Dreams

I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.

I’m not.

But, I’m not sitting around dreading it either.

I’ve never had a dream job. Even as a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Whilst I was at school, trying to decide whether to go to university or not, I didn’t know what course I wanted to do, because I had no idea what I might want to do in the future. By the time I left university, I still had no idea.

It’s taken 35 years for me to start figuring out what i’d really like to do.

Although, looking back, there were times when I toyed with the idea, I just didn’t know how to get there.

I guess part of me has always thought that a dream job, was just that. A dream. Not achievable for those of us who are just ‘ordinary’ people.

But why should it stay as a dream? Why not chase after it?

Whilst I was walking along one of the Algarve’s many beaches last week, it struck me that I finally know what I would like to do.

It may not happen over night. It may even come under a slightly different guise.

But what I do know, is that it feels right to chase after it. To throw (almost) everything into trying to achieve it.

It’s not going to be easy, as I still need to earn a wage while I’m chasing my dream. There will be some multi tasking, hard work and lot’s of juggling involved. But I need to make sure I dedicate some time to focus on my plan for the future.

However hard it might be to chase my dreams, everything seems to be pointing me in this direction. And the difference this time, is that I really do feel ready to work hard for it. I want to do something that gives my life more meaning. To wake up each morning looking forward to going to work. To look forward to going back to work after a week off.

So you may be asking yourself why I’m not dreading work tomorrow? And the answer? I have a plan. Which is ironic. Because I’m rubbish at planning anything outside of my occasional social life. I am slowly but surely, creating a plan, and starting to work towards achieving my dream.

And that makes going back to work tomorrow, all the more bearable.

Praia Santa Eulália, Praia da Oura and Alfagar II Aparthotel

I’m now back in gloomy, grey, England after a beautiful few days in Portugal.

The flight into Gatwick yesterday was slightly unnerving, as we landed in high winds. There were gasps, followed by a few expletives from passengers as we made our descent, but thankfully, our pilot got us back safe and sound (and without the drama this plane had trying to land at Heathrow yesterday – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47177383/plane-struggles-to-land-in-strong-winds-at-heathrow-airport).

Thursday was my last full day in Portugal. I had intended on having a rest day, but I also wanted to get back out to see what else was around, close to where I was staying.

I had been staying at the beautiful Alfagar II Aparthotel, which has private access to Praia Santa Eulália. Although I had taken a walk down to the beach on the day I arrived, I really didn’t explore that much. So, I decided to pack up my rucksack and head down to the beach armed with my book and my beach towel ready to explore Praia Santa Eulália.

View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
Private access path down to Praia Santa Eulália.

Once I arrived at the beach, I noticed the tide was out, so I decided to keep walking and followed the beach around towards the next cove. The beaches around this part of The Algarve are stunning. They are rugged and wild, but magical and serene at the same time. The cliffs were something else, and their colours are just beautiful.

As I continued my walk around to the next beaches (Praia da Oura Leste and Praia da Oura), I turned back to look at the view. It was such a stunning spot. So it was there that I sat and read my book until lunchtime approached.

After a spot of lunch by beachside restaurant Vivaldo’s it was time to head back to the hotel to enjoy my last afternoon poolside.

The view from Vivaldo’s

As the evening set in, it was time to reflect back on a fantastic trip.

I booked the entire holiday (flights, hotel and transfers) through easyJet, and I couldn’t fault any of it.

The hotel was absolutely stunning and spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and helpful, the food at the Buganvilla Snack-Bar where I ate my evening meals was fantastic. The portions were huge, with a wide selection of starters, and main meals. The apple pie was to die for, and the chocolate mousse was simply divine! The evening entertainment was on the cheesy side, but I guess you expect that in resorts, and in actual fact, holidaying in February, I was probably lucky that evening entertainment was on the menu! The little supermarket in Alfagar Village was well stocked with everything you could wish for, including fresh bread, a butchers, and plenty of wine.

I didn’t use all the facilities on site (there is a car rental office on site – not sure I trust myself to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road yet!), but those I did use were superb. The gym, the spa, the pools, as with the rest of the hotel were spotlessly clean and well looked after.

