Winter In Europe – trip planning #1

At the time of this post, my countdown calendar tells me I have 188 Days 20 Hours 46 Minutes until I hop on that plane and set off for Europe (with a detour in Asia first). While the first part of my trip is planned and sealed everything after December 15th, which I’ll arrive in Amsterdam is still very much out in the open. I have no constructive plan as of it about the 28 days which I’ll get to myself (and for you people that likes number out there, that’s 7.67% out of a 365 days year)

What to do between December 15th – January 12th?

I’m having difficulties dividing these 28 days up evenly. Naturally, if I were to spend 7 days in 4 places, I’d get to chill out and experience more or less a week here and there ( accounting for the travel time).

So shall it be: Amsterdam -> Berlin -> Copenhagen -> Stockholm -> Amsterdam?

travel itinerary draft 1:

Berlin, December 16 – December 22
Copenhagen, December 23 – December 29 (Christmas in Copenhagen)
Stockholm, December 30 – January 5 (New Years in Stockholm)
Amsterdam, January 6 – 12

Should I make this trip strictly Scandinavian and add Norway in there? Or should I condense my time in each city to around 5 days instead and visit 5 to 6 places instead of 4? I guess this all depends on how much culture I want to experience vs. sight seeing? (and of course I have this dreaded fear that going to Norway in the dead of winter would be like …lol madness…) still trying to decide.

The things I’ve decided on thus far.

From what I have read so far, Europe during the winter is very different from North America. There’s more celebratory spirit, more cultural traditions that plays into celebrating the end of the year and welcoming the new year. And one of the major things that’d definitely caught my attention as of now is:

Christmas Markets ! A tradition that is said to have originated from Germany/Austria and Northern Italy (according to Wikipedia) and by doing a little research I’ve found the countries I’m planning to visit all have their own variation!  (and let’s just say I plan to visit many of these and snapping many many photos…dorky I know).

I will also need to expand on this list of things I want to do in each country, so far,  gutes bier trinken in Deutschland, duh, see the Little Mermaid, find the narrowest alleyway of Gamla Stan, see the changing of the guards, visit museums, FIKA FIKA FIKA, respect people’s personal spaces and wear lots of black and stay warm. Yes…

Budget wise…well, that calls for another post entirely. Stay tuned!

 

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the mini escapist plan – learning to relax

“Just imagine, you’re completely free – no responsibilities, no worries for one day, what would you do?”

This is something I’d dreamt up while working. Yeah, the feeling is sort of like something a prisoner might have when he peers out of the metal bars of his cell-block window and at the ghostly full moon. Except the prisoner is probably not having one non-stopping trainwreck of a thought that goes like ‘Ugh I have a report due on a topic I have absolutely no knowledge in, better research now…well soon as possible…ugh why couldn’t people in my group pick something that’s actually up my alley. I wonder what I’ll have for lunch. I wonder if I’m getting too much sugar and not enough protein…ugh I only have 8 days until that midterm, ugh better study on top of researching…oh I better get off instagram…’

Cue to clenching and unclenching your fists and forgetting that sacred yoga breathing technique. Yeah, total freakout, and that actually sums up my day pretty well. One big gigantic monologue that plays on like a satirical comedy show I might actually tune in during the evening, i.e The Lackluster Life of a statistically insignificant Gen Y. Except then, this Gen Y-er like possibly many many other Gen Y-er dreams up something even crazier than her thought vomit.

She says, hey, wait a minute. ‘If freedom’s all I want, why don’t I just be free’?

At first I’d thought this question would be easy to answer as I sit stuck in the office, eying the photocopier as it spews out the 400th something piece of pristine white A4 paper. What would I do?

If you had complete freedom to do as you wish for an entire day (within the confines of criminal law, and the realm of earthly possibilities of course) how would you spent it? What’s the first thing you’d do?

Then it hit me, the first thing I’d do is nothing related to achievement or even money matters, the first thing I’d do if I was completely free would be:

STOP WORRYING

Take everything one day at a time, tackle obstacles one at a time, even if there are 10000000 things to be done. Enjoy the process to the best of your abilities and breathe. Then the rest should come easily to you, because after you freed yourself from the shackles of assumed ‘stress’ and ‘responsibility’ of adulthood then you can step away from everything and see yourself from a different perspective – or through all the noise – you’ll not only renew your soul but you’ll also see the world anew.

