My Parisian Weekend: A Lesson in Self-Care

I spent the last few days of my 10 week Middle Eastern trip in Paris, oddly enough.

It made sense to go. After all, I’m moving abroad in a few weeks (although OMFG, am I repressing the hell out of my feelings right now), and because I haven’t seen one of my dearest school friends in Paris since she moved there from London five years ago, I thought I would quickly pass through before it became another five years of us just occasionally meeting for (albeit incredible) Indian food in the streets of where we grew up.

It was a beautiful three days.

IMG_1525
I didn’t even take this photo on this trip, because I literally did nothing but go to the local supermarket, Chinatown and stay indoors.

Because, ignoring shoving my huge 60L full-to-capacity backpack on the Parisian Metro during morning rush-hour from the airport to her home (I advise against this), and being refused entry on my Eurostar train to take me home to London because I was a mere five fucking minutes too late for check-in, meaning I had to pay extra and get home later, the damn money swindlers (I also advise against this), it was a relaxing weekend.

A relaxing weekend because it was filled with wine, wine, wine!

I joke, but after not having had a drink in over two months, it was great to simply sit back with a joint, a glass of chilled white and enjoy some fabulous company.

But yet, I didn’t just learn about how delicious a cheap wine can be. Nope. Because I also learned about self-care, and just how important it is.1I’ve been wanting to get into self-care for over a year now, ever since I read a book on Hygge that my bestie bought me, and whilst I’ve been reading advice from fellow bloggers on perhaps doing a weekly bath with candles and scents, or meditating, or buying some flowers, etc. I’ve never actually done anything suggested, or even attempted to. And that’s largely because I thought that, in reality, I genuinely had enough self-care in my life.

You see, when I’m not travelling, I’m usually exercising three to four times per week, doing face-masks, cooking, painting my nails, reading a book, buying soy caramel machiattos for an extortionate price, etc. In essence, I do quite a damn lot of self-care, and to do any more would just be selfish compared to those who don’t even have enough time to sit down and have dinner.

Or so I thought.

Because it wasn’t until I went to Paris and visited my friend did I realise that I was doing ‘self-care’ all wrong.

I was doing it wrong because I was doing self-care with a controlled, critical mindset: ‘You must exercise, so you look good’ (not ‘you should exercise, so you feel good.’)

‘You must do this face-mask, to try and reduce your acne’ (not, ‘you should do this face mask, so your skin is brighter and healthier.’)

‘You must paint your nails, because they’re weak and destroyed and putting colour on them will deflect attention’ (not, ‘you should paint your nails, because you’ll love it.’)

And so on and so forth. 2I was doing self-care physically, but mentally… certainly not. Yet in Paris, we went FULL-ON! Each night was filled with delicious vegan dinners (ignoring dieting, calorie counting or any other form of restriction), desserts of cookie sandwiches stuffed with huge hazelnuts and salted caramel ice-cream, decadent hot chocolate laced with rum, gorgeous, crisp, unlimited wine, and days spent doing nothing but lazing about, watching the likes of Nip/Tuck and Insecure and having long, hot showers.

I didn’t think about anything but the enjoyment of it all, and it felt fucking good.

So now I’m back in the UK, having just watched the World Cup final, and I’ve got a homemade tomato sauce on the stove, a sugar scrub for my body, and I’ve picked out a polish for my toenails later. I’m doing self-care right tonight, because I’m doing it positively. I’m thinking of how lush my skin will feel once its soft and moisturised to perfection, of how my toenails are going to pop in the wedges I’ll wear tomorrow because we have gorgeous weather at the moment, and of how stuffed and satisfied I’ll feel after a healthy meal at home and not on the road. I mean, I’m finally in my own kitchen again, with access to a huge range of ingredients and utensils!

Put simply, being in Paris with my girl who is big into self-care (indeed, she was doing a cocoa-coffee-sugar lip scrub whilst I was doing my eyeliner in the same mirror), has inspired me to actually follow suit this time. Hell, I might even wake up earlier tomorrow and do a sunrise yoga routine, just because I’m in the mood to nourish my body and mind. And really, why should I argue with that?

I Hate Your Face When We Argue

I hate your face sometimes.

Really. Truly. Hate it.

Completely. Absolutely. Wholeheartedly.

I’m even scared to look at it at the worst of times.

And on some days, some nights, some moments, I’ll actually actively try to avoid looking: I’ll avert my gaze, turn my head away, refuse to pick up your FaceTime call even though I know I will and so do you, so what’s the point in waiting, I may as well just pick up as soon as it rings.

I hate your face sometimes because I love it so much.

And do you know how annoying that is? The fact that I lose arguments with you because as soon as I glance at your fucking face, I find it so beautiful and so irresistible that I can’t help but fall in love again?

It’s infuriating.

