How to take on a good mindset to get the most out of traveling

Coming back from Umeå, I realized the trip was a fantastic idea. I met very interesting people, got some inspiration and shared experiences. And I learned a little bit about the Sámi, something that awoke my interest recently. I furthermore learned what people in the North say about the South where I currently stay. You have to go out, look over your own nose and get a different perspective to find out more about yourself and the place you think you know so well.

Have no expectations.

This trip was so successful because I did not have any expectations. In fact, even on the train, on the way up north, I did not know yet what was going to happen or what I was supposed to do. But taking it easy, not worrying about anything and having no expectations whatsoever made the trip disappointment-proof.

Don’t prepare.

I did not read about Umeå before. I went with the flow. That is how I ended up at the official press reception. I was taken there by my hosts who showed me their part of town.

Decide rarely but quickly.

I made few decisions but I made them quickly and clearly and without regrets. For the journey back, for example, there was only one train that was not tremendously expensive. That meant to sacrifice a university lesson, but to gain one more full day in the Capital of Culture. Click click, pay, print. Now make the most of it. No checking other options later. No wondering about the class I missed. If you start regretting, your experience will turn sour.

Reflect.

I had to recap. The blog series helped a lot with that, but also putting the events of the day in my diary made the many experiences to sink down and my brain to digest them. In that way all the overwhelming things (like trying to communicate to a man in an ice cube, seeing myself reflected a million times in a mirror room, the view over the white frozen river and even the lentil soup with my host) form a positive feeling that will rise up inside me whenever I hear the word Umeå from now on.

Bring very little luggage.

Traveling with as little luggage as possible made the journey less complicated and flexible. My backpack was small, so it fit under the seat in the train. Walking around was much easier for me than for the people whose trolley cases got stuck in the grit. Apart from the Umeå2014 bag, my volunteer badge taped into my diary, a handful of little torches and three papers about the Sámi exhibition, I did not carry anything home. At least nothing that can jam my little room. My mind, however, is full of pleasant memories.

Keep up habits.

This post is a part of the habit that I took on in January: writing 500 words a day. It is important to try and keep up with those habits as much as possible, even while traveling. However, if you keep your expectations low concerning that, you cannot be disappointed. But as you travel and forget about your habits, it will take much more effort to get back on track and take on the habit again after a pause. So even if on a journey, try as much as you can to keep it up.

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Lessons from January

Do you remember the goals you set five weeks ago, when New Year’s Eve was just over and you were full of motivation? To be honest, I did not exactly. I had to sit down and remind myself. And I had to compare my goals with this month’s outcome. So here are the lessons I learned in January:

Goals must be reviewed.

Just as I said: Looking back is important because we forget all the resolutions we made in the beginning of the year. Then we break them, unaware. Only if we remind ourselves constantly and adjust our actions we can reach our goals, slowly and one by one, but surely. In that way we learn. That is how I came to put down these insights here. By reviewing yesterday every morning, by recapitulating last week every Sunday, and by going over the last weeks in the beginning of a new month. Don’t worry: It takes time, but once you are used to it, you will find it easy to fill those papers and plans and it will go very fast.

Aimlessness pulls you down.

With the new semester just having started, I did not have any assignments. No project to work on, no mission to prepare. And I realised I was just floating, not making use of the days. Of course there is hardly anything nicer than waking up and reading the morning away, in bed, before breakfast. But afterwards I tended to get unnecessarily lost on the internet, with things that did not in any way help me. Therefore I had to look for a task that could fill my days with meaning again.

Computer eats time.

As I said, without something to do it is so easy to get lost on the Internet. From one article you are guided to the next until you find yourself caught in the web, unable to switch off. I walked in the forest, biked somewhere, went to see an exhibition. In that way, I broke the attraction by the internet, at least for a while. And I adjusted my list of habits to take on: One of the coming months will see the re-installment of a screenfree day.

People are important!

They are what really counts. Not clicks on the blog. Not the newest trend on facebook. Not even books, films or music. It is people who make our life better. I realized that on several meetings and gatherings. So whenever the opportunity presents itself to meet people, to interact, to do something with them, I am in.

Plunge in!

