How COVID-19 Affected My Life in the Last 12 Months

Window to landscape

In November 2019, I was packing my things to travel in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. I needed a break from everything: work, life, routine… At first it was only a dream but then it became reality: my fiancé and I had a solid plan! Bearing in mind that even the most robust plan should expect the unexpected at some point, we left confident that we knew exactly what we were doing (for 90% of it). At that time, no one suspected what would happen shortly after we left. A virus spreading all over the world, is that even real? It still sounds like fiction to me.

Now that we’re back in London, it’s weird to realise we couldn’t have timed it better, given the current rules with international travel. By the time the pandemic started to restrict our freedom of movement, we had already managed to visit Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia & New Zealand… It’s only when we got to Fiji that reality started to kick in: the world was in crisis and we got stranded there for 3 long weeks.

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic somehow, and even though it’s still far from being over yet, I think now is the perfect time to reflect. Because it’s been 12 months since we were “released” from the island and “allowed” to fly back home. Trapped and vulnerable tourists were easy targets in Fiji, it really felt like we were hostages. Today marks the anniversary of our first day back in the UK.

“Home” is where you want to be when the world is in crisis

If you consider that the number of infections were rising very quickly in Europe, we could have considered ourselves a lot safer in the Pacific. But it was mentally difficult to stay so far away from home for any longer. I remember our flight back home like it was yesterday. The country was in lockdown but passengers were still entering freely through airports. We didn’t interact with anyone. No one to give us any rules to follow, no mandatory quarantine… We were just “released” into the wild, with no clue how to adapt to this new world.

This is when I realised we had overlooked our mental health. Our first few days in our temporary flat were a mix of relief and exhaustion. We had so many unanswered questions, the future seemed so blurry. The main one being: what happens now?

Time is precious - London

Time is precious, and there is always a way to make the most of it

It was difficult enough to have no choice but to interrupt our dream travel plan, the last thing we wanted after spending so much time abroad was to be surrounded by too many people. We had to quickly return to reality, even if it was hard to swallow. Back in London, we isolated for 2 weeks, using a non-compulsory quarantine as an excuse to focus on our wellbeing. This time was very much needed for us to mentally recover from all this nightmare. We needed to get our lives back together and prepare our future the best way we could.

Accomplishments

At least I will remember lockdown(s) for being the catalyst for all the things I’ve done this past 12 months:

  • I learnt how to cut my fiancé’s hair myself. New hairdresser skills for me and lots of savings made for the rest of his life. Not to brag about it but he receives many compliments for his haircuts…
  • I decided to focus on my health, as a result I lost 25kg by revisiting my eating habits.
  • I significantly improved my cooking skills, read a lot about veganism and included many new foods in my diet (mostly vegs I didn’t think I would ever like). Proof that the good kind of unexpected can also happen.
  • I discovered intermittent fasting, which was a revelation for me.
  • We adopted Luna, to give our older cat Miko some company. Raising a kitten requires a lot of time within the first few months and we knew it was the right moment. Now they’re inseparable, mission accomplished.
  • I decided to delete my personal social media accounts. Oddly enough, lockdown made me become more selective about the technology used to communicate with friends and family. Best decision ever!
  • Last but not least, I started this blog to share my journey.

When I look back, I sometimes try and visualise how different the present would look if I chose a different path. For example, if I decided to soothe my anxiety with more food (like many people do) and became obese. Or what if I chose to spend my time learning how to play the guitar, instead of starting a blog. Overall I’m very happy about how it all turned out and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Also, you can have all the time in the world, there are always going to be some things left sitting at the bottom of the list. We got engaged in December 2019 and I can tell you almost nothing has been done with the wedding planning. Sometimes, we just need to accept we can’t have it all. The world has been moving at a slower pace, let’s embrace it and trust the fact that the best is yet to come!

Post-COVID, the world will never be the same again

Now that I have reflected on this past crazy year, I realise that most things are here to stay. At a personal level of course, but also on a bigger scale. It seems to me like mental health received more attention than it ever has in the past. It’s not invisible or taboo anymore. People value their work-life balance even more and prioritise things differently, maybe in a better way. I’ve noticed a bigger focus on environment too, which is key for me. That’s right, we’re about to enter a new era and I’m excited about it.