I tried this and thought, you know, that’d be great. If I stopped trying to prevent imagined worst case scenarios my overactive imagination had painted then I’d just go out for a walk, maybe a run, pick up a few grocery items and cook up a nice meal to enjoy slowly and not just shove it and eat it like I do at work, then go out and socialize with other people without feeling guilty about it because there are certain things relating to work that needs to be done, or dreading the fact that I’d need to be somewhere I don’t want to be in the next 12 hours or so. That said, this is exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow – hurray day off, hurray Friday.

time poor, wisdom rich

At the end of April I made myself a bucket list listing a few of the things I’d set out to do in the month of May. Since there’s only a week of May left, I’m a little disappointed to report that perhaps my list was a little too ambitious for someone juggling job and school at the same time. With reports and midterms nearing and work eating away good chunks of my life a day at a time 3 out of 7 those things sit gathering dust. I haven’t picked up the novel I had intended to read, neither did I think up something that scared me and did it – as for the exploring part, does taking your parents to dinner at a part of town they’ve never been to count? Naw, probably not.

However, all is not lost. I did manage to improve the other 4 things I’d set out to do and gain valuable insight about my life – and perhaps this strange yet thrilling journey of life in general and come away richer (philosophically speaking) than I had been at the beginning of the month. That’s the most important thing right? Self improvement and reflection, even though not a lot had changed in my immediate environment. Here are some key points:

1. Pure resentment of a current situation without the readiness to change (either the situation itself, or some aspect of the situation, or even yourself) is quite futile and only leads to frustration which is counter productive. It is better to look at things from a different perspective and with a clear mind. Make peace with yourself first then face problems head on instead of sweeping everything under the carpet, even if its uncomfortable.

2. Don’t expect everyone to support you on your cause, in fact, go at it like you’ve only got yourself to count on.

3. Tune out other’s doubts and criticism – you don’t need negativity.

4. But most of all, failing does not prove others to be ‘right’. Failure is the mother of success.

5. Change itself is uncomfortable. Transformation is not readily given. Working towards a dream is hardwork, blood and sweat. But one day you’ll look back and be glad that you did start when you did, and did not give up when everyone else expected you to.

Curbing your monstrous spending appetite

Budget and diet are two words that more often than not elicit a sense of dread in people. Being reminded that we need to watch our spending, or watch our waistlines when there are temptation lurking in every corner makes ‘budgeting’ or ‘dieting’ an uncomfortable exercise of will. I see many parallels between budgeting and dieting. There are things you just ‘gotta have’, right? Whether it be another pair of designer denim, or that majestic looking chocolate cheesecake that taunts you from the bakery’s window.

Chances are, we’ve all been there. Or at least I don’t think I’m alone in this. I for one am not immune when I see the ‘sale’ sign hanging in front of displays, or when I open up my email and I see ‘sale’ from stores I subscribe to. Who doesn’t love a bargain? Whether it be an end of season sale or buy two slices of pizza and we’ll throw in a soft drink for free. You might very well give in to your urges, only to realize after you’ve made the purchase, or wolfed down those two gigantic slices of pizza that you’ve made a horrible mistake.

Your stomach might twist because you’d just dropped your hard earned cash like that (or because you’ve ate those two slices of pizza way too fast and now you’ve got a stomach ache. See the parallels?)

The first step to overcoming any problem is admitting that you have a problem.

i. Admit that you have a problem.

Incidents of unnecessary spending might flood back into your mind at this point. Then, you might start wondering where you’re going wrong – what is causing these unfortunate incidents? Is it the advertisements or is it something internal instead? Are you perhaps utilizing retail therapy or chocolate too often?

ii. Pinpoint the root of the problem.

Now that you’ve got the root of the problem pinpointed, it’s time to personalize the solution, is it an internal thing (stress?) or an external thing (that SALE sign just happened to be in your way!! And you can’t walk around it bummer.) :

iii. Come up with a relevant solution!!!

If the problem’s internal, as in it bubbled from stress or emotions, then it is important to address these issues accordingly. Going for a walk (it really helps!), writing it down in a journal, talking to a family member about it. If the problem’s external, then read on.

Personally, I’ve got a problem with shopping when I’m stressed out. I’m more tempted to shop for clothes online during periods of perceived high stress (ex: typing up reports for school, studying for exam etc.) or utter boredom. So I came up with a list of criteria that the item in question must pass in order to be considered purchasable.

