Working from Home: Tips and Tricks

I have to admit that staying indoors it’s not a big problem for me, furthermore, I can now avoid commuting to work and I am finally up to date with laundry :-p. But I know for many people out there the change of scenery came with a lot of headaches, so I decided to share with the world a couple of tips on how to be more efficient and how you can make this period seem like a blessing in disguise.

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In 2012 I graduated college and the first job was on an online platform, for about 8 months I worked completely remote until I managed to find a “real” job. I will not lie and say that all those months were sunshine and smiles, but a big part of it was more than OK, it was what I needed. Fast forward 8 years, I am still constantly working from home since the domain allows it a couple of days a month. Clearly, if I would have to chose I would go to the office, but given the special circumstances, I know that those of us who can work from home, are privileged. So here is my advice for doing it right.

Set up your alarm clock at the same hour as if you would go to the office

Trust me, it will help you once you go back, and also it will prevent you from oversleeping and starting the day in a rush. The morning routine should remain untouched.

Even more, with the extra time that you get because you no longer can commute, you can do some stretching or even a morning workout, read a few chapters and enjoy your morning cup of coffee in peace. Also, don’t forget about breakfast, you need to get food at regular hours as well.

Stay away from the TV

These are dark times and it seems like a good idea to open the TV and get the latest news but trust me it’s not. You do not want to start your day in panic mode, there will be plenty of time throughout the day to get your information. The morning should be for you and right now you are in the comfort of your own house, you are safe and the world can wait for a few minutes.

Have your desk prepared

This part might be easier said than done, because not everyone might afford to have a room designed for working, if you are among the lucky ones then you can proceed to the next tip, if you are among the others, well let’s make what you have work.

A big part of my life I stayed in a studio, so I had to improvise a working space. One of the key items is NOT to work from an uncomfortable position for your back ( trust me, back pain is real and is no fun at all). You will need a desk or a table and a good chair. You can use the kitchen table or any other space that allows you to have your laptop, mouse, and a cup of coffee/water/tea. The ideal minimum length would be as long as your elbows if you would set them on the table.

Another important aspect is the background. This can also be fixed with tools that will blur the background if needed, but if possible set your space in a way in which you can enable your camera and your dignity to remain intact (now might be the best time to clean the room and don’t forget dildos or other personal items in view sight).

If you can choose, pick a place where you can get natural light, idly near a window. It is important for your eyes as I will state in a future tip ūüėČ

Start work at the same hour and follow the checklist rule

Same as with the waking up hour, it is best to keep the old habits alive, your team needs to know they can count on you just the same. For me, it’s important to have a look over what happened the day before and go through the emails before my team gets online so that I can better facilitate what they need and even forecast some of those needs.

At the beginning of the day, I always look to see what I need to accomplish if there are meetings or important aspects that need my attention and I ALWAYS write them down. Once an item is done, I mark it and move on to the next. Having a backlog of items allows me to better manage my time and effort. Also, I try to do most of these in the morning, when I have more energy and I always make sure the items that require me to pay attention to details are done when my capacity to concentrate is at full.

Take a break and “leave” the office

It happened often for me to be so concentrated that I forgot to get up and stretch. Or a full day to go by without eating or drinking water. Make sure you set up a schedule for breaks. It can be every hour to get up and do 10 pushups or go get a glass of water etc. Whatever works for you, but it’s important to do this regularly. If you see that you cannot follow through, set the alarm on your phone to remind you.

Try to say away from distractions 

The opposite of being completely lost in your work is being unable to focus. For that, you will need to clear the environment and make sure you reduce the number of distractions. For example, don’t turn on the TV, if you want to see the news, use the internet and a reliable source for 10 minutes and then close the tab.

Facebook can also be a big distraction if you keep on scrolling to see what is new. The same goes for all social media platforms. You can take a break and have a peek, but only if you know you can limit yourself to that.

Even your pets can be a distraction and can make you lose your focus, so make sure you don’t let them interrupt you all the time. If they require your attention give it to them but don’t pet your cat for 8 hours.

Have a proper lunch break 

Try to avoid skipping lunch. Make sure you have the food ready or prepare it during your break. Never eat in front of the laptop and if you do, at least watch something positive. Take your time during this break and enjoy your food. Your brain needs to take a break and let it focus on digesting your food.

Stay away from snacks 

Being indoor and on a resting setup, the body might ask for more food because it can think that you are preparing for intense effort. So make sure you don’t let yourself fooled into eating all the time. If you want a snack, make sure you have some seeds, nuts, or fruits available and you say away from chips or chocolate. For me, this one is one of the biggest challenges and that is why you will normally don’t find any snacks in my home.

Take an eye break and get fresh air

The fact that you are looking at a monitor for a lot of time, your eyes also need a break. Therefore, give that to them by looking off the window to distant objects. If you don’t have a window near you, look away in the distance. Make this exercise as often as possible and from time to time, open the window to also get some oxygen.