On my first day, I had a slight problem with my lights not switching on in the apartment, however, I called down to reception, and within 15 minutes the maintenance guy was at my door, ready to fix it for me. 2 minutes later, I had light and had no further problems throughout my stay.

Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel

I had also booked my transfers through easyJet. Finding the meeting point at Faro airport was really straightforward, and only took 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. On the return journey, thankfully I was early, and already in reception, because the transfer was a good 10 minutes early picking me up. We got to the airport early which at least meant I had a bit more time to look around duty free!

And despite landing in windy conditions, both flights were excellent.

All in all, a fantastic holiday!

Where to next I wonder?

(All photos in this blog are my own)

Olhos de Água and Praia da Falesia

After my relaxing day on Tuesday, yesterday I was back into explorer mode.

This time I decided to head east of the resort, and headed to the beach at Olhos de Agua. Again, I chose to walk, as good old Google maps told me it was only a short walk away.

20 minutes later, I arrived at the beach. Olhos is small fishing town where the local fishermen still pull their boats onto the sand when they arrive back to the shoreline with their fresh catches. It’s a much quieter town than Albufeira, but lovely if you have a young family and aren’t looking for somewhere overly commercial.

As there wasn’t an awful lot to do or see there, I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could walk round to the next Praia (beach), Praia da Falesia.

(All photos in this post are my own )

If you are lucky enough to get down to the Praias on the Algrave’s south coast when the tide is out, it is really easy to walk from many of the beaches to the next without too many problems, albeit over a few small rocks. However, once the tide comes back in, these parts are pretty much impossible to reach by foot.

Luckily, the tide was out when I arrived in Olhos de Água, leaving a clear path right i round to Praia da Falesia.

As soon as I walked around the corner of the cove onto Praia de Falesia, the view took my breath away. Seeing the vivid orange colours of the cliffs and the distinguishable layers of rock, made my inner geographer do a little back flip of joy!

I must’ve walked down almost the entire stretch of the praia with a massive grin on my face. Every new section of cliff face I came to had something different to offer.

As I continued to walk along the beach, I realised how light and carefree I felt. I felt more relaxed and content than I have done in a long time.

As I walked along, I did a lot of thinking. I started to make a lot of sense out of things on that walk, putting some things into perspective, letting other things go, and thinking about some of the changes I need to make in order to create more happiness and feelings of being carefree, on a more regular basis.

I will share some of my thoughts with you over the coming days, but for now, it’s time to pack and wave goodbye to Portugal as I have a flight back to London to catch tomorrow.

Albufeira

Yesterday was my first full day in Portugal. I am staying around 4km outside of old town Albufeira but I was keen to go and see what the town had to offer.

Whilst there were the options of getting a bus from the hotel at 10am, or a local taxi, I decided to walk instead.

I often find that we are so busy focusing on where we want to end up, that we fail to notice what’s on our doorstep, or in the surrounding area (something that can be said in all areas of life, and not just during travel!). Walking gives us a real opportunity to see what’s around.

Having never been abroad in February before, it was hard to know what to expect weather wise, and equally hard knowing what to pack. Whilst the days can be warm in the February sun, the nights can still be quite cold.

The weather was looking great yesterday, so I headed out in a thin jumper, T-shirt and jeans.

The walk into Albufeira isn’t the prettiest, and whilst the road takes you close to the coastline, you can’t see the sea until you reach Albufeira itself.

However, it gave me the opportunity to see where the Albufeira ‘strip’ is (I don’t think it matters where in Europe you are, if you’ve seen one party area, you’ve seen them all!), and to be grateful that I wasn’t spending my week there. Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out, and maybe I’m being very stereotypical here, but they just seem to be tackier versions of the clubs we have back home, with the main aim being to get so drunk you are sick, and to end up in a bed that isn’t your own. Spending all that money doing what you could be doing back home, seems a bit daft to me, or perhaps it’s just me getting old!

It took me around 50 minutes to walk into town, and when I arrived, I wasn’t disappointed.