1. Do you really need it? (or are you responding to this ‘sale’ stimulus because you don’t want to miss out on a bargain? But wait, chances are that pair of cut out leather shoes and midnight black motto jeans are similar to something you already have in your closet, and even if you don’t have something like it in your closet, think of all the items of clothing you’re neglecting as result of impulse buys, not mentioning the new clothes that are still in their bags…)
2. Is it compatible with your lifestyle? (Or is it more of a trend you’re following? Everyone’s doing floral print so you want floral print as well? Where and when do you plan on wearing it? How many times? Here you want to assess if its gonna be 300 dollars 1 time wear, or 1000 dollars regular wear for the next five years of your life – a timeless classic piece you’d pass onto your children!)
3. Is it within your budget? (Be honest. Do you have X amount to spare, what about your electric and grocery bills? Your car?) 4. Would you still want it 30 days from now? (The answer is usually, no no no. Because we’re bombarded with so many temptations, our brains naturally overload on the things we want – so chances are you’re gonna be obsessed with something else between now and 30 days from now and won’t miss this item that tickled your fancy in the past tense.)
5. Could you wait until it goes on sale? (It’d be a good idea. This ties in to #4. Something better almost always comes along.)

What I find is that after going through these five questions. I end up keeping money in my wallet, no matter how small or large a purchase might be. I come to realize that 7 dollars for a tank top might be cheap, but wouldn’t it be more economical if I just wore the grey tank I already have in my closet and saved the 7 dollars? These small expenses do add up, much like lattes. Same for jeans. Out of the ridiculous amount I have sitting there in my closet, to this date I’ve only managed to wreck one due to regular wear in a span of five or six years. So I remind myself, every time I see a new product I want to add to my wardrobe, that if it takes me 5-6 years to wreck a pair of jeans, then I already have enough to last me until my eighties most likely. So there you have it, be smart with your money, because you slaved hard for it, therefore wasting it on stupid things would be … well, counterproductive to say the least.

keep calm and stay motivated

It’s been a good week. Despite some minor shortcomings, such as urges to spend impulsively, I’m here enjoying a two day weekend. My first proper weekend in a long time. It’s much more than I could ask for. Peace, quiet and alone time to reflect over the past week. I can honestly say, before I went back to school I’d imagined dividing time between work and school would be a piece of cake. I’d expected everything to just fall in place on its own accord. That effort would be minimal on my part, after all, how hard could juggling school and work be?

Apparently, not as easy as I imagined as work actually eats up a good chunk of your time. And some light reading and googling around confirmed what I’d suspected from very early on. Work is not just the 8 hours you put in at the office and sometimes more. It is also the commute time, which in my case is an hour to and an hour back. It’s the time and money you spend shopping for work attires and then the time you spend after work, worrying about work the next day.

Yeah, so its not quite the I’ve got 24 hours, if I worked 8, I could still devote 6 hours to studying and 10 to sleep. No.

Work is also a mind set. After a long day at work you’d rather not churn out anything that requires brain power, alas, your classes demand that of you, while you’d like to cook, clean, settle in for the night and sip tea with your latest TV addiction. There is simply no stop and pause. And to think that I’m only about half way done with this semester.

I’ve got a long, long way to go.

Not only school wise. Achieving my ultimate dream is going to take a lot more than what I’m putting into it currently. Whether or not other people believe in my dream or even agree with what I want is not of my discretion. My only responsibility at this point is to go in the direction I want and pay no attention to naysayers and people who don’t understand me and doubt me. I know what needs to be done between now and December, and I’m going to do it.

Poor time management, never, ever again.

Here’s where I promise myself my bad habits have got to stop.

Case and point: p r o c r a s t i n a t i o n

I wrote my first midterm in a very long time recently on a meager 2 hours of sleep, two red bulls (because you shouldn’t consume more than 2 cans in a single day, plus I didn’t want to get jittery on the exam) and maybe 4 or 5 cups of coffee. (yeah I know, that goes against my argument of not wanting to be jittery, but coffee in its purest form, brewed black coffee seize to have its effect on me due to years of …college style caffeination – yeah old habits die hard).

Needless to say, this was the result of an all night cram session with me kicking myself mentally as the clock ticked away to exam time. Staying up all night doesn’t have the allure as it used to. Like, crashing your friend’s house to do an all night studying session together then feeling like a champ in the morning (those were the glory days).

