gilbert describes creativity as something external that comes in the artists’  and writers’ world almost by accident. She believes that an idea is something that has it own life and floats around until it finds someone suitable and ready to pick it up and bring it to life. I was quite put off by this idea, to be honest and I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with this book at the beginning.

I’m a bit skeptical about her philosophy, but some of the examples she described are quite amazing . I’ve always believed that talent and creativity were “embedded” in certain people from the moment of their birth. And you? What do you think?

  • Are you creative?
  • Were you one of those talented kids?
  • What do you create and what’s your creative process?

Courage VS Fear

You might have already read what I wrote about fear and how she was in fact the one who got me out of my comfort zone and easy life in the UK. I was scared to be missing out, that I would never be truly happy despite all my successes and accomplishments on the corporate ladder, frightened I would postpone my own dream to travel to prioritise the common rat race to a shining CV and spotless career. But then death met with my fear, they shook hands and lift me up to where I am now.

So yes, I agree with Gilbert distinction between good and bad fears, or more carefully the ones that kick your ass and the one that make you dig your head (and your ass) underneath the duvet when you could be out creating. You want the firsts, you want to kill the seconds.

Have I killed all my fears?

No way!  I’m still a little terrified person. I’m worried that my new lifestyle will just drain my savings and I will be forced to go back to the real world. I’m truly shitting my pants at the thought that I will never find anybody to hire me again if I had to go back to the real world. I’m freaking out sometimes that I have no talent at all and this is just a happy illusion. And possibly, I am even more terrified that all of this might actually work and I might actually make it.

As Gilbert said, “We have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process”. I tried to kill mine for over half of my life. I though I had murdered by creativity too, but in the exact moment I set off on this trip, she was back, right next to me, asking me to play with her. She and I are on the road together and we are like Thelma & Louise kinda thing. She tells me the route, I drive. Has fear ever affected your life? And your creativity?

  • Have you managed to kill a fear that was bothering you? How?
  • Was there any passion, dream, idea you had when you were younger that you put away because you were scared of the outcome?
  • Do you consider yourself a brave heart or a scared self?

As long as you live under the fear of failure or disappointment or any other thing that holds you back in “the realm of creative expression”, you may never discover the thing that gives you life

Enchantment: Inspiration & Ideas

As mentioned above,  I personally don’t believe in Gilbert’s mystical view of ideas floating through space and time patiently waiting to find their soulmate. Of course there are occasions when two people have the same idea and she even bring one exceptional personal example, but I’m still skeptical and I prefer to think that ideas are unique to the individual and they are born into people’s mind rather than animated things that fly around and are grabbed randomly by the first available person. Maybe I’m silly, but I work hard for ideas to come to me. Which doesn’t mean I sit outside waiting for them to appear in front of my eyes, but I read, I look, I study, I engage with people, I discover, I experiment, this is what pushes me to create and this how pieces of life take the shape of ideas in my mind. Do I need to be inspired? Yes. Do I set time aside to create? Yes, at the moment is almost 24/7. And you?

  • Do you believe ideas are there free for all to grab?
  • Can you work without inpiration?
  • Are you disciplined enough to actually get stuff done also on those gloomy not inspired days?
  • What do you feel when you are hit by an amazing idea?

Look back far enough and you will find people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 23.12.50.png

Permission

I personally agree with the author and I don’t think you need an educational permission to be an artist. In fact, I will go even further than that: you don’t need education to be successful in anything. Take the majority of the truly amazingly successful people in the world and they did no go to school or finish their education. I’m taking about Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Sean Connery, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Henry Ford and Allan Sugar.Of course, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t study, I am saying that it is not a mandatory thing for a successful life. Sometimes drive and passion is all you need…but this is a whole new subject/post that I want to discuss in the future.

The same (and probably more relevant) is in the art world. I’ve witness so many people wasting dreams because they couldn’t afford a formal education in fine art, design or photography. On the other hand, I’ve met countless people who thought that because they did have an art degree, a design or photography certificate were entitled to create and were expecting to be successful.
Boy, let me tell you, it does not work that way. As Gilbert said, these courses can help you to feel more confident, but don’t expect the right to lead an artistic life because you studied art.

  • Do you have faith in your capabilities or are you waiting for someone to tell you are good enough?
  • Do you think a formal education is what you need to be an artist?
  • If you could go back would you attend the same university? If you didn’t attend one which course would you choose?

But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgment about you are none of your business

Persistence

I stopped writing for months. Not that’s not true, actually, I never stop writing. Probably not one entire day in my life. But I did stop publishing on my old blog and I almost this the same on this one too. I had readers, engaged comments, consistent views, statistics where sky-rocketing and then, WHY?
Well, my blog wasn’t perfect. It isn’t perfect now either. In fact I hate the design of it (oh yeah, if you know a great designer who would help me for a service barter please, let me know 🙂 ), but I decided to just do it which is pretty much the same thing that Elizabeth Gilbert suggests. Forget about the fact that you can’t reach perfection, stop thinking you need an entire day for your painting, abandon the idea that you could only be a writer/musician/singer/actor when you will be able to dedicate yourself to it full time. This is just a sophisticated way of procrastination. Start today, start now, do something. Don’t let perfection or fear stop your creative process. Just embrace it.

