Catching my Breath

For the first time in 3 months I have the luxury of time. Since my last post I have been working 7 day weeks, travelling non-stop for work or family events and trying to fit in those pesky little essentials: eating & sleeping. Two weeks ago I flew to Australia for a long-anticipated Xmas break. The first 2 weeks taken up with family events & social niceties but finally, this week, I checked into a beach side retreat for 2 days and, luxury of luxuries: I caught my breath! I’m not ashamed to admit that I “wasted” several hours playing on my iPad. Or that I spent a considerable portion of my first day sleeping away the beautiful sunlight. I’ll even admit that right now, instead of rushing out to explore Melbourne, I’m relaxing in my hotel lounge, drinking the free whiskey & waiting for them to bring out the free cake I’ve heard rumours of. I am well and truly “switched off”.

Unlike others who choose to disconnect from their work email when on holiday, I still have mine running on my phone. I check in every couple of days to see what’s happening & I delete the nonsense. (I like returning to a spam-free inbox.) Unlike other holidays though, I merely mark the important ones for follow up & then forget all about them. There have been several times I could have dropped a quick one-liner in reply, but I resisted by chanting the following rule: is this important enough to break the illusion that I’m uncontactable? We all know that as soon as we send that first fatal email we open the floodgates to a hundred “quick question”s and “just wanted to check”s. The web of invisibility I have successfully weaved was hard won and I won’t apologise for guarding it ferociously!

It all sounds good so far, right? There’s always a but… that I’m stripped bare of the emails and the “busy” and the oh-so-trivial-but-right-now-so-important things I fill my life with, I find that the real me has no where left to hide. The “new me” who practices disconnection and invisibility finally has the mental space to face up to emotions and decisions that have been buried under the flurry of my life. It hasn’t followed suit however, that the real me is ready for them. It’s easy to distract myself from inner turmoil when there’s grocery shopping to be done or a client meeting to be scheduled. Not so easy when I’m strolling along a beach listening to the crashing waves or snuggled up in bed with my beloved, eating Doritos and watching nonsense television. And so I find myself in a bittersweet and contemplative mood. This city is my oyster, promising delicious delicacies and enthralling experiences at every turn and yet my mind, and my heart, are demanding my attention. Who wins remains to be seen, although I suspect I already know the answer: if you ever find yourself in Melbourne let me know, because by this time tomorrow I’m sure I will have a detailed hour-by-hour itinerary I can send you…

Catching my Breath

Stop dissing the office!

Across the internet you can find a multitude of posts about living your life to the fullest and giving the finger to the humdrum of the 9-to-5 lifestyle. Barely a day goes by when I don’t see a Facebook update or a blog post about how to escape the office and start a life of fun, excitement and adventure. And I wonder: when did 9-to-5 office jobs become the poster child for a wasted life?

Of course there are less-than-fulfilling office jobs out there that involve a lot of filing, coffee-making and mail-merging. But there are also incredibly rewarding office jobs, that make the people doing them quite happy. No, I’m not teaching students to surf on a beach in Spain and I’m not serving canapes on a yacht in the South Pacific. In fact I’m usually sitting in my home office in London and the highlight of my day is often my trip out for my afternoon coffee. And yet I wouldn’t swap it for any of the “exciting” jobs these blog posts and Facebook updates dangle in front of me.

Why not, you may ask? The truth is that I enjoy a job that would make others want to tear their hair out. I get to spend 8 hours a day with the love of my life – technology – and I get to do some of the things I love most: rip apart processes, analyse systems for issues & solve real life problems (yes, activity satisfaction is intricately linked to my OCD tendencies). I switch off my computer most evenings with a sense of satisfaction.

Part of my job involves showing people how to use software. Often I encounter technophobes or older people who are clearly nervous and take great pains to point out their IT weaknesses before we begin. The joy I feel in explaining a concept to them and seeing things finally click into place is immense. Not only have I achieved my business objective for the day but I have made a small but positive change to that person’s life. I have challenged their notion of themselves as a “non-techie” person and who knows, maybe now they’ll give that smartphone they got for Christmas another go when they get home.

Just because I get up and sit at a desk every day doesn’t make my life any less interesting than those who spend their days on a beach, in a classroom or on a boat: it just makes it different. And for many us sitting there, just as exciting.

Stop dissing the office!

Opinionated Mina: Most Exciting Place

Another response to The Opinionated Man’s blogging challenge. This time to: What is the most exciting place you have visited? Do you have a photo?


Exciting can be a different concept for everyone. Some find white water rafting exciting. I’d call it terrifying. Some would be excited by spotting the next train on their spotting wish list. I’d be asleep in the corner. For me, excitement comes from doing something I never thought I’d be able to.

