WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL MORE, AND WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT NOW

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Recently I came across a very interesting TED Talk given by Ricardo Semler, Semco Partners CEO and radical innovator. In the speech, he talked about his so-called ‘terminal days’, a name he gave to the days of the week where he did all the things he would do if he was told he only had a few months to live. Now as crazy as that sounds, this idea came to him following a history of tumour cases within his family, which led him to believe that his time might be nearer than expected. Influenced by the unfortunate past, he had a realisation: why wait until you’re about to die to do the things you could be doing now? 

Oftentimes, life gets the most of us and work and responsibility make us feel like we don’t have enough time to do the things we love or that we have always wanted to try out. We live in a bubble of fear, where time is a precious amenity that we cannot waste in any futile activity. So we work, work and work some more, convinced that this is our ultimate goal in life so that we can get to a venerable age feeling like we have achieved something. That our life has been successful and that we have managed to get there all intact. Plans get sidetracked by other priorities and days go by whilst our bucket list of wishes stands still, whilst we eagerly dream of the day we’ll have done enough to allow us to sit down and collect our harvest in peace. Yet is this really what we want?

I have talked in the past about how much travelling opens your mind and the level of internal change it can bring. How many times have we read the stories of a 90-year-old grandma who, after a lifetime of stillness, decided she wanted to travel the world by herself? Although I strongly admire people like that, I also think that waiting that long cannot do you any good, and that travel experiences can have an incredibly strong impact on your view of life, the world and how you relate to others. This doesn’t mean that you need to drop everything right away and travel indeterminately, however I do believe that saving up some time to visit those places you have always wanted to see is a wise choice when compared to the prospect of having to wait a lifetime to do so, only to wake up 50 years later in a rush to complete the list.

Travelling is not simply about relaxing: it is a means to change your perspective, twist your normal routine for something radically new. Experiencing different ways of living and become more aware of the beautiful, spectacular world that surrounds you and ultimately making you feel part of a bigger community, rather than a passive spectator of news from remote lands. I cannot begin to tell you how much travelling has changed me as a person and how many lessons it has taught me, and whilst it is true that we learn in the most uncommon places, travelling has the power of turning your world upside down and confront you with situations you would never encounter in your normal daily life.

My point today is, go out there and explore NOW. Don’t wait for the day when you’ll have ‘enough time’ to do that, because life gets complicated and that day may never even come. My mum’s favourite saying is, ‘whoever’s got time, shouldn’t wait for time’ and I completely stand by it. Why wait to do the things you could do now? Even a day or a simple weekend trip can radically change your perspective, so much so that looking back you’ll be wondering why you never did it sooner. Instead of looking up in awe to people doing the things you wish you could do, take matters in your hands and DARE to go out and do it yourself!

If you have similar stories that you’d like to share or pieces of advice on the matter, feel free to drop a thought in the comments section. And for anyone interested, here is the TED talk I referred to:

I hope you’re having a lovely Tuesday and that work isn’t taking up too much of your time. Until next time,

Elena

5 CULTURE SHOCK MOMENTS WHEN MOVING TO THE UK (AS AN ITALIAN)

Moving is bound to bring changes. When the moving involves switching countries, this can be extremely overwhelming at times, bringing about what are normally referred to as ‘culture shocks’. As a young Italian expat who moved to the UK at the ripe age of 19, I myself had a few shocks upon first stepping foot on British soil, completely unprepared for the new reality awaiting me and naively thinking it wouldn’t be too different. In retrospect, witnessing such a different mentality helped me grow in ways I never imagined, from getting to know myself better to becoming more understanding of other cultures. Still, some things I’ll probably never wrap my head around unfortunately (shops closing at 5, no alcohol after 10, no outside drinking… really?).

As my stay in Scotland comes to an end, I thought it would be fun to list the 5 top culture shocks I experienced when moving to the UK! Despite my Italian roots playing a key role in the list, I still believe a lot of foreigners can relate too. Are you ready?

 

ALCOHOL

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This may not come as a surprise to most of you. British people are infamously reknown for being particularly attached to their bottle but, despite this, I was still incredibly shocked by the culture when I first moved to the UK. Coming from Italy, I have always been used to what I guess you would call ‘social drinking’. Back home, this means enjoying a drink or two with friends, and usually involves lots of chatting and hardly any intense hangover the next day. Although Italians do get drunk just like the rest of the world population, getting completely smashed has never been the focus of a night-out and, on the contrary, being drunk isn’t seen as something you should openly admit.

