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How to chill out in Vienna and Barcelona

How to chill out in Vienna and Barcelona

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They’re two of the world’s greatest cities with so much – too much, even – to see and do; but what if you’re tired and need to chill out in Vienna and Barcelona?

Work never seems to slow down, which means travel or a city break can feel like just another job. When that is the case, you need to set yourself up with an itinerary that builds-in time to relax. I totally related to a colleague this week who told me he’s been so snowed-under with obligations that he considered cashing-in a summer Euro city adventure and first-time trip to Vienna and Barcelona, for a chill out and do-nothing beach holiday instead.

 



 

I completely feel this. For those of us with an average job, we have limited annual leave allowance to work with. And, while anyone based centrally for travel appreciates it’s simple to get to new destinations, it can mean for example, that we jump on a plane from London late Friday night after a busy week at work, and wake up tired, day after day, despite being excited about being in a gorgeous new city. First-world problems, sure, but burn-out is a very real thing, and it’s a shame if a ‘break’ turns into a ‘break down’ by the time you get back to work.

I don’t think I could ever get enough of exploring Vienna or Barcelona, but racing around cities in an attempt to tick-off all the main attractions is actually really exhausting. My advice after perpetually learning the hard way, is to take it easy and chill out if you need to!

The conversation with my colleague inspired me to think about how I’d chill out or relax in Vienna and Barcelona if (when) I get the chance.

 

Vienna itinerary

Make it easy on yourself and stay centrally. We scored a great deal by booking early at the lovely Arthotel ANA Amadeus, and I’d highly recommend that area to stay in for convenience and your ability to walk everywhere. It gets pretty hot in the summer, and I have to say I was quite jealous of those I saw chilling out in the parks reading or doing nothing at all. Next time, I’ll make time!

Our hotel was air-conditioned and we did indeed take a break there during the hottest part of the day instead of forcing ourselves to walk around when we were very tired. Our intention was to rest and get out around dusk.

Take yourself on an evening wander – as the sun sets you’ll get your very best pictures of the Vienna city centre, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg, Heldenplatz and Schönbrunn Palace.

Summer evenings in Vienna must consist of some time in front of Vienna City Hall, at Rathaus where there’s a super-stylish pop-up food, music and cocktails experience that you can’t miss. We LOVED this!

Chill out in Vienna? I’d suggest soaking up the energy by giving yourself time in one of the beautiful green spaces like Volksgarten. Take a book, people-watch, nap – either way, this is how to truly indulge in the delights of Vienna. There’s generally sweet notes of classical music floating through the air from musicians playing live around the city. Divine.

You can be as busy or as chilled-out as you like in Vienna. Of course there’s plenty to see and you can be forgiven for feeling a little like you’re missing out if you’re not on the go the whole time. Vienna to me though, feels like it’s screaming out to be enjoyed mindfully, so don’t fall into the ‘busy’ trap. Find your perfect shady spot, and soak up this extraordinary place without depleting your energy reservoir.

 

Barcelona itinerary

Barcelona is huge, and on a short city break of three or four days you want to try and see as much as you can without using up all of your energy. There’s so much to see, do and eat here. If you want an easy way out, jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus (like City Sightseeing) to get an overview of the city, prioritise and make your own choices on where you want to get off and have a look around. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but without lots of time, and under the heat of the Spanish sun, sometimes it is the wisest option.

Need a break? Make your way towards the beachfront, and if it’s really hot out, shout yourself a cold cocktail and enjoy the shade at a super-stylish beachfront bar like the Carpe Diem Lounge Club (pictured above) where we found ourselves taking it easy with fellow travellers during a tour a few years ago (which reminded me of this original vlog we did way back then … bit crass, but fun all the same).

Lay back on comfy day beds, watch the waves and beach revellers, eavesdrop and incidentally learn a little Spanish (‘me gustaría una copa de cava’), and chill out in the best way possible in this fabulous city.

Moral of this story? Don’t fall into the trap where you feel like you have to ‘see everything’. Life, and travel, is about experiences; quality over quantity.

Sometimes exhaustion is going to happen, but if you’re on a city break, balance the sightseeing with chill-out time. Take time to just be. You’re not missing out, you’ll gain more out of your time in the end.

What are your suggestions? Let us know in the comments

 

Feature image: Gothic Quarter art in Barcelona by Javier Bosch
Right time right place – the science of perfect timing

Right time right place – the science of perfect timing

Having the last word in Get it Magazine, on right time right place, and facing your future self.

