Travel

Things to do before boarding a plane to the other side of the world

Tomorrow sees the start of a new week and myself on a plane to my adopted city of choice – San Francisco. I’ve ended up having to travel to SF almost twice per year since I got my job in August 2015 with this amazing company that has its HQ there. I had been to the US twice before then, so I did know a thing or two about getting ready for long-haul trips (and waiting time in airports) however I really feel now that I’m starting mastering the art of getting ready -both physically and emotionally- for the huge shock that is translatlantic travel.

Union Square, here I come (again!)

 

So here we go in no particular order, I’m just writing down these things as I’m actually doing them today:

  1. Take your time : My flight is on Monday, so I’ve spent the better part of my weekend doing the things on this list. Taking your time is important when preparing for such a long trip, there is no way getting away with waking up an hour in advance and throwing stuff in your hang luggage hoping you haven’t forgotten everything! Even if you are the most well-prepared person on earth, I would strongly advise packing the night before so in the morning the only thing you have to throw in your carry-on is your toothbrush. Otherwise let me assure you that you will reach your destination sans underwear (no, no, it’s never happened to me).
  2. Make sure all your tickets, visas, check-in’s, etc. are in order: If you require a visa for the country of your destination I’m sure that you’ll have already gone through quite a procedure in order to get it, so I’m not too worried that you’ll forget. However, if you only have ESTA to worry about (like Greeks do for the US), it is pretty easy that you forget that you need it (or that it has expired without you noticing – almost happened to me the last time). The best strategy is to check right after you book your tickets, this way you will have plenty of time to organize yourselves and follow any procedural steps in case your papers are not valid any more.
  3. Do laundry: It’s kind of a super mundane task but to me is equally important is bringing all my chargers and adapters with me!! I spent my Saturday and Sunday doing laundry and ironing because going off to a work trip means that I want to have as much of my “work wardrobe” available to me as possible. There is nothing worse when packing for a week full of work meetings and realising that your go-to white button down has this tomato sauce stain still on!
  4. Think hard of what you need with you on the plane and pack smart: I’m thinking books/magazines, snacks and bottle of water here, as well as a few cosmetics you need with you on the plane. I have to admit I looooove flying long-haul. It’s the only time I really get 10 hours to myself, no email, no phone, no way for anyone to reach you or annoy you. It’s the best time to catch up on reading, and that’s very much what I intend to do in the plane tomorrow 🙂 I am also going to prepare a sandwich with healthy stuff I have at home as well as get my Hidrate Spark bottle with me to make sure that I don’t feel hungry or thirsty at the airport or on the plane. Remember: it will be a long day, you need to treat yourself a little bit!
  5. Download the Netflix app: It often happens to me that I’m traveling in planes without individual screens for every passenger, meaning I have to put up with two hours of StarWars, two hours of the Mupper Show, and another 6 hourse of American reality television. I’ve nothing against these entertainment choices, however the one after the other can drive me to an overdose of boredom and anxiety, that’s why I was so doped when Netflix announced we can now download stuff on our phones and tablets. I still haven’t watched The Get Down and I’m totally planning on doing so at this trip!!
  6. Choose your outfit for the plane: Again, this is something I never leave to the last minute. I’ve made too many mistakes in the past and ended up wearing too tight jeans, too short skirts or extremely uncomfortable shoes for 15 hours. This time I’m going with an oversized pair of jeans, my trusted black sweater and my beloved over sized scarf to keep me warm. Wearing a pair of VANS trainers to keep my shoe game comfortable as well. #win
  7. Have your documents ready: Needless to say you can go nowhere without your passport, so make sure it is the first thing you put in your purse. I also always have with me foreign currency and a public transport card/ticket. I usually keep these items in a separate bag so I can always find them quick and neat.

    Little pink wallet from Narciso Rodriguez, purse from YNot?

So, wish me luck for my big trip tomorrow. And let me know what tips you have for before boarding long-haul flights!!! xx

Life

The art of doing nothing

Yesterday was a public holiday in Belgium. November is great like in this little country, as in many other European countries, two days off close to each other (the second one being on November 11) give people the perfect chance for a mid-season getaway.