Moving to the UK, I felt like my world had suddenly been flipped upside down, landing me in a reality where all the Italian social taboos were accepted, even encouraged. Chain smoking was substituted by chain drinking, in a race of who could be the drunkest, who could down a pint the fastest, who managed to black out and completely wipe out the night from their memories the easiest. It may then not come as a surprise that my first night out in the UK ended up with me throwing up in front of the club bouncer, getting lost, spewing some more on my bedroom floor and only remembering all of this months later, after piecing all bits of memory together.

2. THE WEATHER

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Once again, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. The UK is often associated with rain, and with good reason, as it rains all the bloody time. Yet, UK rain is very different from what I had experienced back home and I was once again unprepared for it. Despite being a lover of the sun, I always enjoyed the rainy days too, sipping a cup of hot tea whilst gazing outside the window and listening to the sound of raindrops hitting the glass. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Especially when you have a book at hand and a free afternoon to spend. I used to rejoice in these days and constantly tell my friends how much I loved the rain, unbeknownst to me that the same weather condition could be extremely tragic too.

In fact, BRITISH rain is something else. Because it isn’t even rain. It’s like you’re constantly trapped in one of those giant mushrooms in waterparks that people usually like running through (see photo). It doesn’t matter whether you have an umbrella or not – the rain doesn’t care. The rain goes with the wind, it flies left to right, up and down in the air, leaving no safe options to hide from it. The tedious drizzle isn’t always there – it comes and goes, like my mother used to do when I lived at home and she repeatedly asked me to tidy up my room. She walked in, recited her speech, walked out. You thought it was over but alas, five minutes later, un-announced, she appeared again, repeating the same thing. And again, and again, and again, until you got up out of exasperation. Now, compare to the rain to my mother, yet the room CANNOT BE TIDIED UP. So she never stops coming. And you never know when she’ll be back. But she will be. My mother will haunt your days and nights, just like the rain.

3. GREASY FOOD

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You will notice here that to narrate the history of my culture shock, comparing it to my home country is a recurring pattern. As a born and bred Italian, food is very important to me and it’s safe to say that our food culture pretty much pervades every part of our beings as functioning adults. We talk about food, we fight about food, we travel by trying out food. We love food. And it isn’t any kind of food – it is good, filling yet somehow healthy meals that keep us going, rising from the Mediterranean land and gracing us with one of the most envied diets in the world.

Because of this, moving to the UK completely unsettled me. Although the city I moved to did not lack culinary spots to taste new foods, the true British diet is not as rich. Stumbling upon the land of the deep fried mars bar, I was thrown into a country whose main habit is to get drunk, satisfy hungry needs with chips and gravy, and wake up the next morning craving beans on toast and the occasional Domino’s pizza (which – trust me – is the worst pizza you can get). To my Italian soul, no proper respect was given to the art of food and no place could ever match what I was used to. Although I do love trying foreign foods – especially when travelling – and often find that some of my favourite dishes don’t actually come from my country, the complete lack of importance given to cuisine appalled me completely. When one of my British friends told me that there was no difference between Italian pasta and 50p pasta from Asda, I knew I was on another planet.

4. SEASON-LESS FASHION

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The UK is mostly cold. Although I do admit that this year’s summer has been surprisingly lenient to us, no one can deny the fact that the country’s frigid temperatures are a pretty stable feature of the island, especially in winter time and coupled with the rain problem mentioned above. When you match that to the alcoholism also mentioned above, you get a pretty interesting result.

Although I admit this might be mostly related to Scotland, as it is the place I live in, people simply do not care about the season – they are pretty much past that stage. In a country where drunk people stumble across the streets in sleeveless tops and short dresses when the thermometer is set on the minus, I was very much shocked (and fucking impressed) by people’s defiance of the cold when focused on just having a good time. Yet, I soon realised that this didn’t just relate to late-night scenarios, but also to everyday life. I remember being completely mesmerised by people walking side by side in the city, one wearing a wool jumper and one wearing sandals, unaware of the other and dead serious in their attire. It was as if I had once again landed in a magic world where the laws of physics didn’t exist – where whole seasons didn’t exist. Because British people are used to the same old weather and, it seems to be, they simply don’t care anymore. They will walk out the door dressed however the hell they want and no one will say a damn thing about them because in the UK, weather is just a matter of perspective.

5. MAKE-UP

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Finally, one last thing that threw me off completely is British people’s attitude to make-up. In most European countries I visited, make-up is not something you use too much. In Italy especially, we constantly focus on what could be defined as ‘natural beauty’, meaning that girls are expected to be naturally attractive without the need of external products to enhance those features. Although some might argue that this puts more pressure on us, it is also true that it pushes us to accept our own bodies and, if needed, work on them internally.

