Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Reason Why I Travel

As soon as I saw these pics, they just screamed HAVANA to me. The deep turquoise contrasts beautifully with the zingy yellow of my dress and it just makes me daydream of warmer climes...even though it was shot in a stairwell in Peckham!

I haven't actually been to Havana (yet) but its visuals provide such a strong reference point, from the art nouveau and art deco architecture, vibrant colours and super cool classic cars. It's definitely high on my list of places to travel along with....well, everywhere.

You may have noticed on the blog and on social that I'm a bit of a moving target. Travel is one of my main passions, along with fashion and food. On average, I tend to travel somewhere once a month. Often short-haul trips to Europe along with a couple of trips to far-flung destinations a couple of times a year. It sounds decadent but exploring the globe is important to me and its something that I prioritise, much like people prioritise Chanel handbags or a new car. I guess I fit the millennial stereotype of preferring experiences to things. Every time I travel, I learn and grow as I discover a new place and a different culture. I go in with my eyes wide open and my arms flung wide, ready to embrace the new and broaden my experience.

I know I'm very blessed to be able to travel and I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to. I was bitten by the bug young, my parents would take us away as much as possible as kids, first to places in the UK like Cornwall, Loch Ness and the Welsh countryside and then to places like Florida or Australia to visit my family there. As I grew older, I took weekend breaks to Europe when I could afford to and explored places like Barcelona, Budapest and Marrakesh.

I would call these trips holidays as opposed to travelling. To me, there's a distinct difference - a holiday is just popping somewhere, enjoying it but not straying too far from the well-trodden tourist track whereas travelling is a much more intoxicating experience. It's peeling the layers back and really feeling a place, connecting with the people and immersing yourself in its culture. It's venturing off into the far corners and away from the well-beaten paths. Sometimes it means stepping out of your comfort zone but that's often where the magic begins.

Like most modern voyages of self-discovery, my transition from holidaying to travelling starts with heartbreak.  Four years ago I walked away from an abusive relationship and that little act of braveness has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. While I didn't experience physical abuse, the emotional and psychological abuse became so intense it nearly broke me. Isolated from my friends and practically a prisoner in my own home, I wasn't even a shell of my former self. I barely existed. Everything had been stripped away from me, I switched my emotions off and I was like a ghost.

When I walked away, the relief wasn't immediate. I felt numb for a long time, I guess I had gotten used to not feeling anything. Slowly I began returning to the 'old me'. The colour came back. I learned to smile, to go out and live without crippling fear and anxiety. Sometimes while I was having dinner or drinks with friends, I'd have silent moments where I was so thankful I had the freedom to go out that I nearly cried.

As the months passed, I realised that that relationship nearly killed me and I counted my blessings for escaping. I was determined to live, to make each day count. I relished my freedom and I felt like I could do anything I wanted. Life felt limitless. On a whim, I booked a flight. To Cambodia. In two weeks' time. I'd never been away on my own. I'd never been to Asia. I didn't even own a backpack. But I'll be damned if any of that was going to hold me back.

That trip to Cambodia was life-changing. Arriving with a newly purchased backpack and no idea where I was staying that night, I decided to fully embrace whatever came my way and live the fuck out of life. Over the next 2 weeks were like nothing I've experienced before. From waking up before sunrise to visit temples alone at sunrise in Siem Reap to drinking rooftop cocktails from a teapot with new friends in Phnom Penh, I was living joyfully, revelling in the cultural riches of this amazing new land. As each experience unfolded, I fell further and further in love with this beautiful country, with travelling and with myself.

Since then I've travelled to some incredible places including Vietnam, Malaysia, Bali, Myanmar, Kenya and Zanzibar. But Cambodia will forever hold a special place in my heart. It's a beautiful country with a rich, tragic history and the most wonderful people you could hope to meet on your travels. It's also the place where I pieced myself back together after being ripped to shreds. It felt almost like hitting the reset button, except I was stronger, wiser and more worldly than the 'old me'. It had such a profound effect on me that even now, four years on, I still feel a huge rush of emotions when I talk about it. It healed me in a way I never thought possible.

Sometimes the most unusual catalyst can propel you to unexpected places and sometimes you can find yourself in places that you've never been before. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to explore the globe and discover a little more of myself in each place that I've travelled to.

Dress - Topshop | Shoes (similar) - ASOS

Photography by Adorngirl. 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Life Update

Nine flights, seven beaches, four cities and one broken suitcase later and an epic two month period of crazy travel has finally drawn to a close. Even for a self-confessed travel junkie, that was a LOT of time in the sky and exploring different places. I've never missed London (or my bed) so much in my life! Now that the dust has settled, I wanted to write another quick life update, reflecting on my travels and the perils or practically living on planes!

After two long trips to San Francisco, I feel like I can call the city home. Not home-home like London but a second home. The second trip felt comfortable and familiar, like shrugging on a cosy old jumper. I knew the lay of the land, made a plan to hit up my favourite restaurants and really hit the ground running. As a traveller, I'm forever torn between wanting to explore new places and returning to old favourites. Sometimes it's nice to come back to a place which feels familiar.