My finances are tight. My classes are important. But when the possibility came to volunteer in Umeå during the opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture 2014, I went and I was in the middle of it and I enjoyed it very much. Simply because I took the chance and jumped in, against all odds. I missed a class and spend a lot on the train tickets. But I had a fantastic weekend, saw astonishing art and met great people. I came home with new inspiration and fire and ideas for my daily life here.

What lessons did you learn last month? Share them in the comments!

Outsourcing Decisions

Before I went to Umeå, I wrote about outsourcing our tasks and fears and why I do not recommend that. To put it in a nutshell: We should tackle what is in our power and face everything uncomfortable, even if we could outsource it and have someone else do it for us. By doing it ourselves we will learn and grow and gain experience. There are those incidents, though, where we definitely should practice outsourcing. That is when we do NOT have control.

Stop racking your brain. Source out decisions.

Decisions, for example, can be outsourced. When planning the trip to Umeå, there was the possibility of taking a night train as well as going by day. The night train was cheap, but I would not see the landscape. For traveling during the day I had to skip a class and arrive at an odd time, but I would find time to read and write and see the surroundings. I could have agonised. But I left it to my hosts and the volunteer organisation. They would tell me their schedules and I would simply fit in. Decision outsourced.

Let go of responsibility.

Responsibility, too, can be outsourced. When our class has to produce yet another issue of our monthly magazine, traffic in our facebook group is high. People upload their articles, the language group checks them, sends them back. The writer modifies her article, then sends it to the editor who might make more changes and send the article back again. Suggested changes are incorporated, the article goes to the layout team and is finally published. As a writer of an article you might get feedback on it twice, if not three times, and you will find red marked parts of the text and suggestions and questions. Then the discussions take off how it would be better to write and express some idea.

I do not discuss. I usually do not even want to see my article again once it is being edited. You find typos? Change them. You do not understand a certain expression? Rewrite it as you please. If you send me back my article marked red, I will incorporate all your suggested changes right away without reading it carefully again. I trust my classmates with their responsibility as a language editor as I trust myself with producing a good article. Once I have sent it out, it is in their hands and I gladly let go of my responsibility and influence.

Let the circumstances sort the problem.

What I cannot take care of, what I cannot influence, I let go, I outsource. What unnecessarily and without any outcome blocks my pipeline and torments my head, I leave to the circumstances to decide. Something will definitely come up. The problem will be solved even if I do not take charge and intervene. Like that I have more time and energy for things that I actually am able to tackle.

So what will you outsource and let go today?

Plan the Year. Then the Month. Then the Week. Then the Day.

Finally I found time to envision what I wished this coming year will look like. It was easy, because I have a combination of interests at hand that clearly set the direction. And it was difficult because I have no clue whatsoever of what will happen in summer, when I will finish my studies and be released into the real world.

The Year in Visions

I took some time the other day, between the semesters, to work out goals that I want to achieve and habits I want to implement. I used this workbook. It helped me a lot to see the empty months in front of me and next to it my list with things that would be really nice to come true. All I had to do was transfer them from the to-do list into the months sections. Like that I will have a fixed time to get ready for action and make them happen.

The months in habits

A very good practice is to think of the habits I want to take to and work on only one per month. This is my month of writing. So as I get more and more used to jotting down 500 words first thing in the morning, other things which seem equally important have to wait in line. I will focus on fasting not before February and running will be picked up again in March. By that time, writing will have become a habit already that sticks with me.

The Week according to my Goals

It is nice to have it on paper. Like that I can always review everything, and I should, especially when I plan my week. I will remind myself of what I wanted  to happen this year. I will review the monthly steps towards it. Then I can focus on what to do during the week, what to squeeze between my schedule, which outcomes to aspire.

The Day on the Way to Completion

Often I even line out my day, according to what I need to accomplish during the week. It is really comfortable because I have actually already set things out for myself. And since I spread things over the whole year, nothing is overwhelming.

Four very important Things…

…to keep in mind while doing the planning are these:

ONE

You will not be able to finish everything. Things usually take longer than expected, and even if you put in enough buffer time, some tasks will definitely remain unfinished.  But as I  keep that in mind from the beginning, I cannot be too disappointed in the end.

