My Minimalist Escape – How Minimalism helped my life

 
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 Hotel

Two 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 weighed 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 pairs of shoes were so destroyed and disgusting after hundreds of 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 off 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!

SELL IT OR GIVE IT TO A 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 slowly 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 truer 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?

Before 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 have 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 heaps 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 a 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 

More importantly, I am a big advocate of experiences VS things. In a world where we are all submerged 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 with you for a very long time. What’s more important those happy moments?

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

DIGITAL DECLUTTERING

But minimalism 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 consciously 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. The truth is that you don’t. I’ve learnt to spend 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

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A slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas

You know I’m not a big fan of big, global, heartless hotel chains where you end up waking up in the same room whether you are in Paris, Rio or Sydney.  As you have already read here and seen on my Instagram, I’m a big fan of boutique hotels and quirky accommodations that have a personality and do things differently.

So, when I was invited by QT Resort for a stay at their slice of tropical paradise in Port Douglas, I couldn’t decline the offer!

QT is not quite what you’d think, it’s not your ordinary hotel, it’s an eclectic mix of design and art, it’s style and luxury, with a touch of quirk all in #QTstyle!

The Experience

My day started with a wonderful SPA treatment at their spaQ where my incredibly talented masseuse managed to magically soothe each and every knot around my shoulders and back after five months of wild (read uncomfortable) camping around Australia. I literally felt like I had a new body when I left.

QT ResortAfter the restoring treatment, we were welcomed for lunch at Estilo where we had gorgeous mini-burgers and smashed avocado on toast… Yum!

We later went for a few laps at the olympic pool and I once again promised myself to learn how to play tennis while watching a couple hitting hard the ball.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sipping fantastic cocktails at the pool where the young brilliant barman asked us for our favourite spirits instead of a name which made every round a nice surprise to our thirsty palates.

QT Resort

Dinner was served at Bazaar, a beautifully-designed restaurant inspired by international street stalls, souks and bodegas that recreates a traditional marketplace which offered various options of vegetables, meat and fish. I obviously went for half a dozen oysters and some fresh salad before trying a couple of those cute mouthwatering desserts. Everything was of course washed away with a beautiful South Australian sauvignon blanc. I am not a big fan of buffet especially at dinner and I would have much preferred the usual experience of ordering a la carte instead, but still the idea behind is very original, but in my opinion it would work much better at lunch time.

QT Resort

 

Breakfast was probably my favourite meal at QT since it has about five or six different types of yoghurt (HURRAH!), LOADS of fresh fruit, pancakes and hash browns, eggs, sausages and bacon, and plenty of pastry. I think that nowadays hotels which want to really stand out from the mass should offer real espresso coffee along their breakfast: it would make everything so perfect rather than the usual instant coffee…

EXTRA

While away Bookshop & Cafe
This cute little cafe quickly became my favourite in the week I spent in Port Douglas. Not only they have a great selection of books about all topics, but they also serve wonderful coffees and delicious cakes. I went back there day after day and the staff won my personal award for the most welcoming and friendly service in the whole of Australia. Well done!

THE FACTS

I was a guest at QTResort Port Douglas, all views are my own. You can book your own stay through their website here. I enjoyed my QT 2 Bedroom Villa Garden View which is $439 per night with breakfast included or $395 if you are a QT Member: it’s completely free to join and you can earn points towards FREE nights!

QT is perfect for…. stylish tropical breaks and romantic weekends away

Address: 87 – 109 Port Douglas Road, 4877, QLD, Australia

 

What do you think of this hotel? Are you planning a trip to Port Douglas and considering a stay here? If you enjoyed this post or have any questions about this hotel, please leave me a comment in the box below! x

Want to read more about other special accommodations? Check out my brand new DREAM section here

Port Douglas

 

 

Digital Nomads Trail: Yab Yum, Goa | India

I had heard of Tripzuki through some friends who had mentioned they had the coolest accommodations in India and since I am one of the many digital nomads around the world, I thought this was going to be the perfect place for a week or so of work & relax. I had a look online and I was impressed by the number and diverse accommodation they have in their portfolio. Tripzuki, a young, hip start-up provides travellers in India with local expertise, advice and inspiration, underpinned by a gorgeous collection of unique, well-run, ‘boutique’ hotels, all of which are directly bookable via their website.

Set in a coconut jungle just off one of the best and most tranquil beaches in North Goa, this intimate, eco-friendly boutique resort is the perfect place for all digital nomads looking to get some work done while chilling by one of the most popular beaches in India.