Moving to the UK with a small bag containing one mascara, one eyeliner and a lipstick, I therefore found myself completely unprepared for the massive cult around make-up that goes on in the UK. Faces weren’t just faces anymore, but canvas to draw on, each day in a different way. So much so that I used to feel strange for not doing the same, mesmerised by the new culture which seemed to be so different from what I had been taught previously. I remember I also felt incredibly depressed by the fact that British women all seemed to be more tanned than me – the Italian one – until I found out about the existence of fake tan and its prominent role in British beauty routines. Who knew you could pull that off without the hassle of going to the beach?


 

There you have them – my top 5 intricacies of the big island. If anyone from the UK is reading this, I hope you didn’t take offence in any of it! This was written mainly for fun and is in no way restrictive or assuming that everyone in the UK behaves in the same way. These are just a few things that popped to mind when I first moved here, and I am sure a lot of people can relate. If you’d like to read the counter-argument – my culture shocks when moving back to Italy – hop over here and enjoy the ride.

I hope you’re all having a lovely Sunday!

Elena

IS TRAVELLING AN ESCAPE?

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When people talk about travel, it’s usually to remark how much it opens up your mind, widening your horizons, making you a better person. It’s about relaxing, coming to terms with yourself and unplugging for a while. Generally, travelling is seen in a very positive light because it serves as a way to get to know yourself better and explore the world. However, as my mood these days is constantly plummeting to the ground, I can’t help but wonder: when does the positive act of travelling turn into an escape?

My whole life, I have been viewing my travelling experiences as a way to constantly improve, not allowing myself to settle down for anything and always on the lookout for more. To me, it was a positive influence which allowed me to live life as a never-ending journey of discovery, eager to learn more about the world and make the most of this short stay on Earth. It was beautiful and I was completely enthralled.

But then life got more complicated, things were not as easy as they were when I was younger and stress started building up like never before. Gradually, I started noticing that, whenever something negative happened, my answer would be to book a flight, pack up my shit and go. Not necessarily forever or to a far way land that no one had heard of like in the movies, but even just a few days were enough to get out of my daily life and fill my head with new thoughts, so that I wouldn’t have the time to actually face reality.

It wasn’t noticeable at first. I would just see it as a chance to “get some air” and reflect on things, so that I could manage them better when I was back. That was my excuse and I was fine with it, because I still loved the feeling of getting to a new place and looking around, mesmerised by the new reality surrounding me. If we all have our coping mechanisms, this was mine and, to be honest, it was a pretty fucking good one if you ask me. But as I kept repeating that to myself, I realised that if some people revert to substances to cover up their issues, travelling was my pill of choice. And as other things, a pretty expensive one too.

Don’t get me wrong – I do love travelling and it makes me genuinely happy to learn about new cultures, meet new people, experience something new. But I also realise that when I talked about being scared of commitment in my previous post, my answer has always been the same: don’t put in the effort, just run away. Slowly, it started dawning on me that I had turned one of my favourite things into a defence mechanism, to shy away from the world and avoid coming to terms with my problems. I just couldn’t stay away from it and would crave my next fix constantly, and more so when something went wrong in my life, in a never-ending search for a reality where all the darkness would disappear.

Yet, with time I realised that in truth, there is no such place. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we can’t hide from ourselves and life is not meant to be escaped from, but lived. And as much as exploring is good for your soul, so is staying and facing consequences instead of moving somewhere else, with a clean slate, and start anew. As appealing as that sounds, if done for the wrong reasons it can lead to regret, loneliness or, ultimately, feeling lost as fuck amidst a sea of missed opportunities.

My message to you all today is: travelling is an amazing experience to come to know different realities, compare them with our own, come back richer than before. But it’s not an excuse to turn your back on reality and it cannot be an eternal escape. At some point, you need to open your eyes and be ready to face whatever stands in front of you. Who knows, you might find out the thing that you were so scared about is actually not that bad!

To top off this blog post, here’s a sad but beautiful song for you all.

I hope you’re all having a lovely day,
Elena

Thank You or Fuck You?

Life is all about perspectives. Be it with a half-full glass of water, a half-empty Nutella jar, truth is that reality is all in our hands and is shaped according to the way we decide to perceive it. And isn’t that true for anything that happens to us? From a failed trip to a place, to a shot of serendipity coming our way, we have the power of choosing the way in which we see things, and either use them as a way to bring us down or as another push to aim higher.