TWO

The more important something is, the earlier it should be done. I am typing this before seven o’clock in the morning, just because it is a priority of mine. In that way, I will experience the great feeling of having something accomplished even before breakfast. I also know that by four in the afternoon, I might already have used a lot my of power and brain and will be able to check mails or clean the room, but maybe not write an article for university.

THREE

Luckily, life holds a lot of surprises, and something extra will always pop up. These things are chances to be embraced. Interruptions can be very inspiring, if we take them positively.

FOUR

Do not try to make up for what you missed doing yesterday. This will put you in an endless continuation of catching up. Yesterday was yesterday. Today we can start afresh, from zero, giving the best we can.

And then: Change it!

With all the benefits of planning, the number one principle is to be flexible. Nobody else but I myself made these rules and plans, so I am the one to change them, too, when they become too overwhelming or if something unexpected happens. That is why I usually plan with a pencil, not a pen.

Hard simple life

There is this priest on television who tries to live along the principles of Saint Francis. In the one episode that I happened to watch he set up his sustainable garden completely without money. He was living moneyless. And he made one profound discovery that already Saint Francis had talked about: Living without money is hard because you depend on others. The priest realized that his pride was often an obstacle when he needed help from someone or when somebody offered him something. For a meal and some food for his cat and chicken he would clean the dishes and the floor of a restaurant. For catching fish he would have to accept somebody else’s fishing hook. For getting somewhere he would depend on lifts from others. The good thing he figured was that he got into contact with people he otherwise would not have gotten to know.

I do not live without money, but I am trying to keep up a frugal lifestyle. Most of my food I collect at night, from overflowing dumpsters behind a supermarket. The furniture in my room is not mine. It belongs to the owner of the apartment, just like the bed sheets and the flask that I use.

I do not own a phone, either, because I hardly use one. But in rare cases I need to have one. My classmate just offered to lend me one of the several phones he is not using. I was almost embarrassed by the trouble it caused him to get the right phone with the right charger for me.

Recently I lost my gloves and I do not know where. I asked a friend whether they were in her office. She said no but offered to borrow me another pair of hers which she does not use currently. Soon I will visit her, bring some homemade candy and get the gloves.

I also did not have a USB. Someone offered me one because he had too many but then he must have forgotten. And there was my pride, standing in the way, preventing me from asking him for that favour again. But then I got another one from the IT service who fixed my school account. Just keep it, he said, rather amazed about my surprised joy. It is a small, practical USB with huge storage capacity. And it just found me.

Indeed it needs more work, more effort and more uncomfortability to live frugally. I have to ask people for favours and take extra ways to get things. But that way of life creates nice relationships. I realized that there is so much unused potential, so much stuff that people have lying around and do not use. So why should I buy those things? And sometimes the universe has some unexpected surprises in store for me and just sends me a little fortune without any effort.

Advice to my Sister: Mindset for a better Life

The big little sister is amazingly inspiring, especially when it comes to her health resolutions. After making some material changes in my own life recently I discovered that a lifestyle that feels more good does not stop with things, but involves and actually affects your mindset, too.

Better Person

The big little sister talked about becoming a better person. She feels the same urge like me. I went through a certain process, looking for inspiration. Becoming better is continuous. Being aware is the first step.

I started with the living better daily scorecard from possibilityoftoday.com. (Scroll down to find the scorecard and instructions.) It is a list of things you want to accomplish, for example to have a good mindset, to be productive, or to be helpful and supportive. In the end of every day you credit yourself with points and see what you have to work on. I quickly developed my own chart and crediting system. I had weekly overviews where I simply marked whether I had accomplished a dairy free day or a good deed. After a while some basic rules developed out of this. Some are very concrete, like “Don’t multitask on the Internet.” or “Avoid plastic.” Others are more metaphysical like “Let go. This shall pass.” or “Gratitude & calmness & trust & quietness.” I hung them on the wall.

Next to the piece of paper that shows how often per week I want to run and write and read and do good. Whenever I’ve done it for one day, I push the paper clip one step ahead. Of course I try to reach the last marker every week.

Magic Habits

What I learned from one of my favourite blogs, zenhabits.net, is the power of habits. The secret is to start very very small but regularly, and then increase. If you want to write a book, write a sentence each day for a while, then increase to a paragraph, then to a page. After some months, writing will be a habit that does not take much effort anymore. It will take long until that book is finished, but it will not be as hard and impossible as it looked like in the beginning.

