Tag: travel

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

I love the sheer power of nature. Even in the most serene of settings, nature never fails to have a profound impact on me. To be honest, several hours before I wrote this post I felt awful. I felt that the only solution would be:

  1. glass bottle of Merlot
  2. Ferrero Rocher and Lindt chocolate
  3. a blanket fort.

But then I stepped outside and felt the warmth of the sun. A few hours later I realised that I had indeed needed three things to transform my mood. I had just thought of the wrong list. What really worked in the end was:

  1. a cup of green tea
  2. Autumn sunshine
  3. my hammock

This just reinforced my thoughts about nature that I’d had during a road trip… A few months ago whilst travelling through South Africa I had the opportunity to stay in many little towns along the way. There was one area, just outside one of these towns, that I found to be particularly magical. We stayed in a cottage luxurious unit in the middle of an ancient milkwood forest. We were surrounded by unspoilt fynbos as far as the eye could see. And where there wasn’t fynbos there were mesmerizing views of the sea and an incredibly beautiful bay. I felt truly immersed in nature. (No snide comments about the luxury accommodation, please.) In an incredibly short space of time we were able to completely relax and unwind. I really felt as though I was able to re-balance my body, mind and soul. It enabled me to be mindful, with remarkable results. Words simply cannot describe how my sense of wellbeing was completely transformed in this idyllic place. Whenever I enjoy spending time outdoors, I always have the same thought: we should do this more often. There really is a tangible healing power in nature. There’s some irony here too, because we wouldn’t need the curative powers of nature if our modern lifestyles didn’t take us away from nature in the first place. So we need nature to be a healing balm for the modern lifestyle, because this lifestyle prevents us from spending sufficient time in nature in the first place. Time for a change, methinks. What have been your healing and relaxing experiences in nature?

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like a complete bourgeois hypocrite? I recently had one such humbling moment.

If you know me and/or follow this blog you will know that I believe a great deal in what I see as the necessity of self development. I’m all for personal development, finding one’s purpose in life, discovering motivation and inspiration, creating fulfillment, and the list goes on…

A few months ago my husband and I spent a couple of weeks traveling around South Africa. The last week or so consisted of a road trip from the west coast, following the coastline all the way back to our home near the east coast.

(Can I please just mention here that it was an actual bona fide road trip with stops along the way etc. My pet hate is when people say they are going on a road trip whereas they are actually simply driving from Point A to Point B without doing anything along the way apart from getting petrol and having toilet breaks. That is just a drive. A commute. Stop trying to make those ordinary journeys sound like exciting adventures worthy of an art film. Okay, rant over. Whew.)

So we were nearing the end of our road trip. Many people advise not to drive the last stretch, and to simply get in a plane once you reach a certain point. We decided to drive the whole way in order to see more of our country.

This meant that we drove through some very poor, undeveloped regions. As we drove along winding bumpy roads rife with potholes, we had to avoid hitting not only pedestrians but cattle, horses, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs as well. What we saw was people consumed by the need to survive.

I really saw how so many people’s lives are consumed by the basic requirements for survival. We drove past people carrying water containers and large bundles of firewood. We saw people tending to crops and looking after herds of animals. And this was not some rosy idyllic country scene. This was poverty.

It was then that I felt so incredibly humbled. I’ve always known that I am fortunate to not live in poverty. But I suddenly realised that something like personal development, something that I see as a necessity, is actually a luxury. If your every waking moment is consumed with tasks and chores that are focused on looking after your basic needs, the idea of ‘working on yourself’ seems so embarrassingly bourgeois.

I don’t think I will disregard the notion of personal development. But I now see it as a luxurious indulgence. Because, after all, I now have a completely different perspective as to what really constitutes a problem in life.

I’d love to hear your views on this topic…

The perils of a pink jellytot and the REAL 4 letter ‘f word’

The perils of a pink jellytot and the REAL 4 letter ‘f word’

I wanted the pavement to swallow me up. My husband and I had just completed a three day trip on the most luxurious train in the world. We were standing on the pavement as all the other passengers’ taxis arrived. It was a fleet of luxury German cars. I pride myself on always getting free spontaneous upgrades with our usual car hire company. And then our hire car was delivered. It looked like a pink jellytot on wheels. But brighter. And we were about to embark on an eight day roadtrip following South Africa’s coastline. In a bright pink jellytot that was under-powered, had a boot smaller than my handbag, and reeked of cigarette smoke. Great. But my hire car troubles were not to end there.

I did NOT love the car lots like jelly tots

I few months later I got a new car. Which I love. I even gave it pink valve caps. And then… I was attempting a 90 degree turn on a steep uphill, alongside a brick wall laced with protruding nails. Now apparently you are meant to look where you are going when doing something like this. I missed that step. (No, no, I wasn’t texting.) No worries I thought, my insurance provides me with a hire car while mine is getting a facelift.