One place that inspired that kind of excitement for me is Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. I will never forget the butterflies in my stomach and the glow of happiness that spread through me on my arrival there. I stood in the footpath, totally irrelevant to those passing me by, and pressed the pedestrian button. Then it hit me. I was in Bosnia. Alone. I had quit my job and left home to travel the world. Bloody hell!

It’s funny how certain moments stick with you. I have pressed many pedestrian buttons in the course of my life. Hundreds probably. Some of them in exotic locations, some not so much. But standing there that day, casually crossing the street in a country most people would barely be able to find on a map, well that made me feel about six feet tall. And if that’s not exciting then I don’t know what is!

As for the photo, well coincidentally my picture of the famous Mostar bridge is probably the best pic I’ve ever taken.

Opinionated Mina: Most Exciting Place

The Road Less Travelled

A recent Daily Prompt was: Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded. My thoughts on this one are slightly different to the brief, so I hope you can bear with me.

What’s so bloody wrong with the road well travelled?

When did being on the common track become such a bad thing? I wonder if this obsession with being different has been popularised by people for whom “abnormal” isn’t an option? People who have the luxury of taking normal for granted, people who never have to aspire to normalcy because they are already there. I don’t feel like a lesser person because I have what some would consider very boring life aims:

  • Be successful in my chosen career
  • Have a healthy, happy relationship
  • See my family as often as possible
  • Maintain contact with my overseas friends
  • Enjoy my chosen hobbies & make time to pursue them

This might seem like a boring list. Even now, in my current balanced state of mind, my instinct is to keep adding to the list so that it seems like I live an interesting life…surely this can’t be everything I aspire to! But that’s today. Tomorrow could be a different story. At a moments notice my depression can rob me of my ability to achieve even these most basic of aims. I care less about my work, I avoid contact with family and friends, I can’t be bothered picking up my creative or technical projects.

If life is a journey then achievement of our own personal aims is surely our destination. Personally, I like to think of myself travelling down the highway, with occasional detours to see something interesting or to take a break from it all. And even if I sometimes get lost, I’ll always find my way back to the highway in the end.

The Road Less Travelled

Travelling with The Black Dog

In 2011 I took a massive step. I quit my job, ended my relationship, packed all my worldly goods into my sister’s attic and took to the high seas. Alone. Solo. Independent woman. I was going to be see the world, blog about it and become an ultra famous travel blogger with deals from Lonely Planet and National Geographic. I might even get a TV series out of it…..

Unfortunately I was an incredibly bad travel blogger. I’ve tobogganed down the Great Wall of China, I’ve narrowly avoided running over a koala in a camper van, I’ve been kidnapped by an elderly Slovenian man. But to look at my travel blog you’d think I had barely made it out of the UK. What happened to my dream you might ask. Well, it turns out I wasn’t in fact alone as I had thought. For those 12 months I struggled with the ultimate bad travel companion.

He laughed at my idea to start a blog – why would anyone want to read what I had to say? I would probably do it all wrong anyway. There were hundreds of blogs much better than mine – even the ones written by monkeys. People would tweet my blog only to laugh at my foolish attempts at creative writing, to point out that I was clearly “travelling wrong”.

He berated me endlessly for being an idiot if I got off at a wrong bus stop or missed a train. How is it that other people manage to get from country to country without incident. No body else got scammed by their taxi driver. No body else would have been stupid enough to have spent their entire day’s budget on a tuk-tuk.

He stopped me from chatting to my fellow travellers because I was far too uninteresting for them to be bothered with. No-one wants to talk to you, he said. Look at all the travel photos on Facebook, they’re all smiling, having a great time. No-one wants a boring, uninteresting, miserable cow like you tagging along. Forcing your company on them. Best leave the interesting people to it.

He forced me to hide under the covers all day while outside a new city went unexplored. Sometimes laying across me so I didn’t have the energy to push him off. Or he would hide my clothes deep in my backpack, so even if I did make it out of bed I’d struggle to get dressed. And then he would send me on a guilt trip for wasting the precious opportunities life had afforded me (which, by the way, I didn’t deserve anyway).

His criticisms were endless, his tongue was harsh and his effect was devastating.

There are all kinds of guides and blog posts advising travellers how to deal with annoying travel companions, noisy hostel mates, incompatible friends we misguidedly booked with….but I have yet to stumble across any advice for travelling with the ultimate bad travel companion – the black dog! I can’t be the only one he’s travelled with, can I?

Travelling with The Black Dog