I will implement my new year’s resolutions one per month. This month I want to start blogging twice instead of once per week and handwrite more. Baby steps, but I hope they will stick. In February I want to start fasting once per week. In March the marathon training starts. And so on. In the end of the year, I hopefully will have developed twelve new habits.

Comfort Zone

To achieve these habits and make them a daily routine, I have to get out of the comfort zone regularly. But that is the only way to develop. That is how I get assignments done for which we have to collect people’s opinion on the street (very uncomfortable!). That is also how I found out that it is not that hard to relinquish cheese and yoghurt (at first a very uncomfortable prospect!). That is how I learned to enjoy the early morning hour of writing instead of dozing.

Life Purpose

For all that it helps to know what you are doing it for. Having a goal or an idea where you want to be and what you want to do after some time can give you lots of motivation. There are these lists and questionnaires you can fill out that promise you a system to find your life purpose. But sitting down and thinking or exploring new things or tavelling or talking and working with people or even dreaming might as well do the job. And I guess, no I am sure that NOT having a life purpose or the one direction is just as fine. Life does funny things at times, anyway.

The Rhythm

Now that I plan my days and weeks and months, tick my deeds and credit my mindset – it happens often enough that I throw all those plans overboard and just do something completely else which does not fit in the schedule and will put me two miles back – but makes me happy. When a friend invited me for lunch: I ate a big egg and cheese pie during my vegan time instead of being picky. When I had planned to be productive and get done with all assignments before uni starts again: I went to a music festival instead of sitting at home. When I wanted to tidy up my room to start afresh the next day: I watched a beautiful movie. When your plans are somewhat picking on you: follow your rhythm. Under my basic rules I wrote after a while: “These rules are made by myself. I can adjust them.” It is good to remind myself of that.

Admit Imperfection

As I do all the above things, I fail daily. I am not able to accept some people in my environment the way they are. I always find myself feeling superior. I still eat a lot of chocolate and dairy products although I am trying to be vegan and healthier. I still do not take as much time as I would need for reading all I want. But I am trying and learning and improving. And I am aware that I am not perfect and never will be. Being aware of that is the first step on the way to improvement.

Advice to my Sister: Ways for a better Life

I started the new year in a very productive manner. With the big little sister I have been thinking a bit about a healthier diet, a better way of life and of being a better person altogether. Just in time for some new year’s resolutions. More than a year ago, I went through a process of developing habits and routines to spend my days in a fulfilling way. To save you time and give you an idea, this post is for you, big little sister!

Less Stuff

I am very interested in simplicity and minimalism. Reducing stuff makes your life lighter. I love the three boxes system: In one box you put stuff you definitely can get rid of – and then you actually GET rid of it. In the second one you put things you definitely want to keep. In the third one you put stuff you are not sure about. If it stays there longer than, say, six months without being used, out it goes! Monthly lists, inspiration and tips are well provided by slowyourhome.com for example. I also replaced cosmetics by household recipes and accepted the idea of even letting go of books! And that is a big accomplishment, if you know my frenetic relationship to books.

More Organisation

After slowly getting rid of material ballast it was time to declutter the day, too. Nowadays I spend most of the days with a feeling of using my time well. I organize myself, sometimes with the help of the schedule from storylineblog.com. One thing I learned from midwaysimplicity.com: Make Three-Things-To-Do-Lists! Don’t put more on your daily plate. In that way you will be able to accomplish all the three tasks and feel great about it instead of being constantly disappointed.

Tight Finances

I also started to keep a budget, inspired by livinglagom.com. It is amazing to actually see what you spend. It helps a lot to make rational saving decisions and to enjoy spending money for stuff you really need. A good hint as well: Delay your purchases. If I think I need something, I wait at least three days before I buy it. Often enough I find great alternatives and ways to avoid the purchase altogether.

I also go food rescuing. (And since the big little sister knows what it means and since I am planning to dwell on this topic in another post, I only wanted to mention it here.) It saves me money big time! As well as eating the left-overs from my prodigal flat mates.

