The Possibility of a Dream

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Autumn has arrived in Australia! It’s beautiful sights like this one that make me feel so grateful and bring a smile to my face. (It’s the little things!)

I’m reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and I came across this lovely quote:

“It is the possibility, of having a dream come true, that makes life interesting.”


So, what’s your dream? What do you hope to achieve someday? What would you do if money wasn’t a concern? (Or health?) How does your perfect day look like? What do you do on your free time that if you got paid for would be like heaven?

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These are just some questions I find to be quite necessary for us to ask once in a while; to get a feeling of how we’re doing, if we need to change anything, how the life plan is going, etc.

Unfortunately not many people ask themselves these questions; so they live their lives almost in autopilot – study, work work work, marriage, kids, retirement, death. There’s nothing wrong with that scenario, if that’s what you want. But if you don’tchange your situation. Ask yourself these questions. Move little by little towards your goal, your dream life, your perfect day. Don’t let anyone tell you what you *should* be doing.

Do what makes you happy… because life is to be enjoyed. 

Much love, Abby

What’s more important than being right?

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“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt

I completely agree with Elliott’s description of photography. Everyone can see something that’s the same, but experience it and see something completely different. And isn’t that wonderful? The differences are what makes us beautiful and unique.

Life can be like this too; it can be enjoyed, it can be suffered, it can be felt and seen an infinite amount of ways. . . And who is right? I heard a lovely and intelligent man (Nathaniel Branden) once say how humans a lot of the time will choose being right over being happy. Personally I’m not big on being right, and I’m typically the first to accept if it was my fault or I was wrong. Yet I have met people who fall under this trap of being right. . . And they’re typically unhappy. But they hold their ground and they’re “right” in their mind. I just wonder, what good comes from being right, that one would be willing to put happiness to the side? I certainly don’t relate to it but can see how it is a powerful emotion for people. Remember that being right is not everything in life; we can be wrong and be a good person, we can apologize, we can accept it and change, amongst other things.

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Happiness > Being right

It can be a really humbling and positive experience to accept that you’ve made a mistake. It makes you human – we’ve all done it.

 

Much love,

Abby

You can only control yourself. . .

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“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” Wayne Dyer.

I love the thought that although I cannot control others; I can always control myself. The way that I respond to someone else, to a situation, to conflict, to success – is all up to me.

This is a wonderful realization to have for many of us, because a lot of time people tend to want to react from their emotions. Emotions are great at letting us know how we feel, but they’re not always the answer. A lot of times responding from an emotional place ends up badly because feelings can blind our perspective/objective view.

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So always try and remember – you cannot control anyone, but you can always control yourself!

Much love,

Abby

Be Yourself!

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 Who gets excited when they are able to truly be themselves?

When you can say what you think, how you feel, share your perspectives, how happy you feel, or disappointed or out of sorts, life ambitions, life goals and aspirations. . . Just being you.

This may seem simple and as though you’re always able to be this way – but this is not true a lot of the time. A lot of times our true self gets put to the side because we know that if we truly shared our honest thoughts and opinions, feelings and perspectives, things wouldn’t go well. This may be because you’re at work and disagreeing may not get you that promotion, or because a friend may feel offended and you don’t want to rock the boat, or because your loved one is going through a tough time and being honest may hurt their feelings, amongst other things. The problem with keeping your true self away is that if you keep doing this for a long period of time, when you try and be yourself it may be too difficult. It may feel almost impossible to show your true self because you haven’t done so in so long.

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And if you do, it may actually change/end/improve your current relationships. I’ve done it myself and it’s been a wonderful journey; it’s done exactly that, it’s changed my relationships, ended others, and improved the rest. It’s not an easy path to take, given the risks – but I couldn’t recommend it more. Being you is amazing. You’re unique, you have thoughts/ideas/perspectives/feelings and it should be great to hear them.

Remember to try and surround yourself with people that will support you being yourself, even if that means that you contradict them a little bit or don’t always agree with them, it doesn’t mean you don’t care and/or love them – you’re just being you (and that is wonderful).

Have a lovely day!

Abby

Why I love (and recommend) markets!

I would best describe a great market as: colorful, busy, with an  abundance of people, smells, colors and shapes everywhere. I get a feeling of joy from being surrounded by (what some may call) the chaos. The variety of fruits and vegetables that you may find in one country are completely different from another. The types of street foods that they sell are unique to each place and I, personally, find that beautiful.

I don’t think I’m the only one that passionately enjoys the distinct feeling I have when visiting a market when I compare it to visiting a mall. I like malls, I enjoy them and truly like meandering and getting lost in them. The markets, however, are each unique to the country you’re in.