Encourage people to turn the camera on

It is important to encourage human connections and using the web camera is one of the first steps. We need to know that we are still the same people and we are still working together. I have even used the opportunity to have a coffee break with my team where we would just discuss random stuff and enjoy our coffee.

I cannot stress this enough, the fact that we no longer work in the same place doesn’t have to mean we are not the same people. Keeping habits alive is extremely important.

Don’t forget to clock out¬†

Prepare for the next day by cleaning up the workspace, store your laptop away, and make sure you can use the space as it was initially intended if you don’t have a dedicated desk. It’s important to have a clear border between work and personal life, so make sure you don’t respond to email all night.

Working from home can be easily seen as an opportunity, perhaps to show the company that the teams cam perform just as well wherever they are. To you, to prove that you can focus on your work and maybe switch to a digital nomad lifestyle, to your loved ones to protect them and clearly to the world to help stop spreading this awful disease that took our freedom away. #stayathome #staysafe

What the Virus Cannot Take From Us

I have to admit that I have never thought it will reach up to this point, that the Coronavirus will get to impact our lives this way and that even if I knew some of us will get sick, it will create this epidemic of fear and hate. Perhaps this will be the biggest challenge that our generation has to face, but even in these dark days, there is hope.

The news of officially declaring the COVID-19 a pandemic caught me on the beautiful island of Zanzibar, the trip that I wanted so badly was interrupted by the horrible news of the virus infection spreading like crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I knew about it and I kept an eye out for what was going on, even before leaving at the end of February, but unfortunately, it all went south from there.

It was just two days before my departure, that I got to see the fear that took over the world. My initial route was through Belgium, and because of the news and all the fuss made by the people around us we ended up buying new plane tickets to go through Dubai. In one day, the relaxation and the good vibes were all gone. Panic mode was set, we spent quite a little money on the new tickets, and the stress level of not knowing what was going on reached new heights.

We arrived home almost 2 days earlier, but what we found here, was different from what the media was saying. Yes people were scared, yes we were advised to stay indoors, but the world went on with its normal course. Clearly, we regretted the decision to change the flights and the stress that we went through, but we agreed that it was the best decision given the pieces of information that we had.

Leaving aside the news, it’s important to understand that the virus is aggressive and it can be easily transmitted, yet it will only be a real threat to the elderly, people already suffering from a serious condition or for smokers. For the rest of the population, the virus might not even have any symptoms. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t look good, nor should be considered the ones that are vulnerable, unimportant, but we should also know the fact that our economy is now in great danger.

So, the one thing that the virus should and will never take from us is our ability to heal, understand, and keep calm in this period when it looks like all is lost. Humanity has been through worst and we are still here, so there is no real reason to panic.

We should stay indoors, but with our morals up that we will get through this, with the hope that once this is all gone, we will appreciate way more the small things, like the sunrise and the walk in the park. Also, we should continue to help each other, here including the support of the local businesses that rely on us, to continue their work.

Although I am among the lucky ones who can work remotely and will be able to pay the credit card bills at the end of the month, I know it’s important to keep my daily habits alive and don’t stock on toilet paper (what the hell is up with that??). Therefore, it’s important to still trust your favorite restaurant to deliver the food you love, your mechanic to fix your car and your favorite coffee place to send you via UberEats your daily dose of caffeine. The same goes for the other daily habits that we used to have.

For a generation like ours, that never had to face anything truly scary as World Wars, plagues or hunger, the amount of anxiety generated by the possible loss of freedom or the possibility not to be able to get the basic necessities, made it easier for other to spread panic and fear. The media is now poisoning us with terror news, with the idea that it will be the end of the world or that we will not make it to summer. People everywhere are canceling the summer holidays and demanding money back, even if there is no certainty that we will not be able to travel in the months to come. And many other examples, that are only feeding us more fear.

I am optimistic about my trip to Croatia this June, I want to believe that we are now on the edge of having a vaccine or a treatment for the virus and that spring is around the corner and will make this intruder disappear from our lives. Also, I am sure that once this is over, we will all be way more appreciative of the things we have and took for granted. Some of us will be able to open new stores with the amount of supply that was hoarded during this month. :-p

With this being said, I wish you all good health and high moral, we will all get through this together, just don’t forget about the little ones that need our support in the time to come. Stay safe, but don’t go on lockdown, be vigilant, but not paranoia, keep your hopes up and only get your information from reliable sources that don’t take advantage of the situation to create panic.

 

Bridget Jones Diary – A Funny Yet True Love Story

Yes, I know I am almost 18 years late to the party and everyone already saw the movie, but being the late bloomer that I am, I recently decided that it will be a good idea to finally press play. Long story short, I was alone at home and I thought what better movie to look at than Bridget Jones. So here is what made me love it this much.

First of all, it was NOT a teenage love story. Nowadays all movies are aimed at teenagers, although that is nice and all that, romance is different in the ’30s and I feel like I haven’t seen that many movies for this particular category lately, or the ones that I did see, were unrelated to the subject of love after a certain age.

