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Celebrating a year back in London: thoughts on travel, wellbeing and conquering FOBO

I’ve long thought that autumn is the time for a refresh and new beginnings. We’ve been educated from a young age to sync our body clocks with the academic year – to return from summer holidays energised and ready for a step up, for the next big thing. Whether it’s starting a new year at school or university, starting a new job after graduating or moving house, there’s definitely a reason why so much change happens in the autumn, and I believe September is a far better month to reset than in January, when you’re feeling broke, tired, cold, hungover and in hibernation mode. The “September you” on the other hand has a post-summer Vitamin-D glow, has relaxed and re-energised while on holiday, has escaped routine and is full of new ideas and dreams! This year I haven’t quite made my usual September Resolutions, as I’ve tasked myself with quite enough lists already (thanks to my slightly overambitious ’30 before 30′ list!) but a sense of renewal is most definitely in the air.

Have you made any big or small changes this autumn?

One year back in London

Staying put in London for an entire year is quite an achievement for me, compared to my last few nomadic years of living out of suitcases and backpacks and hopping across Asia and Europe. One year probably sounds like a pathetic milestone to most people, but for me it’s actually worth celebrating. I openly confess to feeling a slight fear of staying in one place, something similar to a fear of routine or the ‘ordinary’ – which is apparently called ‘koinophobia’, according to omniscient Google.

Ironically enough, ‘koinophobia’ (aka FOBO: the ‘fear of being ordinary’) is supposed to be a fairly typical trait of us millennials – all wanting to feel unique and make our own individual mark on the world. It certainly offers one explanation for why I’ve felt the need to do something different and move abroad so much over the last 4 years. So reaching the one-year anniversary of a Monday-Friday job that I actually enjoy, without fleeing the country for pastures new, is worth popping open the champagne! It’s a sign that I may finally be getting over my dislike of staying in one place for too long… If I’m honest, I love travel too much to stay in one place forever, but at least I’m making baby steps.

Have you ever felt this concept of FOBO? 

All this reflection was prompted by my day at work yesterday, when I had my first annual review. I’ve really struggled to believe that the planet has completed an entire rotation around the sun since I moved back – it feels like just last week that I moved back from Sweden into my flat in London and dug out my work attire from the attic, ahead of my first day of work with the Civil Service. And now I’ve been in the job an entire year! As I’m on a graduate scheme (yes, that’s still a thing even at age 29) I was originally supposed to rotate into a different department and role this week, however in the end I’ve extended my current role for another 6 months until the end of March 2019. “New” things for me this autumn might therefore not be extraordinary developments, but they include starting French lessons with work; learning to surf, wake-board and play squash; and trying out random classes like boxing, barre and life-drawing.

Travels, naturally…

A glance at my Instagram would suggest that I haven’t left the house in months… It’s thankfully not true, I’m just desperately behind on all the photos I want to post and I care too much about chronology. A few months ago I wrote about my hugely exciting summer of travel. It was everything I’d dreamed of: I celebrated friends’ weddings in the UK and France; jumped out of a plane in Slovenia; had a perfect birthday weekend exploring Tallinn & Helsinki; swam with whalesharks, turtles and millions of sardines in the Philippines; detoxed from the internet for 5 days on the west coast of France; spent time near my home-home on the south-coast of England, celebrating a friend’s 30th and sailing in my first yacht race off the Isle of Wight. Too much to tell almost!

The big adventure was my 3 weeks in the Philippines. It was exactly the kind of extended trip I crave most, but not in the slightest bit relaxing as we were in the water literally every single day: scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing, paddle-boarding, wake-boarding, kayaking, island hopping, canyoneering (which involves jumping off waterfalls!). God the trip was good, but god was the return to work hard. I loved the Philippines and can’t recommend it higher – look out for my itinerary and photos in due course. All of the photos in this post were taken in El Nido, Palawan, by an amazing photographer, David Zandi, who happened to be on the same boat as us that day and who kindly gave me these. I have lots lots more myself, and am slowly but surely story-ing them on Instagram.

Looking at the next 3 months of 2018, I’ve only one trip currently in the diary: a 4-day visit to the Medieval villages and Dracula castles of Transylvania, Romania, around Halloween. I’m hoping to fit in a few more trips before New Years’ Eve too if I can. I’m also flattered to be invited to speak at the ‘Travel Forward’ conference attached to the World Travel Market on 5th November, speaking about customer strategies within the travel industry. I’ll be speaking alongside journalist Kevin May and senior leaders from Booking.com and Accor Hotels, so do come say hello if you’re attending! (They’ve even made this banner below – although I was a bit surprised to find out that I need “unleashing”!)

