How to live mindfully

What is mindful living and why does it make you happier and more productive?

Living mindfully means being present in the here and now. This sounds very easy, but it’s quite difficult. If you focus on your thoughts, you’ll soon notice that you’re either rethinking the past or worrying about the future. With mindful living, we can find a balance between those two. It’s important to acknowledge that we learn a lot from the past and we also want to work on our goals for a better future. However, if we only focus on the future, we postpone our happiness for after we reach those achievements. For example, you have to finish a project at work and feel like you have to make offers now. You decide that after you’ve finished this project you will feel happy. Or you are studying and only focus on passing your exams. You can’t have fun, because you need to study hard, but you think that after you’ve passed your exams you will be happy.

This seems smart, but eventually, when you’ve gotten to the finish line, you won’t feel happy. Why doesn’t it make us feel happy when we reach this goal? The reason is that we fell into the trap of living a goal-oriented life. Every time we finish something, we set an even bigger goal and every time we postpone our happiness and freedom. This means that if you only think about the goal, you can’t be happy now.

If we only live a goal-oriented life, it means that when we don’t reach that goal, all our work was for nothing. I experienced this myself when I was trying to make a video. I had been working on it all day long, but during the editing, I noticed that it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I decided that I should film it again the next day. Because I was goal-oriented, I felt that I hadn’t been productive that day and I felt quite frustrated, but when I called my sister, she told me that it’s not always about the goal. I did a lot that day, I learned what I didn’t want my videos to look like and this way I gained experience! My lesson for that day was that life is about the journey, gaining experience and enjoying the progress.

Therefore living mindfully is very important for our mental wellbeing. If we live mindfully, failing doesn’t exist, only learning and developing ourselves. Besides, being present in the moment can also make us more productive, because instead of thinking about one big scary goal, we focus on the small steps we can take today. This has many benefits: we tend to have less stress, it’s easier to concentrate and we also experience more joy and creativity.

In conclusion, living mindfully is the key to being happy and successful!

The advantages of Journaling

If you ask successful people how they achieve their goals, chances are that they’ll advise you to keep a journal. While it may seem silly, or time-consuming, it has many advantages.

The truth is that I felt quite unsure about journaling for a long time. I had been working on my productivity and motivation for years and I often read that journaling daily should be part of that journey, but I just didn’t seem to have time for it. Only recently I decided to put my notebook to good use and I started journaling once a week. Somehow I got so motivated along the way that I journal every day now! Anyone can find time to journal once a week, right?

What is so special about writing things down in a notebook and how can it help you?

Well, first of all, you can use journaling for remembering your good ideas. When we write things down, we can always read them back. Research shows that we have between 60.000 and 80.000 thoughts a day. If some of those thoughts are any good, you should probably write them down before your mind gets filled with new thoughts. Our brains are constantly searching for new information, and that’s why we get distracted all the time. Therefore, it’s simply impossible to remember all our good ideas.

Secondly, you can use journaling for accountability. Writing down goals and plans on paper makes us more likely to do those things. Somehow the fact that it is written on paper makes it feel like an obligation. If we check our notebook and see we didn’t reach our goals, we feel guilty. On the other hand, if we only set the goal in our mind, it’s easy to get distracted again and forget about the goals we set in the first place. Besides, by writing down our goals we can easily keep track of our progress. It’s very motivating to see how we’ve grown when we look back at the goals we’ve already reached. This motivation keeps us going and inspires us to set more goals.

Lastly, you can use journaling to feel more grateful. If you write down the things that went well after a long day, you will focus more on those good things. It’s very easy to lose our minds in negative thinking, that’s why practising gratitude is so important. Believe it or not, but focussing on the good stuff makes you attract more good stuff. Just give it a try!

Let me know in the comments if you have more journal tips. Also, if you got enthusiastic after reading this, get yourself a notebook and start today!