Bridget’s struggle with weight. Another subject that is now treated very differently is one of the women’s weight. I am not going to enter the debate of loving your body as it is, but I will say that many if not most of us keep a constant battle with the kilograms/pounds and yes, most of us love to add it to the New Year’s Eve resolution list. Another yes, is that we forget about the list as soon as January is over.

Parent’s obsessive questions related to personal love life. When you are single and no longer in your ’20s parents do try to find out why you are single and if you are trying to hide anyone from them. If there is none then they will try to set you up with a friend of a friend because they just have to try.

Men are rude. Just as the two male subjects of the movie, men are sometimes rude and say all sorts of mean things. Just as Darcy offended Bridget with his comments on the Turkey party and Daniel on the smirky comments from the work messages. Even if she tries not to get offended, the behavior is not ok. (Please note that the reverse scenarios is also true when women do it)

Getting cold feet is a true story. After agreeing to go to the party where her parents will be, Daniel gets scared and runs away to meet with the other woman, because why not. In the real world of dating, having someone get the cold feet is pretty common and also the part with running away to someone else.

Sometimes there is no love at first sight. Darcy doesn’t fall in love with Bridget in the first moment that they met, but after getting to know her, another real-life scenario. That whole love, at first sight, is sometimes only present in Hollywood movies, in the real-life, it might happen over time and once you get to really know the other person for more than 5 seconds.

Your friends are not perfect, yet you love them. Just as Bridget’s friends, our real ones are not perfect, they have flaws yet we love them just the way they are. Same goes the other way around, perfection and #squadgoals are not what you should value in a friend, but the ability to be there for you when you need them to.

Not knowing whom to chose. There is a moment when Bridgit didn’t know what to chose and who is right between the two men fighting in front of her building, well chances are in your lifetime there will be a time when you need to choose and you will never have the guarantee that you will take the correct decision. In the end, Bridget does, but chances are you will not and it will be ok.

Have to admit it’s been years since I’ve seen a movie so good, perhaps it is better that I got to see it now when the ’30s are knocking on my door and not back then since it’s possible that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. It’s a recommendation that I make to all my single girls out there who think they are alone in this, they are not BTW.

 

Traveling: How I Raise Money for My Passion?

As I have previously mentioned I am in love with traveling while having a 9to5 job ( more like an 8:30 to 6:30 job if I include the commute) and raising money for my passion is one of the struggles that I am facing, therefore I would like to give you a few hints on how you can save some $$ while still living a full life.

Money

Even if it’s tempting to put all your money for traveling, not long after you go through this harsh diet you will realize that you are only spending around 10-15% of your time on vacations and the rest of your time is at home, where life is happening. So don’t fall in the trap of only saving and counting every penny, that will not last long. The first rule of spending would be to find a balance between what is doable for you and what you would like to achieve. For that, you would first need to know how much you spent and on what.

1. Know your limits

I have been keeping a book of my spendings on and off ever since I got a job and I advise you to do the same. Knowledge is power, so you first need to know what are your spending habits, how much do you spend monthly and see what can be improved. Another thing you need to know is how much you save and whether you can increase that amount.

For this, you can use excel sheets, mobile applications, pen, and paper, whatever makes you be consistent with writing down what you brought. An application can help you visualize the areas of spending, like food, clothes, entertainment, etc. There are cards that also give you that report such as Revolut.

2. Spending habits 

Now that you have a list of expenses you can tackle them and see what needs to be adjusted. In my case, the major expenses are food and shopping, therefore I try to be sure that I need specific items before I buy them and that I will be using them. When it comes to food, sometimes I find myself buying more than I will be able to cook and that throwing food is not something that I want to be throwing, therefore I try to only buy what I will cook in the next days and when I am out of ingredients I try to get creative so I don’t have to waste any.

As for shopping, this is still a work in progress area, where I try to only buy what I absolutely need or if I do indulge in something I will try to cut from a different area to keep myself withing the budget ( have to admit that I am not successful in this 100% of the time).

3. Divide and conquer 

Let’s say that you know your limits and you know your habits, on average you spent around 1200$ per month and you want to decrease to 1000$. The easiest way of doing this is by dividing your finances into a weekly budget. If there are 5 weeks in a month you would get 200$ per week and you need to stick to it. For me, it’s easier to work with cash since it’s real if I just swipe the card I don’t get to see the money and if those do not exist I will spend them like crazy. Other people feel the exact opposite of this, if they have the money in the wallet they will just spend it right away, so you need to find your way.

While on the topic of division, one thing that can be done is to add the money left at the end of the week to the savings account. If you do this or not is optional, what is important is not to spend the next week’s money.

4. Roundup your transactions 

One of the options that I love about the Revolut card is the fact that you can use Vaults to add some extra savings just by rounding the amount spent per transaction. Here you can also choose to increase the amount by putting the x2, x3 or x4 options.

Since I already said that I am a big fan of cash, I also add in a different type of savings anything under 1$, you will be surprised the amount of money you will get at the end of a month or year. Those types of savings are the easier ones since you don’t get to feel the amount that is leaving your account.