I love reading about Elizabeth’s various waitressing jobs and it felt she was really talking to me as I spent 8 years going exactly the same. I no longer felt a loser afterall, I’m not feeling a loser now that I’m looking for a similar part-time job while my business kicks off. I no longer care about other people’s judgment because I’m finally doing what I love the most, and I stand taller than anybody who hasn’t done it yet.

But do it without expectations. Don’t ask your art/idea/creativity to support you, do it just because you love it, and act as a parent who loves his child without expecting anything in return. Flourish and nourish this relationship every day and take the process of making something as your biggest reward.

Babu Huts

  • Do you expect or wish that you art will support you financially or are you just doing it for you self?
  • Are you able to create or are you waiting for the right moment?

I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it

Trust: Success VS Failures

I would be an hypocrite if I said I’m doing what I’m doing just because I love it. Well, no one really is. I left my job in London to travel, photograph and write stories. That is the main goal, but of course I’m hoping that these three passions of mine will one day combine into a Magic Formula that will also allow me to have a decent life. Of course I’m hoping to meet Success on my path this year and go on a date with him and possibly marry him and never think again about my corporate life. Yes, I’ll admit, I dream of a life doing what I’m doing now and I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
But I am also very realistic about the possibilities, risks, competitions and I wouldn’t take a no as a failure, I won’t take a refusal as a reason to give up or a closed door as the end of my journey.

  • Do you let failure affect your creativity?
  • Do you do it for fame, money, success or what?
  • How do you deal with failures?

And one of the questions  I loved the most from the book:

  • What do you love doing so much that the word failure and success essentially become irrelevant?

Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 23.34.39.pngSo, what is your final vote of Big Magic? How did you feel after finishing?

Personally, my creativity flow and my soul were refreshed and energised. I loved the stories she shared, but I especially loved the fact that she put her life and heart out there among the lines. I felt as she was in the room with me and she was laughing about her failures and sharing with a light hearted voice her incredible success. Her tone makes me want to hug her and wish for a friend like her to drink a glass of wine together and somebody who never takes her/himself too seriously, somebody who can laugh at himself and at the same time talk about success without bragging about it.

Big Magic inspired me to create more, to believe in myself and my current projects more. As a result, once I finished reading it, I shot several pitching emails that were sitting on my draft folder for weeks, I’ve wrote a whole three new chapters of what might take the shape of a book, I’ve pushed my photographic limits with new techniques and style I hadn’t tried before (coming up soon…), I basically took whatever was in the air and I created.

And I never felt this good.
Thank you, big magic.

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself.”

 

We will be back next month with our February book. Perfect for my current nomad lifestyle and I believe ideal also for many of you with the same passion for travel.

Girls Who Travel by Nicole Trilivas

Same date as before, see you here vino in hand, notes in the other and let’s chat about us, girls who travel 

Happy reading and happy travelling, my lovely tribe!

“Mystery” Revealed: How I afford to Travel

money

The question I get asked the most is:

Why ?

Why I left my job to go travelling?

It is usually accompanied by wide-open eyes and incredulous disbelief.

I actually never seriously thought about the answer up to when I really had to think about it for an interview I was giving. It was the right time to stop the automated answering-machine of the “I needed a change / I wanted to see the world”.

It was time to be honest with others and mostly myself and I finally put it out there and you can read the latest version here.

The second thing I get asked more frequently is How? Or better:

How do you afford to travel?

This question is  also normally accompanied with wide-open eyes and huge curiousity, suspicion, envy and/or a good degree of hope.

Well, let me tell you now once and forever. I’ve answered this question many, many times individually, but I’ve limited free time now so I don’t want to do it anymore. I will be replying to all the future messages with a link to this post and as I’ve been working on it for weeks I believe I’ve created something really honest, comprehensive and clear. So, I’m pretty sure the below -with some percentage variations- will be valid throughout 2016. Unless, something major will change in my income flow (like I win the lottery! Hurrah!), in which case I will promptly update this post. 🙂

I hope I’ll be able to answer all your questions and curiosity, but if, after reading through, you still have doubts or need advice, please feel free to leave me a comment below and I’ll try to answer and help you the best way possible.

Like my very good friend and inspiring travel blogger Gloria said in an Huffington Post article that went viral last year: “People think there’s this magic formula out there. This one-size-fits-all-encompassing route that gives everyone an equal chance of seeing the world.”

There is not such a formula!

You are alone and you need to find your own formula and make it work for you and only you know which one is it. I won’t tell you what to do, not will I say that my path is the one you need to follow. This is my experience and it can work for you or cannot.

So, let’s set things straight right away.

 [This is a long, honest post, so if you wish to read the juice, short answer, you can jump to a few paragraphs below to the first numbered  list]

I am not a millionaire and my family isn’t either. In fact, my family probably sits in the lower end of the Italian middle-class AND I’ve been independent since I was 14.

Yup, at that age I got my first job, waitressing in restaurants, cafes and pubs. That year I received one of the “worst news ever” for a girl that age: I suddenly had to wear spectacles and, as I was competing at regional and national level in gymnast tournaments, I surely did not want to do that: I had to buy contact lenses and my  parents would never approve such an superfluous  expense.  week after the diagnosis, I got my first job. I was 14 and I never took a break up to last May (2015), when I left my 8-year corporate job.