That being said, with the lockdown cautiously on its way out in the UK, I can’t help but feeling a bit anxious about the return to “normality”. After so much time spent at home, I got used to my very own comfort zone and it seems daunting to get out there again… Back to a year ago when we were clueless how to behave, once we got off the plane. Even small things like taking public transport make me anxious and I wonder how I did it so “normally” before. What if lockdown enhanced my introversion for good? Will I ever be able to socialise without the help of technology?

Tell me what changed for you since the pandemic started, I’d love to know! What do you think will never come back to the way it was before?

Big Girl x

Surprising Things I Discovered After Going Vegan for a Month

Every year since 2014, some people commit to Veganuary by adopting a vegan diet for a month – in January. I would have never considered it in the past but this year I was intrigued… We all have preconceived ideas about the unknown, so why not try and see if they’re actually valid? And if it’s the most effective way to save the planet, it’s probably worth keeping an open mind. But not at all costs! Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I want to keep enjoying it. Sticking to what you know is always easier… So let me tell you the main 3 things I learnt after trying it myself for a month:

1. It’s actually quite easy to eat vegan every day

If your main reason for going vegan is the environment and/or the animals, then it’s not difficult to stick to it. First of all, many popular foods are already vegan (potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits…). Treats and things that are not especially good for you (like biscuits, sweets, etc) are easy to fit in a vegan diet too, if you read the labels properly. Secondly, more and more companies diversify their range to offer vegan options. Meat alternatives are everywhere nowadays (especially in big cities like London) so it’s really not difficult to avoid animal products. They’re not always the healthiest as some of them are highly processed, but they are a great way to help you while you’re transitioning. You won’t have to eat fries everyday to have a clear conscience.

Basically, if your health is not the main reason, the switch will be relatively easy. It’s when you want to have a healthy and balanced diet (as you should) that things can get a bit more complicated… Especially if you’re a fussy eater like me. But even that turned out to be a lot easier that I anticipated.

2. A vegan diet is very varied and not boring at all

If you asked me several months ago what I thought about a vegan diet, I would have said I wasn’t interested in eating lettuce everyday. I didn’t understand how you could enjoy life with “boring” food. I thought it was a sacrifice not worth doing. It was made worse by the fact I’ve always disliked vegetables (especially the green ones…).

Now I wish I did it sooner

Take it from someone who had a lot of negative opinions about veganism not so long ago. Someone who would never willingly put vegetables on their plate… I realise how ignorant I was to have never tried most of the foods available! Don’t get me wrong, it seems daunting to remove from your diet all products derived from animals. Because they’re literally everywhere. But I can honestly tell you I eat a lot more varied now than I ever have in my entire life.

I’m always looking forward to my next meal

I now feel I have almost too much choice when I prepare the food plan for the week. Before it was a lot easier to plan our meals, it was always the same thing (roast chicken, beef burger or salmon, with either rice, fries or pasta). Now I feel like I should do a food plan for the entire month, just so I can fit in everything I fancy. And my cupboards have never been so full of varied things!

In fact, I added so many things in my diet by going vegan. Things I didn’t even know existed. Things I’m now willing to try because I realised I don’t even know what it tastes like. It also forces me to play more with spices and sauces, giving amazing flavours to every meal.

3. Eating cruelty-free makes food more enjoyable

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that no animals have been killed to feed me… But something makes the whole eating experience very rewarding. You know when you feel guilty after eating too much for example? It’s usually because you know it’s not good for your body to overeat. But I wonder if it could also be because most of the time food industries control what you eat, not you. By cooking with plants I don’t experience that guilt anymore. And eating used to make me feel a bit lethargic after each meal… Like I would need all of my body’s energy just to digest it. That feeling is gone too.

Eating vegan also makes cooking more enjoyable, because I don’t have to deal with what used to put me off before: blood from a steak, nerves from chicken, fat from bacon, etc. When I cook with raw ingredients only involving plants, the smell in the kitchen feels a lot more “natural”. I eat more for less calories and feel full for longer, without any sluggish feeling afterwards. It means I have more energy and feel “lighter” at the same time. It’s a win in all aspects!

Other things I discovered:

  • Because I eat a lot more fibre than I used to, my digestive system has improved a lot (my guts are happier)
  • I haven’t missed meat at all, not once…
  • Cooking with tofu is actually quite fun, it’s such a versatile ingredient and an excellent source of proteins
  • I would pick a plant-based burger over a beef burger without hesitation
  • Cauliflower can be an amazing snack
  • Cashews are used a lot in vegan meals to give a cheesy flavour
  • We can “learn” to appreciate healthy food and even thrive for it
  • I get to be more creative with my cooking skills and it makes me feel proud when my partner enjoys a home-cooked meal – I can’t wait to invite friends & family to try
  • There is so much more to vegan food than simply tofu, cauliflower and cashews… These are my personal favourites for now, but I still have so much more to experience and discover (a month is far from being enough!)