5. The deposit money is locked and cannot be tampered with 

When I get my monthly income I first add the money that I want to save in a deposit or a different account than the one that I am using and I do not use that money unless it is absolutely necessary (car breaks down or medical issue pops). I have to admit that is tempting to buy something just because you have the money and you can do it, but you need to fight this urge and walk away. If you use deposits than you already know that you will lose the interest rate, so don’t do that.

Usually, I use this money for either the big vacations that I have planned or for paying in advance for my loans. Read along to see why I do the second.

6. Stay away from borrowed money 

If you have a job, you know how easy you can borrow money from the bank. Whether that comes in the form of a credit card or a loan, that money is calling for you and can access it in a few hours. But nothing comes at a small price and the banks are well known for the rates they will add especially for those types of loans.

Let me give you my example when I bought my home I needed a cash advance and since I didn’t have enough money I took that from the bank as well. For the 10 000 euro that I borrowed, I had to give back 13 000 – 14 000 euro in 5 years (more or less). Therefore I did the math and I understood that I need to pay that money as fast as I can so that I don’t throw away 3000 euros that I could use to travel somewhere fancy.

Getting back to good practices try to stay away from the money the bank is so kindly offering you since there will be a big price to pay. Try to stay within the budget and outsmart them, you do not need stuff you need your freedom.

7. Be realistic when it comes to saving

Making a very strict plan with unrealistic expectations made me spend a lot more than if I kept a “kind” budget. After a month of watching every penny, I went crazy and spent 200$ on shoes or on a bag I didn’t need. I got anxious and felt as if I didn’t have a life outside guarding the money and it didn’t do any good. I learned my lesson and now I try to be as realistic as I can with the amount of money I can save.

If I were to follow the advice from those two books that I reviewed a while back The Richest Man in Babylon and Rich Dad, Poor Dad you should only save 10 to 20% of your income since more will lower your living standard and make your life miserable (as it did mine).

8. Spoil yourself while saving

There are special things that you should do to spoil yourself, small things that can bring a lot of joy to your life. For example, instead of eating at the food court a few times a week, go to a fancy restaurant once a month and enjoy a special dinner and treat yourself with a glass of good wine. Dress well and make an event from it, instead of ordering take out or getting fast food.

Go to the spa, instead of buying lost of cosmetics that will rot in a shelf, go get pampered once a few weeks. Those would seem like ways to spend money and not save them but trust me in the long run, they will make your life better.  Learn how to change your habits and include pampering instead of spending on cheap things.

9. Find cheap travel alternatives

I don’t get to travel every month, but it’s important for me to replace this with something just as good. Either a road trip to some nearby town, a visit to my hometown or just a simple day at the pool, anything to make me get out of the city and do something new. It might not be a bucket-list destination but at least it is something.

10. Balance expensive hobbies with low-cost ones

Somedays I am so excited about the upcoming traveling that I forget that I still need to live through the present day, that is when I try to get a reality check. 80% of my time is spent in my current home town and at work, so it’s important to find something that makes me happy right here. Therefore I will tell you a couple of my low-cost hobbies: reading, watching my favorite shows on Netflix,¬† going for a jog, grabbing my hammock and going on a picnic in the park, cooking and eating on the terrace of my flat, grabbing my laptop or a pen and paper and going out to write on a coffee shop, yoga classes, grabbing my camera and shooting some photos.

Nobody said adulthood would be easy, but it’s up to us to set how hard can it be. We can enter a battle with ourselves and create our own personal hell, or we can find a way to deal with what we have and find smart ways to balance it. There are 8 years since I started to be financially independent and I am constantly trying to find new ways to either increase my earning or decrease my excessive spendings while living my best life. Clearly, each and every one of us has his own definition of the best life, so we need to find the custom solution for our needs. What are your ways of balancing expenses and saving?

Before I Fall – What Would You Do On Your Last Day?

Now on Netflix, the movie Before I Fall features Sam a mean girl that is about to live the last day of her life over and over again until she makes a difference. The plot might not be the most original one, but it does bring up a question in all of us, what would we do knowing that today is our last day, to make a difference?

I’ve always wanted to do more, to make myself present and make a difference, yet sometimes I try to reach high and fail to see the small things that can be impacted. Can I make a difference in a normal yet boring day? Can I really change someone’s destiny? Or can I maybe change my own in just 24 hours? My answer is yes, how can this be possible can only be found out by each and every one of us.

Designed to look for the great moments, for the amazing experiences we fail to acknowledge the ones that really matter, and yes, those are the regular ones, the routine, the time we think we lose by doing nothing spectacular. We live for the future, worried about the past and completely ignoring the reality that is the present. Forever waiting to receive the Oscar, forgetting that getting and holding it is nothing without the regular and boring day preceding the celebration, the one where you simply get out of bed and got to work. The simple moment when you buy a cup of coffee, the cup is too full and you sip from it and taste the coffee. The moment you put on your seat-belt and turn on the music, the crossroad where you let the one stuck on the side road to pass in front of you because you have nowhere to rush and that person says thanks to you.