How to plan sufficiently and pursue your dreams

Everyone has dreams, but many of us see them as not realistic. Like a very high mountaintop, they seem unreachable – only the very strong and brave ones can climb the Mount Everest. What if I tell you that that isn’t true? Everyone can climb that mountaintop, only it’s not possible to do it in one day. You will need preparation, training, belief in yourself and a lot of motivation. It might take you days or years, but it’s definitely possible.

So if you want to work on making your dreams become reality, start planning! Get your notebook ready and take the following steps:

What is your dream?

Ask yourself the following question: ‘What would I do if I couldn’t fail?’ I came across this question and it’s eye-opening how we often don’t see our real dreams as an option.

So, write down your real dream. Think big and, but also consider the details. For example, ´I am going to have a very successful business´ is an amazing goal, but it’s unclear and this makes it difficult to make it a reality. Instead, if you want to start a business, think about what you want to sell, to whom and where etc.

If you can’t choose a fixed goal, you can start with a brainstorm and from there choose a goal for this month and then for the next month etc. It is also possible to choose to work on several goals at the same time and plan in how much time you will spend on this goal every day or week. I recommend you to not choose more than 3 goals, because you’ll risk doing everything half and not succeeding.

Turn ideas into action

Maybe your dream seems very big and unreachable, but what if you dedicate 1 hour a day or a few hours a week to that dream for one year? The chances of realizing your dream are getting bigger and bigger. Therefore, try to move forward each week, doing small tasks that lead you to your goal. To set up your business or get that job, what do you have to do in three months, in one month and a week? Divide your big goal into manageable smaller goals.

Which actions do you have to take each consistently to get closer to your goal? Break them down into small steps that are achievable in for example one hour. Find your rhythm and decide whether you want to spend an hour a day on your goals, maybe two evenings a week or one whole day a week. Write down a checkmark in your agenda just after you finish your tasks. This way you can track your progress. If spending an hour is difficult at the beginning, promise to do 15 minutes every time and write down your checkmark. These small wins keep you motivated.


Don’t forget to evaluate your progress and keep on planning. Every Sunday night you can evaluate how the week has gone and decide which steps you want to take next week. You can use a diary, an agenda or a planner, but make sure to be organised. Also, sometimes things don’t go as expected and maybe you won’t succeed immediately. Be grateful for everything that comes on your path and see your journey as a chance to learn a lot. Every obstacle you overcome gives you more experience and makes you stronger.

Keep in mind that everyone has bad days. Don’t beat yourself up when you didn’t reach your goal for that week. Do try to stay motivated and think about why you want to make your dream reality. Whatever happens, keep on working on pursuing your dream. The world needs your talents and knowledge!

How to be strong in difficult times

How can we stay strong in difficult times? At the moment our countries are going through a crisis. The coronavirus is spreading quickly and many people are struggling. It is very easy to get swept away in all the bad news. Of course, we feel sad for people who got sick or even passed away and we are also worried something bad will happen to us or our loved ones. However, this mindset won’t get us far. If we feel sad and afraid all day, we won’t have the energy for work, studies and other important things.

On the other hand, in our society not caring about others is perceived as egocentric or even cold. We believe that it makes you a better person if you have mercy for everyone who is having a difficult time, but this is not entirely true. Having empathy (identifying with others and sharing their feelings) does make you a nicer person – being empathic leads to having better relationships and therefore more satisfaction in life. However, empathy appears in three phases and the most important phase is the one where we go on with our lives.

In the first phase of empathy, people identify with the other; we notice the other person’s feelings. Secondly, we go through the phase of incorporation and resonance, which means that we feel what the other is feeling. The third and most important is the separation phase: we cut ourselves loose from the other person and continue our life. Many people forget this phase and they carry the sadness and worry of many people with them, which can cause burnouts or emotional fatigue.

It is not egoistic to forget about other people’s problems for a while. It is very important to go back to our own feelings and save energy. We need to take care of ourselves first. This way, we can spend our energy on our work, hobbies and development. We will grow and gain more energy, so when another friend needs our help, we can be there for them. If you are feeling sad for everyone who suffers and another person asks for your help, you won’t be able to listen to them because you already feel drained. So eventually, not going through the separation phase results in helping fewer people.