When I travel to a new country, the first thing on my mind is: “What days of the week is the food market open?” because I can’t wait to see it! 

When have you ever seen cats roaming around a market? Taking a nap next to the bananas? Looking like they’re posing next to the potatoes? It just doesn’t happen in a regular supermarket (which is perfectly fine!). I do, however, truly and dearly love the different experience that an authentic market provides. It is like nothing else in the world. You will never find the same market twice.

What do these markets offer that a regular one doesn’t? you may ask. And my response is very simple: a unique experience. You are going because you want to see how locals live. You are going to a place that most foreigners won’t go to, because they don’t advertise food markets on Trip Advisor (most of the time).

I am the type of person that likes to dive into a new culture, learn and see how the locals live. I want to experience what they do day-to-day and to learn from them. I’m not saying to trust every local you meet; we all have to be careful and take care of ourselves when being in a foreign country. I like to research the prices of things before hand so I know what to expect when buying food or anything else.

I have been to markets in India, México, Chile, Germany, Australia, Prague, London and Madrid; and I have never felt or been unsafe. Without speaking the language, I managed and enjoyed myself a lot! I truly recommend you give it a try; it may seem intimidating or ‘dangerous’ but it’s not. If anything, the locals will stare at you because you look different – and that’s all. Not bad for a unique experience!

 

 

Do What You Love!

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Life can sometimes feel as though it will last forever. The problem with feeling as though life may never end is that you may wake up one day realizing you’re ‘X’ (insert age) years old and perhaps don’t have the career you dreamt of, the marriage (or relationship) that you wanted, or the life that you imagined.

What to do when you find yourselves in such place?

I’ve found that one of the best things you can do is remember that no matter how much time you have left (whether it’s 10 or 60 years) – you can start to do what you love anytime. It’s your choice. You can change your actions, which will in return change your situation. I know this may sound difficult, but I promise you, the payoff is much greater.

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Imagine waking up excited, happy, full of energy because you are doing what you love to do. Because you are living the life you want to live. Because you are spending time with people whose company you enjoy. Because you don’t feel like your life is full of “have to’s” (i.e. I have to work there because of XYZ, I have to spend time with them because of XYZ, I have to go to the party because XYZ). Now, “have to’s” are things you feel obliged to do, not that you want to do. It’s different to feel like you have to call someone back because you have a missed call than say, spend the whole weekend with someone whose company you don’t enjoy.

One of the life lessons I learned that made my life much better was get rid of the “have to’s” in my life. I still work, eat healthy food, exercise, spend time with loved ones, shower, etc. but those things don’t feel like a “have to” – I do them because I truly enjoy them. I decided to pursue a career that I love and wake up excited to work on, I only keep people in my life that are positive/supportive and loving towards me and I avoid any interaction that feels like I’m being dragged to.

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This change wasn’t immediate; as they say “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.” And so it began, I started making changes in my life that made it better for me. After all, we decide what we do with our lives, right? Of course! But many people live trapped under the illusion of the “have to’s” and live their lives in ways that satisfy others. Once you realize you’re doing this, you take the steering wheel and are able to change it. No more feelings of obligation, having to do things to satisfy others, feeling trapped. Because remember, we don’t live forever. Take the first step towards your thousand mile journey today. 

Much love, Abby

Hiking Made Easy

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View from my hike in New Zealand! 

Growing up in a place that is arid, dry and doesn’t promote outdoor activities due to the weather conditions (100-120F daily during the summer months) and a lack of mountain ranges to go to; you can imagine how it was quite the adventure for me to take up hiking and camping as an adult.

Having never hiked before in my life, I fell in love with it the first time I saw the view from the top of the mountain. The only question  I had was, “Why hadn’t I done this before?”.

I wasn’t concerned about hitting my head with a tree, the painful blisters on my feet after the hike, potentially twisting an ankle, wearing inadequate clothing that made me feel too hot or too cold, getting wet because of the rain or being overall uncomfortable.

All I cared about was getting out and enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer. 

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View from my hike in Victoria, Australia! 

I’ll be honest; the first hikes I wasn’t prepared whatsoever. I didn’t have proper athletic clothing or shoes and what I was lacking most of all was the hiker mentality. I thought it would be like a walk in the park, just ten times longer. I was wrong.

As I became increasingly more and more interested in hiking and being outdoors, I realized that I would need to learn how to do it correctly; although I prefer to call it comfortably.