It’s often said that we have to lose something to truly appreciated, the ones that don’t understand that meaning are the luckiest people on Earth, it means that they’ve never lost someone they love. It is to the regular and ordinary moments that you turn to, it’s to the desire to be yesterday’s one more and for you to relive one lost normality. It’s the moment when you know nothing will ever be the same again that hurts the most, and here I am not talking about graduating high-school or college and just moving forward, although those might hurt as well.

If I were to make an exercise and think about today and what would I do different if it would truly be my last day, well it would be simple, I would have smiled more, I would have petted my animals a little bit more, got up a little bit earlier to drink my coffee with my loved one, I would have picked up my phone to call my grandpa, I would have had a little bit more patience with a mum and her kid when crossing the road that cost me my car’s paint since I hit the curve. I would have been nicer to everyone around me, look at their faces while walking or daydreaming a little bit more before opening the laptop, I would have not spent any time on Facebook and I would have not been judging anyone for their mistakes.

Some would say that if today would be your last day they would quit the job and get on a plane, well guess what, I wouldn’t, I think the difference would be small if I were to spend my last day alone, or just trying to get somewhere it’s impossible to get in 24 hours, running a lost marathon. I would do what I do on a regular, boring day, just a little bit more slowly and with more attention to details so that I can remember it.

Yet if you are reading this, just as I am writing it, means this isn’t your last day, you don’t have to worry about spending your last 24 hours and even if you didn’t get the chance to do everything perfectly you have another shot tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and so on. We don’t have to change anything about the day, we just have to live it. How we will do it, is completely up to us, the difference stands in our hands, whether we decide to act upon it or not. But one thing must be kept in mind when that last day will come, and none of us will escape it, we will not have that opportunity to relive it.

P.S. Watch that movie if you haven’t already, is exactly what the present you needs, food for the sole. Even the grumpy ones will love it!

 

 

10 Things That Make Me Happy

Leaving aside traveling, there are a couple of smaller things that will instantly put a smile on my face even in the darkest times. Here is my list of happiness bringers:

  • Spring and warm weather

I am very influenced by the weather and the most difficult time of the year is winter, that is why I am so happy that Spring has finally arrived and with it the warm weather, nothing makes me happier than ditching the winter clothes for the lighter ones.

  • Sunny days

Cannot help but loving the sunny days when the blue is so intense that it hurts your eyes. If you combine this with a sea view then the smile is guaranteed.

  • Swimming in the sea

For many, this might not be a very pleasant experience because of the salty water and the effects it has on the hair and skin, but for me swimming in the sea is one of the best things. The smell of the salty water and the cold feeling that you get when entering the sea, are just what I am enjoying most.

  • Horseback riding

One of the sports that I practiced as a kid, horseback riding will always hold a very important place in my heart. From the moment you get in the saddle to the moment you get off, all my problems vanished. There is no way of better enjoying the present moment than when you are practicing the noble sport.

  • Shopping

Shallow? Yes! Pleasant? Also yes! Even if nowadays I am trying to cut back on the shopping, I am still enjoying the moments when I go for a shopping sprint.

  • Reading a great book

All the bookworms out there will understand the feeling you get when you start a great book and you lose yourself in the author’s universe. Not knowing when hours passed, I am unable to distance myself from the book until I turn the last page, only to miss it once it’s gone. As a kid, I remember crying when I finished the last book in a series that I fell in love with.

  • Going out for dessert

A guilty pleasure that I like to indulge in is eating a great dessert. Ever since I could talk, I had a sweet tooth and I was madly in love with sweets. Nowadays I like to keep the cravings under control, but every once in a while I love to go out and try different deserts.

  • Dressing up

Nothing changes my mood than dressing up, especially when there is no special occasion. Whether is accessorizing my outfit or simply changing from the basic jeans to a skirt,  this is my go-to treatment for the blue days.

  • Walking hand in hand with my significant other

Even the worst day can be changed in a second when I am walking hand in hand with my loved one. It helps with recharging my batteries and offers me a different perspective on whatever happened.

  • Coffee

Saved the best for last. There is nothing like a great cup of coffee to change my mood, even if I know that I spend a lot on coffee, this is the one vice I totally indulge in.

We all have our bad days, but even in those not so pleasant times, there are fast remedies that can better your mood. What makes you happy?

Understanding Hygge

A while back I read a book about Hygge (The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking) and I thought I understood what they tried to express through this word. Little did I know, that you can only understand the meaning by seeing how these people live and experience a little bit of hygge yourself.

Hygee

1. Return to natural elements

Whether you are visiting a store, a hotel, the homes of the Danish people or the restaurants you will always get to see the most amazing pieces of furniture. Most of them are old and from massive wood, but in great condition. Plastic is definitely not fantastic and while being in Copenhagen I haven’t seen much of it being used. Most of the people would bring their own bags in the supermarket and most of those were from fabric, not plastic. Iron pieces are almost always combined with wood so that the atmosphere is not a cold one. Natural wax is used for candles and their clothing is made from wool.