Imagine what the doctors go through in these difficult times. If they go home and feel sad for all the sick people, they will feel tired the next day and can’t do their work well. On the contrary, if the doctors go home and forget about the situation, they can relax with their family and have a good night of sleep. As a result, they will have more energy the next day and they can dedicate fully to their work. This is why being egoistic is often a healthy thing to do.

So, how exactly can we become stronger and take a break from the suffering? To begin with, we can learn how to accept the things we can’t change. Many things simply don’t lie within our power. For example, in today’s situation, we can’t heal millions of people. What we can do, is to socially distance ourselves to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The next thing we can do is choosing what we pay our attention to. Try to be grateful for the things that are going well and think positive! Maybe you can make a nice dinner and play games with your family to relax a little. This way you will have more energy later to help out others. Thus, in these difficult times, we have to be a little ‘egoistic’ first. It’s our responsibility and our duty to focus on the good stuff and to not lose our energy

How to gain more self-confidence

“Low self-confidence can certainly damage your life. If you are not assured in your skills and talents, you will be afraid of doing anything. Every act, every phrase, and every conversation will be a terrifying experience, each time.” – Richard Carroll

This was a quote I read recently and I thought many people should read this as well. We all want to be the better versions of ourselves and live a fulfilling life. Often advice on how to get that is about finding your passion or purpose, which is a piece of very good advice. The only problem here is that if you don’t know and, above all, don’t trust yourself, it will be pretty difficult to be sure about anything at all. This includes knowing what you really want to invest in when choosing which opportunities you should take.

The thing I’ve struggled with, and with me many others, was that I liked many things, but I didn’t know what it was that I absolutely loved. Besides that, I was afraid to go for one of those things I liked, in fear of missing out on the other things I also liked. I thought that if I would walk through one of those hundred doors, all the other doors would close and never open up again. 

To be able to find your passion and live your best life, it’s crucial to know yourself and, just as important, trust yourself. You’ve also probably heard about the phrase “know thyself”. According to some sources, this phrase had already been used by Socrates, and if people still use it after more than 2000 years, it must be useful. It can be interpreted in different ways, varying from knowing our limits and motivations to acknowledging our talents and truly accepting our shortcomings. These are all connected because to know our limits, we have to see and accept our shortcomings and to know what motivates us, we have to be aware of our talents.

So, how exactly do we get to know ourselves? I would say that it is by trial and error that we discover what we like and what we don’t like. Also, by making mistakes we experience what doesn’t work and we’ll have a chance to improve ourselves. It’s impossible to learn anything new if we don’t do things we’ve never done before. This means we have to get out of our comfort zone and start doing something we like (or we think we like) and gain experience! Also, we should stop worrying about what others might think. Haters will hate, but lovers will love. If you’re starting to ‘get out there’, you will gain fans and foes, but always try to stay positive.

I would like to hear about your experiences, so place a reaction below!

The wonders of Montserrat

It took me three visits to Montserrat to finally be able to write a blog about it. This mountaintop is famous for the black Madonna and her arrival still remains a great mystery. Legends said that she was found on the mountain in the year 880 after flashes of light shone down from heaven. No one knew how she ended up there on that mountain and the inhabitants of the village decided to build a church around the place where the Madonna was found. From that time on Montserrat has been visited by many pilgrims from all around the world. Even though some critics say that the statue was brought there by the villagers as a ‘marketing stunt’ to draw many visitors and earn money, the magic hasn’t faded away and many people still visit this beautiful place.