This morning, while riding my bike to University, tiredness was getting the best of me and, revelling in the rare sunshine bestowed upon rainy Scotland by some divine miracle, I decided to crank up my volume, take my hands off the bike and close my eyes. Not the most responsible way of riding a bike in the city, but you know what they say… yolo. So fast forward ten seconds into my reckless bliss, I opened my eyes again to find myself cycling right in the middle of the road – a big road. I quickly steered my bike to the left side (UK driving hello), and let a car drive past me. As it did, the owner turned to me and said something. Now, being the shortsighted, headphones-wearing person that I am, I somehow think he smiled and said “thank you” to me. On a more thorough examination of the scene though, I started thinking it might have been a “fuck you” accompanied by an angry face which I naively mistaked for a smile. Undecided between the two options, I settled for a smile to the driver and kept on riding.

Now as I finished my ride to University while replaying the scene in my head (as I do), I couldn’t let go of the internal debate on what exactly the man had said to me. Sliding down the philosophical hole, I started wondering: when should we settle for a “thank you” instead of a “fuck you”? If it doesn’t have any repercussions on your life, does it really matter to know the truth when you can just tell yourself a brighter story?

I am a big believer in truths, whether good or bad. Always seeking out the most honest version of events, I spent most of my life replaying scenarios in my head and making out the worst outcomes, convincing myself that everything that happened had inherently negative attributes and rarely giving myself the benefit of the doubt. But don’t get me wrong – I don’t consider myself a pessimist: I like to think that there is always a way to solve things and that we can always aim higher and be achievers if we put in enough effort. However, I have always been the harshest judge of myself, never allowing myself any positive feedback unless I had complete certainty of it and never deluding myself with possibilities unless I knew things for sure. I didn’t want to live in a fantasy and always thought it was better to believe in the worst outcome, in order to get stronger rather than disappointed.

Yet, as the incident this morning kept nagging at my brain more than it should have, I started thinking that maybe it’s not fair to be so harsh on ourselves. They say ignorance is bliss and I do not believe in that at all, yet if the choice is between a “thank you” and a “fuck you”, what’s the harm in seeing the brighter side and avoid putting ourselves down? If it has the power of keeping our mood intact, why shoot ourselves down with negative possibilities which we will never be certain of anyway?

This doesn’t simply apply to careless driving, but to all sorts of things. Although I strongly support critical thinking rather than unfounded positivity, I do think that in life we should perhaps be a bit more supportive towards ourselves. Some of you might not have this problem, but I know many people like me do and I think it’s time we stop placing obstacles in our way and start kicking them out of the playing field. I know it’s easier said than done, but one can only try, am I right?

Putting an end to this long philosophical quest, as always the question mark falls on your heads: do you agree on giving ourselves more leniency when facing life? And when, on the other hand, is it time to stop hearing “thank you” and read things as they are: a big, fat “fuck you” right in the face?

Hope you’re all having a lovely day and you are riding your bikes safely,

Elena

P.S. I handed in my final Bachelor Thesis so for lack of appropriate photos, here’s a picture of that on the cover.

WHY YOU SHOULD COUCHSURF MORE

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Ever since my flatmate and I moved into our new place, we’ve been trying to host as many people as possible, offering them a nice place to stay while at the same time making new friends from all over the world. Couchsurfing is awesome in that sense. But let’s take a step back: what is couchsurfing?

I’ve been getting this question a lot, from friends and people I’ve been speaking to about my recent adventures. To those not familiar with the term, Couchsurfing is an online platform made mainly for travellers looking for good company and cheap accommodation. Okay that sounded a bit wrong. It’s basically a tool which people can use to find other people, anywhere in the world, willing to give up their couch for one night at no cost at all, except perhaps a chat and some stories.

The company started back in 2003, acting as a crossroad between a hospitality platform and a social networking site. According to their official slogan, CS allows you to “stay with Locals and Meet Travelers”, completely free of cost. The general idea is that through the platform, people will be able to connect across the globe and share some karma points by being kind and giving to each other.

To use CS, the first step is to hop onto their website. Once you sign up to it, you can create a profile introducing yourself to the community – your interests, passions and skills – and telling others why travelling is so important to you. Couchsurfing creates a network of travel lovers whose main priority is to explore the world as much as possible, which often entails finding cheaper ways of moving around to keep the adventure going.

Once your profile is set, the platform allows you to do two great things: to host or to be hosted. Hosting means that you open your flat / house to travellers, allowing them to stay at your place and share a bit of your space for some time or even just one night. Being hosted, on the other hand, means that you are the one being hosted by other people across the world, once again free of cost. In short, Couchsurfing allows you to travel for cheap and meet amazing people along the way, as well as giving back to the community by providing a place for other travellers needing a warm couch for the night.

