Mindful travel musings in Malta

Often I just want to run away from a computer, overwhelmed by eight hours or more in front of one for work.

Other times, when without apparatus to scribble down my thoughts, I long for anything that will enable me to record ideas.

Writing is an outlet and my love, and I never feel more inspired than when I’m travelling. If I’m constantly thinking and on sensory alert, am I being mindful on the road?

Despite the media craziness and the threats that would have us believe we are barely safe to leave our or homes, I am at peace when I’m exploring somewhere new.

It might sound odd that I suggest travel is the best opportunity to actually practice mindfulness – on the road we’re always looking around, getting involved with the senses and quite possibly on a device like a laptop or phone. The mind can be busy.

However, I think we can experience mindfulness in an almost pure form while travelling and feeling new things; experiences, sights, sounds, smells and tastes. I feel blessed to be able to see the beauty in things too, without judgement. Difference is interesting, often charming.

I suppose awareness is the trick. And then, life is definitely beautiful.

I’m currently on a crowded bus in Malta that’s ferrying customers of all ages along the Sliema strip towards the capital Valletta, and then out towards where we are based in il Żurrieq. I struggle to maintain balance, holding on for dear life up the front of the bus and scrambling to tap my thoughts down into my iPhone’s Notes app. It’s around 7pm and this particular August day’s sunset has begun it’s decent across the harbour. All I can think is:

How enchanting, I wish I could share this with my loved ones [who I wish could be here as I know they’d appreciate it].

It’s at this point it occurred to me – after Cooper and I spent hours today creating travel content (videos and photography) we are proud of – that while the likes of us are sometimes frowned upon for the time we spend staring at a screen, we might be the mindful ones.

Other digital nomads understand where we’re coming from, and if you don’t, consider for a moment that we are not just playing around on our phones and being entirely anti-social; we are consciously paying attention for the beautiful moments. We are capturing them in the best way we know how: those landscapes, experiences, history, stories, that we can share to be inspiring, helpful, entertaining or informative (perhaps all of the above).

That’s what most travel bloggers intend. We are consciously seeking the photo, video, words that might inform and educate your next decision or judgement on any given destination.

In this way, those of us being conscious about creating and capturing are being mindful. And trust me, we are grateful for these moments because we are aware of just how precious they are.

We are also mindful to put the devices down and enjoy too. There’s nothing that irritates me more than people wandering mindlessly about, noses in phones, not realising they are holding up a huge crowd behind them or missing out on something their friend is saying to them.

But, sometimes when inspiration strikes, you need to take advantage of a 40 minute bus ride and get those words onto paper (or into a phone, whatever is handy).

Next time you find yourself confused or irritated at someone with a camera who looks like they’re trying to capture ‘just another shot for Instagram’, have a little faith that maybe they are not just another selfie-obsessed tourist; maybe, just maybe, they’re on a mission to inspire, educate and inform, like we are.

Or perhaps they’re chasing a dog, as we do too (caught this little guy on camera this afternoon). But that story for another time.

What do you think about this and how do you practice mindfulness on the road? Would love to know, drop me a line in the comments.

via GIPHY

Getting the chop (Get it Magazine, August column)

 

Happy to be back and having a say – the Last Word to be precise – in Get it Magazine. This month, wisdom in a haircut. How? Read on to find out, and click the cover photo to read the digital edition of this lovely mag. –Sarah

Every few years as the seasons change I find myself casually eyeing photos of short hairstyles – cute bobs, messy beach crops and sexy layers. Infrequent browsing becomes more determined, and the excitement of a new do dawns.

I inevitably commit. Let’s cut this long boring hair. Yes!

I browsed, bookmarked, and was even clickbaited by InStyle UK when the magazine declared the look of the year is a “hot platinum blonde buzz cut”, as showcased at Paris’ Haute Couture Fashion Week in July by Katy Perry, Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss.

Those ladies are never wrong. We should all do this, right? There’s nothing like a rebellious visit to the salon where you announce to your gleeful stylist, ‘Let’s do this – I’m ready for a change and to let the world know I’m not afraid – you have my blessing to CUT!’

I showed up on time, gave the salon dog, Dolly, a hug, and then produced my efficient Pinterest board full of inspiration and examples. My stylist smiled and nodded. I felt confident.

Other blondies will understand the process – colour first, then toner, wash, condition; all the while gossiping, flicking through magazines and scrolling Instagram (trying not to pick out too many more photos that demonstrate how we might like to look at the end of this big event).

The scissors appeared and the chirpy apprentice primed her phone in order to Instagram my transformation. The examples I shared showed a choppy blonde look that fell a little above the shoulders. My hairdresser went to start at that length, but during a moment of miscommunication when I wasn’t entirely paying attention (I was actually filming Dolly for Facebook because I am a [crazy] dog-lover), a lot more hair came off than I expected.

The bob was chic and shapely. But oh, it was short.