View on Montserrat

The first two times I visited this special place, I did the full pilgrim tour. This 3-hour walk up via a steep pathway provides you with the most wonderful views you have ever seen. This tour is only for real adventurers and when you arrive at the monastery, you can see the difference between the lazy crowd and the hikers. There are plenty of women wearing high heels and uncomfortable dresses. You will also see the typical not so sporty tourists and, of course, the old pilgrims who just come to pray. When I arrived in my hiking boots and sweaty t-shirt, I felt a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they didn’t know what they missed, because when I arrived at the top, I couldn’t but feel ecstatic and the Montserrat magic struck me like lightning; I was in awe of all I saw. 

Recently I visited Montserrat for the third time. Because it’s winter and no weather to go for a hike, we went up the mountain by train. However, when we arrived, the ambience felt less magical. Something was missing and I think that part of the Montserrat magic is the adrenaline kicking in after a long hike, resulting in a feeling of euphoria. I took my time to enjoy the views and because we didn’t ‘waste’ our time walking up the mountain, we actually had time to see the museum. I thought it wouldn’t be as magical as the first two times. Maybe I got bored of this place? But when most of the people were gone at the end of the day and the peace returned to Montserrat, I silently enjoyed the views and I felt it; the real Montserrat magic. For the third time, I saw why is was so amazed by this place.

Since Montserrat is not that far from Barcelona, many tourists stop by to see why this monastery is so special. Montserrat was so popular that it grew out to be quite big. On the mountain, you can find the church, the monastery, a museum, several restaurants, a shop, and even a hotel. The fun doesn’t stop there, because for the real adventurers there is yet more to explore. The area is quite big and different pathways lead even further uphill, to the higher mountaintops, where you can see the most amazing views and appreciate Montserrat’s nature. I never made it that far, but the next time, I might stay a little longer and sleep in the hotel to discover more of this interesting place.

The old year

For me travelling is an important part of my life. If I’m in the same place for too long, I get bored and I feel stuck. Seeing new places gives me energy and inspiration. A good journey doesn’t always have to involve going to another country. Just seeing another part of our city or a village close by can be enough to feel free and get in that holiday mood.

Last year I visited a lot of places in Catalonia. I can’t even remember all of them, but I’ve tried my best to map them out.

Because there are so many of them and I really love little lists, I decided to make a top 5:

  1. Montserrat
  2. La Mola (read about it in ‘Climbing mountains’)
  3. Tarragona (read about it in ‘When the Romans came to Spain’)
  4. Tossa de Mar (read about it in ‘Sand castles and other fairy tales’)
  5. Rupit

Last year I also went to many places in the Netherlands when I visited my family and in the summer I travelled to Prague, which is an amazing city! I don’t know why I’ve never written an article about that one. This will bring me to the things I will do differently next year.

Looking back on 2019, I realise that I want to travel to see more of Spain (because it’s a big country). Second of all, I want to write more about my discoveries and adventures.

The new year

On new year’s morning I woke up with a clear mind. Even though it was early, I decided to start my day. This was a new year after all and I really felt this energy of new year’s resolutions burning inside of me. When I made my morning tea, the quote on the teabag made me think.

“Experience will give you the power and confidence to be you.”

This year I want to be more productive, more enthusiastic, more grateful and happier. Last year I felt that “the grass is always greener on the other side”. I imagined that I would feel happier if I worked more, travelled more, had a more interesting life, and so on. Besides of that, I never really put all my effort in my work, because I felt a lack of experience to do certain jobs. This is where the quote comes in. We all feel more powerful and confident when we have experience. But how do you get experience? By doing things instead of waiting to learn them automatically. This year I want to start doing instead of thinking.

The second thing I really want to do this year is to be happier and by doing that to make others happier. The art of being happy is defined by feeling grateful and seeing the wonders that are right in front of us. Sometimes we’re lucky and we call it serendipity, but if we appreciate these little winks of the universe, we can find more joy.

For me 2020 will be a year full of hard work, energy, patience and love. Do you want to join me? Let’s get into a positive cycle and create energy together. What will your 2020 be about?