Going forward

I considered Veganuary like a test and I passed it. So I’ve decided, I’m not going back to my previous diet! Why would I even consider eating meat again with all the benefits I discovered from a plant-based diet? Long term, the only thing I may find hard to never eat again is salmon. It’s difficult because it’s an obvious source of omega-3 and also it tastes great (I especially love salmon sushi). It’s still an animal product though! And if we don’t do anything, our oceans will be empty in the next few decades. It’s as simple as that. Making the wrong choice would be a way to contribute to this huge killing machine that is destroying our planet.

Would you not consider changing your eating habits if it meant saving the planet, the animals and yourself at the same time?

Big Girl x

How Pets Can Significantly Improve Your Mental Health

how pets can improve our mental health

We all know how lockdown has affected people’s mental health this year and pets may have played a key role in our wellbeing. Pets could indeed be lifesavers through a period of social loneliness, but not only then. In so many ways, they can help us live mentally healthier lives! The healing power of the human-animal bond is real.

My story

I was only 22 and still a student when I adopted Miko (the tabby cat in the picture below). I was in the middle of a crisis in my life: I was just back from Australia (I lived 6 months in Brisbane), feeling nostalgic about my experience over there and started to question some of my life choices: Was I studying at the right school? What exactly did I want to do with my life? Where did I see myself in the upcoming years? I didn’t have the answer and I felt lost. Suddenly, the opportunity presented itself to adopt a cat, a friend of a friend didn’t know what to do with their new litter of kittens. We had cats in my family when I was younger so I felt educated enough on the matter, I didn’t hesitate and decided to adopt one of them.

miko and luna in their cat tree

It gave me stability

Another living being was now depending on me and I had no choice but to be responsible and take ownership of my life decisions. Since then, Miko has been the stability I didn’t have with my nomad life: I’ve moved 9 times in France and England within the last 13 years. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t usually enjoy changing their territory so regularly, but he has never seemed too bothered. Or maybe he knew it was my style. He’s the one who picked me after all, not the other way around, and that makes a huge difference.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France

Two is better than one

Now that he’s a senior cat (13 cat years is equivalent to 68 human years!), I thought it would be nice to give him a feline friend… A human’s company doesn’t always compensate the special bond they develop with each other. If you think cats are solitary animals who enjoy spending time alone, you couldn’t be more wrong.

I had to separate him from his sister when I adopted him, because I couldn’t afford both of them at the time. She was all black, that’s why I started to look for a similar cat online and found our second cat Luna. Sometimes I wonder if he knows exactly why I picked her. These two are so happy together now, it fills our hearts with joy every time we look at them. Of course they also fight sometimes (like siblings would do) but I know it was meant to be. Do you also believe everything happens for a reason?

miko and luna on the sofa

How pets help you make healthy lifestyle changes

Among all the things I can think of, they:

  • encourage you to exercise and help you lose weight (in case of dogs)
  • encourage playfulness and laughter
  • can make you socialise with other animal lovers (I strongly believe someone who loves animals can’t be a bad person)
  • give you a healthy routine (I have to wake up every day at the same time to feed my cats – no matter what my mood is…)

How pets impact your overall health

And they also:

  • are a great motivator
  • relax and calm your mind when you stroke them
  • can lower your blood pressure in stressful situations
  • are great company and give you a sense of security
  • fulfil the basic human need for touch
  • make you feel needed
  • increase our sense of self-esteem and wellbeing
  • teach you how to live in the moment (they don’t worry about the past or the future)
  • teach kids empathy and sense of responsibility, as well as building better relationships with other people
  • are great help to people in later life, but also to children with ADHD or autism

Note: By no means I recommend you to adopt a pet as the solution if you’re temporarily feeling anxious, depressed or lonely. An animal is a huge responsibility and it’s important not to take this decision lightly. A good animal charity would ensure your home is suitable for them. They’re not “just for Christmas”, or “just for lockdown” either.

Do you believe in the pet effect and the human-animal bond? You can get involved, support HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) by: donating, becoming an advocate or simply staying informed!