Both hosting and being hosted have their benefits and are unique in their own ways. Hosting allows you to mind travel when you don’t have the opportunity to do it yourself, by being surrounded by interesting people willing to share their unique stories with you. I personally love doing this and actually do it more than couchsurfing myself, as I receive a lot of requests and personally like to have people around. Couchsurfing, on the other hand, is great because you get to spend time with locals, who can tell you a bit about the place, give you advice on cool spots to visit and generally chill with you when you don’t know anyone in the area. It’s a cool way of feeling less alone when you are, quite literally, alone.

Some people like to unwind by themselves when travelling, some are constantly looking for company. Couchsurfing is a great way to do that, because with it you get the chance to meet like-minded people along your way and share unique experiences. By talking about yourself on your profile, you have the opportunity to show the community a bit of yourself, hopefully attracting similar people who share your same interests. CS is also extremely cool when travelling by yourself, because it gives you the chance to hang out with people and get info on the area you’re travelling through, without you having to look up everything online. Of course, you can also just walk out the door and go with your gut, but I feel it’s nice to get tips from locals telling you about non-touristy spots that no one really knows about. Who better give you advice on a place than the people actually living there? 😁

At the end of the experience, CS asks the people involved to write a reference for each other. You don’t have to do this necessarily, but it is the norm as it lets other people know whether the person you stayed at / hosted is cool to be around. There are three types of references: surfing, hosting and personal. The first ones are the references from “surfers” – that is, people who have surfed at your place – who essentially write a sort of review about their host, letting other travellers know what kind of person they are. The second type is “hosting”, which is basically the opposite, so reviews from people who have hosted the owner of the couchsurfing profile. Thirdly, personal references are references from people who have not been registered as either a surfer or a host, but who still wanted to express some thoughts on you. These are usually friends or people you meet along the way, who want to tell other people how nice you are and why they should host you or stay at your place (… or stay away from you).

References are cool because they allow you to understand what kind of person you are looking at, more than simply reading the person’s profile. Since CS categorises verified references between “would stay again” and “would not stay again”, you can easily skim through them and check out the negative ones to see if there is anything you gotta look out for when meeting this person (or not meet them at all). Fun fact: during my first  ever experience hosting, I had two girls over whom I got along with really well for 4 nights. We cooked for each other, shared jokes and generally had a pretty good time. However, since they weren’t big fans of the city I was staying in at the time, while writing a very nice reference for me they hit the “would not stay again” button thinking it related to the place, rather than the host. This meant that my first proper reference was a negative one. Imagine!! So keep this in mind – whenever you are using CS and writing references, make sure to think carefully about this as it might negatively impact your host’s profile.

Another cool side of CS is their official app. By signing up to it, not only can you access your profile more easily, but you also get access to the “hang out” section. This is a feature of the app that allows you to look up other travellers in the area, connect with them and meet up to grab a beer or explore the area together. Once a hangout is started, it has a limited duration during which you can message the other person and decide on a meeting point. This feature is great especially when you’re travelling solo, looking for some company or someone to show you around. I have used it numerous times during my travels and met some amazing people on the way, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

Lastly, wherever you go, there is probably going to be a Couchsurfing community. In my own city, the CS group constantly organises meet-ups to connect with fellow travellers and share some travel stories while sipping on a cold pint. I like this because no matter where you go, whether you are currently travelling or just staying in your city, it gives you the chance to meet other travellers and exchange tales. You can talk and discuss about past travels and give each other advice, as well as reminiscing over trips and perhaps finding out you both visited and fell in love with the same places. When you are new to a city, this is extremely good as it allows you to meet new and like-minded people. I have met lots of interesting people through these meetups, some of which were just looking for company on a lonely Friday night and found some really good friends instead.

Overall, couchsurfing is a beautiful platform to travel, discover places, meet people and create long-lasting friendships. It’s not just a website – it is a community. Each of us has different stories to share and all of us share a passion for travel. Even if you are not comfortable sleeping on someone’s couch (that is totally understandable – and hostels are awesome too), CS can still help you get acquainted with a place, meet locals and have unique experiences wherever you go. My final point being, you have nothing to lose and you never know what might happen once you try it!

If you are interested or want to see how it works in action, here is my couchsurfing profile.

As always, I hope you’re all having a lovely day. If you have any tips, tricks or thoughts on CS, feel free to say that in the comments! 🙂

Elena

 

THE BEST 5 BREAKFAST SPOTS IN ROTTERDAM

During my time in Rotterdam, my flatmate and I took up the habit of visiting a new place for breakfast each week, specifically each Sunday morning (which was often more like afternoon, but that’s besides the point). It was a nice way of seeing new places and experiencing the city whilst at the same time stuffing ourselves with all kinds of food, so an amazing tradition that can make you discover really cool, underrated places.