Healthier Life

A year ago I just started running. I try to keep this habit up, once or twice per week. The big goal to run half a marathon in the spring is a great motivation. I get a lot of adrenalin or whatever it is running through my blood. It makes me feel good, whenever I make more kilometers than before. Actually whenever I run and I feel that my breath is not exhausted. That is so amazing!

Since I am a vegetarian already, I gave the vegan lifestyle a try, for forty days before Christmas with some exceptions. It worked and I will keep scaling down my consumption of animal products. Eggs and milk are out for a long time already, yoghurt and cheese might be the hardest. Later in the year I am planning to introduce one day per week where I do not eat anything after 3 or 4pm. A doctor once suggested it for me and I see the sense in it. By drinking a lot, all unnecessary stuff will be extracted from the body because it will not be occupied with digesting any dinner.

Not to forget: health checks at the doctor, concerning my eyes and teeth in particular, are high priorities for these first months in the new year!

Reality Benders

This is a story about two men. They are about the same age – compared to me they are just old. One is the owner of the apartment, the other one is the main lecturer. I am sure they do not know each other. But they do have something in common.

I start with the main lecturer. He is not very much liked, because his comments and presentations are often of no value to the class. Sometimes I only go to his lectures to get information on current assignments. He talks about irrelevant and simply untrue things and gives his personal opinion and judgement instead of explaining principles. Once he insisted on a picture being taken in the newsroom of a big American newspaper, although we pointed out that all the workers there and some writings on a board in the back looked rather Asian. But he kept talking, not able to admit his irrelevant mistake, but rather defending it, as if we had attacked him personally. Either he has a very weak self-esteem which he has to defend against everything all the time. Or he really was convinced that it was an American newsroom and he had bent reality to his pleasure, so that it fit into his frame.

And that is exactly what the owner of the apartment does, too. He never buys milk but always uses the packets of the others from the fridge. (My dairy-free fourty days started yesterday, so there is no danger he would take anything from me.) And then he complains that there is no fresh milk, all of it is open for three or more days. As if he could make any demands concerning the milk of the others that he uses without asking.

He does buy other stuff though, and plenty. A treat to him is a certain raspberry juice. He let me taste it, it is pink, thick, sweet and very tasty. He says it is almost like candy, and how it is only pure raspberry, no additions, no nothing, pure and natural and yummy and healthy raspberry, one hundred percent.

It is not. I read the label. It is concentrated juice with sugar, just as every other juice is, too. I didn’t tell him. But I don’t know why he would say so and where he got the idea from. The label clearly indicates something else, but he keeps praising the totally pure raspberry juice. Maybe to make himself believe to be consuming a health drink? Bent reality.

I do not like that. I become hard and I cannot feel any empathy for those people who are unaware and who are stiff enough to be able to bend reality to their pleasure. So that is exactly what I am now trying to remind myself of: to feel empathy for everyone and get rid of aversions against reality benders and any kind of people. So that my resistance crumbles. So that I develop selfless compassion and maybe I get the chance to see amazing qualities within these people.

Stuff

It’s been quiet here for a while. That’s because I moved. I left the capital city, I even left the continent, and I am now in Ö. It’s a big difference, but likable nonetheless. However, I wanted to share an incident that had happened back in the capital city. I lost my laptop. And my hard drive. With photos from about three years, loads and loads of documents, university stuff, more than 9000 titles of music, hundreds of movies and all the other things that are washed up on a laptop during the years. And I lost my precious diary where all my friends from both continents had left beautiful drawings and greetings. And my camera. All gone. I never cried. (I cried some days later when things that I had borrowed from others had gone, too, and when my favorite dog had died.) So I was left with two weeks to start the final paper all over again and managed it. Then I went back to the office, where the internet is free, and I found myself collecting stuff again: downloading episodes from a series, downloading music… just because it was free. I continued collecting bus tickets and pieces from newspapers and things that might come handy one day. And then I realized, that losing all the stuff was an opportunity to stop collecting, or at least, balance (which I always try to aim at, in any circumstances). Starting from zero. So before I left, I copied about seven important documents to my e-mail account, the rest I deleted. (Only the final paper I parked on the favorite human’s laptop.) Then, when leaving the capital city, I didn’t clutter my new diary with all the tickets, boarding passes and excerpts from the plane’s magazine. I just kept one luggage tag as a souvenir. I took the free newspaper, that was offered, read through it and left it there. Even if you can have news for free, you don’t really need them. Not having to take pictures and not being accessible through phone was a liberation anyway.