I’m 31 years old now.

That means that I’ve worked 16 years straight in my life.

NON – STOP.

You probably already know where this is going, but let’s do some melancholic and nostalgic fast-rewind first that will help you to have a clearer picture of how I afford to travel.
At the age of 17, bored of my low-paid waitressing job, I decided to spend a summer entertaining German and French  kids in a resort in Sicily, Italy. The same year, as I had to pay for my driving license, my income wasn’t enough so I managed to get a leafleting job in the afternoon in the freezing winters in northern Italy, and another one at a bakery on Sundays where I had to start at 6am, get changed in the car around 12pm to go to my other restaurant job for another 8-10 hour shift.

Later on, when I was at uni, I had four jobs at the same time AND attended lessons.

Yes, I was tired. Actually I was exhausted most of the time. I wasn’t great at uni and I often fell asleep in class or missed  lessons because I was too tired to drag my poor body and mind out of bed, or I had to take extra shifts but I was saving money.

So, what happened after?

Well, after my shining 8-year career in the hospitality industry – while I saw and experienced very little of what people my age where doing – it was time to move on and hope for a new, more-rewarding, less tiring job and I happened to find a (paid) internship in London.

Most people would say that I was lucky (but I don’t believe in luck, so call me that if you wish, but I know I worked my a** to be at the right place at the right moment. So, Mrs Luck has very little to do with this story (or my life in general; but this is another article I’m writing at the moment).

The internship which was meant to last only two and half months, ended up lasting 6 months (insert here: I worked 12 hours, went the extra mile on every single project, took on more projects than expected and beaten the competition) and again, as money were not enough as an intern, I got an evening job in a pub too. Bear in mind that at that time I didn’t finish uni yet. I was still writing my thesis while working two jobs and trying to enjoy London too!

After I graduated, I got hired on a permanent basis by the company where I was interning and there you go, I was on the corporate ladder in no time.

From here, I don’t want to bother you with the details of all my achievements, frustrations, fights, tears, FOMOs, promotions, loneliness and injustice I went through to get where I was last year. Let’s just say I spent 8 years working extremely hard  in corporate, less-corporate, non-corporate companies in London and Milan to arrive where I wanted to be by the age of 30.

Throughout my first 30 years on this planet I also made a lot of sacrifices – not going out drinking, clubbing, dining or spending money on stupid things (even though I have done that a few times!) while consciously keeping my greater goal in mind.

When I did entered the forth decade of my life and I had to change the number 2 with the number 3 in front of my age, I was, in fact, proud, satisfied and accomplished in all my career goals and it was time to do something new. It was time to open that mental drawer where I secretly herded all my sheepish dreams and take them out and see what would happen.unknown.gif

Saving is my lucky pot at the end of the rainbow, a pot I’ve built for myself through the years and where nobody ever chipped anything on my behalf. Nope, my parents never gave me any financial support, if we exclude the time I had to change tires of my car and I had not enough savings.

earned  every cent that now represents the fuel I’m currently and slowly burning to explore this wonderful planet of ours.

What else am I doing?

I’ve decided to be completely honest with you as I think there is already so much bulls*** online about bloggers who show off their full-time blogging career when daddy is actually paying all their expensive stays and first-class flights around the world. Or where in fact bloggers and instagrammers are sent off to wonderful locations (Yes, I’ve done it too!), but for free, so they are not actually earning a living, they are simply having a great holiday in a fantastic place and the price tag for that is a blog post or a few insta-pictures. Well, a little advice here: don’t get fooled by those who say you can make a living out of blogging. They can’t. You can’t. I can’t. 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999% can’t live J U S T off of blogging (and I’m including Instagram here). I saw and know too many people who left their solid job to pursue a career as blogger or Instagramer and the majority of them failed miserably. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it’s truly hard and uber competitive. For a million users who are dreaming to travel the world on press trips and a suitcase pack filled with sponsored gears, there is one or two who actually do. For a 10000 who receive gifts and props there are a handful who (ask to) get paid. And no, I don’t get paid to *just* travel and sit by a pool drinking cocktails after a Swedish message at a spa. I wish! 🙂

unknown.gifKeeping this truth in mind, I knew that once I left my safe job, I had to re-invent myself and possibly create a new me.

So, let’s fast-forward to last Summer when I actually left my prestigious job to pursue my passions and my desire to travel.

What did I do exactly? I decided to become a portfolio worker, or a creative freelancer or a jack of all trades, call it what you like: I’m somebody who’s left behind the idea of sitting in an office for 40 years, but is realistic about her needs and will work hard to make ends meet.

Wrapping up the answer now, mystery is finally solved! Here is how I afford to travel. It doesn’t mean it is how you can afford to travel, it doesn’t mean you need to copy and paste the below to your life.

As I said above, you need to find your own magic formula!