Looking for famous and nicely-reviewed places each week, we slowly made our way through the Rotterdam bar scene and that gave me the opportunity of coming to know some really good places to eat in the city, which I wish I could go back to right now to be honest. Sooo since I am currently back in grey Aberdeen and miss the Netherlands very much, I thought it’d be nice to reminisce of those times by listing my top five favourite breakfast places in Rotterdam, which I shamefully did not make a video of but I definitely should have.

Are you ready? Here we go:

  1. V11

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V11 wins it by far because of its extremely cool vibe. V11 – or Vessel 11 – is not your typical breakfast place: this anchored boat is a British-managed monster hosting heaps of concerts and events every month in the heart of Rotterdam. Located in Wijnhaven, it works in association with Rotown to offer locals and tourists live music shows at nighttime as well as acting as a restaurant / bar during day time. Basically, it offers the best of both worlds at affordable prices in a dreamy location.

As this is a British-led place, the menu won’t really be typical dutch. However, if you’re feeling a bit English or are just craving a good old English Breakfast, this is the the place to go. Although the food wait can sometimes be long, it’s totally worth it and the staff makes up for it by being extremely nice and chatty. And honestly, with being able to eat and chill at the top of the boat, with sun shining on your face as you admire the beautiful Rotterdam canals, does that really matter?

  1. Giuliano

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First of all, I am still unsure how to write this place’s name. Technically it’s called Guliano, but it sounds Italian and therefore I really feel like it needs an extra I. Who knows.

Either way, Giuliano is located on the Meent, a really long and cool street in the heart of Rotterdam, not far from the famous Markthal and within easy walking distance from any part of the city centre. The Meent is quite a lively and busy street at most times of the day, adorned with semi-expensive shops and lots of restaurants and cafeS to blow your dolla away. As such, when sitting outside to eat, it can get a bit noisy. While my friend was hating it, I was absolutely digging it because I love being surrounded by the chaos of the city. Therefore, depending on yourself, it can be a hit or miss. Don’t you fret though – there are also seats inside! 🙂

The food menu in itself is quite simple but rich, going from very tasty main dishes to lighter sandwiches – which is what I opted for. I feel like the Netherlands has definitely converted me into a sandwich lover (I never even used to eat bread before), so I went for a veggie sandwich with tomatoes, aubergines and all that good stuff and it was ah-ma-zing. I know a sandwich doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that could be that good, but the taste connected with the environment and the way it made me feel full without feeling like I’d burst, it was a definite yes for me.

  1. Sijf

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Sijf is a surprising gem right on the Oude Binnenweg, the proper centre of Rotterdam. Sporting a very dutch interior, this pub also serves as a haven for the hungry souls out there. We went after quite a heavy night of drinking and the food definitely did us right. The menu is pretty broad, sporting a wide range of options from omelettes, to sandwiches, to burgers and more intricate orders, to cater all tastes. The waiting time for the food was short too – which is always a major plus hehe.

Sijf is not an exceptional place in the sense that the food will blow you away, but I really enjoyed it because of its central, cosy location, the helpful staff and the generally nice food. The pricing was on point as well and I just genuinely had a good time and would definitely visit again!

  1. Bagels & Beans

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I used to always see Bagels & Beans when I biked to the Markthal, sitting by the square in a cosy little corner in front of the central library. I used to think it looked like a cute little cafe that I wanted to try. Little did I know it’s actually a chain! Fast forward a few weeks later, we found ourselves deeply craving a good bagel (I had actually never properly had a bagel before. Really.), so decided to give it a try by visiting the B&B close to Rotterdam Centraal, on the Mauritsweg. This location is really nice as the cafe has a corner spot surrounded by massive windows, which means you can comfortably sit inside sipping on your coffee while people-gazing through the glass panels. I loved it.

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The menu itself caters to most people, as it’s got plenty of both meat and veggie options. I decided to go for the mushroom burger bagel, while my friend opted for the Japanese salmon instead. Both were extremely good and definitely didn’t disappoint. So much so that I decided to visit again weeks later with my then boyfriend, which was the setting of this very intimate picture of me and my beloved bagel. You can tell from my face that it’s good.

  1. Lokaal

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Last but not least, Lookal is an extremely random find we came across while looking for another place. It sits on Ungerplein – which considering my scarce knowledge of Dutch, sounds a lot like “hunger plain” which I find very fitting for the place – basically next to BIRD and with a pretty humble exterior. The inside of the place is pretty cosy and quite small, with only a few tables available and a bar running by the right side of the space.