Big Girl x

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight & Tips to Regain Control

Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight And Tips to Regain Control

If you’re on a weight loss journey, December is probably the worst month of the year to stay motivated. It’s getting cold, days are shorter, and it’s more difficult to stay active… Switching to “couch potato” mode and watch your favourite shows instead (with some comfort food?) seems like a much better idea. Plus it’s Christmas soon so why bother losing weight now, let’s postpone to January when everyone will be making good resolutions, right? Well I don’t want you to give up now! There is no one-size-fits-all solution but if you feel demotivated because you’re doing everything by the book and still don’t lose weight, then let’s go through the most common reasons why it’s not happening and how to overcome this phase.

Possible reasons why you’re not losing weight

It’s important to know losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing. Losing fat is ultimately what you want… And if you’re not losing weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not losing fat. So before going through the list below, ask yourself if your new lifestyle is making positive impacts on your body and soul. If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry about, just carry on!

  • If you recently started to exercise, then you can gain muscle (which is heavy) and therefore think you’re doing something wrong. As it’s fat you want to lose anyway, this is actually a good thing.
  • Have you been keeping track of what you’re eating? Sometimes the difference between what you think you eat and what you actually eat can be huge… You could be eating too many calories without even noticing.
  • If you “drink” your calories, it will jeopardise your efforts of eating healthy and won’t even fill you up. A can of coke contains 140 calories, a glass of wine 80 calories, a pint of beer 200 calories. Remember than water is what you really need to stay hydrated and it contains 0 calories.
  • Sleep deprivation can not only lead to mental health issues but could also be a risk factor for obesity. Have you been getting enough sleep lately?
  • Maybe you’re not eating when you’re really hungry. You could either stop and think if you really need food right now, or you could try intermittent fasting to limit your feeding window during the day (but do not starve yourself!).
  • Have you already hit your healthy set point? Your body will naturally go towards its ideal weight if you have a healthy lifestyle. Question is: do you and your body both agree on what your ideal weight is? Have realistic expectations.
  • Some medical conditions can make weight loss a lot harder. If you think it could be your case or have any doubts, speak to a doctor about your options.
you can win if you want

Tips to regain control of your weight loss

I can’t tell you exactly what you should eat (or stop eating) to suddenly lose weight, but I can give you some tips to stay focused on your healthy goals. If you’ve ever been promised to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time by eating a specific food, your chances of success are very slim. Dieticians would agree it’s more about a lifestyle change and building a long-term habit! So play the long game.

  • Focus on your wellbeing – How do you feel?
  • Remember why you’re doing it – Think long term. For example: “I want to be a healthy person and live a high quality life. I want to feel good about myself too.”
  • Create a food plan when you’re not hungry – Know in advance what and when you eat (even better if you eat at the same time every day), it will give you control over your food choices and make impulsive unhealthy meals less frequent.
  • Eat mindfully, enjoy each meal and focus on your food (no distractions like TV, phone, etc).
  • Make sure you accurately estimate food portions and be wary of hidden calories. Sometimes you don’t realise the impact of small additions to your meal: an extra tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories, an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise is another 100 calories, etc. Sugary drinks and alcohol are also very high in calories (as mentioned earlier), so it’s best to avoid them completely or at least reduce your consumption in your day-to-day routine.
  • Remember you make choices, not rules. If you have too many food restrictions in your diet, it will eventually frustrate you and make you subconsciously want them more. Focus instead on healthy food you love.
  • Sleep well and drink more water (and stay consistent). The right amount of sleep and staying hydrated will help you manage your appetite better!
  • Don’t focus only on weight – it’s just one indicator among others – and track other healthful changes that may have happened, like your waist and hips circumferences. You can also use a smart scale to get more information on your body composition (% fat, % water, muscle mass, etc).
  • Don’t compensate your boredom with food and distract yourself – I give you a few ideas how in this post.
  • Be patient and realistic, things won’t happen overnight.

I think it’s pretty normal to experience a weight loss plateau at some point. The key is to not give up, weight loss will eventually resume, unless you’re doing something wrong without knowing… This is why I wanted to list the most common reasons why you’re not losing weight and how to overcome it. And if you constantly remind yourself of how far you’ve come, it should definitely keep you on track. Not everyone can succeed in changing their lifestyle for good, because it requires dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience. Do you have what it takes? I know you do!