I collected the keys for the hire car and approached the parking bay with trepidation, trying to fend off memories of a pink jellytot. It’s white! And has a 1600 engine! Excellent. I whip out the remote in the relief that I won’t be reduced to driving around in a sweet for two weeks. And then what can only be described as an air raid siren went off. Everyone in the vicinity ducked for cover. And then… nothing. But then, as I emerged from my cowering pose, I realised what had happened: I had unlocked the car. This air raid siren was going to attack the surrounding sound waves every time I locked or unlocked the car. For. Two. Weeks. I now park in the distant parking bays that no-one else frequents. People still duck for cover though. But that’s not all.

My car has six gears. As I’m about to slide the gearshift into sixth, I suddenly realise that this car has no sixth gear – it’s reverse! So every time I’m in fifth, I have to remind myself that this is where the gears end. Otherwise I’ll manage to strip the gearbox on the mobile air raid siren unit.

The fact that the car manufacturer’s name is a four letter word beginning with ‘f’ is not coincidental.

On Finding Motivation

All of us, at one time or another, seek motivation. We try to find that elusive something that will inspire us. All too often it is our mindset that makes motivation so elusive. If we are truly open to it, motivation will come to us from all kinds of sources.

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There is such inspiration to be found in beautiful surroundings. We forget just how truly beautiful our world is, and neglect to see the vistas before us. I am lucky enough to live in South Africa, where there is every variety of natural beauty in our varying landscapes. For me, it is finding myself in inspiring surroundings that fosters creativity.

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The combination of beauty and creativity in turn creates a relaxed ambiance, one where mindfulness is all the more likely to occur. It is in this way that I am encouraged to take each day as it comes, to be mindful of the moments that constitute every day. It is only through being mindful that I become appreciative of all the little blessings that are scattered throughout my life: the daily things for which I should be so grateful.

Pictures taken on a recent trip around the Western Cape region of South Africa.

Lessons from Deciphering Thai Street Signs

There is no doubt about it: it is a privilege to travel. No matter where I go or for how long I stay, I always find that the money and time were worthwhile investments. Apart from anything else, it is the broader perspective that travels brings that I appreciate the most.

Most weeks, months, and possibly even years we get caught up in the routines of day to day life. It is only when we truly step out of this routine that we gain a better perspective on life – and realise how frightening circumscribed our everyday lives truly are. You realise how things that seemed to be overwhelming are actually inconsequential when you see them in context of the bigger picture.

Travel is one thing that reliably provides this perspective. Everything is different: the environment, the people, your surroundings, the routine (or lack thereof). Not to mention things like food, language, culture and religion. You can only really appreciate the wealth of diversity in the world when you try to speak Italian to someone in Bologna and they reply in French, or when you’re lost in Bangkok and the writing on the street signs looks more decorative than helpful. It is this exposure that makes me realise just how big the world really is. And just how small the elements of daily life are.

It’s a strange combination of being both humbling and thrilling. And that is why travel and the glorious perspective is brings will always remain high on my list of priorities.

Travel Quote 1

Why You Need a Waiter Called Lawrence to Bring You Champagne for Breakfast

I have discovered the secret to happiness: sitting next to my husband at a table overlooking the ocean, indulging in a breakfast of Danish pastries and champagne. Sorry, sparkling wine. All my favourite things combined to form a bubble of bliss. And the fact that it was a custard pastry was just a bonus.

A side note: Although my mother is a devout Anglican, she adopts the Jewish mama stereotype of her heritage. Her default response to celebrations, traumas and everything in between is food. And more food. Many years ago, after a particularly painful dance exam that involved my dance partner forgetting the routine and stomping on my toes, I was comforted by my mum with a custard Danish pastry. Ever since, it has been the most emotive food for me. But a psychoanalytic analysis a lá Freud is beyond the scope of this blog post. So let me return to the champagne. Sorry, did it again, sparkling wine.

The slim flute of liquid deliciousness was brought to our table by a waiter by the name of Lawrence (I refuse to use the word ‘waitron’ – it sounds like a wonky robot). Contrary to what you might think, I am not singling out this waiter in particular because my maiden name is Lawrence. Well… maybe I am a little biased. What is incontrovertible, however, is the excellence of the service at this five star hotel.

All the staff were professional and efficient. Sometimes the staff at a luxurious hotel are more snobby and supercilious than the worse nouveau riche guests. However, these staff members carried out their duties with enjoyment and were genuinely friendly when they interacted with guests. It was this that made the most impact. It was true warm South African hospitality.

As a rule, I try to stay in different hotels and eat in different restaurants with as little repetition as possible. But every rule has to have an exception. And the Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga is my exception. I would return in a heartbeat.

[After-note: My experience at the Beverly Hills inspired my new business card design, the colour of which is referred to as Champagne. Not sparkling wine.]