Albufeira Old Town – all photos in this blog post are my own
Albufeira Old Town
Albufeira Old Town

By this point the weather was really warming up. Off came the jumper, along with thoughts of, why didn’t I pack any lighter trousers!?!

I’ve barely seen a cloud in the sky so far, and when you’re in the sun, even at this time of year, it’s hot enough to make this gingernut start to change colour (of course I mean red rather than a nice glowing golden brown!).

Once I arrived, I decided to take a walk straight up into the old town. It wasn’t quite lunchtime, so I had some time to explore before I needed to start looking for a pit stop. As I walked into the old town, there were signs that read Miradouro, which means viewpoint in English. I began to follow these signs to see where they lead.

Once I reached the Miradouro, there were spectacular views that looked over the bay.

From the Miradouro, I could’ve taken the lift down to the beach. However, I decided to keep walking as I had spotted the signs for the marina ahead.

I was quite conscious as I walked towards the marina that there were fewer tourists along this route. So I made the decision to walk to the next Miradouro and then head back into the old town to find somewhere to grab some lunch.

On my way back, instead of walking through the old town, I headed down to the beach.

The beaches here really are stunning. Everywhere I have been so far has been spotlessly clean. The sands are golden and pebble free, barely a sign of any rubbish or even seaweed lying strewn across the sands.

I wished I had worn my sandals instead of my trusted Nike trainers, so off they came, allowing my feet to breath and to enjoy the feeling of the sand between my toes.

As I got closer to the main hub of restaurants along the seafront, I decided to head off to find somewhere for lunch.

One of the many perks of holidaying in February means that it’s easy to get into restaurants at any time of day! I managed to get a table in the sunshine, in the first restaurant I stumbled upon. After an offer from the waiter to join me for lunch (I turned him down of course, but it was very flattering to get the offer), I settled down to look through the menu choices and to read my book.

Before coming to Portugal, I had read that they are big on their fish, especially sardines. I had never eaten fresh sardines before, but decided to give them a go. I hadn’t expected them to arrive with their heads on, and I had no idea which parts to eat, and what not to eat! But after a quick google, I tucked into them, loving every bite. Afterwards, I washed them down with one of my favourite cocktails, an icy cold Caipirinha.

After lunch, it was time to walk off those sardines with the walk back to my hotel, in time to spend a couple of hours by the pool and finishing the day off nicely in the indoor sun heated pool ☀️

Solo Traveller

When I first went on holiday on my own 3 years ago, I received a mixed reaction from friends and family. Some said good on you. Others thought I was crazy. Won’t you be lonely? Aren’t you scared going alone? Why don’t you find someone to go with?

The answers to those questions at the time were:

  • I don’t know, as I’ve never done it before
  • Yes
  • There aren’t many of us singletons left in my friendship circle, and why should no one wanting to leave their husbands, wives or their children, stop me from going to sunnier climes?

This time around, fewer people asked those questions. In fact, the comments I received were a lot more positive:

  • I wish I was brave enough to go away on my own
  • Have a great time

Perhaps people’s mindsets are changing. More and more people seem to be going off and doing their own thing, whether that’s because they are single, or simply because they want to visit places their partners don’t really fancy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the easiest thing to do. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone. But I like to see how far I can push myself. Where are my limits?

When I arrived in Portugal this week, I asked myself the questions my friends had asked me 3 years ago. My answers this time were:

  • No, I now love my own company. Plus the beauty of the modern world, means I can stay in touch with friends and family back home, if I want to.
  • I am always a little apprehensive about travelling alone, but I try to avoid putting myself in the face of unnecessary risk. Plus, I have now been living in London for 3 years.
  • I didn’t even try to convince anyone to come with me this time. Well, ok, just the one, but I was truly looking forward to escaping, having some quiet time away from the madness of work and London, and spending some time working on where I want to be in the future, and the steps I can start taking to get me there

So here I am, in sunny Portugal, sitting on my balcony, alone, but not lonely, enjoying some time away from the rat race, relaxing and exploring, watching the sunset and wondering just how many trips I might be able to squeeze into this coming year ✈️☀️🏖

Albufeira – photo taken today by me

Turning 35

This weekend, I turned 35.