Here is how I diversified my income  (as you can read in more details under my Contact page):

  1. Savings (as mentioned above and there is a whole chapter about minimalism and saving I’m going to write about soon…
  2. Management consulting/Project Management: the same job I did before but for my own clients and on a freelance basis now;
  3. Writing
    • Magazines: The Guardian, Il Sole 24 Ore, Mission and others
    • Blog posts, guest posts and reviews
    • Ghost writing (you would be shocked to know the amount of famous bloggers who actually don’t blog at all!!!)
  4. Photography:
    • photographic assignments: travel, lifestyle editorial and commercial (since February 2016, I’m represented by Townsend/London
    • Instagram coverage
    • prints – check my shop now! My first photographic memoir about India is available in pre-order now with 20% discount till end of February, Shipping worldwide from September 2016
    • photography workshop (you can book your ticket for the next one on my shop)
    • photographic content for my clients’ channels
  5. Social media:
    • Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat strategies and campaigns, competitions, brand ambassadorships, takeovers for small, medium, large clients in travel, leisure and lifestyle. You might have seen some on my channels but others are handled completely behind the scene (anonymously) by me
  6. Affiliation: you might have noticed that in the last few posts I’ve added some affiliated links. I’ve only used these for products I LOVE and brands I TRUST. It’s an incredibly tiny income (0.12$ in December! YAY!), but every little helps, right? By the way, it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it gives me a micro percentage of your purchase.

So it’s H A R D and you might be thinking that I’m suggesting to give up your dreams, but I’m not. I’m actually giving your some

Practical Tips:

  1. Jump like Tarzan.
    Yes, don’t leave your current liana before you safely caught the next on: If you have one, keep your safe, permanent job as long as necessary before you start your gardening, photography, writing, knitting, painting or whatever business you want to get in. Keep your focus and goal, but don’t get fooled by the people bragging about how easy it is. It is not easy. And it requires loads of work, day and night, weekends included.
  2. Keep doing what you love on the side, until you are 80% sure that your new creative lifestyle can be sustainable.  Keep doing it  because you love it not because you seek success or you think you deserve success.You don’t.
    I don’t.Nobody was born with the granted amount of success. Or money.Maybe your art will be successful or maybe mine will. But I know for a fact that what people appreciate the most (even in terms of Instagram likes if you want), is when I put my heart our there when I share my creativity and not when I think I got a good shot or I’m aiming for thousands of likes.
  3. Ask yourself this simple question:
    Are you willing to try without the success or without the guarantee of success (and I’m not talking just about financial success), or not?Because if you are not, then perhaps you shouldn’t pursue a creative life. Maybe this isn’t the right path for you. Perhaps you should get your head around the fact that if you mainly want money and fame, there are plenty of jobs that pay extremely well (I just left one behind) and the path to get those is tough but not as tough as in the art / creative world.But, on the other hand, if you are really committed to your dream and your art, well then forget the money, stick to your job and keep creating on the side (at sunrise or at night if necessary!)
  4. Save. Save. Save.
    Yes, I hear you, your answer is: “Well, you *did* leave your job!”Yeah, I did, but before doing that I spent years saving up for this big jump. I carefully decided exactly my moves and crafted a budget that  allowed me to take the risk without becoming homeless but actually travelling in the meantime. As I said, I’m a realistic dreamer: 2016 is the year of my leap of faith, the plan is to eliminate the use of #1 and #2 from my revenue stream above while increasing the others. Is it possible? I don’t know yet, what I do know is that I’m working super hard to get there, I will work extra-time and constantly pushing the boundaries of my creativity, inspiration and comfort zone.And unless you are willing to do the same (or have very rich parents/partner), don’t jump. The cliff is extremely deep, wide and dangerous. If you jump without a working parachute, you are mad. No, you are stupid.
    And stupid people don’t succeed. They normally just smash on the ground and then bother others to pick them up. Well, I’m not going to pick anybody up because… Well, because I told you not to jump in the first place 😉
  5. Don’t set yourself  an irrational monetary target, if you do, you are going to fail. When you try to create anything under that pressure, you won’t be able to to put your heart in it and your work will be s***, your art will pay the consequences and ultimately you will too.So. Just. Don’t.So, my ultimate honest and heartfelt advice?
  6. Get a job that pays well, start saving from your very first check. Expand your knowledge and become a portfolio worker rather than a specialist. Or, at the opposite, become the best expert of a niche where you can indeed expect to be paid extraordinarily well. Stick to the job until you are ready. Then, and only then, set off for your trip/start-up/restaurant/art studio whatever you have in mind.

Is it hard? Immensely.

Is it fun? Absolutely.

Is the best choice I have ever made? No doubt.

Think about these points and make your own decision and ask yourself: am I still willing to sacrifice my savings, my free time with an extra job and maybe sell my beloved possessions?

Well, if you are, get ready and go. If you are not then, maybe you can try with the lottery or wait for that third-degree auntie to leave you a million $ inheritance.I’m going to leave you with  two examples of success that I’ve recently came across.

One is Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the world phenomenon Eat, Love and Pray, who kept her three jobs while and after publishing that book. Now, here we are talking about millions and millions of dollars, but still she kept waitressing during the day and writing at night. What does tell you? If you really love your art, you will find the time to dedicate some time and maybe, just maybe it could become your full-time job.

The second is an insightful podcast interview to Lauren P. Bath one of my ever favourite and most inspirational instagramers and one of the earliest “influencer” (probably when that profession didn’t even exist!) She worked super hard both in her career as a chef and later as an Instagramer/marketing strategist. She never took anything for granted. So, why should you? Listen to the podcast here.

