Helping Yourself out of Your Comfort Zone

Much like a lunch in Yo Sushi!; opportunities in work and in life will be bobbing along on a conveyor belt, and you can either, if you’re anything like me in that restaurant, have a really good nosey at it the first time and grab it if you like the look; you can watch it go by knowing that it isn’t for you; or you can miss it.

Rather than trying to make you crave seafood, what I’m trying to say, is that there are always opportunities in life and I’ve learned that opportunities out of your comfort zone are often worth taking, as long as you can find a way to manage them.

Even if the sushi dish looks horrid, it might actually be the tastiest sushi you’ve ever tried.

Okay, perhaps the sushi analogy only works as far as the conveyor belt, but for the first time, I took an opportunity to travel with my job and stay for two nights in a hotel 180 miles from home.

It was put to me as an optional trip, and initially I accepted, though it did play on my mind as to whether I could handle it.

I’d never stayed in a hotel on my own before.

I’d never travelled with colleagues before for more than a day.

But I did it. I actually pondered it for long enough that eventually it just became too late to back out and cancel the hotel booking for me. So it turns out, my indecision kind of threw me in at the deep end.

I’m going to put it out there that some people wouldn’t take up this opportunity as it wouldn’t be for them, and that’s absolutely fine. I realise that it totally depends on the nature and length of the trip, and personal circumstances and preferences. This is just my personal experience and my tips for anyone who is torn wanting to take the opportunity but nervous to do so.

Get as much detail as you can before the trip.

This negates the “what if” questions. I had the chance in a one to one meeting with my manager to ask about the schedule on this type of trip; who would be going, and exactly where I was staying. This put my mind at ease because I would be one of three, two of whom had been there before, and in a hotel with my own room and space. If this discussion time isn’t already in the diary, perhaps ask if you can put 10 minutes in to discuss the “where” and “when”, and if not with your manager, perhaps with a colleague who has travelled with the company before.

Take a home comfort.

You might not have room for all your home comforts but, however soppy I may now reveal myself to be, I took one of Dean’s t-shirts to sleep in. Another familiar and handy idea is taking a tablet or iPad, or even using your phone, to watch your favourite show on Netflix before going to sleep. This doesn’t even have to be a material object, if a (video) call with someone at home will make you feel better, then give them a heads up before you go and arrange to do so, or your yoga routine keeps your mind at ease; schedule it into your time in the hotel room.

Keep yourself busy.

Whether this is already defined by your work schedule or whether this means planning out your free time to see some local sights, it’s certainly worth making sure you don’t find yourself sitting around, waiting to check out and go home. This was already written into my schedule: I was only ever working, eating or sleeping; but if there’s a free afternoon or even a couple of hours, perhaps find out if there are any local attractions or pretty parks that make for good Insta photos. After all, time flies when you’re having fun.

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: #BeBodyKind pt. 2

As I was writing my first #BeBodyKind post for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, I realised that I actually have a bit more to say on the topic.

As well as body image affecting mental health, it’s more of a two-way street, whereby looking after your body and listening to your body can positively impact your mental health.

I just got back from an all-inclusive holiday where I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and engaged in little to no exercise. Whilst the week off to completely relax was absolute bliss, you could argue that I wasn’t entirely kind to my body.

The only kind thing I did was shade-bathe so that I didn’t catch the sun (no one wants a grouchy, sunburnt Paris, she is a bright red, sulky nightmare).

This week, as well as advocating Mental Health Week, I will be focusing on my physical health. I will be focusing on the food I eat to fuel my days and the exercise I partake in to keep myself active and revitalised.

I can say with certainty that when I spend a week without a cardio workout, snacking at work all day and every night after dinner, disregard food labels and just eat whatever and whenever I fancy; I feel sluggish and lethargic, I don’t feel good about myself and it makes me less encouraged to socialise or at least get some fresh air.

Part of my pledge to #BeBodyKind is to eat more vegetables, do three workouts per week, drink enough water, and sleep 8 hours per night every night. I will be meal prepping weekly and I will be making my best efforts to start to love my body. After all, the human body is pretty impressive so we should look after it.

How do you routinely look after your body?

If you want to get involved this week and share your story or thoughts:

Use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Tag @mentalhealthfoundation on Instagram and Facebook, and @mentalhealth on Twitter.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: #BeBodyKind pt. 1

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

#BeBodyKind: Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019 on the topic of body image – how we feel and think about our bodies.

Often for these hashtags or national weeks, I have to really rack my brain for a relevant anecdote but this one has come at a time when I’ve actually been pondering this very subject.