Big Girl x

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

Last year I was working in a finance company where the culture was really bad: ignoring people’s work-life balance, asking employees to work during the weekend without any compensation, expecting us to arrive at the office as early as possible in the morning and leave as late as possible in the evening, not to mention taking a lunch break was frowned upon.

But maybe the worst was the fact that meetings (especially between heads of departments) were emotionally difficult, one of us would expect to be mentally beaten up and humiliated in front of everyone else without warnings. It resulted in an atmosphere where we were scared to speak up (in case we said something silly), always kept on our toes and desperate to impress the most influential people within the company. Staying in their good books was essential to survive and I hated witnessing “brown nose clubs” doing whatever it took to be on the “right” side.

This experience was a great school of life though, I stayed 2 years in this company until I realised I needed to reassess my priorities. I then decided to quit and go travelling for 6 months.

Why you should always prioritise your wellbeing

I think you can see where I’m going with it: it’s great to have a job that pays well… except if it impacts your mental health, which will also affect your overall health. In response to stress, I found comfort in food and gained more than 20 kg during these 2 years. I’ve never seen so many unhappy employees. The turnover rate was so high that most teams were completely different between when I joined the company and when I left 2 years later. I left with no other job lined up, nothing else than a travel plan and yet I know I made one of the best decisions of my life – even if I’m still unemployed today.

Define what values are the most important to you

Of course I didn’t think I would struggle to find a new job upon my return when I decided to do a short career break. I’ve never found it hard to find a new job in the past, I’ve never stayed in the same company for more than a few years. Things are different in 2020 though. The economic impact of COVID is real and the unemployment rate hit its highest level in 3 years. But at least now I know my priorities in life, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about how I need to pick my next work opportunity. Below a few values I overlooked in the past but won’t in the future:

  • strong leadership that empowers employees
  • fun and modern company culture
  • good employee retention
  • respect of work-life balance
  • flexibility on work schedule and possibility to work from home
  • healthy environment at the office

Get a better idea of what your dream job would be

Starting this blog also helped me narrow down the industry I ideally want to work in. As a marketing professional, I have worked in many different industries because it never really mattered to me what I had to sell, I liked the variety. Marketing is a tool and the techniques stay more or less the same between companies. But now I’m starting to realise how much it actually matters to personally have an interest in the company’s business. So I would love my next job to be in health, wellbeing and/or fitness industry. Have you ever noticed how much you could influence your future with a clear plan in mind and a positive attitude?

The new “normal”

Old fashioned companies like my previous one are thankfully less common nowadays. Mental health is an important topic, we spend way too much time at work to tolerate a toxic atmosphere. Even the worst companies had to adapt during lockdown, allowing employees to work from home (that would have been unthinkable for some in the past). Nowadays, more companies realise they can trust their employees to do their job, without having to micro-manage them. This pandemic definitely had some positive influence in some areas. But it’s too soon to tell if the change is going to last after it’s all over…

How did the pandemic impact your work life?

Big Girl x

How Our Big Adventure Changed My Mindset Forever: Memories, Regrets and Tips

This is the end of 2 weeks of daily travel throwbacks I promised to write about. Our big adventure happened between November 2019 and April 2020, but now I can finally say I have some closure. This experience ended like an unexpected breakup in a relationship, like I was forced to turn the page despite some unfinished business. We planned 6 months of travel but only managed to do 5 before the pandemic interrupted us. Some would say we didn’t have much luck. I would say we actually got very lucky because at least we completed the biggest part of it.

We travelled to Singapore (1 week), Kuala Lumpur (1 week), Bali (2 weeks), Perth (10 days), Melbourne (2 weeks), Sydney (10 days), then drove from Sydney to Cairns (4 weeks) and finally visited New Zealand (6 weeks). But we got stranded in Fiji, where we planned a 5-day holiday and ended up staying 3 weeks as we couldn’t fly anywhere because of the pandemic. Finally, anyone with a passport from Europe got their access denied to Japan, where we were supposed to visit many cities from Tokyo to Fukuoka during our last 6 weeks of travelling.