I got the little little sister’s camera and school bag, an old-school phone from the cupboard with the old phones, a music player and some half working ear phones for it and a part of an audio book from the internet. It’s an adaption from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and I like it. And I will delete it when I listened to it. The internet will store it for me.

That’s how I came to Ö. With less stuff and lots of space to breath and less things to worry about. With things that are perfect to be used but nobody uses them, so I use them. And with the possibility to try to collect less and find a balance between accumulating and letting go.

Food vs. Woman vs. Time

Today I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. A LOT of time! In the morning I cleaned yesterday’s dishes although I hadn’t even had dinner with the others. Meanwhile the favourite human was preparing breakfast – whereby I ate my share of yesterday’s dinner. Then I cleaned the breakfast dishes. I have to admit that yesterday I was freaking out a little because we haven’t established a routine of who is washing dishes when and the piles in the sink just asked for some action. The Wife and I just have to arrange ourselves. (The kitchen is womens’ territory and only the favourite human and sometimes the Cousin make an exemption of that. The favourite human’s Best Friend never does.)

At around 11 I went back to the kitchen to make rice and small fried cakes from grated pumpkin and eggs. That took me some hours. After lunch I continued right away with making the dough for chapati. We now have a plan for meals that everyone agreed on and for today it shows chapati. However, I got a little traumatized in the beginning of this year when I was supposed to make chapati for the favourite human’s family and failed in such an enormous way that up to today Madhe reminds me of “these things you made the other time that I don’t even have a name for.” They were very bad indeed. But Madhe wouldn’t be Madhe if she would not – after caning me verbally – tell me the greatest secret for making yummy chapatis: Take your time! Sitting in the kitchen today, listening to the children playing outside, different kinds of music from different sources and one neighbour shouting to another, I rolled out one dough ball after another, applied oil, folded it in that special way and put them aside for the Wife to roll them out again later and fry them. And I refused to think of my final paper that was sitting there, waiting. Or of my skype date. Or of this blog post that needed to be written. Or of any other very urgent thing. I took my time, I rolled and rolled, and I haven’t tasted them yet but with this high amount of patience and love they can’t really be bad.

Now, that is what I would call Slow Food (C). I haven’t really done any research on that movement but I guess slow food is good. Healthy for your stress level, good for awareness promotion and the result is real and nutritional food. If I interpret the name well it’s an opposition movement to the unhealthy consequences of fast food. But I recently realized that there is also good fast food.

Two things: One, the Cousin who is currently staying with us invested some part of his salary in a kind of pay TV that adds us some channels to the usual ones that are for free. On one channel, interestingly described as a “male channel”, I am sometimes following the show “Man vs. Food”. It’s about that guy who travels the states, introducing pubs and places where you can get heavy food. A lot of meat, a lot of melted butter, a lot of cheese, more often than not a lot of jalapeños or chilies, a lot of acryl amid and glutamate and bad fats and all that stuff causing cancer – and making the average American full and happy. I don’t like the “versus” part of it, whereby eating becomes a competition against time (eat as much as possible as fast as possible). But I like how the content of fat and unhealthy but – let’s be honest – yummy ingredients is being valued. (And I like the idea of cheese chips that I saw there yesterday. Why haven’t I thought of that before?)

Two, I found a blog called Stonesoup which provides simple recipes with not more than five ingredients which you can prepare in less than 10 minutes. And it is so healthy food – and in such a big variety. Here I don’t agree with eating canned protein (like kidney beans etc.) every other day and calling it fresh food. And the suggestion of eating eggs every morning does not really fit me either. But why spending hours in the kitchen when you can have a quick, healthy, filling and tasty meal in five minutes? I think the Stonesoup concept is a great one.

Today I am eating late because I want to wait for the favourite human to come home and we eat together. Chapati and beans. Heavy food, late at night, that took three quarter of the day to be prepared. Tomorrow I will eat the left over pumpkin cakes in the office and quickly fry rice with vegetables for dinner. So it is, as usual, all about the balance. Which I am still about to find, even when it comes to stomach affairs.