But now I’m no longer the younger me, I definitely feel it when I put my body through stress like this. Not only did I crash on my bed and snooze for a very healthy fourteen hours after the exam. I also woke up groggy and fog brained. In hindsight, If I had just planned better, then I would’ve saved the misery I put myself through unnecessary stress and anxiety and perhaps enjoyed the night after securing a victory by doing something other than snoozing in bed.

That said, my next exam is at the end of the month. I promise myself that I will pace myself throughout the weeks rather than cramming for it all the night before, because I’d just experienced again how detrimental and disruptive it would be to my overall health regime and well, budget plan. Yeah, while red bulls and extra coffee is not a big splurge. It definitely adds up if I had to do this for every exam I’d have in the future. So for my sanity’s sake, I hereby declare war on procrastination. Never ever again!

you hold the pen to your own story

There’s no point in blind imitation, whether be it a fashion trend or a lifestyle. You are a unique individual with unique needs and desires. What works for others might not work for you – or even if they did, how would you know you’d be truly happy in the long run with your adopted mindset?

There are endless self help books that address issues such as happiness, self-esteem, self-confidence, efficiency, and fulfillment. With endless advices from gurus that bombard your conscious thoughts. Some might think, if I followed through with all these advices then I can achieve true fulfillment.

That might be true, however, that assumption discounts what’s really at stake.

You.

Chances are these self help books are geared towards a certain market of audiences, usually a very generalized group of people. You could very well fit into that niche. But chances are, the author of the book knows nothing about ‘you’ the individual. He knows nothing of your background, your personalized needs and desires. However, there’s one person that does know and that person is You.

You alone know what motivates you and what needs to be done to be happy and fulfilled. And it is up to you to bring yourself to that level of happiness and fulfillment, not anyone else. You are responsible for you. Realizing, understanding and accepting this concept, is in my opinion the foundation of unlocking your true potential – and ultimately, finding happiness.

Comfort =/= Happiness

Comfort, it is often something we prefer over it’s antonym. We ward off discomfort at all cost yet embrace the fuzzy feeling of warmth and safety that is often associated with contentment and comfort. The feeling of wanting to linger for a second longer in bliss. It is something we’d latch onto and be contented in doing so (if we could).  However nice a feeling it might be, logically speaking, comfort is part luxury and part hindrance.

For one, comfort does not foster growth in a person. Think about it, if everything in life was comfortable from the start, then there would be no reason to seek betterment. No need to think of improvement if there was contentment. It is costly in the sense that time is wasted with you content on being the same.

For two, our brains are made to solve problems, without a good challenge, you are wasting that elegantly evolved central nervous system of yours. No need to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems, if problems did not exist in the first place. We’d be idle and idleness is not necessarily a good thing.

For three, you’ll never feel the rush of stepping out of your comfort zone, and what does that feel like? Well, I can’t put it in words exactly, but you’ll know when you’ve tried.

You only have so long to marinate in comfort and contentment and equally long to be bold. So go on, turn that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. Step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself, succeed, then smile like a winner at the end of the day!

Nothing says ‘I’m back in school’, better than 3AM homework sessions

True story, as I sit here procrastinating for another 20 solid minutes to finish my 3:40AM breakfast and this post, I am wondering if I will actually stay awake in class this morning. Last Saturday, it was a bit embarrassing as I found myself falling asleep in the 20 or so people classroom, yes, it wasn’t a 500 people lecture hall. It was a small classroom with the instructor himself only three rows in front of me.

So much for intellectual engagement…

I’m at an age where I’m supposed to be ‘responsible’, aka: putting desires aside for what I ‘need’ to do in life. (aka: not reading travel blogs into wee hours of the Saturday morning and then doing my reading and homework for the 9AM class on 0 hours of sleep and an ungodly amount of caffeine.) to avoid the harsh feeling of sleep deprivation.

Besides, discipline is supposed to feel nice right? Nicer than finding uber affordable hostel prices in Berlin. Hah, not a chance. As far as I’m concerned, the night wasn’t wasted. It was just fruitful in a way that wasn’t related to school. So there you go, my rough travel itinerary now includes Berlin as well. Which brings the total number of cities I’m preparing to hit up to a total of FIVE.

Stay tuned to find out which five.