The menu is quite simplistic but still yummy, with a big selection of sandwiches and healthy bites. I decided to go for a pesto + tomatoes + goats cheese combination, which I generally love, and was not disappointed. The service was fast and friendly and I personally really liked the layout of the place, as we managed to get ourselves a table by the windows and had a beautiful view of the outside as we enjoyed our meal.


 

So there you have them, my 5 favourite breakfast places in Rotterdam. They all serve pretty different dishes, so depending on your mood I am sure one of them would be right up your alley. As I could only choose 5 of them I had to scale down my list, but would like to give a shoutout to the Western Paviljoen on the Nieuwe Binnenweg for being a great spot in the heart of the city centre, with tables outside to enjoy the hustle of this lively street while serving a massive and yummy menu to suit all tastes. Definitely a place to visit!

I hope you’re all having a great start to the week! See you at the next blog post.

Elena

LIVING BY THE RULES

Most of my life, I have been living by a specific set of rules. It wasn’t something that I felt like I had to do, or something which was imposed to me, but rather something to help me keep myself grounded and give me a sense of purpose. The more confused my life got, the more I held onto my rules in order to make sense of what was happening, reassure myself that everything was under control.

Because although I am often a messy, un-organised and spontaneous person, I always need to have a master plan. Whatever happens and however unorganised I get, I need to have a wider picture to place the mess into, so that I can retain my control over the situation. It might sound strange, but it works for me.

All my life, I have convinced myself that a new year is a new me. Not in the way that I’m going to start going to the gym from the first Monday of the year, that I will stop eating sugar, that I will reinvent my life and somehow become a better version of me, because I don’t believe in that. But I always saw the year as the ideal timeframe to set out a series of goals, lay out my life in a 12-month scheme and make a mission out of it, in order to get my shit done. In short, it’s what people would usually do with a daily or weekly to-do list, except I did it annually.

Now this year started a bit strangely, as I was moving around quite a lot, got the flu and generally had a pretty stressful time from November onwards. Although I did say that October is my unlucky month, the rest of the year proved to be none the easier and it definitely took a toll on me. The last weeks of 2017 I kept thinking about what I wanted to achieve for the next year, what direction I was going to take, where I wanted to end up a year from now. With the end of University looming on me, this became even more difficult than when I left High School, as the post-uni life stared at me darkly from afar in a way that I couldn’t even fathom when I was 18. This is the moment I actually decide how I want to proceed with my life, whether I want to do what’s expected of me and continue my studies, get a job in the field, or follow my heart and take a break.

All these thoughts kept circling around my head and it made it almost impossible to even see straight, so much so that I turned back to myself and just stared, trying to understand what was going inside of me and yet never finding a concrete answer. When NYE came round, I was more lost than ever and had no clue what I wanted to do. Although I had some ideas in mind, they were so blurry in the grand scheme of things that I could barely make sense of them, unsure about which path to take and no one to ask to. This made it difficult to even write new blog posts, because my mind was so lost I didn’t even know where to start. All my certainties were crumbling down and there was nothing I could do except to wait, in the hopes they would eventually stop and I could rebuild them in new ways.

Because of this, I couldn’t set my goals for this year. My life has been so uncertain that I am scared to even attempt at doing that, afraid it will bind me to something I might not want to do in the end. And I realised recently that this is not a problem of simply writing down a resolutions list, but it stems from my absolute fear of commitment. Be it in relationships, in work or in life, I slowly got to the realisation that this fear can get the best of me in most cases, forcing me to retreat in my corner as I sit and watch reality unfold. It might sound stupid to some of you, but the idea of actually having to be bound to something, unable to step back, scares me more than ever because although I do put my heart and soul in most things I do, I still need the constant reassurance that I can opt out whenever I like. I know it’s not good for me nor for the people around me, but I gradually realised it is something that has always been with me and I guess it also matches my indecisiveness in any situation, be it choosing a career path or choosing which type of bread I would like for my toast.

When I started writing this blog post, my initial idea was to just get it over with and write the goddamn resolutions list for this year. But as I sit in front of my laptop and look for inspiration, it’s actually more difficult than ever, because I am scared of writing down things that I might not be able to achieve. But you know what? If the new year does mean a new me, my resolution is to give up this sense of fear attached to any decision I make. To dare a bit more. To commit myself to things, no matter where they take me. Because while it’s true that life is short and we should make the most of it, I need to also accept the fact that not everything can always go the right way and we are entitled to make mistakes, because as cliché as that sounds, they help us grow (and of course, they make for very good stories!).