And, remember…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Start Somewhere.

Make it Remarkable. 

[And about books, if you wish to join our bookclub and discuss about her latest best seller Big Magic , register your attendance here.]

The moment you stop expecting success and money from your art,
you will finally be free to create and dedicate your heart and soul solely to the purpose of art.
Nothing else.

 

Your Definitive Packing List for a Year (or more…) of Wanderlust

 

So, you are finally ready to set off and embark on that train/plane/bus/boat/bicycle/feet that will take you away for a year or more and you are facing the tricky question of:

What the heck shall I pack?

Packing for a weekend away or a short holiday can be difficult. Packing for a year of wanderlust can be daunting and scary, especially if it’s your first time. For some stupid reasons, I personally left it until the very last minute despite being well aware of the importance and urgency of it all. Unfortunately, I lost myself in the online jungle of recommendation of other travel bloggers and let’s be honest, there is lots of crap out there.  So four months ago I got on my plane to Istanbul unsure I had all the things I needed for the following 12 months and quite sure I had missed something.

The truth is that I hadn’t forgotten anything, in fact I had (many) more things than I needed and that I soon left behind (more about this below). Like many beginners, I fell in the most common trap of reading detailed packing lists of other travel bloggers and ended up “over-packing” with stuff that had no use for me.
So, if you are about to hit the road for the first time and you have no idea of what to take with you, here is my personal, heartfelt advice after 4 months on the road.

Rule number one and only one:
u-n-d-e-r-p-a-c-k.

Easy-peasy

Remember that while traveling, you’ll be constantly packing, unpacking, packing again, checking that you’ve got everything, screaming if your stuff doesn’t fit or having huge fights with your backpack zip which will refuse to collaborate with you on a daily basis. What to do then?

Yeah, you got it right, I told you: Underpack. What I want you to do (and wished I had done so in September too!) is leave your home with almost a third of your bag empty in order to keep that spare space that you’ll need (and deeply love) while on the go. In order to do so, there are a few things I want you to keep in mind ahead of the actual packing process:

  1. You can buy most of the things on the road, yes, even in some of the most remote area you will find shampoo, chocolate and underwear; depending on where you are going some of the things you will need will cost a fraction of what you would pay them at home;
  2. When you are on the road, you will need less things than in your normal life
  3. There isn’t really any difference between packing for 6 weeks or 6 months, because you’ll just do laundry about every week or more, so just think you are going away for a short time and don’t stress too much!

So, this is my packing list and the items that I have with me right now. Bear in mind that after the first month on the road I sent a package home with things I no longer needed or wanted and I also donated some other items that were no longer necessary to me.
This is my current backpack and possibly the one I will keep for the next 6-12 months.

Your home away from home

Now that you are about to leave the comfort of your house, your backpack will become your home. Exactly like a snail, your chosen backpack will be your shell and exactly like that you will have to carry it on your back on buses, trains, planes and on foot many, many times during your travels, so my advice is to keep it minimal. The optimal weight should be around 8-10kg, less if you can, or maximum 12kg if you must.

Leave your suitcase at home. Yes, even if you are planning to stay in 5 star hotels and resorts leave your trolley home. I could tell you about one of my stay in a 5 star secluded resort where in fact I had to reach the harbor by walking on semi-submerged boulders, cross a river on a very tiny long-tiled boat and ultimately climb a very narrow and steep staircase where my car was waiting for me. Now, I easily managed to do all of it, but people who where carrying large or medium suitcases really struggled and had to ask for help as well as pay extra for their large bags. Even if you are over the age of the usual backpackers (what is that, anyway?), think again and buy one for yourself. Even if you aren’t planning to “backpack” in the conventional sense of the word, ditch the suitcase and trade them in for a good, sturdy, waterproof backpack.

My Bag(s)

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41MxLQlZGlL._SS160_Osprey Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack
(Main backpack volume is 55 liters and the Farpoint Day is 15 Liter). Yes, I must admit, I had a few fights with this bag at the start of my trip: things seemed to take more and more space and the bag seemed to get smaller every day. I later learnt that everything needs to go in the right place every time, exactly like the pieces of a jigsaw which needs to be in the right order in order to make sense. Fast-forward to four months later and I now love my bag and it’s like my second skin. I use the small one for my tech gear when in transit and my large one for everything else. The two of them, currently weigh 10.5kg together.

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Quequa Waterproof cover
For your bag, not only protects it from water, but also from tear and dust when in the plane booth as well as the other transports

Newfeel Foldable backpack: this is one of the best thing I bought for my trip. Not only is super tiny, but it becomes handy in million occasions like food shopping, beach, hiking, sightseeing. It only cost me two euros and I always have it with me in case I need some extra space.

Two cotton shopping bags: perfect for a day by the beach and for your laundry or just in general for you to carry around your things. There will be moments when some things won’t fit in your bag, so they are always very handy. I have one normal size and a smaller one which is perfect for little things or even to keep things separate in your bag.