What my best memories are

This travelling experience by itself was the best project I’ve ever put together. Among the 6 countries we went to, the only 2 places I’ve been before were Brisbane and Surfers Paradise (Australia) so 99% of it was a complete discovery. I’ve been impressed by Singapore and enjoyed New Zealand way more than I thought I would do. My best memories overall would include:

  • Singapore – Admiring the illuminated super trees in Gardens by the Bay and listening to the evening Rhapsody show
  • Malaysia – Being spoilt for choice in various food markets
  • Bali – Enjoying a private romantic diner for two when I got engaged
  • Australia – Driving along the Great Ocean Road, arriving just on time to watch the sun set over the 12 Apostles
  • New Zealand – Witnessing the natural beauty of the turquoise glacial water of Lake Tekapo

Apart from specific places, I would say my best memory is how I felt when we were travelling: free, happy and very lucky.

What I would do differently

In hindsight, there are always some things you would do differently when you put a plan in motion for the first time. I have no regrets in general, but if I knew better, I would have…

  1. …picked a better time to travel. We left when it was convenient in our calendar but sometimes overlooked the season in the country we were going to. In Southeast Asia & the Pacific, their winter is our summer. So their summer is something we’re definitely not used to and it was a bit difficult for us to cope with so much heat and humidity at times.
  2. …planned ahead for events to celebrate. Our Christmas plan was a bit last minute and my birthday was overlooked. You don’t think of it when you’re planning an entire trip but on the day you can regret it. I would have planned better for these special occasions!
  3. …worked harder to be in a better shape. Fair to say we were not in our best shape when we left travelling and I think we missed out on some physical activities that required a good fitness level, which was a bit of a shame. No need to be able to run a marathon but improving our cardio beforehand would have been a good idea.
  4. …allocated some rest time in the planning. When you’re travelling you also need some time to properly rest. We neglected that part and as a result we felt like it stopped us from enjoying our experience fully. Also, I wouldn’t book accommodation for only 1 or 2 days anymore – or only if it’s just a stop to break down the journey.
  5. …travelled lighter. As much as we tried to take only the minimum in our backpacks, we realised there were some things we never used during our trip. We took too many clothes for example, travelling is not a fashion show and we wouldn’t have minded wearing the same thing regularly if it meant carrying less heavy bags with us.

What you need to know before doing it

If you’re thinking of going on a similar adventure, I thought I would give you some tips (on top of what I would do differently from our own experience) as some things can be easy to forget:

  • Do your research properly: watch videos on YouTube, read travel books but also blogs because they will give you more personal advice, ask people around you who have already done such a thing.
  • Check the vaccination(s) you’ll need early on: sometimes there are several injections needed per vaccine and a deadline for when you need to be vaccinated by, depending on the country you’re going to.
  • Book popular excursions or activities in advance: don’t wait until you’re there as it can get fully booked easily and read reviews carefully before you book, to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Work out how much cash you need with you: some countries are not very familiar with card payments and the airport doesn’t offer the best exchange rate, also keep your cash in various places (in case you get robbed).
  • Pick carefully what bank cards you want to bring: when travelling, traditional banks are not necessarily the best option – Monzo worked great for us as it matches the live market rate with no extra fees when you pay abroad. Take several cards if possible (preferably a VISA and a MasterCard) just in case.
  • Talk to the locals when you’re on the road: they would know some cool places to go to that are not in any travel books, they would also know about the local events happening during your stay.

Finally, you have to accept some level of uncertainty, some things will remain out of your control and you’ll have to adapt. We haven’t always been lucky with the weather or natural disasters ourselves for example… We drove through burning trees in Perth, breathed smoky and unhealthy air in Sydney due to bushfires, drove through torrential rain and got stopped by flooded areas. As a result, there are some places we wanted to go but couldn’t: The Pinnacles near Perth (bushfires), The Blue Mountains near Sydney (bushfires), Cedar Creek Falls near Airlie Beach (flooding), Whitsunday Islands (storms) and Milford Sound in New Zealand (flooding) to name a few. I’m not even mentioning the 6 weeks in Japan we couldn’t do because of the pandemic.

How it changed my mindset forever

This season in Australia has been a very dark summer for the country who’s suffering first from the global warming and climate change. It’s been a real eye opener for us, it’s always easier to face the truth when you witness it yourself… It was not only in the news, it happened just in front of us. We were not really worried about our holidays, we just felt sorry for the locals who lost their homes and all the defenceless animals we couldn’t save. It made me want to care more for our planet, because if we don’t, there will be nothing left to visit for the next generations.

It also taught me how important it was to be grateful in life and how to prioritise things better. Having a healthy body and a healthy mind offers you the best chances to make the most of everything, not only when you’re travelling but in life in general. That’s what triggered my drive to become the best version of myself.