And so I implore you, darling, to please kindly turn your face away from mine when we debate – or better yet, to leave the room entirely so I can yell to you or call you on your phone,* just so, you know, I at least stand a chance at winning for once.

*But not FaceTime!

Shooting Stars in Wadi Rum

I wished upon a star last night.

Is that how the saying goes? Or is it:

I wished upon a shooting star?

Either or really, I suppose it doesn’t particularly matter, but I saw my first ever shooting star last night, and I made my first ever wish upon it.

I’ve only ‘seen’ shooting stars in films and television shows, where they are almost always shrouded in romanticism and beauty – with couples or children or those with dreams suddenly silenced as they look in awe at the trail of light beaming across the darkened sky. I had always wanted to witness the phenomenon, and in a very specific way. It was to be in the dead of night, with a blue-black darkness as a backdrop and only the slight ruffle of wind for noise, curled up against a lover on the soft rug we had placed on the dewy grass earlier in the evening.

But I didn’t have my lover, or any grass, or a comfortable rug, and it certainly wasn’t quiet or even entirely dark. Indeed, if you squinted hard enough, you could see the lights from our camp. Instead of my ideal, I had a fellow traveller lying beside me that I had met only three days prior, a mattress close to falling apart, plenty of warm desert sand, wild dogs barking and territorial in the distance, and a cup of sweet, sweet Bedouin tea. It wasn’t my dream, but it was perfect nonetheless.

I saw my star in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, an area of protected natural beauty where sections of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. A place of tranquility, calm and an abundance of stars and moonlight once the night settles in. I saw my star after the lovely woman I was with pointed out the Big Dipper constellation and as I tried to find Orion’s Belt. We both got excited, because even though she’s seen many (including two over the weekend as we camped under the stars in Wadi Musa), it still felt magical.

I asked for the same thing I always ask for when I blow out candles on my birthday, or when I pray or when, years ago when I would eat meat, me and my Dad would fight for the wishbone of the chicken my Grandma had roasted for Sunday lunch. Yet when I saw the second shooting star, only a short while after the first, I made another wish – one that I never thought I’d make, and one which, deep down, I’m not sure will come true no matter how much I may desire it.

I’m Moving Abroad for a Year and I’m Actually Really F*cking Nervous

I booked my flights to Asia today, and I’m actually really (pardon my French) fucking nervous.

And I’m not nervous in my typically exaggerated sense, such as when I ‘panicked’ on finding out I was travelling the Middle East during Ramadan, but nervous in the traditional sense. My blood is thrumming lowly through my body, my heart is beating just that bit quicker and I can feel a light-but-ever-present tension since my flight confirmation came through. My neck, my arms, my shoulders, every part of my body, is just that bit more rigid, that ounce more stiff, unable to relax no matter how much I inhale and exhale and eat to distract.

I’m overthinking everything but nothing.

In fact, I know that if I think about it too much, I may have a full-blown panic attack.

So actually, even though I’m blocking all coherent thought out, I’m incapable of blocking the feelings out.

2018 Travel Goals - India
Living life in Pushkar. India was my first long-term solo trip

Because this summer, I’ll be leaving my home to go on my longest solo trip ever – to teach English in South East Asia. My year long draft contract has come through, I’ve been in contact with the two lovely women I’ll be living with, and I’ve even ‘met’ some of my colleagues at the school via a Skype meeting with my supervisor.

It’s real.

It’s real and it’s happening, very much so. And not like how I thought moving to Colombia was happening. This is genuine.

I’m moving abroad for a year. This is considerably more time than the two to three months I typically spend abroad, such as when I went to India in January 2017, or to Thailand, Cambodia and Bali in September 2017. Hell, even right now… I’m only in the Middle East for a couple of months. This will be for a year.

I’ve desired this since I was 16 years old (when I first discovered my love of history and different cultures because I was obsessed with my Eastern European history class) and the utter want to move abroad and discover and learn something new has never died down. Ignored and pushed away certainly, but never entirely forgotten. So it’s not like the excitement and amazement that I’m doing this nine years later isn’t present, it’s just that those feelings are currently heavily buried under the sheer amount of nerves I’ve already mentioned I’m blocking out.

DSC01197
I always find green spaces quite calming. Maybe I should look at this for a while…

Also, I find that, on all of the travel blogs I’ve personally followed, I’ve not read one article on people who are freaking the hell out because they’re moving abroad. Or if they are, it’s mentioned in passing and then neglected as they write about all the things they’re instead excited about (although perhaps they’re too blocking the feelings?). But I can’t do that yet. I’m too nervous about what I’ll potentially miss than to write about what awaits.