If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll see that I recently spent a week on the Greek Island of Crete. It was here that I spent my time in bikinis, short shorts and t-shirts (because strappy tops make for sunburnt and blistered shoulders for someone like me).

As I was reading my book by the pool, there were a lot of people in their swim shorts and bikinis seemingly secure in their own bodies. I say seemingly, because I can only assume. I know myself, that I may be walking around in short shorts but I still despise my ghostly white legs.

People always say “no one is looking at you judging”, “people worry more about themselves than you” and I’ve started to internalise it, just a little. As I noticed these men and women and their natural, unphotoshopped, unfiltered bodies, it struck me that I wasn’t judging them for not looking like models, I wanted to be like them in the sense that they didn’t (seem to) worry about their appearance; they were just enjoying their holiday, relaxing, reading, swimming, watching their kids have water fights and throw a ball across the pool.

It is common and somehow easier to pick flaws in your physical shape than it is to compliment yourself. There will always be parts of our bodies that we dislike, but if everyone has at least something, we all must be in the same boat so there’s no point focusing on it and bringing ourselves down.

Time spent worrying could be spent making memories and enjoying the moment.

Here’s to not giving a monkeys what other people (probably don’t) think or say, and here’s to just doing and wearing whatever the hell we want.

A bikini body is a body in a bikini.

If you want to get involved this week and share your story or thoughts:

Use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. Tag @mentalhealthfoundation on Instagram and Facebook, and @mentalhealth on Twitter.

Living for the weekdays

You may or may not be familiar with the phrase “living for the weekend”. This phrase implies that we simply get through the week in anticipation of the weekend and the fun or relaxation that it brings. We propel ourselves through caffeine-fuelled days at the office, diminish the evening into a static dinner and Netflix scene, and cling onto the weekend at the end of the 120-hour long tunnel.

But why are we wishing away five full days in anticipation of two?

For the most part, if you’re in the UK, it’s because between 9am and 5pm on those five days, we’re at work, at university, or in school.

I’ve decided to challenge this outlook because it isn’t the full days of spare time at the weekend but the simple pleasures in every single day that we should look forward to.

For example, I look forward to Tuesday evenings with Dean. Meerkat Movies code in one hand, Cineworld card in the other, and no social media for a few hours. Just us and the big screen. This is a break for me to completely forget about work, about the chores waiting at home and have a good giggle or get my teeth into a psychological thriller.

We might spontaneously take ourselves out for dinner or just eat dinner at the table, engrossed only in each other’s company.

Another simple pleasure can be a self care activity: spending an hour reading a novel, putting a face mask on and listening to music, calling or Skyping a friend… The list really varies between individuals.

Though it’s tempting to write off Monday to Friday as work days and work days only, I would encourage you to put one activity in your diary each day to look forward to: big or small.

Whilst the 9-5 stretch is mostly work, you might spend your lunch hour with a friend and treat yourselves to a restaurant meal, or take yourself for a walk in the fresh air and sunlight.

I think making the most of your own time in between or around work hours really brings that midweek joy back. It is crucial to avoiding wishing time away.

Look at the time now.

This minute on this very day, month and year will only happen once. So make it count.

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A Redhead in the Sun

I’ve been on my fair share of summer holidays: shorts on, spaghetti straps out, and you’re good to go, right?

Wrong.

I have fair skin which absolutely does not mix well with the sun. I can recount memories of a Southern Spanish adventure after which, my shoulders were never the same again. Blistered, burnt and horrendously painful. So here I am with some tips for anyone who suffers the same and is incredibly susceptible to sunburn!

Forehead Sun Protection.

I didn’t know about this until Dean’s dad showed me it. I often wear my hair in French plaits to keep it off my face but quickly learned how harmful that can be for your scalp. I use Malibu Clear Hair and Scalp Protector which comes in a perfectly travel sized 50ml bottle.

Foundation with SPF.

There are quite a lot of these dotted around the market, but I use the Rimmel Match Perfection with SPF 20. I don’t wear too much makeup when I’m in the sun because sweating it off is neither good for your skin or a nice feeling. That said, a thin covering of this and you’re good to go.

After Sun Lotion.

This probably seems obvious but if you forgot to top up your factor 40 when you got out of the pool, you’re going to be grateful for after sun lotion and a fan that you can blast on your back.

Long sleeves or at least T-shirt sleeves.