Right time right place

I recently picked up a copy of Daniel Pink’s excellent read, When, which explores the science of perfect timing. How do we get it perfect? Can we manifest a ‘right time right place’ scenario?

Among its numerous lessons, the book teaches how to get the most out of your morning coffee and breaks during the work day, and the importance of understanding your own chronotype (that is, when you are most energetic and lethargic each day).

Interest piqued?

Do we overemphasise endings?

One concept in particular made me think: his discussion about how as a society we tend to overemphasise the importance of endings.

Studies show that when we face an ending of some sort (including people falling into an age that has a 9 on the end of it, me this year, eek!), the tendency is to display extreme behaviour like choosing to take unnecessary risks or sabotaging our best relationships.

The psychology of it indicates we are innately grasping for a happy ending. And not just happy, but purposeful.

When references films like Pixar’s Up that perfectly capture the essence of this human condition, making us cry while feeling sentimental at the same time, because we’ve connected with something special.

Pink explains that in knowing this about ourselves, we can take steps to make our endings more gratifying.

Have a chat with your future self

A beautiful example on how to do this, is sending a message to your future self.

This might be a letter, vlog, blog or audio recording. Whatever format, put it away for five years.

The proposition made me a little teary.

What would I tell my future self?

I think I would start by saying I hope she lets loved ones know they are valued – always (and that she’s continued to do better on that front, as I intend to do from now on).

I want her to live without regret, anger and bitterness – good lives are wasted on such things.

I do hope she drinks less wine (possibly).

There should be dogs, everywhere.

And music, plus adventure.

I’d say that I hope she’s invested in creativity and travel; to remember that life has taught that things do get better; bring the light, be the light and look for it in others.

That’s all served me well so far. Finally, I would include a quote seen online from tinybuddha.com, because it’s perfect:

‘Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself’.

This is the abridged version, and I’m not sure what I’ll think of it in 2023, but hopefully I’ll be proud.

Perhaps I’ll be moved by the experience and progress made; or by naivety, disappointments not yet known, and challenges overcome or being faced.

Your time is now

When advocates that action like this serves to bridge the gap between past and present, and that is one of the best ways to find substance in our own lives.

‘Living in the moment’ is all the rage (and it’s no secret that I fly the mindfulness flag, it’s important).

However, Pink made me think about the feeling of satisfaction that’s possible when ‘me now’ feels close to ‘me’ past and future.

This exercise removes the detachment we feel from the future self (whether we are talking five years down the line, or just a couple of weeks), and enables us to make better choices that help her/him when that future arrives.

‘Time’ is complicated in terms of life, love and the dreams we envision, and many of us know a soul or two who have detrimentally gotten lost in it.

I hope I can impart to you some timeless insight which I took from Pink’s work; that is, by taking control of our time, and understanding how our past, present and future relate, we can vastly improve our experiences now.

Think I’ll include that wisdom in my note to future me too. But for now, over to you…

How do you see it? Share in the comments below.

 

First published in the March 2018 issue of Get it Magazine getit-magazine.com.au
Mindfulness on a Malta vacation

Mindfulness on a Malta vacation

Often I just want to run away from a computer, overwhelmed by eight hours or more in front of one for work (perpetually in need of a Malta vacation, it seems).

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

Malta vacation – an exercise in mindfulness

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.

Mindfulness on a Malta vacation - look around, breathe it all in

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.

Mindfulness on a Malta vacation - put the camera down and enjoy

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.

Mindfulness on a Malta vacation - extraordinarily beautiful

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. But that story for another time.

If you’re heading to Malta, discover our best places in Malta to visit here in a beautiful photo story

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.

How to use the law of attraction – manifest a better way now

How to use the law of attraction – manifest a better way now

Another morning, another effort to get up; another opportunity to implement my understanding on how to use the law of attraction. It’s not always easy though, is it?

The sunshine wasn’t helping my mood and I knew before I touched it, that I should refrain from reaching for my mobile the second I woke. Inevitably the first thing that appeared would be bad news.

There was a period of time that was like this last year when quite simply, I was unhappy. It’s nothing you haven’t experienced, I’m sure. If we’re lucky, we know that actually – soon, hopefully – things will be brighter, bit at a time.

During my particularly stressful period, I was simultaneously dealing with illness in the family, a confidence crisis, finance worries, challenging business associates and a hopeless feeling of helplessness.

Making matters worse, I was being particularly tough on myself for how I was reacting on the phone, over email and with friends. I kept apologising for being ‘that person’ who didn’t want to bring the lunchtime conversations down, and I was aware of carrying around a negative attitude. I wasn’t feeling, behaving or showing up as the me I wanted to be.