Because my nerves are only because I’ll miss people. Everything else, like culture shock, keeping my veganism in a heavily based meat country, finding make-up that won’t break me out, etc. can be dealt with once I’m in the country, and I actually look forward to those challenges (although maybe not the make-up one!), but it’s just… this feeling, I’m not sure how to remedy. I mean, can I really look forward to missing people like I’m looking forward to the hardship of everything else?

5
But at least they have good tea and coffee where I’m going…

Firstly, I’m worried that I’m throwing something good away. That I’ve found someone who I absolutely adore, and who I believe adores me, and that I might ruin it all by leaving. Notwithstanding the fact he’s 100% supportive of this, I can’t help but think about what could be, and the affect and changes this will cause.

Then, I’m worried about my friends. I have the most amazing friends. Friends who I’m blessed to have. Friends who I miss the most whenever I go travelling: I send them voice messages when I’m in a club and ‘our songs’ come on, drunkenly screaming the lyrics at them, I message them everyday with stupid pictures and facts and they do too. I’m literally in love with them. And even though I know our relationships won’t change, I keep worrying that I’ll miss the important things. I mean, what if one gets married? And another pregnant? Or, oh God, maybe someone has a house-warming party because they’ve finally managed to get on the bloody expensive property ladder and they now have an actual mortgage!? I would love to attend. My point is, is that I would want to be there for all of it, and it bothers me that I may not.

Lastly… it’s my family. My Mum is literally one of my best friends, and the prospect of only seeing her once in the year if she can fly out to see me, is quite upsetting. We speak pretty much everyday, and see each other when we can. I’m already missing the Brasilian restaurant with its passion fruit caipirinhas we frequent in Camden Town, alongside our shopping trips where I usually ask her to buy me shoes and hats I don’t need because I’m a cheapskate.

My brothers will grow older, and that will be strange too, to not be there as it happens. I’ll be buying my Dad and stepmum presents from across the globe (as I already am for Fathers Day, as I’m in Jordan), and thinking about my return journey, when they’ll be there to greet me upon my return at the airport, is already making me quite happy – and I’ve not even left yet!

IMG_1256
Looking into the seas in Lisbon

I can write a much longer blog post about each of the people I’ll miss and why. I could probably turn it into a novel with just how many words it would be, but I’m refusing to do that here as I’ll probably end up cancelling the trip due to homesickness before I’ve actually left home!

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for this opportunity – I always am when I travel because I recognise how much of a privilege it is – but damn, the nerves are getting to me tonight. I don’t think I realised, in the months between getting the job and then getting prepared to leave England, that I would be this affected. I thought that excitement and dream fulfillment would be the overriding emotions by a long shot. Not this dull terror. Because I really am quite frightened now that it’s actually happening, and I’ll be honest, if the right people seriously asked me to stay, I would consider jacking in the job strongly. But, as aforementioned (because I do need to keep reminding myself too), I’ve wanted exactly this since I was 16, and it may be a good idea to also have some stability for a while.

But this, this dream that has plagued me and shaped my life immensely over the past two years… is, dare I say, coming true, and yes, I’m worried.

 

The Olive Trees of Ajloun

From the ancient ruins of Jerash to the nature reserve of Ajloun, you can smell the olive trees.

As the minibus rumbles along, winding through large valleys and small towns where stalls sell qatayef and nuts with nougat, the scent that enters through the open windows is distinctive and homely.

It reminds me of my Dad’s Italian cooking – olive oil with balsamic vinegar; chopped olives in a fresh tomato sauce; olives served as an antipasti alongside cheeses, cured meats and wine. Olives straight from the jar in the fridge as a snack.

It reminds me of passages from religious texts, where these trees are mentioned so frequently. This must be what the Mount of Olives smells like in Jerusalem, and the Garden of Gethsemane. I want to take my Mum there one day.

The scent of the olive trees, only prevalent for 10 minutes or so, are comforting.

Sunday Mornings

I love Sunday mornings with you.

And because of that. I feel odd.

I wouldn’t say I’m lonely right now, not quite that, as I lie here this Saturday night. But that’s only because I have an energetic little kitten playing beside me, nibbling my fingers and licking my cheek as I settle down to sleep. (I wonder, would you let her sleep in bed with us? You probably would, because she makes me smile and you love when I smile. Besides, you like cats too).

But… I feel odd though, because it’ll be her I wake up next to tomorrow morning, and not you. It’ll be her attacking my feet and making me jump, rather than your body pressed tightly against mine, your arms wrapped around me, my hands clasping yours, as you kiss me gently awake.

My Sunday morning won’t start with you… and it’s a strange feeling.

Usually we wake up slowly, dreamily, lazily. I kiss your warm cheek and nudge my leg further against yours as you stir.

We’re often stuck together from sweat.

I smile when that happens. I smile because it means we’ve spent the whole night entwined, unable to part even for a minute in unconsciousness.