If you think about it, your nose and your shoulders, if you’re wearing spaghetti straps, are the most exposed parts of your body to the sun beating down at midday. I had a very bad experience with sunburnt and blistered shoulders, and I’ve never been on holiday without T-shirt sleeves since. Sure, it’s a pain because you can’t wear any of the cute, strappy sundresses but it saves a lot of pain. Trust me.

No reflective sunglasses.

I’m no physicist or expert but for whatever reason, these reflections somehow mean you are more receptive to the sun’s incredibly hot rays. Even with the SPF 20 Rimmel on your mush, you’re still going to want to avoid this. Safety over fashion, gals.

Hairstyles without a parting.

Unless you want to go through a bottle of the Malibu Clear Hair and Scalp Protector and make your hair super greasy in the process, those French plaits I mentioned are a no no. Sunburn is just as painful on your scalp and really not worth those cute bunches.

Plenty of water.

This is more of a general tip I suppose; it doesn’t specifically affect redheads. If there’s anything in my bag on holiday, it’s a bottle of water. I would recommend keeping it in the fridge in your hotel room/Airbnb for overnight and morning rehydration too.

Don’t sit on the top deck.

If you’re going on a tour bus, as inviting as it seems, you’re going to want to avoid the top deck. They are perfect for those Instagram shots and there are some with covers on the top deck, which are perfect for us strawberry blondes. No cover on the top deck though and you’re asking for trouble. Little things like sitting downstairs on the tour bus will give your skin a welcome rest from those penetrative rays.

Leave the sparkly necklaces at home.

I know you want to look your best for those holiday snaps but trust me when I say that your skin will thank you. The sun has no mercy and will quite happily leave you a semi-permanent white necklace on your tomato red neck. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

How do you protect yourself when the sun is beating down?

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Where did The Girl in Flat 26 start?

Firstly, thank you so much to Steff from Steff’s Journey for my nomination for the Blogger Recognition Award. This is my very first blog related nomination ever so I’m super chuffed to have reached this new milestone!

Steff is super supportive on social media and talks about a broad range of topics on her blog – so there’s something over there for everyone – a good place to start is her Blogger Recognition Award post!

As part of the Blogger Recognition Award nomination, I will be explaining:

  • Why I started blogging
  • Two pieces of advice for new bloggers

So here goes!

Where did The Girl in Flat 26 start?

I started blogging in 2015 during my university years. I was in my third year, studying abroad in Valencia, Spain. If you have been around here a while, you may even know that I started out as Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (any Alice in Wonderland fans in the room?) but later realised that a) it wasn’t really relevant to me or my content and, b) it was really rather long to type, so I rebranded in 2017, and opened my blog up to Instagram, Twitter and in early 2019, to Pinterest.

I have always enjoyed writing and ever since I owned a pen and paper, I have loved writing my own Tracy Beaker-esque autobiographies which developed into deep philosophical articles across multiple pages of Microsoft Word once pen and paper became keyboard and screen. To clarify, when I say keyboard and screen, I’m talking about a separate desktop, a keyboard that you plug in, Windows 95 and a dial up connection that sounded like a T-Rex crying when connecting to AOL.

Just before my year abroad, a solid two decades later, we were encouraged to document our time there, either in photographs that we could send to our lecturers to be published on the university website, or even a blog if we enjoyed writing. It was an amalgamation of this encouragement and the abundance of “absolutely having the time of my life on my placement year” blog posts I had read, that led me to sign up for a WordPress account, and here I am today.

I haven’t been secretive about the fact that I became very homesick whilst in Spain and after seeing lots of positive, inspiring posts about university placements abroad, I wanted to share the truth about my experience. Whilst I made friends and somewhat enjoyed my course, I would always be looking forward to my next flight home. I felt obliged to show anyone who might not actually think of a year abroad as the time of their life, that they aren’t alone and it’s okay to feel that way.

The topic of wellbeing would later filter into the majority of my content, along with travel.

Two pieces of advice for new bloggers

Whilst I am by no means particularly experienced, I have noticed some correlations between some blogging habits and the success of my blog. There are many tips I could share but since I’m limited to two, here goes:

1. Engage.

Show the blogging community that you are human and build up lasting connections on various social media. Twitter is my favourite platform for this, as there is room for lots of interaction, but I know there are some opportunities for this on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest too (I’m still figuring these out, myself!).

2. Schedule.

Whilst engaging with the community does need to be natural and spontaneous, your blog posts and tweets can be scheduled to save yourself time (particularly if you’re juggling a full time job, household and your blog!) I personally use Buffer (free) where I can schedule 10 Tweets at a time, with options for Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest (the latter requires a paid account) too.