Birthday’s normally create moments of reflection for me. What have I accomplished in the last year, what do I hope to accomplish in the next?

So far this year, I have been too lost in other things to actually pay much attention to these thoughts.

Sitting here mulling this over as I type now, it would be quite easy to think that I haven’t achieved much this year. The focus has been on others and not me. But actually, as I start to reflect, it’s been a pretty epic year for me too. Move all the drama to one side, and you will see that I have been quietly beavering away in the background.

So what have I achieved in the year leading up to my 35th Birthday?

  1. I finished my ILM Qualification in Leadership & Management…and passed. It was hard going back to studying and working on assignments after such a long time. I had attempted a qualification in Horticulture before my move to London, but this was exams based, and exams had never been my strong point. Give me a written assignment or coursework though, something I can get my teeth into and write to my hearts content, normally leaves me in a pretty good place. And so it did.
  2.  I started to visit lots of new places. To name but a few, I have discovered Chelsea Physic Gardens, Tooting Broadway Market, Kensington Palace Gardens, and Holland Park. I spent a day chilling and drinking wine with friends in Regents Park. I enjoyed a day exploring Abingdon and Oxford with my friend Alastair, I discovered Venn Street Market, which is just a stones throw from my flat, and thanks to my mum, I discovered the Vintage Retreat and Millers Yard Cafe at Boughton Mill Equestrian Centre in my home town of Northamptonshire. 
  3. I went to the cinema on my own for the first time. For someone who likes her own company, going to the cinema on my own had become a bit of a barrier. However, I was desperate to see Black Panther and had no-one else to go with. So it was a perfect opportunity to push myself to just do it. And I did. And I loved it. I had a whole bag of Malteser’s to myself, no obligations to share, and was able to sit back and relax and just enjoy the film. 
  4. I have found more time to read. I cried my way through Freya North’s ‘Turning Point‘ and Maria Realf’s ‘The One‘, but also spent some time reading about ‘Hygge’, the Danish way of living.
  5. I took a spontaneous trip to Southend on Sea. I had been to Southend before, but mum and dad had decided to spend the weekend there, and with nothing else planned that weekend, I jumped in the car spontaneously and went to join them.
  6. I travelled to the Greek Island of Crete for the first time, with my younger brother Sam. We had never holidayed together just the two of us before, but we were both in desperate need of a break and some time away from our everyday lives. I fell in love with Elounda, the village we were staying in, and long to go back one day, armed with my laptop, and to write to my hearts content. 
  7. I spent some quality time with my Dad. My parents have been happily married now for 35 years (they didn’t get to enjoy married life very much before yours truly came along!). Whilst they come down to visit me in London a couple of times a year together, my Mum will always pop down in between those visits so we can enjoy some Mum and daughter time together. However, I don’t know if its a man thing, but Dad had never really talked about coming down on his own before. Mum hinted one day that Dad would love to come down more, so back at the beginning of summer I invited Dad to come down for the day. Me and my Dad have two main things in common. We love football. And we love walking. Having done a couple of charity walks with my Dad years ago, I decided it would be fun to do a walk in London. Whilst I had walked the Thames Path in central London a number of times, I had never really covered the path which starts further out to the West. So we hopped on the train to Richmond, and walked from Richmond to Wandsworth along the Thames Path, stopping for a lovely pub lunch and a couple of drinks on the way.
  8. I went Glamping for the first time. Whilst I spent 6 years of my life camping with my ex, I had never been Glamping. My camping days are very much behind me, but the idea of Glamping had appealed. So off we went one Friday afternoon to the South Downs where we stayed in the most delightful Glamping site. It was a blazing hot weekend, but thankfully, our chosen site was amongst the woodland, which was a nice bit of respite from the sun. A nice little addition, was the outdoor hot tub  which despite the heatwave, we obviously had to try out. So one evening, we donned our swimwear and relaxed in the hot tub whilst the sunset behind the trees. Bliss. It was the first time either of us had stayed in the South Downs National Park. Another place I would happily move to in order to sit and write all day. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, only an hour from London in one direction, and an hour from the coast in the other. 
  9. I have enjoyed lot’s of new experiences, which have included visiting Chelsea Flower Show with my lovely friend Kim, getting tickets to Club Wembley for the England v Nigeria game, and watching the lovely Craig David & Rita Ora perform at Northampton’s County Cricket Ground earlier in the summer.
  10. I lead a process at work which we were being externally assessed on…and we passed.
  11. I had some professional coaching for the first time. And loved it. This has helped me to realise that some of my ‘dark cloud’ moments are thanks to Imposter Syndrome. Recognising that I suffer with this, and then looking at ways to overcome it, has taken a huge amount of weight off my shoulders and has helped me to start to understand some of the muddled chaos in my mind. It was also this that made me consider blogging for the first time. It also made me…