When you press your lips to mine for the first time on a Sunday morning, my heart beats quicker. When you tell me that you wake up so frequently during the night just to take in the fact that I’m the one sleeping beside you. That you’re spellbound because you’re in awe of me, because you love me, because you want me, because my head feels so perfect on your chest. I still can’t believe that I’m the one who ignites these feelings in you –  I mean, fuck, I’d looked at you for so long, and you had no idea. But now… I feel so loved by you, and I hope you know that I so love you too.

We have brunch together on Sunday mornings. Often hurried, because we like to laze away curled up in bed, toes pressed against shins. Cereal for you. Toast for me. The news or the sports channel on TV. You chow down and rush to get ready as I laugh at you and roll my eyes lovingly. Because this happens every time.

‘They won’t mind if you’re late,’ I call from the living room, spooning sugar into my coffee.

‘You’re wrong!’ you respond, stumbling about, trying to find your shorts, your sock, your trainers, in the bedroom. ‘Look,’ you emerge, patting your hair down as you shove your phone into my face, ‘all from my cousin! He texts every five minutes telling me to hurry up, hurry up, four minutes, two minutes… I was supposed to be there 10 minutes ago! They’re going to be pissed!’ But you’re smiling as you say it, and I’m sorry darling… but I really do have to delay you by another 10 minutes, because you look so wonderful and so damn hot in your football gear, that I find I can’t stop kissing you.

‘What’re you up to today?’ You ask, when we eventually make our way down to your car – you to go to the pitch, me to the tube station.

‘Brunch with the girls from university.’ You raise an eyebrow.

‘But we just ate.’

I shrug and grin. ‘I like food.’ You lean over and kiss me.

‘And I like you.’

Sunshine Blogger Award!

Ah! My twentieth blog post is about an award I’ve been nominated for!

My face is just full of smiles. ❤

When I first got the notification regarding the Sunshine Blogger Award, I was seriously ecstatic, and now I’m looking forward to spreading the love to other bloggers!

The rules are:

-Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog

-Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you

-Nominate your favourite bloggers to receive the award, and write 11 questions for them

-List the rules and display the award logo on your post and blog.

So thank you so much for the award, KingKelseyxo, because this genuinely made me grin! x

1) What’s the last song you listened to?

Hmm… I believe it was a popular Arabic song. I’m currently in Jordan, so the only music I’ve been hearing lately has been Arabic. However, the last song I played on my iPod was probably something by Jack White, who’s voice I am in love with!

2) Do you watch blogs? If so, recommend someone?

I don’t really watch vlogs or anything, but I am obsessed with a few bloggers, including my absolute darling: This Battered Suitcase, who I credit as the one person who inspired me to take that first plunge to change my life and finally travel solo.

3) Who’s your favourite female animated character that isn’t Disney?

You know, I haven’t really watched any animated shows or films for years, so off the top of my head… I’m not too sure. Although I am obsessed with The Incredibles, so I’d have to say Violet Parr or Edna Mode!

4) What’s your favourite song from 2004?

Quite a specific date! *Googles quickly.* Damn, 2004 was a good year for music! Out of the quick selection Google has provided me with, I’d have to go with Eminem’s Just Lose It or Kevin Lyttle’s Turn Me On. That was a hard choice though! Especially because I know that at that point, I was in love with Within Temptation and Nightwish too.

5) If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

6) What’s your usual order from McDonald’s?

Chips. As I’m attempting veganism, I can’t order much, but when I was just vegetarian… Smarties McFlurry all the way!

7) If you have £1000 and only one hour to spend it, could you do it?

Of course I could. I’d just book some flights.

8) You just got a cat/dog, what do you name him/her?

This is dependent on the personality of my animal. However I’m quite fond of food names for animals because I’m quite fond of food. Otherwise, it may be a name entirely unexpected for an animal, such as Enid.

9) What’s your Hogwarts house?

Ravenclaw.

10) What’s your favourite game to play on your phone?

I’m so boring, I don’t have any games!

11) What colour do you look best in?

Probably black or yellow. Secretly I’m a bumblebee.

So here are my nominations, because I absolutely adore reading your words!

Twenties Daybrook

Printed on a Chutney Jar

Discovering Ireland and Beyond

Bumbags and Bikinis

The Chic Belle

Nunzia Dreams

And my 11 questions are:

  1. What’s your dream holiday destination and why?
  2. What book would you recommend for summer reading?
  3. What outfit or accessory makes you feel fabulous?
  4. On a typical Sunday morning, what would you be doing?
  5. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  6. Do you have any role models? If so, who are they?
  7. What is something on your bucket list?
  8. Tea or coffee?
  9. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
  10. If there was one change you would like to see in the world, what would it be?
  11. Do you have a favourite fairy-tale? If so, what is it?

Thanks for reading!