One leather shoulder Camera bag: this is a late addition to my travel kit that I bought in India. I didn’t really need it, but it’s extremely handy for those other situations when you can’t be completely casual and/or business meetings I need to go to. I love it and it was a massive hit on my instagram feed some time ago and before you ask, no, you can’t buy it online 😉

 
The Essentials

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These are like THE MOST  important items, without them you can stay home and forget about your trip. Don’t only pack them, but throughout your trip always hold on to them like they where the most precious items you ever own – which in fact they are when you are traveling:

Passport – do I need to add anything to this? Well, I just say that in order to enter most countries, you will need to make sure to have at least 6 months left on it

10 copies of your passport – like your money, they should go half in your day-bag and half in your backpack/hotel

5-10 passport-sized photos – you will need them for visas and other documents on the road

Health and travel insurance – I use Worldnomads

Two or three debit/credit cards – don’t stack them all together in your purse/wallet, but use different locations and remember them!

  1. Credit/Debit Card with free cash withdrawals abroad
  2. Credit/Debit Card for purchases and backup
  3. Prepaid Credit/Debit Card  additional backup (trust me it’s never too many! Insert long story here…)

Cash – take approximately $200 or £200 for emergency and spread them around in your belongings. Dollars are universally accepted, but any international currency would do in those tricky situations you want to avoid.

Business Cards if you are planning to meet potential clients on the go

Airline Miles Membership Cards

 

Medical Kit

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This is as essential as the section above, especially if you have some permanent conditions. It’s a great idea to also have a mini medical-kit with you at all times especially in some third-world countries or where some diseases are more frequent and common.  Your medical kit should include some of the below, but obviously only you know what are you weak areas and what you should bring with you. I currently have with me:

Plasters

Bandages

Antiseptic handwash

Antidiarrhoeas (Imodium)

Antacid (for indigestion)

Ibuprofen / paracetamol

Antihistamines (mosquitos can be a big problem in some places)

Motion Sickness Pills: I never got motion sickness but then I was very sick on my ferry from the Andaman Islands as the Ocean was very rough.

Sleeping pills: I’m a late-sleeper and early-riser and when I feel I need to sleep more, I knock myself out with a couple of natural, valerian-based tablets.

Lavender essential oil: for the same reason above (thank you Rachel!)

Tea-tree Essential oil: endless ways of using it and a best friend while travelling!

Condoms (yes, girls too)

Clothes

Right, ladies (and gentlemen!), this is the moment where I’m telling you to forget your fashionable habits at home and think smart.  I’m not telling you to look like a lost soul or a homeless, but to smarten up your wardrobe and matching skills.  You must leave home most of your clothes and start thinking in multiple outfits, if you are not doing that already. On the road, life will be easier (less choice=less drama), but the crucial moment is when you pick the things that are going to come with you for the next year or so. Below is my current selection and the things I have with me right now. Sometimes I struggle, most of the time I’m extremely happy that I don’t have to waste time choosing what to wear, only one time (at the Opera) I felt I was underdressed, but I was excused as I had very little notice. 

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Fashion tip #1

Try to pack only clothes that match together or that have a similar tonality. Ideally, select dark or neutral colors (especially for your bottoms).

Learn to dress in layers, depending on the temperature, you will need to learn how to dress adding or removing layers. Of course, if you are traveling to Iceland or to the Himalayas you might want to bring that bulky, fat, super warm jacket, but unless you are going there, then the layers’ strategy will work for most places around the world.

Fashion Tip #2

Roll your clothing – yes, folding won’t work for a backpack, it’s much better if you you’re your items very tightly so to minimize the air and to avoid wrinkles

Underwear X 5
Socks X 3
Bra X 2
Bikini X 2 (2 swimming costume/boxers)
Short shorts X 2

Jeans 1
Light long trousers X 2
Leggings 1
Dresses X 1 (for those fancy occasions or elegant dinner)
T-shirts / vest tops X 5

Longsleeve top 1 (for temples, protect against mosquitos)
Shirt x1
Fleece (it can get cold at night, especially in the desert)
Hoodie (to keep warm on planes and at night)
Waterproof Jacket

Ultra-light Uniqlo puffy jackets
Beach Towel: use a lovely sarong
Belt x1
1 x large scarf or pashmina
Hat

 

Footwear

Obviously, it all depends on your destination(s). I can tell you to bring your flip flops/thongs, but I believe you will make little use of them if you are going to climb Mount Everest or cycle through Africa, right?

So, considering I’ve been doing some adventures as well as some beach time and city exploration, this is my current mix and I love it.

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Adidas Ultraboost 2 black: they have no visible brand and that’s great for me as I don’t want to be a walking advertising board

H&M Espadrillas: recent addition to my mix here in Sydney as it’s very warm for my trainers but my sandals aren’t ideal for very long walks

Crocs Flip-Flop: had to replace my Hawaianas recently as they broke down and there was no way to repair them. I’ll let you know how I like them soon!

Sandals: bought these almost 8 years ago in a little shop in Spain, everybody, especially me loved them. They are super-comfortable and almost fashionable! 😉

 

Toiletries

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Nothing. Yes, leave at home everything. EVERYWHERE in the world you can buy these things and you do not need to carry them all the way from your home country even more because you will end up taking too much.  Well, take with you a travel toothbrush and small-sized toothpaste, that’s all you need for the flight or in case your bag get lost. 
So, once you are at your first destination, head to a supermarket and buy the followings:

Tooth floss/paste/brush

Shampoo / conditioner (not pictured)

Deodorant

Bodysoap

Aesop Sun cream (at least SPF 30)

Aesop Aftersun / moisturiser

Make up (I personally only have one black eyeliner, one mascara, a red and a pink lipsticks)

Lip balm

Cotton buds

Nail clippers

Tweezers

Comb/Hair bands

For Ladies Only (from home):

Mooncup

Braun Silk Epil

Pacifica Solid Parfume (it smells delicious, it’s super-light and compact and lasts a life time, plus no worry about breaking it in your bag!)