  12. …start to think more about mindfulness, wellbeing and my own mental health. I had always been aware of mental health. Many of my friends and family suffer from anxiety or from bouts of depression. My dearest B had battled with mental health as long as I had known her. But I had never stopped to consider my own. Mindfulness and Wellbeing had never really entered into my headspace. However, through the coaching experience, I suddenly realised it was something I needed to explore. I started to download apps (Calm and Headspace to name but two), and to read articles which explored these areas in more detail. It was also around this time that I realised I had a lot going on in my mind, and I needed to start shifting some of it to help me to declutter my mind, to help me to think clearer and to function more effectively…
  13. …so, I started my blog ‘The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut‘ and created my Instagram page ‘The Mindful Gingernut‘. And what I great experience this has been. I wrote my first blog at the back end of August and since then I have written 21 posts (this will be my 23rd!), my blog has been visited by 302 people and has had 710 views. Now, I have no idea in the grand scheme of things whether this is below/above average or not, however, what I do know is the stats don’t really matter. What really matters is that by blogging, my mind is freeing up some headspace. I have more time to reflect, to think about what works for me and what doesn’t, it’s helping others who are experiencing or have experienced similar things, it’s giving my loved ones an insight into what makes me tick, and one of the things I least expected from my blog, was the ability to make new friends through the site. There is a lovely network of bloggers out there, who are likeminded and seem to be travelling down a similar path to me. It’s lovely to bounce ideas off one another and to seek comfort and reassurance from one another. Creating my blog and starting to write again has by far been one of my greatest achievements of the year. But it hasn’t stopped there…
  14. I stopped drinking coffee. Throughout my coaching experience, it was flagged by a number of my colleagues that I had an inability to function effectively in meetings before 11am and around 3pm. This was quickly linked in with my coffee intake. I would need at least 2 cups of black coffee in the morning to feel like I was ready to function. After this time, I was fine, until around 3pm. I would have a further cup of coffee, but instead of helping me to function, it just made me really sluggish. I was able to function on my own at these times, but human interaction during these key points during the working day was useless. I would like to say that this pattern of behaviour encouraged me to stop drinking coffee. It didn’t. What finally made me give up, was a bout of Norovirus at the back end of August (funnily enough, also coinciding with the time I started to write my blog). I came down ill one Saturday night and was violently sick for the next 12 hours and continued to be ill for the next few days. After this, I just couldn’t stand the thought of coffee. The smell and the taste even now, still makes me feel slightly nauseous. I have never been a tea drinker, however, all of a sudden I felt the urge to try herbal teas. So now I drink a lot of mint tea and peppermint tea and feel so much better for it. I have found that I don’t have to wait for 11am before I can function. I am able to sit in 9am meetings and have a perfectly human conversation, come up with new ideas, and to think things through effectively. It has also prevented me from hitting my 3pm slump. I power on through the day from one hour to the next, without any noticeable difference in how I will react to a situation at any one time. 
  15. More recently, I have also rediscovered my love of baking. I don’t have a very big kitchen in my London flat. There’s no room for funky gadgets and little room for using a rolling pin. However, recently I have found myself starting to find ways around these issues. During the winter, when it’s too wet to tend to my plants on my little terrace, I find baking massively therapeutic. Sometimes you just have to think a little bit more creatively about how you can use the space you have, and by making sure you stay on top of things like the washing up throughout the magic you are creating, just so things don’t get too crazy in the kitchen. The month of December is always a great month to get your bake on back on! So far we have a Christmas cake waiting to be iced and decorated, and I made my first batch of mince pies at the weekend. I wonder what goodies will appear next… 
  16. After a pretty epic year, I didn’t stop there. On the day before my 35th Birthday, I decided to go and get my ears pierced. Being a glasses wearer, I’ve always joked that I already have too much metal on my face to suit earrings. Mum has tried to convince me for years that they would suit me, but I just didn’t have the urge to get them done. However, over the last few months, I kept looking at really nice fashion earrings, wishing I had pierced ears so I could wear them. As I strolled down to our local shops with Mum and Dad on Saturday, who were visiting for my Birthday weekend, I turned to Mum, and said ‘Shall I go and get my ears pierced?’. So that’s what we did! I now have lovely pierced ears with white gold earrings. I’m still a few weeks away from being able to wear ‘fashion’ earrings, but I love the ones they have put in for now. They make such a difference to my face and make any outfit look slightly more glam, just by having a little sparkle on my ears.