The day was the perfect autumn day. The sun shining, not too cold but crisp enough to make one feel the winter that’s coming, golden leaves everywhere, quiet and calm.

And how did I choose to take advantage of the day. BY DOING NOTHING. Like absolutely nothing. Except of course for eating a lot, cooking a meal, finishing my book (A Room of One’s Own – highly recommended to all women out there!), finishing Narcos AND watching The Bridge on the River Kwai for the first time in my life.

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Me realizing the day has gone by and all I did was eat.

Funny thing is I couldn’t wait for this day off. Monday evening I was making all these plans in my head as to how I would have a big breakfast at home, go out early in the morning and take pictures of the amazing nature (yes, we’re lucky enough to have great green spaces in Brussels), do a little picnic in the park with my boy and a book, go visit a museum (I currently have this Picasso exhibition on my radar), then go back home, update my blog, study a bit of French and then finish off with a light dinner and Netflix.

Instead, I didn’t leave my apartment not even for a second. My boyfriend at least took out the trash, but me? No, no way, on the lovely couch ALL.DAY.LONG. I didn’t even try my usual Sunday evening routine to fight the “OMG this holiday is so short” blues.

Am I proud of it? Nope. Did I enjoy it? Yessssss. There is a certain guilty pleasure in doing nothing, like eating a lot of ice cream or reading gossip magazines that are full of extravagant lies or doing these two things simultaneously. I very firmly believe that we are more and more in need of some quiet time when we really don’t have to do or even think of anything. Just be. With our loved ones preferably but also on our own. I spend most of my days hooked on my phone, sitting on a desk across my laptop, running from meeting to lunch to meeting to dinner, trying to meet with friends, talk to my parents on Skype, do cultural stuff and go to the gym. On a daily basis. Which at some point starts looking like it’s the impossible deed that everyone is working towards. I’m lucky enough to live in a small city, I cannot even begin to imagine how life is for the New Yorkers or the Londoners out there. So, yes, very proud of not doing anything productive yesterday, just feeding my mind and my body 🙂

What I ate: We tried two new recipes these past couple of days that really made my head fly off the roof.

  1. Greek version of meatloaf with bacon and eggs: Ok this is seriously the most delicious minced meat version I’ve ever tried in my whole life. Plus it was so much food that we were eating it for 3 days in a row – quite perfect if you ask me for a lazy day off that you don’t even want to think about cooking. Here below a token of this recipe’s amazing quality and here’s the recipe for those who date trying the most perfect meatloaf of all time.

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    Greek-style meatloaf and thank God for food.
  2. Chocolate brownies with tahini – completely vegan btw, which also kind of blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how delicious the result of this recipe was. If you’re lovers of orange and cinnamon like I am (not simply a fan, not even a huge fan, but A LOVER), then please try the recipe this weekend, you’ll thank me every bite of the way.
Life · Travel

Saving

In March, I’m going to save money. Like big time saving! And I’m now looking how to achieve this.

A few months ago I started implementing this strategy whereby I save a big chunk of money AT THE BEGINNING of each month. Which makes for a good plan and for months to look like they are going by waaaaaayyyyy slower than before (I’m actually broke by the 25th, and I’m checking my account balance every hour in hopes of some surprise transfer suddenly made to me while at the same time looking at my saved amount singing “you can’t touch this”).

 

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Me looking at my bank account on the 25th day of every.single.month.

So, I have the means (deducting money right at the beginning of the month), but I was completely lacking the motivation. Why would I need to save money? I’m still 30 (yeah, yeah, 30 is super young, don’t you know that already?), I’ve no family obligations, no intention of buying a house or a car, and I’m not spending THAT much anyway. I struggled with this question for a little while, and I still am sometimes – why would I stress myself at the end of every month? The amount I decided to save was totally arbitrarily set by me for me and noone really pushed me for that. I shouldn’t feel I’m failing if at the end of every month I need to take a couple of hundred euros out of my savings (assuming I’ve saved more than a couple of hundred euros…)

And I actually came to this conclusion: I save to be able to do crazy things whenever I feel like it. Book a trip to Mexico. Buy a Chanel bag. Surprise your boyfriend with a weekend away. Take you mum to her favourite restaurant.