The hobbit-like, long-haired, eco-conscious 14 huts are itself a great attraction of the Yub Yum, in fact when I moved there I quickly extended by stay by a couple of nights.

One of the things I loved the most there, was the fact I had no need to wear shoes or flip flops, in fact these where forgotten by my hut for the entire stay 🙂 The lovely sandy path takes you from the entrance gate to the beach, the restaurant and the reception. Even to go to the nearby restaurants/café you can forget your sandals and just enjoy being barefoot for a while, especially at night when the sand is enjoyable cold.

Yab Yum isn’t a luxury resort, but it’s the perfect place if you are looking for peace, privacy and a very good vibe.

On top of the huts there are also 5 cottages (with A/C) by the beach, but personally I turned down one of them to try the adventure of being in a hairy beach-hut. Oh! If there is one thing I like to spoil myself with when travelling is breakfast in bed or in my bedroom. So, when I found out that at Yab Yum, a rich and generous breakfast is served just outside your dome, every morning, well, I knew it was going to be looove!

✪ Perfect for:
Digital nomads, remote workers, online entrepreneurs, family, couples looking for a romantic stay or a perfect honeymoon on the beach


✪ Book your stay here

GALLERY

Avalon Retreat – Hobart | Australia

After walking, climbing, running in and around Hobart all day long, Avalon Retreat was truly a retreat, especially the beautiful outdoor Huon pine bath I had under the stars! This modular pod right in the centre of the CBD, sits on top of an office building and boosts two very large bedrooms (sleeps 4) with en- suite bathroom complemented with a gorgeous custom made Avalon toiletry range crafted with locally sourced products and fragrances. There is a massive living room and stunning kitchen equipped with anything (and more) you might need during your stay, including a full breakfast which you can cook at your leisure, including free range eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, juice, Nespresso coffee and serious tea selection. Throughout the property you can also enjoy complimentary WiFi, an Apple TV and a Sonos music system.

Avalon City Retreat is built for sharing, quiet noise, celebrations, contemplating, dreaming, cuddling and fun. This soothing sanctuary is an oasis, a memorable escape from ‘the circus’.

✪ Perfect for: A family getaway, a romantic stay or a different business accommodation
✪ Book your stay here: www.avalonretreats.com.au

Hotel Hotel – Canberra | Australia

Hotel Hotel is more than a place to stay, it’s more than a hotel, it’s a Hotel Hotel. With two capital Hs.

Nestled in the New Acton precinct area and part of the Nishi building, Hotel Hotel is the result of an deep partnership between more than fifty designers, artists, artisans and fantasists. Hotel Hotel  was created with people – people in mind as it’s stated on the doors at their other entrance. The founders chose a stylish design over a flashy luxury one. It’s cool, without being overbearing.

On the first night I managed to stay in one of their apartments which was oh! so well-decorated and beautifully thought through that I immediately felt at home. I normally don’t feel 100% comfortable in hotels, there is something that is too pretentious and fake in some of them, so it’s hard sometimes to feel good. But Hotel Hotel -and handful others I had the opportunity to visit in the past year- have this feeling that just makes you feel more than welcome, they make you feel at Home. A home away from home, basically what a nomad like me needs from time to time. On the second night I moved to a Creative Room which was equally beautifully designed with concrete walls and columns and work art and books all around. Both rooms had the largest king sized bed I have ever seen, dressed with the whitest and softer sheets ever and six (six!!) pillows. Little details like the French Press, Aesop bath products, vintage lamps, a granny-style rug on the bed, the last bestsellers next to the classics on the shelves are the ones I look for whenever I stay in a hotel. They are the little touches that make everything different and special.

You need to go and experience it first hand to understand what I am talking about, but I hope the pictures below will help a bit to give you an idea of what I mean.

You might think that I have spent the entire weekend in bed (which in fact I was really, really tempted to do), but my gorgeous luncheon and Canberra adventures were awaiting…(read more about my weekend in Canberra here or download my complete Canberra CREED guide here)

PERFECT FOR: a business, romantic or family stay
ADDRESS: NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra ACT 2601

WEBSITE: www.hotelhotel.com.au
INSTAGRAM: @hotel_hotel

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

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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!)

*

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!

*

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 of 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.
The 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.
The fear I would never touch the Taj Mahal, speak a few words of Hindi and fear I couldn’t ever surf in Australia, fear I would never ride a camel. The fear I couldn’t see a kangaroo or hug a koala or watch the stars in the middle of the desert.
The fear I would never become a digital nomad or discover the secrets of Myanmar.
The 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.

– Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. 
James Neil Hollingsworth.

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.