Boys
Leave your electronic razor at home, beard is SO sexy! 😛

 

Tech Stuff, Photo Gear and Gadgets

If you, like me are working while travelling, you will need some of the below. If you instead have decided to take a total break from the digital world, you can skip this section completely and jump to the next one.

Remember to back up and get insurance all the items you particularly care about!

Mini ipod for long train or bus journey, days at the beach and back up for saving battery of my phone

Olympus OM ED10 (plus extra battery) with 14-42 and  Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens

4x SD card

JOBI Gorilla pod

iPhone6

Power bank x2: a small ANKER (thank you, Anna!) for my out and about and a TECKNET 15000mAh with dual USB for those long train/bus journey with no power outlets. It was  also very handy in India where I used it every other day or even in those guesthouse or hotels where there is only one plug or it’s too far from your bed!

WD 1TB My Passport External HD and robust anti-shock case 

USB stick (1GB) for those things you might need to print on the road or those pictures you take of strangers and want to print and give to them

Kindle: I’m a book-worm so I can’t go anywhere without a good book. The battery life is great (one month or more), and if you’re planning on getting away from it all there’s no better company than a good book.I have an old one that I think Amazon does no longer sell, but if this one breaks down, I will surely buy the Voyage or Paperwhite 

11 inch MacBook Air: Whilst I travel, I’m also working. If you’re not working and just want to keep in touch with people and access the internet, then an iPad mini or your smartphone would be perfect for the purpose

Go Pro Hero 3 with waterproof case and pole

Triple UK plug: Every day I have at least three things to charge (phone, laptop and camera) so this bulky item has become my life savior when there is only one plug available

Apple iPhone6

One spare cheap phone (just in case!)

Headphone Splitter (to watch movies with your mate or travel buddy on planes, stations and/or buses

1 x Travel Adapters (to charge all this equipment)

Camera, phone, kindle and video battery chargers

 

Miscellaneous

Super Glue – a must-have for all those quick repairs, it’s incredible to see how easily things break when you are constantly using them.

Plastic bags: there will be moment when your bikini or towel will be dump or wet and you will be on your way to the airport: one or even two of these freezer-kind of bags are going to save your life (and the rest of your stuff!)

 Packing Cubes: these were introduced to me by a packing pro and since I bought them, my travelling life has changed. All my clothes are organised so I know exactly where to look for a specific item at any time eBags cubes and the Eagle Creek packing sleeves.

 Locks: you can either choose a Combination lock or one with the key, the risk is that you might lose it

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Sunglasses: I love my folding Wayfarer Rayban, the box is super compact and they are just perfect for any kind of adventure

Travel towel: they don’t feel amazing, but they dry super quickly and that something you need while travelling

Rab Sleeping bag Silk liner: for the occasional dirty bed or for when there isn’t one, yup it can happen!

 Eye mask, I cannot sleep if there even the tiniest light so, my beloved silk eye mask became my best friend on train, buses but even hotels and guesthouses that didn’t provide pitch black

 Ear plugs, for planes or even while working in noisy cafes

Inflatable travel pillow, perfect for that nap waiting at airports and on planes

Sewing kit: yup, another handy thing to fix those things that might become loose on the road

 Swiss army knife: it’s cool to have one 😉

Shoe cover: shoes can be the more disgusting thing to put in your bag, instead of taking plastic bags, try and get some covers, they are lighter and don’t take space at all!

Pen and paper: who knows, you might find some inspiration while on the go or you might need to share your phone with that cute girl/guy you’ve just met!

 Camomille bags (a taste of home…)

Digital Luggage Scale

 Travel Laundry Soap

Little Mirror

Tiny hot water bottle

Light

Digital  packing list & Apps

I’m not going to tell you that you are not a real explorer if you bring your smartphone with you, like so many travel-gurus on the net. I’m telling you bring your phone but use it only when truly necessary or when there is nothing better to do (which won’t happen often while travelling). There is no point in avoiding technology when it can be so helpful to us, so bring your phone, get a local SIM card and make your life easier. Yeah, you will still be considered a cool traveler!

Apps

Google maps

Pennies: great to set a budget and keep an eye on it everyday

AccuWeather: to check forecasting of your next destinations

Tripadvisor: it’s not the bible, but it can give you an idea of the places and the features you are looking for

Zomato: like the above

Shazam: you never know which or where you are going to hear your favourite new song!

Townske: up-and-coming, community-based global city-guides. This is an essential to find cafes, galleries and restaurants and you can be a contributor too!

Sleep Better: not only while travelling, but for everyday life as it wakes you up at the right cycle of your sleeps

Postagram: little cute app to send your phone pictures as postcards to your family and friends

Skyscanner: check the best price for your flights comparing all the different airlines

Instagram: of course! IG is not only a great photo sharing app, but also the perfect way to meet locals and expats in the places you are visiting

Spotify

Skype on laptop and iPhones

Twitter

Facebook

WhatsApp messenger for iPhone: great app that you can group message friends & family for free over wifi

Photo editing apps (but this will be a separate future post!)