When life gives you lemons…

Less than a year ago moving to Spain and following my dreams sounded like an illusion or at least a crazy idea that would not work out as planned. Even though I managed to overcome my fear and move away, I must say that things, in fact, didn’t work out as planned. There were some difficulties along the way. But was the struggle worth it? (Spoiler: yes, it was!)

My first struggle was that I didn’t find a full-time job because I wasn’t registered here, but when you don’t have a job you can’t register. Very logical, right? So, this vicious circle registration process got on my nerves. Eventually, with a little help from a lawyer, I finally got things done.

Before I left, I imagined finding a “real” job within a few weeks, what a deception! However, life turned out more rose coloured than I expected because my part-time teaching makes me happy. Seeing little kids interested in the beautiful language English is, is priceless. With extra time on my hands, I decided to study a master in Emotional Intelligence and NLP.  I didn’t plan to start studying again, but now I am kind of grateful that finding a full-time job didn’t work out. My master relates to sociology and comes in handy while teaching. I even do my master in Spanish to improve my language skills and in the hope to get rid of my silly accent.

The second struggle that came on my path was that I didn’t feel at home in Barcelona. I missed the flat green Dutch landscape, stamppot (a Dutch dish that many foreigners find terrible), and above all, my family. Before I left, I imagined I would feel at home immediately while eating paella and getting a nice tan. Unfortunately, this had been a lie. Even though Spain is beautiful and the weather is a gift from the gods, for me it turned out to be difficult to leave my homeland. I felt very “unrooted”, while I also loved being in Spain and wanted to stay here. After 7 months I finally feel that Barcelona is my home. My second home, because I will always be a Dutch girl.

Despite my fears, things turned out better than I ever imagined. I still can’t believe that I really moved to another country and I am curious what the future might bring. I bet it’s beyond what I can imagine.

Lastly, I will give you my recipe for good luck. When life gives you lemons, make ceviche. For those of you who don’t know yet, this is a raw fish dish with a lot of lemon juice, fresh onions, coriander and many other things. You will love it!

Are there any fellow wanderers who want to share their experiences about getting used to another country and learning a new language? I am curious about your stories, so leave a reaction below!

When the Romans came to Spain

A little bit south of Barcelona, on the beautiful east coast of Spain, there is a magical city called Tarragona. This city is special (and famous) because of its ancient Roman ruins and architecture. Tarragona didn’t only preserve many Roman monuments, but it’s also the oldest Roman city in Spain. Besides that, the city also has an amazing beach and from the higher parts of town a great sea view. From Barcelona, it’s just a one-hour train ride to this intriguing town.

The highlight of this city is “El Camino del Diablo”. We read about it online, but as it’s further away from the city centre, many people don’t go there. We, however, decided to walk in the footsteps of the Romans and take on this challenge. To go on this devil’s hike, we had to take a bus that brought us to a nature park outside of the city centre. We got out of the bus and continued our way through the beautiful forest.

The sun burned our skin and the pathway ascended. We patiently followed the signs that said “Pont del diable” (Catalan for “devil’s bridge”).   After walking uphill for quite a while, we finally saw the masterpiece of Tarragona, the Roman aqueduct. This construction of 27 metres high and 217 meters long is very impressive. It used to be 25 kilometres long, but unfortunately, the rest didn’t survive.

Back in the days, the aqueduct was used to transport water from rivers and other sources to the cities and towns. The passage through which the water used to find its way, now functions a bridge. It’s possible to walk on top of the aqueduct. Even though it’s an amazing experience to be able to see the forest from up there, this walk is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. This little devil’s hike made us suffer, but it was a great experience.

Except for the devil’s bridge, there are many other things to see in the beautiful city of Tarragona. Earlier that day, when we arrived at the station, we saw the beach on one side and on the other side ancient-looking staircases that brought us up to a wonderful park. We headed to the other side of the park where we could see the amphitheatre. We soon discovered that you can enter (the remains of) the theatre and walk around to see everything. The entry ticket only costs a few euros and includes three other roman constructions.