Since I decided I wanted to incorporate hiking into my lifestyle until I could no longer walk; I knew I had to make some changes. As low-maintenance as I like to be, I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I do at 25 comfortably once I am in my 60’s. By this I mean; tree-bumping my head, wearing uncomfortable shoes, uncomfortable clothing, not bringing enough food or water, getting lost, not knowing what the trail looks like or what difficulty level it is, amongst other variables.

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One of my favorite hikes in the Presidential Ranges in New Hampshire! 

So what do I have to say now, 2 years later in my love affair with hiking? I am way, way, way more prepared! And I want you to be, too!

What do I do to make sure my hikes are always great? 

  • I don’t ‘wing it’. I know this sounds boring; we all want to have a spontaneous idea and go with it! What I’ve found out is that this is not a good idea when it comes to hiking. I’ve done it and it wasn’t fun; why? Because due to the spontaneity of it, I had no idea what I was going to encounter once I was on the trail. So I left unprepared, found myself scrambling (i.e. ”a walk up steep terrain involving the use of one’s hands” and I’d add, feet as well.), found myself without enough food (because I didn’t know how long it would take me), and almost without enough water. Yay spontaneous hike! (Sarcasm voice). Overall, it wasn’t the worst experience, but if I had to do it over again, I would’ve chosen to do my research beforehand. Nowadays, I do my research! Which may sound tedious, but I promise you it isn’t bad. All I look for is: what type of hike it is (easy, moderate, hard, does it require scrambling? does it cross any rivers?) which helps in case you want to pack an extra pair of socks in case those get wet, how long on average it takes to finish (which helps me know how many snacks and water to take), what are the potential dangers (i.e. spiders, bears, snakes) and prepare accordingly, and finally the weather forecast which helps me know if I need to pack a light jacket, sunscreen, gloves, etc.
  • Be comfortable! No need for make-up ladies (you look lovely without it anyways!) and no need for flats or uncomfortable shoes. You want to wear comfortable pants and shirt, whether they’re workout pants/shorts and shirt, or just a baggy shirt and a pair of comfy jeans, all you want to make sure of is that if it gets dirty, stained, wet,  or ripped, that it will be OK with you. Because let me be honest, it probably will. The best shoe choice is a pair of comfortable sneakers; no need for hiking boots (they’re heavy and impractical, in my opinion).
  • Backup entertainment. If you’re not used to nature and it’s wonderful sounds (people pay for CD’s with the sounds of nature, you know!) you may be a bit overwhelmed if you’re going alone. It’s OK if you don’t enjoy the sounds of nature, it’s biological to be a bit jumpy at first (I’ve been there), and my solution is: turn on your iPod! I did this; and I’m almost ashamed to say it was the middle of the day, but hey, no shame in admitting fear exists. What did I do? I busted out my favorite 80’s playlist, and ta-da! Nature’s sounds disappeared and with it, my jumpiness. Do I always do this? No. But I typically have company during my hikes, and with company, I don’t feel as threatened as when I’m by myself. There is nothing wrong with needing music as a distraction, if it gets you out in nature and you enjoy it, I think it’s a great way to cheat biology.
  • Make a list. What are your necessities? TP (toilet paper), sunscreen, sun hat, emergency items (it varies from person to person), extra pair of socks, sunglasses. The list will be your version of what makes you feel comfortable and happy. Just remember, don’t over do it. I would hate it if you ended up with a heavy pack because you’re carrying things you won’t even use! Try and bring only the things you’ll truly use and will benefit from. Here’s a wonderful resource to lighten your pack!

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    View from Mount Buffalo, Victoria, Australia! 

And that is it. It’s easy to have a fun time in nature; but it takes a bit of effort.

Happy Hiking!

Much love, Abby

Meditation: A Beautiful Journey

Why do people meditate? Do people enjoy ‘sitting and doing nothing for an indefinite amount of time’? What benefit does meditating give me? These are all questions we’ve all come across or have had ourselves. They’re all great questions. My goal is to provide you the information so you can make the decision; to meditate or not to meditate – that is the question.

People meditate for different reasons; some to calm their anxiety, some are searching for peace or happiness and some are just plain curious. Whichever reason it is that is motivating you to try it, I’ll tell you this: you won’t regret it. 

I once read that they asked Buddha “How shall we meditate?” Buddha replied, “Whatsoever you do, do it with awareness; this is meditation. Walking, walk attentively, as if walking is everything; eating, eat with awareness, as if eating is everything; rising, rise with awareness; sitting, sit with awareness. All your actions become conscious, your mind does not travel beyond this moment, it remains in the moment, settles in the moment – this is meditation.”