How to implement the law of attraction to make positive changes now

I am all about taking charge though, and knew the only person who could change what was being reflected in my world was me.

I invested time into shifting my view on areas of my life that were getting me down. Included in this effort was a dedicated daily gratitude practice.

If there’s one law of attraction ‘secret’ I’ve seen work wonders in a multitude of difficult scenarios, it is the act of specifically identifying what has been good each day.

When I was a child, I was encouraged to recognise that there is always someone worse off, so to be grateful for my lot.

That sentiment is largely true, although now I get that the real power in being grateful is that like attracts like.

What I – what you – focus on expands.

Some say that how the law of attraction works is like this:

like attracts like, and if we focus on the bad bits like hours of miserable news broadcasts, difficult colleagues or those who have cheated us, that’s exactly what is going to show up more in our own experience. Ask and it is Given is the bible on this stuff, if you want more; or look up Gabrielle Bernstein‘s videos on YouTube.

If, however, we practice the shift to an attitude of gratitude such as, ‘I’m grateful to have the cash to pay my rent’, or ‘I’m grateful to be catching up with Leanne today because she is an awesome friend’ (among thousands of other examples), more of the positives manifest in your world.

A little bit of magic. Quite cool!

Making the law of attraction work for you

None of this is revelatory though, so what was the big learning for me out of recent challenges?

I realised there was something I constantly omitted from my own gratitude list. Me!

Your list may include similar items to mine like ‘loving partner’, ‘friends and family’, ‘cool boss’, ‘dog’ (dogs plural, for that matter), ‘good health’, ‘upcoming travel adventure just paid off’… but do you include yourself?

I have given myself such a hard time in the past for feeling miserable and worried about a whole host of things. I didn’t consider that my resilience was carrying me through and that my nous was leading me to rewarding points of realisation.

You rock. We rock! I’m remembering to be grateful for that. I am grateful for my mistakes and the times I’ve spoken without thinking. I am grateful for the falls and how I picked myself up. I am grateful for the lessons learnt the hard way that I now share to help others. I am grateful for the words I can use to communicate, share and resolve.

These days I add ‘me’ to my list, up the top with a smiley face. My intention is that this serves as a reminder for you to do the same on yours (smiley face optional).

Regardless of what kind of day or week you’re having, take five to compose your top five things you’re grateful for now. Make it bright, bold, and uniquely you.

 

First published in the July 2017 issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
7 ways to have a mindful easy commute

7 ways to have a mindful easy commute

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Easy commute? Not possible, you might say. I would agree, living in London, but had to find a way to make my mornings better.

Mindfulness is the key, but I’ve experimented with a few things that might help you too.

7 ways to have a mindful easy commute

I tweet, write, talk about and certainly practise mindfulness and meditation, but in my current state of busyness, time easily escapes me. Consequently I’ve wondered about ways to enjoy a more mindful commute to work because that’s when I have time.

It makes a huge difference to my day taking time out to breathe and let myself enjoy a peaceful space free of the pressures of the world or worries of my to-do list. This daily activity keeps me calmer and less reactive, particularly if I’m in the middle of a stressful situation or I’m tired and in need of a rejuvenating break away.

I really notice when I’m not in this flow and sometimes – lately often – I run out of time in the morning to get into this sacred and important space (twenty minutes is my preferred time frame for meditation, although if I can spare it on a day off, thirty or forty is bliss).

As much as I intend to take the time out, something always comes up, and before I know it I need to run to the bus to make it to work on time.

I have about half an hour on the bus to work, and it’s been on my mind for a while to test ways I can prepare for the day ahead during this commute.

I’ve been really trying to stay reflective, intentional and positive this year, and in this spirit I decided last week to not only test mindful options on the commute, but to document them too.

In London, the commute is many things, not easy – 99 per cent of them are not peaceful!

There’s a vast range of annoying noise, gross smells, agitated people, and stress … lots of it. Fortunately I found a way to avoid the Victoria line on my morning commute, but the bus can be slow and feature some ‘interesting’ characters.

Here’s what I discovered about the pursuit of a mindful commute, and they are tips you can take with you, whether you’re on a busy bus or train; possibly in the car, but be mindful of paying attention to road rules!

7 ways to have a mindful easy commute

How to have a mindful commute – my week’s diary

Monday I was off to a good start with a seat all to myself on the bus!