After fantasizing about the ancient times and taking pictures of the sea sight, we went to the archaeological museum that is located in the old Roman circus that was used to host horseraces. Here we saw many roman objects and statues and of course the remains of the circus. We continued our journey and head to the city walls that surround the old city centre. Walking along these walls provides a great view of the city. the walls are well preserved and with the wonderful gardens, it really is a magical stroll.

The city centre of Tarragona is also worth a visit. Here you can find cute streets with restaurants and shops, but the most outstanding piece of art is the old roman cathedral built in the 11th century.  We didn’t have time to go inside, because it was getting late and we wanted to do the devil’s hike. I didn’t regret my decision, because the hike was definitely worth it. However, if I were to visit Tarragona another time, I would stroll around the city centre to see more of the beautiful streets.

Our big adventure ended on the beach where we went for a well-deserved swim (it was very hot that day). We enjoyed the last rays of sunlight at the beautiful beach with nice clean water until it was time to catch our train back to Barcelona. 

Sandcastles and other fairy tales

The last few weeks I didn’t write a lot. I was busy with work, but I spent even more time thinking about work. I am the overthinking type of person and when my head gets too full, I like going to the beach to let the fresh breeze blow away all my thoughts. After my trips to the beach, I had the brilliant idea to write a text about all the beaches surrounding Barcelona. My aim was to visit all of them. As I’m also a perfectionist, I really wanted to do my research well. And guess what, I postponed writing this text because it’s impossible to visit all of them. However, when serendipity brought me to the most amazing beach in the world, I decided not to look any further and start writing.

First, I will tell you about the beaches that are nice but won’t sweep you off your feet. The famous beach of Barcelona is Barceloneta, located between the old city centre and the beautiful harbour. It’s a small beach and it’s great to lie in the sand or walk along the coast. However, when the temperatures are rising, it can get very crowded. That’s not the only disadvantage. The full beach is a magnet for street sellers – every few minutes someone is yelling or talking to you personally. The locals know about these discomforts and when the sun is coming out, they search their luck elsewhere.

Then there is Badalona. This is a small town north of Barcelona and you can get there easily by metro. The beach is big and there are some restaurants. There is a relaxed ambiance and it’s a good place to go for a swim. Another advantage is that there are not many people and only a few street sellers on weekdays.

The third beach I visited was Casteldefells, also not too far by metro. This village, south of Barcelona, has a big and beautiful beach. In contrary to Badalona, it’s not only good for sunbathing and swimming. Casteldefells also lends itself for long walks along the waterside. The beach is surrounded by beautiful green hills and a cute village. The first time I went there was on a Friday. There were only a few lost souls and it was very relaxing. The second time was on a Sunday. I didn’t expect it, but it was crowded. My conclusion is that it’s amazing and beautiful during the weekdays, but there are many people on the weekends.

I saved the best beach for last. My boyfriend accidentally stumbled upon this place when he was reading about towns in Catalonia. The name of the village with the winning beach is definitely Tossa de Mar. This is not just any beach. Tossa de Mar is a little village with its medieval buildings and atmosphere. The tiny romantic streets are beautiful and when you walk up the hill to see the castle and the breath-taking views, you will cry tears of happiness. Castle? Yes, from the beach you can see a castle and it’s amazing. It will only take a few minutes to walk up the hill. It was a great experience and I already know that I will go back there once I have a car. We took a rental car to go there and drove for one and a half hours. Actually, it took us longer, because the Spanish highways are nothing like the Dutch ones – they confuse the hell out of you.

Besides going to beaches in the last few weeks, I learned that I should not be such a perfectionist. When I drove to Tossa del Mar I was confused about how to interpret the signs along the road and how to find the way. This left me stressed, but when we eventually arrived it was worth it. Had I known that, I would have been more relaxed. Also, driving around and seeing great sceneries is not too bad when you have air-conditioning. What are we complaining about? So, my advice to myself and the stressed out readers is: keep in mind that life is not about the destination, but about the journey.