The fact that is very cold during winter makes them turn to the softer elements. Their respect for nature is a huge one and we should all learn from them. The hygge pieces are the ones that are made from natural elements.

2. Relax and enjoy the moment

Perhaps the most defining hygge moment is the one when people get together and relax. While in restaurants eating or grabbing a beer on a terrace, the atmosphere is a relaxed one and they are truly enjoying the present, without letting stress interfere with it. Watching the Danish people riding their bicycles is a pleasure, since they look so at peace with themselves, never rushing.

3. Read and learn

Books are everywhere in Copenhagen, from bars to libraries you can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading a good book. Learning is part of the Danish culture and just watching them browse through the shelves of the library makes you see and feel the hygge.

Library

4. Eat well

I eat at a lot of places in Copenhagen, from nice bars on the Nyhavn street, to open buffet in the city center, to the street food hot dog. Yet everywhere I ate the food was amazing, the taste was great and the composition was always made from fresh items. It wasn’t very processed and it tasted like it was made by gods. If there is anything that the Danish people treasure is what they eat and how it was made. The fast-food big chains are avoided and the people that eat there are usually the tourists since, for the local people, food has to be hygge, which here would be translated into great taste and high quality.

Since the prices for eating out are high, most Danish people cook at home, which would make it even more hygge since it was made with love. If you find yourself in this amazing place, enjoy the food, it’s possible it will be one of the best you’ve ever had.

BestCheesecake

5. Have a coffee

While in Copenhagen you will get to see a lot of coffee shops and all day long you will see people holding a to-go coffee cup. Maybe it is because of the cold weather or because they just love it, but coffee is extremely popular among the Danish people. Since I am also a coffee addict, you can imagine that I felt like home among others like myself.

6. Lights on

While walking in the city during the evening, what I’ve seen is that most of the Danish people keep the lights on, it is the same in the bars and restaurants. They are not big fans of curtains so you would get to see into their houses, mostly because on every window you would see a lamp on. In the northern countries, during winter they only get around 6h of natural light and that is why they want to surround themselves with light.

7. Candles and warm lights

Probably the word hygge is better described by the candles and the lovely atmosphere they create. In every bar, restaurant, pub, store or house you will get to see candles. As soon as the sun sets all of them are light up, creating a very intimate and homely atmosphere.

During the evening and night, all the places are light-up in an orange, warm light, either from candles or from yellow light bulbs. The very powerful white lights are nowhere to be seen in Denmark, and maybe this is a good thing, ’cause everything looks better in the twilight.

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8. Riding a bicycle

The most used way of transport is the bicycle, everywhere you go and whatever the temperature it is, you would get to see people riding within the city. With kids, or with a bag from the supermarket, the Danish people love to use their bicycles. Either painted in vivid colors, with small baskets in front, or the very simple ones, you cannot stop staring at the huge amount of people who use them. Even if the streets are also filled with cars, more and more people give up driving and start riding with the busy streets of the city.

Copenhagen is the most bicycle-friendly city in the word and it also has one of the best air to breath, coincidence? Don’t think so!

9. Protect nature

For the Danish people, hygge also means to live beautifully in harmony with nature. This is why you would get to see them give up comfort to ride a bike, shop vintage, reuse bags, and try to avoid plastic. It is not perfect, you can still see plastic thrown away on the streets, but I have a hunch that isn’t always from the locals, but from foreigners visiting.

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10. Be humble

If there was something that I wasn’t able to see in Denmark that was people looking down on others. Their attitude is a very humble and relaxed one, you can ask anyone for help and they will do their best to do it. Even on the busy streets of the city, the people rushing would never be aggressive or angry. Hippies and businessmen all together in the same pub, sometimes even at the same table, living in harmony.

11. Comfort comes first

Many of us give up comfort in order to look good, but this is not very hygge, so you won’t see this often in Denmark. For them, it is important to feel good, to be able to enjoy present, to ride the bike, to get from one place to another, therefore most of their looks are composed of very quality, natural fabrics as wool and cotton. Black pants and neutral colors for the sweaters, they are not trying to stand out using clothes but rather their presence.¬†Clearly, the harsh weather was one of the factors, but it’s very reassuring to see that they don’t care about how one is dressed. Yet this doesn’t mean that their style is a sloppy one, far from it, all of their clothes scream quality and fit them beautifully, but it a laid back manner.

12. Gorgeous women

Whoever said that the Barbie doll look is a goal impossible to reach, clearly has never been to Denmark. Tall, with gorgeous features and with a slim figure, most of the women that I’ve seen in Copenhagen look as if they were taken off the runway. With childish features and a very warm and pleasant attitude, it’s hard not to love them, without even knowing them.

Perhaps it was because I visited the US and right after returning I left for Copenhagen that the impact was big. There is no comparison between the two places, it is as if they are from 2 different worlds. Even if the weather will never determine me to move there, I have to say that I understand why they are protecting their hygge and why they don’t want globalization to change their lifestyle.

New Year’s Resolution, To Do It Or Not To Do It?

