May 30, 2013

Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park


I love to go somewhere beautiful in Summer vacations. In the last years, with the exception of 2012, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit wonderful places, on a very reasonable budget.

I visited:

> Peaks of Europe, Spain (2007)

> Pyrenees, Spain  (2008)

> Costa Alentejana, Portugal (2009)

> Galicia, Spain (2010)

> Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês, Portugal  (2011)


These places are all relatively close, which helped maintaining the low budget. In 2007 and 2008 I traveled with family (uncles, brother and sister and a close friend) and we camped. So the traveling expenses were all shared. Camping is beautiful and cheap and we frequently cooked our meals. From 2009 until 2011 I traveled with B. The destinations were even closer, but all places we hadn't visited before. We opted to stay less time and to sleep in affordable hotels instead of camping.

I have a myriad of pictures of all these places, and I thought I could share them here. It's an opportunity to remember those happy times and to inspire you to explore these or other beautiful places.

Today I'll be sharing some of my best pictures of Costa Alentejana. 

Come! :)






 































Ah... I must return to Alentejo!



My Brightest Diamond | We Added It Up


I'm a big fan of Shara Worden's music (her musical project is known as 'My Brightest Diamond'), and I was incredibly happy to listen to her live a few years ago.

Today I've been obsessing over this music from her last album:



Beautiful!


May 27, 2013

Sea change program: summing up my experience




In February I wrote about my first month in the Sea Change Program, offered by Leo Babauta. Remember? January had been the 'unprocrastination month' and I was very happy with my achievements. I planned to write about each following course's module (each one lasting one month) but I ended up... Procrastinating! Oops.

But now I'll try to briefly sum up my experience...


February - eating healthier month

Strategy: I decided to cut on sugar, by eating less candies. I established a simple objective: I could have my candies every other day. And on 'yes' days I would moderate the dose. On 'no' days I could eat healthier treats like for example nuts or dried figs.

Result: I began craving my sugar. A LOT. I remember, on a 'no' day, being with B. at the mall. All I could think about was sugar. So I said: 'I can't take it anymore! I must have a candy. Now!' He said: 'No, I won't let you! Remember your promise.' After resisting for a while I ended up luring him into the candy section and bought four beautiful 'bolas de berlim sem creme'. He ate one and I ate two (the other one I took home for my sister). The thing is... I had never craved sugar like this before. And I had never ate two bolas de berlim in a row. So my exercise was doing me more harm than good, I decided. And I stopped some days after. I could have chosen a different objective, but I didn't. So eating healthier month was pretty much a fiasco. I must say, however, that I believe I eat healthy enough already (a lot of fish, chicken and salads with occasional deviations). Still, I could eat better.


March - meditation month

Strategy: To start with a daily meditation of 2 minutes in the first week, continue with 5 daily minutes in the second week, 10 minutes in the third week, and end with 20 minutes in the fourth week.

Result: I meditated almost everyday, before starting my work day. This coincided with a mindfulness exercise my therapist encouraged me to do, which helped me to maintain the resolution. It was a positive experience, even though I never passed beyond the 5-10 minutes. But I ended up loosing the habit in the following months. Now I intend to restore this habit!


April - exercise month: At this point I began procrastinating a lot on the program... I'm nor sure why and how this happened, but it did. I would even avoid reading the course's material. So I decided to quit, as I could not afford to be on the program with my low level of commitment.


Still, I saved all the material, and I've been trying a different approach to change. Depending on how it goes, I may share it here ;)

One of the things that I realized about myself, is that in the beginning of a new challenge (as this program) I'm all fresh and energetic, but as times goes by, the challenge begins to seem boring and slowly occupies less and less space on my mind. I don't care about it anymore and I just wish I could try something different. Because of this, I believe that a monthly subscription program is not really for me. Something more intense and short lived should work better. Of course, new habits are supposed to stick with us. But maybe there's a funnier way to implement them. I don't know. As I mentioned, I've been thinking about this and trying different ideas.

Anyhow, overall it was a good experience.


Have you tried the Sea Change Program? How has it worked for you?


See you soon :)


May 24, 2013

Giving up on my phone's smartness




My relationship with my smartphone was getting a little bit too intense.

I was constantly checking my blog, my Etsy shop, my favorite blogs on the Feedly app, and googling everything intriguing that popped up on my mind. Sometimes, while with other people, I secretly craved for my smartphone's bright screen. And at night, while in bed and before closing my eyes, I would just quickly-check-this-or-that.

Not very healthy. I know, I know...

So I decided to try the challenge of going without internet in my phone for a whole week. I wanted to test how addicted I was and to observe the differences in the ways I would direct my time and focus.

In the first 2-3 days it wasn't easy. I felt the deprivation. No more bright, colorful and entertaining stuff to fill up my boring moments. My phone began to look lifeless and dull.

As a result, I turned much more often to my kindle, and in this week I actually ended the book I'd been dragging on and started reading a new one.

As days passed I stopped missing my internet so much. I even began feeling relieved that I hadn't to be always checking internet stuff. In a way, it had almost began to feel like an obligation: "if my phone says I have a new e-mail message, then I have to check it as quickly as possible!" I calmed down a bit, and started being more present in the here-and-now.

I still had my PC for internet, so I wasn't really missing out. I managed to continue on top of my favorite blogs, because I actually sat quietly to read them on my PC  instead of reading them scatteredly on my phone app.