Travelling is key in self-improvement and this is why it’s one of the main categories in this blog. Travelling makes you a better person, it’s the only real way to unlock your mind from preconceived ideas and be more open to the world. Would I do it again if I had the chance? Yes, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Have you done it yourself or is it in your plans too?

Big Girl x

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

the subtle art of not giving a fuck

Just like many people who decided to focus on the quality of their lives during this pandemic, I decided to take more time to read. The title of this book intrigued me a lot and I wanted to find out more about this counterintuitive approach to living a good life (as it says on the cover). Books that become bestsellers often do so for a reason.

It’s about saving your fucks for the right things

First of all, I apologise for the bad language I will be forced to use in this post… It wouldn’t be a good review if I stayed too polite. If you’re wondering if the “F” word is used too often in this book, the answer is yes, it definitely is at times, but the problem is there are no good enough synonyms. This is a serious topic discussed with a lot of wisdom, despite the language. It’s not superficial at all, it’s actually very deep. Don’t judge a book by its cover either, this is not about stop giving a fuck about everything. This is about giving a fuck about the right things. There are only so many fucks you can give in your life, and you should save them for what really matters!

“Now here’s the problem: Our society today, through the wonders of consumer culture and hey-look-my-life-is-cooler-than-yours social media, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences – anxiety, fear, guilt, etc. – is totally not okay.”

Mark Manson

Don’t aim to be extraordinary

You’re not perfect, chances are you’re very average, but you’re still great. This book doesn’t aim at telling you how to be extraordinary, more like the opposite. It tells you how your problems generate your happiness and that the joy is in the climb itself. I really liked the real life stories used to illustrate each point, the author uses real examples to then analyse them. It’s not just about telling you to do this or that because he’s right and he knows better, he’s using true stories to explain why he’s giving you such advice. You can choose to listen or to not give a fuck, it’s also an option. I guess the main thing is to know how to identify your own values and stay true to them, taking responsibility for your actions (and sometimes others’ too because life is not always fair).

“Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.”

Mark Manson
kitten walking away from explosion

Certainty is the enemy of growth

The best recent example of a moment in my life I decided to not give a fuck is when my fiancé and I both quit our job last year to go travelling for 6 months. To some people, it was a dangerous decision to leave everything behind and fly away, not having anything planned on our return… We did it anyway because we knew it would be the experience of our lives. It may have inspired jealousy, envy, surprise, we didn’t care. But life fucked us up anyway because we got interrupted by a worldwide pandemic before we had a chance to complete our travels. Despite the unexpected, it was all worth it and I would do it again without hesitation (I’ll talk about it more in details in tomorrow’s post).

“Certainty is the enemy of growth. Nothing is for certain until it has already happened – and even then, it’s still debatable. That’s why accepting the inevitable imperfections of our values is necessary for any growth to take place.”

Mark Manson

Failure is part of success

Finally, you need to fail in life before you succeed. Failure is the way forward! This book is thought-provoking and makes you laugh at the same time. Maybe because it’s true? I will let you make up your own mind but personally, this book has taught me how to give a fuck about the right things, the right people, and let go of the rest. The last chapters are probably the best because they become more and more personal and emotional. I could relate to the author in so many ways.

“Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.”

Mark Manson

Have you read it too? What other book would you recommend for a good life lesson?

Big Girl x

How Can We Have a Positive Impact on the Environment?

Let’s face it, we’re in this situation partly because we haven’t taken care of our planet well enough so far. Our environment and the current pandemic are strongly linked together and it’s more important than ever to act before it’s too late. I know this is just another post on the matter but the more people talking about it the better.

How can we help the planet as individuals?

I’m not going to talk about what the Government should do, they’re often too slow to react and I believe individuals can make a huge difference already. It’s a matter of making the right decision when you do have a choice that doesn’t really affect your life. It’s about bearing in mind that your actions do have an impact and making small changes in your routine is definitely worth it! It has more impact for the planet if everyone changes their lifestyle a little rather than a minority taking drastic measures.

“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.”

David Suzuki

Use your car less

Ask yourself if you could you walk instead, or take your bike. Otherwise public transport would still be a better option, if you can. Maybe you could commit to use your car only during the weekend for example? There is also the possibility to drive an electric car rather than one using petrol or diesel. On our end, we don’t have a car anymore and most of the time, we don’t miss it. When we do need a car, we hire just for a day or two.