I felt like a little inspiration was in order so I opened Soundcloud and found some playlists other users had compiled with audio by Hayhouse authors like Dr. Wayne Dyer. I chose a piece that would take me about 18 minutes along into my journey, and despite background noise and chatter, I was mostly able to focus on his workshop.

In this snippet of audio he discussed the concept of simply ‘being aware’, so after the clip ended, I practised sitting in my chair and observing my surroundings – the trees, cars and passing foot traffic; sounds and smells.

I found ‘simply observing’ was a really interesting, if not calming experience that kept me entirely present without worry or judgement.

During that day at work, for the first time in a long time, I caught myself in the act of not breathing properly.

I’ve been extremely busy lately and I realised – possibly because of my mindful commute activity – that half the time I’m sitting at my desk not breathing properly! I bet I’m not the only one.

Now, I’m conscious to stop what I’m doing and take some deep breaths – even now as I type. I’m sure this is a step in the right direction and it helps with everything from concentration to digestion and a reduction in stress levels.

On Tuesday for some reason I felt like I wanted to listen to music – the kind that gets a little party going in my head!

Now I don’t know what yogis think of dance music, but I love it. There’s nothing like a melodic dance track to get me in good spirits. I decided to go with this but instead of thinking about things while streaming my favourite tracks, I just listened.

Fortunate enough to have a seat on the bus again, I gently closed my eyes and spent the best parts of the music focusing only on the intricate production and cool melodies that some very clever producers had published.

This might very well be the most outrageous and certainly nontraditional way of meditating, but I was focused on my breath and only the sound, and I felt happier for the experience.

Day two was off to a bright start.

Doom and gloom Wednesday hit – it’s been so dull and grey here lately.

Oh, cold. I forgot to mention that! Cold, even for me who quite likes winter (it’s so much better than sweating)!

I wasn’t sure what to try this morning and on auto-pilot turned back to something I’ve tried to avoid as much as possible, that is, spending my entire commute on social media.

Although I am inspired by Instagram and engage with interest groups on Facebook and Twitter, I work in front of a screen all day and know for the good of my sanity that I need to break from it when I can.

On this day I didn’t get a seat.

Drat.

It was a little bit crowded too, but I managed to find a spot in a corner and a hand rail to keep me steady.

Something a yoga teacher taught me a couple of years ago sprung to mind; she said we often hold too much tension in the tops of our legs and into our hips. She taught us to stand steadily on two feet, about hip width distance apart, shoulders straight but relaxed, slight tone to the belly; and to soften the legs and thighs just a bit to reduce the tension. So, I found my posture and breathed through it.

Again I brought into the activity my awareness consciousness from Monday; that is, simply being aware of what was going on around me – observing without judgement or concern.

It worked in bouts – with people getting on and off and noisy school kids evidently enthusiastic about the day ahead, I found this a bit tougher to get into. However, the focus on breathing did help to centre me and I felt like I was making up a little for not sitting down properly to meditate in the morning prior to the commute.

By Thursday I’m usually tired.

I’m naughty and forget to wrap up work on time most days which means I have less hours to unwind at home (yes, I like my work, and am grateful for it).

Feeling relatively unenthusiastic I decided to do something really simple on my mindful commute – experiment with ‘silence’.

That is, I didn’t pull my phone out to listen to music or watch YouTube.

I didn’t read or even write notes or my intentions for the day.

Actually, I intentionally sought out silence.

Of course, I’m on a busy commuter bus with people, announcements, traffic and more surrounding me, but upon starting with a focus on my breath and relaxing the area in the middle of my brow (where your third eye is imagined), I sat and actually relished in silence created by, surprisingly, me.

On Friday I began as I would any other day – I’d actually chosen one of my favourite Gabby Bernstein lectures on developing intentions to listen to.

But, about five minutes into my mindful commute, my dad called.

He’s in Australia, so I take every chance I can to talk to both he and my mum, and as we chatted (albeit I was quieter than normal, so as not to be one of those noisy commuters) I realised that the simple practise of focusing solely on my conversation with him was a mindful act in itself and a positive experience for both of us.

Enjoying a mindful commute when the time calls for it, means an otherwise challenging part of the day has the potential to become a personal and helpful journey in itself!

What are your thoughts and tips though? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Further reading

A couple of articles I found on how to have a mindful commute that you might find interesting too:

How to have a mindful commute (London Evening Standard), includes a definition of mindfulness, why it’s helpful and who else is adopting it.

Wanderlust‘s 50 ways to make a commute mindful