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Becoming a mindful person can be the best thing you do for yourself. Can you imagine life without wondering what you’ll be doing tomorrow, next week, where your next vacation will be or what holiday is coming up? Can you imagine just enjoying what you’re doing right now? Whether you’re on your commute to/from work, reading a book, spending time with your loved ones, at work, at the grocery store… can you imagine just being there? Without thoughts rushing in and out of your mind. Because after all, what does having all those thoughts in your mind do for you? They’re certainly not helpful thoughts if they have nothing to do with what you’re doing right now.

According to Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, due to “evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life” she decided to do brain scans and discover which parts of the brain get activated when people practiced meditation. What she discovered was that the brain actually changed after eight weeks of meditation practice.

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If you’re looking for motivation to start or feel like it will be too difficult; I’ve found a really simple guided meditation video that could help you! Meditation is not supposed to be just sitting in a room staring at the wall for 30 minutes; that sounds awful! A good way to look at it is a training of the mind. You are literally training your mind to enjoy the now, the moment, the present, to be aware and conscious. Just as we train for marathons by walking one kilometer today, two the next week, etc. or how we train ourselves to eat healthier by trying new ingredients, swapping ingredients, or changing a recipe.

As Buddha said, being aware and conscious is meditation. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting cross-legged (like the illustration shows) don’t, if you would prefer to have your hands on your lap, do so… It’s all about being comfortable and enjoying it. A lot of people think that they cannot think of anything during meditation – which can be extremely difficult given that we have such busy lives and we’re used to multi-tasking. This is not true. There are different ways of doing meditation, and doing the one that suits you will be the best one! I’ve read that one way to meditate is by actually thinking of a problem, giving it a shape, color, description (in your mind) and seeing it disappear. Other people simply will focus on the breath; in and out, 1 and two, and that will be enough. There is also no time limit; you may meditate for 10 minutes daily, 2 minutes, 17 minutes, it’s up to you. The point is to do it, which will help us become better at it.

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Just remember, we’re looking for awareness and consciousness, not perfection! And just in case you need a little bit more motivation, here’s a list with more benefits of meditation!

Happy meditating! 🙂

Much love, Abby

Enjoying Being Healthy

I wish I had the spirit these boys have to go to the outdoors and have so much fun when I was younger. I’ve only become an outdoorsy and active person during the last couple of years, which although I’m extremely happy about, does make me feel like I missed out on fun adventures during my teens. I don’t know about you; but when I was a teenager, I was chatting online (hello MSN, I’ve missed you!), listening to music or being out with my friends. I remember having a nice time with my friends; but it involved eating unhealthy food, doing unproductive activities and following the crowd.

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My definition of fun has changed with time. 

I now find myself enjoying walking all day around the city, exploring the outdoors, hiking, bicycling, eating healthy and being uncomfortable from time to time. I’m not trying say that if you don’t do outdoor activities, you won’t have a nice time. I believe that you can make the best out of any situation and just like those boys enjoyed catching wild crabs, playing and cooking together – one can enjoy watching a movie and eating popcorn. I think the trick here is: moderation. 

In a world where technology continues to make life easier and convenient for us, how do we maintain a healthy lifestyle? Most things nowadays don’t require us to be healthy and/or active; there are escalators, elevators, food delivery, electric wheelchairs, Uber (a taxi service app), and endless entertainment in our phones. All these things are wonderful; they make life so much easier! I love having Uber around because relying on regular taxi services can be a pain, we’ve all been there. On a day that I’m particularly tired, the elevator sounds like heaven.

But what does having all of these convenient things so easily accessible mean for us? 

I believe this means that we have to be more aware of what we’re doing to stay healthy. Could we perhaps take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall? Could we walk up to our apartment instead of taking the elevator? Could we join a sport? Maybe take a walk around the neighborhood? Walk to/from work? Instead of having a ‘girls day’ that only includes chatting over food, perhaps going to yoga together – then having food could be an option. Making the activity fun is almost necessary, because you’ll want to continue doing it if you enjoy it. So if you’re taking a walk to work, listen to music, an audiobook or a podcast, whatever it is that you’d enjoy. Remembering that we only have one body, one life and we can learn to enjoy it even if it’s not so easy (or convenient) all the time.

Once we change our mentality and make these choices, we will naturally become accustomed to them. The last thing we want is to suffer an illness, feel groggy or tired all the time because of our lifestyle and then have to change – we want to attack the issue before it arises. Just remember to make it enjoyable and you won’t mind the inconvenience 🙂

Much love,

Abby