Coming from a financially challenged country (to say the least) as I do (I’m Greek 🙂 ), you could also add “potentially save your family from total disaster – but hopefully nobody will have to do that and we can also spend our money on chocolate.

I have a few advantages for saving money right at the beginning of the month:

  1. After paying your rent, bills and usual debts, you think you know know exactly how much money you have left until the end of the month.
  2. Which helps really planning your activities and eliminate stress. You can better manage your budget and buy your tickets to concerts, plan your dinners out with friends, buy a book or two and renew your perfume that is close to running out. Also keep a little on the side to donate if possible.
  3. Saving and budgeting has actually also helped me think of more fun stuff to do (in a weird way…I really don’t know how this has worked). If I find 30 euros  that don’t really need to be attributed to anything, I can consider spending them on this 1-day seminar on mindfulness or buy a knitting kit and spend my Saturday on YouTube rocking at knitting that scarf.
  4. With whatever money you have left at the end of the month, you can buy yourself/a loved one a little something (even if you can only afford 3 pairs of parrot socks from Primark). Or donate again – even better!

So, there you have it! All-grown-up me saving like a pro. Hopefully, this will turn into a good habit that I can continue mastering during more stressful periods of my life – e.g. children coming along, planning a wedding, taking a loan, losing my job or booking last minute tickets to Hawaii. Because money can’t make you happy, but the things you can do with money certainly can #thewisestthingyouveheardalldayImsure

Below I have a small selection of the things I wouldn’t mind spending my savings on – let me know yours 🙂

Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta).
Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta that my boyfriend prepared a few weeks ago – perfect for a winter day!).
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there - I seriously have to go back at least once)
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there – I seriously have to go back at least once)
Life

What would you do?

For love?

I’m currently going through the last pages of one of the best novels I’ve read (and I do read a lot – it’s another one in my long list of things that make our lives worth living):

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (check out this book cover – how awesome is it?)

So this great book, among other super extraordinary things, features a very special love story between “the Master” and Margarita (don’t get too excited, the “Master” is just a master of his art, not a 19th century version of Christian Grey).

In her quest to offer the Master some relief from his life’s torments (I’m not going to go into details here, but PLEASE DO READ THIS BOOK), Margarita partners with the Devil (in a kind of a Faustian way). Which got me into thinking: what would I do for the people I love?

And especially when it comes to couples-love: how far are we willing to go to secure our partner’s feelings and ensure they are perpetuated in eternity?

Lana Del Rey, for instance, would be able to do things that I would never consider myself capable of:

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When I was younger, I would say NO to anything that would mean (or be interpreted) as losing of my power. Not moving to London to study because my boyfriend could not follow – Of course not, move to London! Tone down irony and be more mindful to my partner’s feelings when I speak – Of course not, who cares about formalities! Learning to sleep with someone who snores – Of course not, ditch the loser! He wants to you to meet his family – ARE YOU CRAZY OR WHAT.

And then years went by and I turned 30. And I lost a couple of guys over some of the things mentioned above. And I’m now with a guy despite of some of the things mentioned above. And I’m actually considering sticking with this guy for some time. (Don’t worry Lana, you’re still winning on this one).

However, I don’t feel like there is a recipe. These are realizations that come to each one of us unexpectedly. One thing I’ve learnt growing up is that we cannot be too sure about ourselves. The do’s and don’t, the want’s and don’t want’s, are fluid concepts. There are of course some things that never change: I would never put up with violence. I would never let my happiness being ignored. I would never forgive the same mistake twice. I would never let anyone make me feel like I don’t matter.

But I would change my ways. And I would learn to let people in. And I would start to listen and think about someone else’s wellbeing as I do about mine.

And these are some of the things I would do for love. And ultimately, learn how to love.