I don’t know about you guys, but in the last few days, my social media was filled with reasons not to make a resolution list since I will not stick to it and only make me more frustrated. If the serious articles didn’t find a way to get into your feed, the memes with “New year same me” definitely did and I am honestly not sure why is everyone all of the sudden against the list and shaming those who do it.

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A few years back the latest trend was to write the infamous list and even post it so that everyone can see what an organized and ambitious person you are. But like every trend, it faded with time and now people are rebelling against it, calling it stupid and even harmful. Not long after the study’s appeared, some scientists proved that it is not useful at all to have that list, most likely the ones that suggested the list in the first place, but let’s skip that part.

So what is wrong with making a list? What is wrong with creating a plan for the following year? Why is it so wrong to think that the new year can be a new beginning? I am a list fan in my day to day activities. When I get to the office I make a list of the things I need to do in the day and I try to prioritize them. As I scratch every item from it, I know where I stand with my workload, if I need to postpone some deadlines or if I am ahead of schedule. It’s always been like this for me and, honestly, love it. Before the list I was a mess, always forgetting things, starting the tasks randomly or even worst, postponing the most important ones, skipping deadlines without even knowing and getting my team in trouble. Nowadays I even have a shopping list, since know I need to remember everything, I have a list of items to put in my luggage when traveling, I have a list of people I need to get gifts for and I have a list of things I need to work on in the current year.

Ever since 2012 I write the resolution for the new year in the same notebook, I saw my desires change and myself grow-up. If in 2012 all I wanted was an iPhone and a job, now I am wishing for living a happy and healthy life. I changed and so did my resolution list, but having it all written down reminds me of who I was and who I’ve become in the last 7 years. And no, I don’t do it to make because all my wishes come true, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop trying. In 2012 I wished to lose 10kg and I did, how? I worked out like crazy, went swimming 2 times a week and went to the gym another 2 times. So it is possible and it did happen in the new year.

For me, the new year will always be a new beginning, a new cycle, just as nature has its seasons, we have ours. I love the idea of starting fresh and I do it every January, furthermore, I don’t get upset if I quit after one month, which means I didn’t want that so much to struggle and work for it. Instead of blaming the lists, we should all think of ways we can make or dreams come true, living the life we want and deserve is there, we just have to sweat for it, nothing great ever came easily.

Important Things You Have To Know Before Buying A Home

Finally, I decided to make the big step of buying a home, I might be among the last of my friends and colleagues to do it. After being constantly discouraged by the market, I managed to find a place that made me sell my soul to the devil aka the bank. Since this is a pretty big decision, here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned from my experience.

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1. Never rush!

A few years back everybody around me was buying a house, they all encouraged me to do the same, to invest my money, to own a place. Well….. I am very happy I didn’t listen to them! Even if the market might’ve been lower a few years back, the fact that 3 years ago I decided to pack my bags and move to a different city would have never happened. Also, the fact that right now I am not buying that house alone made a huge difference. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you should also.

2. Know your limits

When shopping for a house or an apartment it’s easy to lose focus. The pretty ones might steal your eyes and you might want to go a little bit higher just because of the “Instagram” ready look, but you have to know your limit! Especially if you depend on a bank for the money. Before you start searching do the math, find out exactly what is the price range and look ONLY in that range. Yes, that 1 million dollar house looks amazing, but if you cannot afford it’s just wasted time.

3. Do the full math

Let’s say that you already know the price you are willing or able to pay, now it’s time to see the real costs. Even if the installment looks like something you can work with, try that for at least three consecutive months, see how that goes, is that something you are comfortable with? If not try to decrease the amount until you do, you need to still be able to enjoy life and afford stuff, that house will frustrate you really fast if all your money goes into it.

4. Try to see the big picture

By now you should know what is the price range and what you can afford to spend on a property, so it’s time to search. Either if you are depending on an agent or you are doing this yourself, make sure you look past the nice furniture! It might sound crazy but the most polished places I’ve seen were either very small or not well positioned.

In this area, some little help might be needed, the best person would be someone who has nothing to gain from telling you what to look for ( a parent, someone with real estate experience, etc.). You need to know what will bring you the most value for your money, also you need to know what you are willing to sacrifice. For me the most important things were the location and the size of the apartment, I wanted to be able to get around the city fast and but also have enough space for me, my boyfriend and my two cats. I had to sacrifice the neighborhood and the lack of parking space for a price that I could afford.

5. Don’t rush (again!)

Buying a place might take months and it should! You need to see what you don’t want in order to buy what you do want. Even if it’s frustrating AF to see a place and not get it, or have someone else take it right in front of you, you need to have patience, good things don’t happen overnight. I’ve seen people looking for years before actually making the purchase, so no worries, it will happen.

Buying a house was a huge step for me, even now that I am a few weeks before moving, I still cannot believe that I finally did it. It might not be the place I’ve always dreamed of, but it is definitely a great place to start and I already have a plan of reimbursing the money ahead of time so that I can get that one of my back.