Wellbeing

There’s been a lot of attention in recent years on wellbeing and happiness. Travel is clearly a major source of my wellbeing and I’m happiest when abroad! But beyond explaining why travel makes me happy, general wellbeing is not a topic I’ve written much about, and while I’m based in London for now, I’ve spent more time thinking about it. At work I was recently asked to do a mini-interview on my wellbeing tips and tricks, which was a great exercise for articulating what I need to feel good when I’m not able to travel constantly. So I thought I’d share it here too.

I’m open to ideas and would love to hear how others stay happy outside of travel, so do let me know what are the main ways you look after your wellbeing?

Q: What are your three wellbeing tips?

  1. Write a micro-journal (similar to a gratitude journal) – a truly brilliant way to keep perspective on life and reflect on each and every day. I adore writing, so this year I’ve expanded from micro-journalling into writing a proper diary to record everything I do in the last 12 months of my 20s – and I imagine that 80-year-old me will adore reading through my memoirs!
  2. Start the day with a decent breakfast – there’s nothing worse than feeling ‘hangry’
  3. Look after your health – my mother is a doctor so this was instilled in me literally from day 1: stay active and keep fit; get all your nutrients and vitamins; stay hydrated; eat / drink everything in moderation; and don’t be scared of doctors and medicine.

Q: How do you release stress?

Cycling to and from work along the Thames Path, while listening to an audiobook, is my favourite wellbeing ritual! Commuting on my baby-blue Dutch-style bike (complete with wicker basket!) rather than on public transport ensures that I spend at least 1 hour a day away from a screen and notifications; it gives me fresh air, scenic river views and light exercise to raise my heart rate; it saves me from rush-hour trains and germs; it gives me precious time to read that I’d never otherwise find; and listening to a novel ensures that I don’t think about work or other stresses. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Q: What keeps you up at night?

I’m a night owl so I don’t usually go to bed until after midnight (I’m trying to write my thesis and maintain my travel blog outside of work, so there’s plenty to do once I leave the office). But once I’ve dragged myself to bed, I’m asleep fairly instantly.

Q: How much sleep did you get last night?

My average is 6 hours – which I’m aware is not enough!

Q: When were you at your happiest?

Firstly: I have the travel bug, so I’m always at my happiest when I’m abroad; and secondly: as I grew up on the coast, I’m especially happy by the sea! Most recently I was happiest while backpacking and island-hopping around the Philippines with my sister, and before that most notably during my month travelling around Sicily with my then-boyfriend, immediately before joining the Civil Service. Every year I attempt to spend time abroad at least each month and so far in 2018 I’ve managed 9 months in a row abroad, so fingers crossed I manage to fit in another few weekends abroad between now and New Year’s Eve…

Q: What thing or person relaxes you?

Massages – I’m completely hooked.

Q: What drink relaxes you? 

I don’t like tea or coffee (weird I know), so I don’t really have a go-to relaxing drink. I have a squash addiction though, which is lucky as it guarantees that I stay well-hydrated.

Q: Yoga or meditation?

I seem to be incapable of staying awake during meditation, so I’d have to choose yoga (although I don’t do it nearly often enough). Yoga is the perfect antidote to sore, stiff muscles and, after over-doing the surfing in the Philippines last month, I had the luck of a 121 ashtanga yoga lesson overlooking a deserted palm tree-lined beach, and I was forced to actually learn and repeat a whole routine from start-to-finish. I dream of one day fitting a little yoga into my morning routine… but I’m just not a morning person so I doubt that will ever happen!

Q: What song relaxes you?

No single song in particular, but I love Jazz so can recommend the whole of Spotify’s ‘Jazz Vibes’ playlist.

5 Comments »

  1. Great read VST. I had to scroll down to see what FOBO stood for. I initially thought it was ‘Fear Of Being Older’ lol. I love the idea of your September resolutions. Also ’30 before 30′. Alas personally I’m now looking at ’50’ before 50′. Claire and I have recently discussed doing different stuff and ‘art classes’ was one of them. For some reason I also want to master a handstand, but rather than learn a new language, I want to reinvigorate an old one (German) before I start forgetting it. See you at WTM!

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    • Haha no, now that it’s been a few months since my birthday I’m over the age-thing until next summer when it’ll no doubt come around again! And Biggsy – for German you should try listening to the podcast ‘News in SLow German’ (I just discovered the French version and it’s really helpful!). See you soon!

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  2. Koinophobia (FOBO) ? That’s a new one on me ! Have always tried to live a life different, a bit edgy or even outside the box. I think it’s in the genes, my parents came to the UK as economic migrants after the WW2, seeking work and adventure. I went off and did similar though admittedly in a more professional capacity, the world being a very different place nowadays – nevertheless, they sort of got me started and I remain forever in their debt, God bless them ! As for lifestyle, I always suggest a good diet, moderate exercise, sleep well and enjoy a stress-free life – at the moment I’m managing all those fairly well and feeling great as a result ! Happy travels Virginia and keep up the good work !!

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