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Things to do before you go
(VERY IMPORTANT STUFF!)

Notify your bank of your travels, mine has a section on my online banking where I can compile a detailed itinerary, some others might require you to call up or to send an email. Check some time before your departure. There is nothing worse than being locked out your card at thousands of miles away from your home with no cash at all (yup, I’m talking from personal experience here!

Make sure to do some research for your back-up card(s) and make the right choice. Most cards will charge you for withdrawal and payment in foreign currency, see which one offers the best deal in your home country

Set your google drive as your go-to back-up: Create a folder of digital copies of documents, credit cards, tickets, travel insurance, contact details and everything else you might need. If you lose everything, you will have a safe copy in the cloud.
Some people suggest to keep physical copies of your credit cards, I say don’t! Have them online or emailed to yourself or to someone you trust, but don’t carry physical copies with you. It’s very easy to make payment with the copies and you might be lose all your money in no time.

Unlock your phone: some new generation phones are locked by the carrier, so make sure to unlock it before you go. The process can be dreadful and long (especially if you bought a Vodafone device at Carphonewarehouse in the UK, my gosh! Never again!), so start calling the customer service far in advance. If you have an unlocked phone you can pick a local SIM card wherever you are and use data as you were at home. Do not use data-roaming, unless is a life-threatening emergency!

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Ready, steady, Go?!?

No, not yet. Before you leave, pack and unpack your bag in the comfort of your home. Do it in different moment of the week and maybe make a sketch of how you placed your items. Put the bags on and walk around your house for 20 minutes or more. If you are ok, you are ready to go. If you are suffering, sweating or crying then go back and re-pack again.
You will soon realise that items will fit better in one or the other position and it’s better you save yourself time at home in the preparatory phase rather than getting frustrated with these experiments while you are away (yup, another personal testimony here!!!). If you have a weekend away before your big trip, take the opportunity to test the bag and your packing skills too.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. I certainly wished I had these information  4 months ago!

Additionally, if you enjoyed this post and are interested in buying some of the products above, you can click the links to my Amazon shop: it doesn’t cost you anything more than the displayed price and it will give me a micro fee on the products you purchase. I’ve only added the affiliated links on products I truly value, love and trust. I wished I had this kind of list and links a few months ago, when I was spending days comparing products online, well you do have it now…easy-peasy! 😉

[Note: This is NOT a sponsored post, but my own personal recommendations!]

Don’t forget to leave me a comment below to let me know your packing tips; share my post on your social medias and if you have any other  packing questions, please let me know via my facebook page or Twitter. If you wish to help me creating boards on my baby-born Pinterest page, I’m here .
As alwaysy you can find my photographic journal on Instagram and peak my Aussie adventures on snapchat {sab_storyteller}.

See you there and don’t forget to Make It Remarkable! 😉

Thank you, Miss Fear

storyteller in India

FEAR is the answer you were waiting for.

To the ones who asked me W H Y I left my very good and well-paid job in London, to the dozens emails I receive weekly asking how, and to the many messages and comments seeking advice on how to follow your desire to travel the world.

Yes, in November 2014 Miss Fear paid me a visit and pushed me out of my comfort zone and “easy” life in the UK.

I had always been a golden child, pushed by competition and a hunger for achievement. I had to win. Always. Very often people looking at my life would tell me “You’ve nailed it”. At the age of 26 I had nailed it. Totally. And more so by 28, 29. Achieving and smashing goals was my favourite sport in my twenties. I was so focused on it that I completely forgot to stop and think if I was playing a game I was interested in, or not.

The truth is that at 30 I no longer wanted to play that game I was so good at.

And then fear came to visit me. 

Fear to miss out, fear I would never be truly happy despite all my professional success and accomplishments on the corporate ladder, fear I would postpone my own dream to travel to prioritise the common goal of a shining CV and spotless career.
Fear I would never see the world with my own eyes, photograph it or writing about it.
Fear my travel around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa would stay in the dream drawer forever.
Fear that I might die before I could see all the things I wanted to see, do, experience or be.
Fear I would never touch the Taj Mahal, speak a few words of Hindi and fear I couldn’t never surf in Australia, fear I would never ride a camel. Fear I couldn’t never see a kangaroo or hug a koala or watch the stars in the middle of the desert.
Fear I wouldn’t never become a digital nomad or discover the secrets of Myanmar.
Fear I would miss my one chance to be happy. This might sound all a bit dramatic, because it is, in fact. When somebody close to you dies, that fear you have dominated, forgotten or avoided for so long, comes out of nowhere and starts eating you alive. This is what happened in 2015 and this is what got me on the road a few months later.

FORGET YOUR CAREER, YOUR SALARY OR YOUR “STUPID” PROFESSIONAL GOALS

Get out
Eat the world
Love unconditionally
Learn a new language
Dance with strangers
Close your map
Get lost
Breath
Inspire and be inspired
Switch your phone off
Laugh
Cry
Explore
Be alive

F E E L 

Fear is not the problem. 
What you do with it is.