Some of you reading this know me and you’ve likely heard me preach about how change is great – go for it, put yourself out there, quit the job you hate, fall in love, move overseas, go travelling, adopt a rescue dog, cut your hair off… all excellent ideas.

The crisis of identity that followed was kept secret, except from Cooper my long-suffering better half. He offered support. ‘You look ten years younger,’ he said. Bless him. ‘Yes’, I thought, because I haven’t had this cut since I was 15!

At this point all I could see was long hair – film, television, magazines, my own selfies. Long hair, everywhere.

This all happened right before we went on a holiday and in hindsight part of the problem for me was trying to style a brand new cut while using harsh hotel hair products. My hair wasn’t moving. I defiantly refused to be in photos. I didn’t look like me. I consider myself to be quite ‘low maintenance’, and was surprised by my reaction. I took to Google to try and make sense of it all. Psychology Today explained: “Because it is so visible, hair becomes a part of a person’s identity. It helps define the persona you aim to create… Hair can also influence the way you define yourself to yourself, as an extension of your identity”.

By the time I returned to my day job, I had started to master the look. I was even warming to the new me. My manager tentatively complimented the change, and followed with a story about how he’d once thought he was doing the right thing by acknowledging a colleague’s cut only to have her promptly burst into tears. #firstworldgirlproblems

Now I’m back though. The ‘brave’ one with the cute crop (and hair trend of 2017?); the blondie who does things most others won’t [are not crazy enough to] do. People seem to like it. I do now too. Did I lose my identity? Yes, for a bit. Was it worth venturing outside of my comfort zone? As I always say, definitely.

Read the August issue of Get it Magazine online

 

London’s best fondue at Androuet

~

Two cheesy posts in a row, as we discover London’s best fondue at Androuet. (Cooper did owe me after taking himself off for halloumi fries while I was at work!)

He redeemed himself by connecting with the energetic and passionate owners of Androuet in London, French brothers Alex & Léo Guarneri (also the authors of A Year in Cheese).  

~

We have a confession to make – and it’s a little embarrassing. As cheese fans, we’ve never, ever had fondue. Disgraceful, I know. Coming from a hot climate though (Australia), it’s not something we would have thought first to have.

When Cooper was chatting to Alex this came up, and he very kindly offered to share the ultimate cheese experience with us, which is how we discovered London’s best fondue at Androuet.

On Friday afternoon, we hopped on a train into Liverpool street, and wandered across to Spitalfields.

Alex’s brother, Léo, had put a little time into his packed schedule (along with running the restaurant and being a chef, this cheese connoisseur also hosts external events, and researches all wine and produce being sold in their business) to show us the ropes.

Passion and produce

Alex and I love what we do and we want people to have a great experience. Good chefs and good people make good ingredients.

What became immediately obvious was how passionate this man is about what he does.

When he said he loves his job, we could tell he means it.

We discovered that we have some things in common – we’re expats who love our wines and cheese, and we believe in doing a job you love, because then it doesn’t matter about the hours you put in. Quite the opposite – we’re all really lucky.

Léo shared with us that they have a good relationship with their suppliers, and they choose to promote produce that comes from people who respect the land. The wine he paired with our first extraordinary cheese, Heublumen (Swiss cheese) was Pipeño blanco from Chile.

While we explored the taste, as instructed (bit of cheese, sip of wine for a rich, delicious flavour experience), Léo explained that the wine is produced as part of the biodynamic movement. That is, biodynamic wines are made using the principles of biodynamic viticulture which takes organic farming to a more spiritual level, with authentic respect for the land and natural cycles of the earth. It also means no pesticides, and in fact the lovely white wine we tried was a little cloudy in colour due to its natural production.

On that note, two things we learnt during this dining experience as the main delights including Androuet’s classic fondue were served: always white wine with cheese dishes, and when enjoying fondue, be sure to keep stirring the pot vigorously as the colour should always be white, not go back to yellow.

We had been tentatively dipping straight into the dish so as to save the cheese, but no, get stuck in. It’s only manners.

The traditional fondue blend we tried at Androuet is made from Comté 12 months and Emmental ‘Grand Cru’ with dry white wines. Comté is from Jura (east of France, at the border of Switzerland) and Emmental is from Savoie in the Alps mountains, south of Jura. The ‘Grand Cru’ is known as the best type of Emmental, Léo has shared with us.

Alex and Léo research their wines and cheese (tough gig, but someone has to do it); to be fair, they obviously do an excellent job. They’ve also grown this business from a market stall at Spitalfields around eight years ago to a gorgeous restaurant dining experience, and cheese and wine store.

We’d encourage you to keep an eye on their social media (Instagram and Facebook) for special events like wine and cheese pairings, weekly restaurant deals and experiences around London like cheese discos.

We’ll definitely be back to Androuet for the food, service and genuine enthusiasm for life (in between serving guests, explaining fondue to us and running the business, Léo was also chatting to his mum on site last night). See you all there!

 

Androuet, Spitalfields Arts Market, 10 Lamb street, London E1 6EA