Despite it not being the easiest year, it’s certainly been full of lot’s of positive moments. 

Sitting down and writing this has made me realise just how much I have achieved and how much I continue to grow as a human being. 

I’m excited to see where the next year will take me.

 

Bucket List

A few months ago I had a complete panic over the things I had achieved since I moved to London.

More to the point, what I hadn’t achieved since my London adventure began.

I had of course packed a lot into my new home life. I had met Ali for a start, and following a whirlwind romance, we had moved into our cosy little flat together after just 6 weeks…

But aside from my relationship, I was starting to feel like life was passing me by again. A feeling I cannot abide.

Nearly 2 years into our relationship, Ali and I had also found ourselves in a bit of a ‘comfort rut’. Weekends would pass by and we had done the same old things.

Nothing new.

I needed to feel that sense of adventure again.

So it was time to make some changes.

I had been living in London for 3 years and realised I had barely scratched the surface of it.

I have no idea how long we’ll continue to live in London, but I knew that if I didn’t start to make the most of it soon, I would regret it later on.

I sat down with Ali and told him I needed things to change, and he happily obliged.

And it was then that I started to make my ‘London Bucket List’.

So now, mostly at the weekends, we try to do something different and new.

It doesn’t have to be hugely extravagant, just different. Something or somewhere we haven’t tried or been before.

One of the first things I ticked off the list was riding what was formerly known as a ‘Boris Bike’. There is a cycle station just across the road from our flat, yet we had never tried to hire or ride one. So one weekend in August, we did just that. Admittedly it was a bit of a disaster (they are way more difficult to ride than they look and not that cheap to hire either!!). But we laughed a lot and were excited at having tried something new.

Another tick on the list went to our local coffee shop which turns into a wine bar in the evenings. It is only a short stroll from our flat, and whilst we had visited for coffee, we had never experienced the wine bar. We had become hermits in the evenings, so it was lovely to get dressed up, head to the wine bar, have a few drinks and some nibbles, and listen to a local musician singing and playing the guitar. We finished the night with a walk to one of our favourite London Bridges and we went home buzzing after a wonderful evening.

I haven’t actually added an awful lot to my bucket list yet, but we are enjoying plenty of new experiences.

In a way, it has become greater than the bucket list.

Sometimes the new experiences we need in order to feel more fulfilled are as simple as walking down a road we have never walked down before, trying a new cafe, or even trying something different at home, like a new recipe or learning a new skill, such as meditation.

For me, it doesn’t matter where I am in life, I need to experience the buzz of trying new things and going to new places. Plodding along doing the same old thing just doesn’t work for me. It makes me restless.

That’s not to say that I can’t be found vegetating in my flat over the course of a weekend. Of course I can.

However, after a weekend of vegetation, you can guarantee that I will be busy planning the following weekend, filling it with lots of new experiences…

I have been busy snapping away as I start to tick things off my bucket list, taking photos of all the amazing places and new experiences I have had. When I am having one of those days when I feel like I am plodding along again, I can look back and remind myself of everything I have achieved.