Although my brain is currently screaming “delete this blog post. You are not doing this”, I know in my heart this is the right path for me. I could have told you my goal is to visit 5 countries, or to spend 6 months abroad, or to graduate or even to apply for a Master. Those are the kind of things I would have written down and the things that you would expect. And if I did have to say that, I am proudly gonna say that my plan is to graduate, spend time with my friends and family and set off on an adventure, fuck knows where. And these goals might be real and they might not, and I realise the reason I was so scared to lay them out is that I didn’t know if I could actually reach them. So my challenge to myself for this year is to believe in myself more, to stop worrying about making the right decisions and, most importantly, to fucking commit to things even if it looks scary as fuck to do so.

In short, after all this rambling my conclusion is actually easier than I thought: just live it and don’t be afraid. I have always said this and yet my spontaneity was surrounded by a halo of uncertainties and fear, which made me doubt myself, overthink and silently implode while the world carried on in the background. Therefore, my final solution to these problems is to think about the problems a bit less, follow my instinct and stop trying to make everything fit in a grand scheme of things. Rather than creating pressure for myself to reach the goals, why not start looking back at the past year instead and ponder on what I have achieved?

To finish off, as always I turn the question back to you. Do you have any resolutions for 2018? Do you, like me, have serious fear of commitment? Do you still not know what you want to do (just like most of us)? Do you just not care at all?

I hope you could somehow relate to this blog post and that I didn’t bore you all to death with my morbidity. I swear it wasn’t intentional – it just came out as word vomit.

Hope you’re all having a great day!
Elena

 

WORKING FOR YOUR DREAMS

Dreams are an interesting thing. They define who we are and they give us aspirations in life, motivating us to keep going in order to reach that supposed happiness that will come with the realisation of our coveted wish. From temporary dreams to long term hopes, they push us along and give us a reason to fight, a purpose in life to work towards.

Recently, I took up a job in order to achieve my post-graduation dream: travelling through south-east Asia on my own, in the hopes of meeting people, discovering new realities, figure out what I want to do with my life but most importantly, get to know myself a bit better and some time to rest and focus on my mind alone. After years of being in the education system, constantly worrying over deadlines, exams, making the right choices and doing things which could be beneficial for my professional path in the long term, I have come to a point where I just need to unplug for a while and actually get some time to breathe before I venture out there. I know it’s pretty cliché, but I guess it’s such for a reason: life can be very stressful and misleading at times and, sometimes, all we need is time with ourselves to make sense of it all.

With that said, I have been having some troubles with said job. This is in concomitance with another part time job I have, which I really like and where I find myself in harmony with the people working around me. However, this one is something entirely different. Although I was happy to start this new adventure, I have slowly started hating it more and more with each passing day. The duties are quite normal – just a casual waitressing job – and that is not what I have issues with. The environment is the one causing problems. Over the last few weeks, I have gradually realised that I don’t appreciate at all the people I am working with. At the cost of sounding petty, I find most of them don’t put enough effort in the job, as well as generally being uninteresting, gossip-y people that I just don’t get along with. All this time, I have been trying my best to overcome this, either by trying to be as friendly as possible or by simply taking a deep breath and ignoring when people piss me off.

I thought this would work, but unfortunately as time went by I realised the job just really depresses me and doesn’t make me happy at all. Still, I kept going, thinking of my ultimate goal of saving up for my big travels. That pushed me along and, to some extent, I thought it would be enough motivation to lead me through these few months before I am finally able to leave. Personally, I don’t like to quit things and, most importantly, I don’t like to give people the satisfaction of seeing me give up because I like to think of myself as a strong person. Yet, the situation has become so unbearable that all my uncertainties started to falter, leading me to an ultimate dilemma.

When is it time to stop whatever is making you unhappy? Should I just keep going, thinking of what I want to achieve and being as strong as I can be, because I know in the end it will pay off? Or should I quit what makes me truly, tragically unhappy? Should I choose ambition and the promise of a brighter future or ultimate serenity of heart? Where do I draw the line between failure and self-respect?

I know that if I turned this question to any of my friends or my family, the answer will be obvious. No one would suggest I keep working in a place that makes me so deeply dissatisfied and brings me down whenever I enter those doors in a positive mood. Yet, I can’t help thinking that people who love you will always put you first, whereas I know that knowing I will eventually reach my goal is motivation enough to push a little bit more and make it through. Who is right in this situation and how do we define a middle ground between the two?

As I nag on these thoughts, I am trying my best to cope with this absolute depression, deepened by the fact that I have a shift at the same place tomorrow morning. So I ask you, if anyone out there is reading, either from personal experience or simple empathy: which is the path towards achievement? Are our ambitions worth suffering for a short while? Or should we let it go and find other ways to reach our goal, or perhaps redefine it?

 

I hope you’re all having a lovely week (hopefully better than mine),

Elena