Once again, thank you so much to the lovely Steff for my nomination, please do head over there and check out her page!

My nominations:

  1. Alyssa Pierce (The Sacred Space)
  2. Boss Babe Chronicles
  3. One More Light LB
  4. Laura Lovejoy (It’s Not Me, It’s You)
  5. Emily (Emily Gabriella)
  6. Claire Elise (September Star)
  7. Malena (Malena Blogs)
  8. Jess (Coffee & Corfu)
  9. The Necessity Accessory
  10. The Newbury Girl
  11. Steph Loves
  12. Chelsea (Out of Office Blonde)
  13. Alex (Alex Getting Lost)
  14. Plan Act Thrive
  15. Anaïs N.

The Rules

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you
  • Write a post on your blog showing the award
  • Describe why you started blogging
  • Offer two pieces of advice for new bloggers
  • List 15 bloggers you would like to nominate
  • Tell each of those 15 nominees that you have nominated them!

Love,

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Dear Diary, it’s our last full day in Vilnius!

Day 3 of 3: Thursday

Following a day of old town exploring, we decided to venture a bit further on our final day in the Lithuanian capital.

Beigelistai

I left the breakfast venue to Dean this morning and he took me to an adorable bagel café, Beigelistai, where we tucked into a salmon & cream cheese bagel, a burger bagel, and a coffee each; reaching a grand total of 12€.

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Beigelstai

Top tip #1: It’s funny, Google Maps and TripAdvisor have taken us down many streets in Vilnius that we wouldn’t have expected to be home to cute cafes or exciting activities. I would say this particular city is worth more planning than perhaps others, as we wouldn’t have seen half of it without Google!

Zoo

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This part of the day cost 1€ for the bus ticket, a 6€ student ticket for the zoo and 2€ per animal food (choice of rabbit, parrot, or both for 4€).

We fed the parrots first, which I think was down to a misunderstanding when we were buying our tickets because I’m not the biggest fan of birds… Thankfully Dean carried the food and led the way. They were very loud but to be fair, when he leaned toward a branch for them to disembark, they did.

Then we fed the rabbits which was super cute! They were very gentle and now I think I would like a pet rabbit. Note that this happens every time we visit a Zoo/Aquarium, and Dean has to explain that we can’t take all the animals home, Paris.

Shame.

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Whilst quite small, the zoo is very interactive and you can see animals roaming around in their own space, rather than trapped behind glass. A lot of the areas are monitored by staff which is probably to ensure visitors behave but made me feel at ease because they would be able to help if one of the monkeys decided to jump on my shoulder. I’m a bit of a worrier, you see.

The zoo, unusually, is situated on a kind of retail park, also home to a few restaurants, a VR Café and some shops.

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Peri Peri

We stopped for lunch at Peri Peri where we tucked into an ‘all you can eat’ lunch for 6€, including options such as fried chicken, spicy chicken, beans, salad and chips. The chips were beautifully seasoned and arguably the best part!

VR Cafe

Whilst the VR Cafe experience might be considered expensive at 20€ an hour, it wasn’t too bad for 2 of us splitting the cost and taking turns. It was a new experience but owning PSVR means I probably wouldn’t be bothered about trying it again. For those who don’t own anything of the kind, it probably is worthwhile and definitely an activity to do with friends.

Customers can choose from an array of games ranging from puzzle to horror, and sports to experience. The member of staff is also available to help with controls or guidance.

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After travelling back to good old Earth (or rather, taking off the headset), we popped home for an afternoon nap (how old are we?!) before reserving a table at a steak restaurant.

Bon Chop

Here the menu was a display cabinet of different steaks, rather than in writing. For someone not really educated in steak, I was grateful that Dean took the wheel and ordered us a sharing plate to meet both of our preferences! It was gorgeous and whilst a little more than we had paid for previous meals, it was a gorgeous place to spend our last evening meal.

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The Portobello

We dropped into The Portobello for one on our way home, grabbing a drink and some pistachios, and taking over the balcony for a few hours. There was a sofa, a table and a dartboard, where we set up camp.

Bukowski

Our Airbnb host wrote down recommendations for shopping, restaurants landmarks and bars; one of the latter being Bukowski. My beverage of choice was a gin & tonic, that ended up being served with cucumber. A novelty from the usual lemon or strawberry!

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We strolled home just after midnight to rest our weary heads before our flight home the next day.

Time to plan our next city break! Where would you recommend?

Love,

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