When the week ended I was very happy with the results of my experiment and decided to continue without internet on my smartphone. I established two exceptions: in the mornings I can turn it on as checking the internet for 5 minutes motivates me to wake up and makes my lazy brain start working; and, of course, whenever I actually need to use the internet (which has never happened so far).

This is the third week and I'm still happy I gave up on my phone's smartness :P

How about you? How do you relate with your smartphone? Do you, like me, tend to become addicted to its shiny screen?


See you soon!

May 21, 2013

The illusion of the perfect path



Very frequently I long for the perfect path, for the right way to conduct myself. I dream of the simplest and most effective solution. Consuming a lot of information on spirituality, psychology, self-improvement and lifestyle, I come across different and sometimes contradictory philosophies and pieces of advice. This isn't a problem when I can easily opt between two (or more) conflicting ideas. But I tend to feel overwhelmed when I can't seem to make up my mind!

Some examples are:

Lifestyle

- Goals are essential for achievement vs. a no goals approach is healthier and we'll still achieve;

- Planning our time is essential vs. living in the moment and taking life as it comes without planning is the best approach;

- We should strive for work-life balance vs. there is no such thing as work-life balance and we should instead be doing work we love and thus work would become a vital part of life itself;

Mental health

- Exploring the causes and roots of problems to find the right cure/recovery path is essential vs. ditching the "whys" and focusing completely on the "whats" ("what can be done to solve this issue?") is much more effective;

- There's an ideal mental health picture that we should aim for vs. we're all wired differently, so what's healthy for one person may actually be unhealthy for another person;

Spirituality

- We're born sinful and guilt is a natural and desirable emotion vs. we're born with a good core and we're doing the best we know at any given moment;

- We should strive for happiness vs. life is not really about happiness;

- We have only this life to improve and do our best vs. we have many lives to improve as one life could never be enough.

Etc!

Recently I've been assaulted by these and other questions with consequent strong feelings of anxiety. So I thought it might be useful to reflect and write a bit about it. And while reflecting I realized that my main anguish results from the belief that I should know the right path. And that there is an absolute right path! 

But really... Am I supposed to know the right answer? I don't think so. Search, experimentation, growth and contribution, I believe, must be my main focus, with the humility of knowing that I'm just human and thus, perfectly imperfect. To be aware that most times we're not dealing with black vs. white dichotomies, but with an array of different shades and colors is also important. 

Life is messy!


And you - do you search for absolute answers and certainties? How do you deal with the scary reality of not knowing?


See you soon :)



May 20, 2013

Project 333 - Spring selection (finally!)


I'm finally sharing my Spring selection for Project 333! The weather has improved, even though it's still quite uncertain: we have beautiful sunny days followed by windy-rainy days.

So here it is...



My wardrobe changes considerably this season. Out with the warm sweaters and thick jackets. In with light spring tops and shirts. And... And... Skirts! Yes, I'm adding two skirts - none of which I've worn so far but I definitely plan to wear them further along the way. And this time I'm not counting jewelry. I can wear whatever I wish from my (modest) collection.

And now, some possible outfits:



And here you can see me (with my dear cousin and godchild, on Feira de Março), wearing one of the possible outfits:



I love warm days and the fresh clothes they ask for :)

Have you already picked your Project 333 Spring/Summer clothes?


See you soon! :)

May 1, 2013

When saying 'no' tastes like freedom




You know my current situation: finishing PhD and wanting to change career path next. Crazy, right?

I must confess, the shortage of money and the consequent lack of complete independence have been very tough. Still, for several complex reasons, instead of finishing the thesis as fast as possible, I'm struggling to find the daily motivation to work on it. Thoughts like these run through my mind everyday:

"I should just quit. I should just accept the fact that at this rate I'll take another couple of years to finish. Meanwhile my life is on hold..."

"But I can't quit. I've struggled so hard to get here. I must give this some proper closure."

"I should get a full-time job and work on the thesis on my spare time. But then I'll never finish, and school fees will just accumulate indefinitely..."

"I should just run away from everything to a far far away tropical country and begin afresh!" ;P

When I wrote my last post I was very anxious because I was about to say 'no' to a work proposal in my University. It was steady income for 2 years. Not much, but reasonable given the country's current economical situation. The thing is... I was supposed to be working on the exact same kind of work I'm now doing for my thesis. So basically my life would be just this. Working on this, and then coming home to work a little bit more on this. And the thesis would still be dragging on. But, at last, I could regain my financial independence.

I decided to say no because saying yes would put my dreams on hold for another two more years. And because I suspect I would get physically and psychologically sick if all my time was to be directed to something I'm not interested in.This was a big thing for me because I'm not used to saying 'no'. I say 'yes' by default. Yes, yes, yes. Which means that people and circumstances around me tend to direct the course of my life. Disturbing realization, I know...

So I said 'no'. This may seem simple to many of you, but to me it was wild. It was like truly asserting myself for the first time in a very long time. I was shaking. But I said it, and it felt good.

Ok, so now back to finishing this ugly PhD. At least I know that once I finish it, no other project will scare me as much. I'll be stronger and, finally, I'll be free to do work I love.

....

Now a little note regarding my current scarceness of posts... Trying to balance thesis+etsy shop+math tutoring+blog hasn't been easy. But I feel bad that I'm not writing more often. The blog was, from the beginning, a great source of joy. For now, however, the plan is to continue writing as much as I can, and to accept that at the time I won't be able to do it as much as I would like to.

I hope that you, my dear blog-friends, have the patience to stick around ;P

See you all soon!