Eat less meat

It’s not about becoming vegetarian or vegan (unless you really want to!) but at least limit your consumption of meat, especially beef and lamb. You can read this interesting article talking about how beef is way more damaging to the planet than white meat for example. Dairy is not great either, personally I’ve replaced cow’s milk with plant-based milk in my diet (it’s also more digestible and better for your health so it’s a win-win).

Shop less often

Everything we buy has a carbon footprint. You could shop more “green”, but sometimes it’s even better to just shop less (and live more – to save the planet). Think about reusing things a bit more for example, like selling rather than throwing away, buying second hand rather than new.

Use more reusable accessories

We have a tendency to buy some things out of habits or tradition without even thinking of the impact it can have on the planet. Some things are easy to change though, for example: use silicon lids instead of cling film, a reusable coffee cup instead of a disposable one, metal straws instead of plastic ones, tissue paper instead of wrapping paper etc.

Talk more about it

Don’t underestimate the impact of your words on your friends and family, or even colleagues. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else? When you make a sustainable-oriented decision, other people around you do too because we influence each other.

Sometimes you just can’t avoid that car trip, really crave for that steak or forgot to bring your reusable cup to the office. It’s fine, you can always compensate with a green initiative! Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Donate to an environmental charity (here are a few options)
  • Recycle items for DIY or give old objects a second life
  • Plant a tree if you have a garden
  • Opt for sustainable energy in your home (solar panels, low carbon heating options etc)
  • Volunteer to be part of a green charity
  • Educate yourself more by reading about 30 Ways to Be More Eco Friendly in 2020

What small changes have you already made in your habits?

Big Girl x

Kids or No Kids? The Choice Is Yours to Make

Kids or No Kids? You Have the Choice!

“Do you want kids?” is not a question you hear very often, because people assume that of course you do. Instead, people say: “When you’ll have kids…”, “When you’ll be a mum/dad…”, etc. Every time it puts me in a situation where I either stay quiet and let go, or say that I actually don’t want kids. But why do I feel like I need to justify myself?

It’s OK to be different

When I was a kid, I didn’t ask myself such a question because I’ve always thought it was the right thing to do, the purpose of every woman, the reason we find a partner and get married… It’s only when I turned 30 that I realised my mum would have been pregnant for the second time by that age. And I didn’t feel like I was going to be ready myself anytime soon. I heard a lot of comments such as “You’re turning 30 now, the clock is ticking!” but deep down I think I already knew it wasn’t for me.

I didn’t know for sure until my little sister fell pregnant, almost 3 years ago. She announced it with pictures and I cried when I realised she was telling me she had a bun in the oven. I cried with joy, the news made my sister and her husband so happy. But it confirmed that it wasn’t what I wanted for myself.

It’s a choice, not a duty (anymore)

It’s not because you don’t want kids that you lack empathy… People who don’t feel any desire to have kids are not selfish or cold bastards, they don’t necessarily hate kids either. It’s an important step in your life but it is NOT mandatory, just like people who choose not to get married for example.

I think there are many parents who shouldn’t have been parents, many children grow up in a toxic environment and end up with mental issues for life. Have you ever noticed that most serial killers, psychopaths or very disturbed people in general had a chaotic childhood? It’s always parents’ fault, kids can’t be held responsible for their education. I’m not saying that I don’t want kids because I’m afraid they will be disturbed, I just don’t see myself being a mother. I have two cats and that’s the extent of my motherhood. It took me a very long time until I realised it was OK. I am allowed not to want what most people want.

Think about the future

I could go on and on about how I find the idea of having your own kids very narcissistic. Our planet is already overcrowded and there are a lot of kids to adopt, if you really want to fill that role. I am lucky enough to have found a partner who shares the same opinion. Choosing not to have any is our contribution for the planet to reduce our carbon footprint. The future of next generations seems a bit compromised at the moment anyway.

The choice is (only) yours

I’m glad I was born when I was born, because I feel like the choice NOT to have kids has only just started to be an acceptable one. It’s still a sensitive topic though, people can’t help but try to make me change my mind when I tell them I don’t want kids. What annoys me the most is comments such as “You still have time to change your mind!” or “You will feel it when the time is right”. As a piece of advice for you, reader, if someone close to you makes the decision not to start a family, respect their choice without questioning it. Not everyone has to!

So. Do you want kids?

Big Girl x