About Happiness

Our expectation in life is to be happy, or so does anyone say these days if you ask them what they what to have in life. So the desire to be happy is what is driving people to keep on going, unfortunately, most of us will never reach that nirvana, since there isn’t a place or time when we will just stop and be happy. Why? Because we don’t define it correctly, so what is happiness?

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I will start the list with what happiness is not since I believe we first need to see where we are failing so that we can find a way to succeed, and only after will I describe what happiness is for me.

1. It has nothing to do with money.

There was a meme that got shared a lot on social media, that stated that it is better to cry in a Ferrari than on a bicycle, yet Denmark is here to prove us wrong since it’s in top 3 countries to live in and Copenhagen is rated the most bicycle-friendly city. So it looks like it’s better to work out on a bicycle than stay overweight in a car, whatever label it is. Having money has nothing to do with being happy, the wealthiest people I know are obsessed with making more since they are afraid of not having enough.

2. It has nothing to do with material things

We live in a consumerist economy that teaches us that happiness is directly liked to the things we own. In order to be happy, we NEED that new phone, that new SUV and we absolutely need that designer bag, we are failures if we don’t have to dress in the latest fashion. The worst thing is that we start to think like this, we tell ourselves that¬† we would be so happy if we could afford that 3 bedroom apartment, even if we would be the only person to live it in, that we would feel so good if we could replace that the car with the latest BMW, even if it still works fine. What we fail to see is that the more things we gather around us, the more pressure we put on us to maintain those things, so the more dissatisfied with our life we become.

3. It has nothing to do with beauty

If you haven’t yet seen Model Squad series from E!, then you have missed nothing, yet this show is all about the “glamorous life” of models. Yet even the most beautiful women of Earth, that walk Victoria’s Secret runway are told that they are to fat or too skinny to take up projects. Even these women have insecurities and are self-aware of their beauty. From what I was able to get from the show, they are not the happiest people and their life is not as fancy as it sounds. Linking beauty and the XXS size to happiness is only another myth.

4. It’s about mental and¬†physical health

Reality is created by each and every one of us in our brains. If two people would describe the same experience, chances are they would see it in a completely different way. Taking care of your health is one of the most important things, your body needs to function in the correct way in order to feel good. Just imagine the moment you are down with a severe cold or a nasty headache, would you be able to feel happy about seeing a beautiful sunrise?

Sometimes we have to lose our health in order to fully appreciate it and to start taking care of ourselves, but trust me when I say that you need it if you want to experience happiness and well-being.

5. It’s about the ability to forgive

Holding grudges might be more harmful than you think, some studies even linked to getting fat. Betrayal is never a pleasant experience, yet it is up to us how much we let it affect us. Whenever you feel like you are incapable of forgiving someone, remember that it is possible that you also hurt or betrayed someone, we are humans and we make mistakes and that is why we need to try to be the bigger person and put it behind us. Resentment is the opposite of happiness, so try to eliminate this from your life.

6. It’s about the power of letting go

Sometimes people leave us, other times we lose them, life is not fair and it’s not easy, some events cannot be prevented and time cannot be turned back, so we need to make peace with the past in order to enjoy the present. Letting go might be even more painful than forgiving someone, but it’s necessary to be relieved from the ghosts. The good memories will always be there and you should hold on to those, but the rest needs to be released.

7. It’s about appreciating what you have

One of my favorite songs as a kid was Sheryl Crow – Soak Up The Sun and its lyrics got stuck in my brain: “It’s not having what you want / It’s wanting what you’ve got”. If you are able to read this, then you have access to the internet and you have a computer, most likely you are not hungry and you have a roof over your head, this is more than most of the people from the planet have. Getting mad over the waiting line at Zara, or the misspelled name from Starbucks or the wrong order from whatever restaurant is not worth it. Imagine your life without water, in a war zone or with a terminal phase disease, I hope by now you start appreciating all the great things from your life because you are among those who won the life lottery.

8. It’s about the journey

Making a dream come true is an amazing feeling, but so is working to make it happen, every step of the way is a reason to be proud and … happy! There is no final destination, there is always the next dream, the next great thing, so you need to start taking pleasure in the current journey.

9. It’s about living the moment

Concern about what the future will bring us, regretting the things we did in the past, we forget to live the only moment we have, and that is the present. There is no time machine, we will never know what is to come and we cannot change what was done, but we can do something about the current moment. Tomorrow should not be taken for granted, so make the most of today.

10. It’s all about love

Whether it is the love you have for your body, for the people around you, for the world around you or just for life, all comes back to the love you are putting out there. Happy people are the ones that smile to the world, that embrace human connection, which is constantly in love with life. It all circles back to love, whatever you do, there is no happiness that you can achieve by yourself.

If you got all the way to this point, I hope you understood that you are happy and your life is a happy one, you just have to realize it. Happiness will never be a constant state, there will always be ups and downs, there is no such thing as a constant happy life, it’s just normal life, one where you take advantage of what it has to offer. So whenever you find yourself wishing for that happy state, just have a look around, there is a huge chance it’s already good.