In between my trips to the west coast, I also spent time on the east coast, returning to New York for the third time before heading off to a wedding in North Carolina and a week of blissful sunshine, pristine beaches and of course rum punch in Barbados.

Although that all sounds dreamy, it was actually very draining to constantly be on the go and living out of a suitcase for the most part. Sometimes I'd wake up not knowing where I was and my body clock was all over the place. I also ended up getting very sick on my return to London, I think my body had just given up by that point and knew it was "ok" to break down as I was finally back home.

I've been in London for 6 weeks now but only really feel like I'm starting to enjoy it now as I spent so long in bed. Bed rest and antibiotics really do work wonders! And now, thankfully, I'm back on my feet and looking forward to not leaving the country for about a month. I'm really looking forward to spending London in my city, soaking up the unbelievable sunshine we've been blessed with and getting my life back on track. Back to the gym, back to cooking and definitely back to weekly blog posts, which I've really been missing!

One of the best things about being away for so long is really appreciating the life I've built at home and being able to see it with fresh eyes. I've got a renewed focus and I've even set some goals for the rest of 2018. It's so good to be back!


Dress - ASOS | Heels - Aquazzura

Photography by Adorngirl

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thoughts on ageing from a 30+ blogger

There's nothing like approaching a birthday to make you stop in your tracks and take stock of your life. I'm a little sad that I wasn't actively blogging when I was approaching my 30th birthday as it's a huge milestone that I would have liked to have documented, but I feel like I made up for it six months ago when I shared my thoughts about my non-milestone 33rd birthday and how I'm looking forward to celebrating the shit out of life. I'm fast approaching my next half-birthday and while I'm wondering where the hell the last 6 months have flown, I'm also contemplating getting older and society's obsession with age. 

I touched on the topic of ageing and how society's perception pivots once you hit 30 in my previous post and I think it deserves its own blog post. My twenties were a blur and I feel like I only started coming into my own after I reached 30 and to me, it still feels young - with all going well I'm only *a third* of my way through my life. Yet the media is full of lists of things you should 'tick off' before you hit 30, presumably after that you're confined to a zimmer frame and unable to go bungee jumping or even do an epic road trip!

The blogosphere isn't much different from mainstream media. If I see one more post on about turning 29 and fearing "the big 3-0", I'm going to...realistically not do anything aside from not click the link but it's nauseating and further perpetuates this irrational fear of one more rotation around the sun. Blogging started out as the antithesis to the narrow beauty ideals that traditional media perpetuates but here we are, with 25-year-olds partnering with antiaging brands lamenting turning 30. 

I was overjoyed when the amazing Hayley Hall set up Thirty Plus, an inclusive blogger collective aimed at championing bloggers of ALL ages and interests. This is what the world needs more of; to see that your time on earth doesn't zap your worth, it increases it. It disproportionately affects women too. Women are taught that their age is a taboo subject and to worry about an imaginary clock tick-tick-ticking away while men are able to continue getting older without worrying that their age might affect their attractiveness, sexuality, career or how the world perceives them. 

My final thoughts on ageing? I feel prettier and more confident than I ever did during my "prime", despite the media trying their hardest to make me feel the opposite. As I've stumbled, made mistakes, grown and learnt, I have become a better human being and a more valuable member of society. I have discovered topics which are important to be, such as diversity, and have pivoted my blog content to reflect this instead of just focusing on what I'm wearing or have been gifted. The most profound change for me, as I've aged, has been on the inside. Youth is a gift of nature but age is a work of art. 

Top - River Island | Jeans - Topshop | Belt - Off White | Trainers - Fila

Photography by Adorngirl.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Setting Blogger Goals

Ok, I need to admit something. I'm really shit at setting goals. Not to toot my own horn but I have accomplished a lot in my 33 years on Earth but it always seems to be a happy coincidence as a result of hard work and reacting well to situations rather than meticulously planning where I want to be and working towards it. But after a couple of years of floating a little aimlessly, I'm coming around to the idea of setting goals and giving myself homework. 

Don't get me wrong, winging it has served me well for years. I graduated with a 2:1 from a great business school, became a director of an agency at 27, worked with the most prestigious brands in the world and I'm currently in my dream job. 

Aside from work, I've travelled a hell of a lot. Thirty-five countries at the last count. And this little blog, which I set up on a whim one evening from my bedroom at my parent's house in the Hampshire countryside over patchy wifi has done so well over the last decade. It's introduced me to some incredible people who I now call friends and bought so many collaborations with brands my way. One of the things I'm proudest of is being part of the British Fashion Council's Blogger Panel, fashion and supporting emerging designers are close to my heart and to have a nod of approval from the BFC was a true 'pinch me' moment. 

As I've grown older, I've become more focused on what it is that I want and also how precious life is. This is why I want to focus on setting myself goals, to take my long-term vision and turn it into short-term motivation. Having a huge goal can be inspiring but daunting, I often don't know where to start. But having a clearly defined vision helps to break down the smaller steps required to achieve that big goal. And each step forward is measured progress. 

So, what are my actual goals for the rest of 2018? I'm going to share what I have set out for my blog rather than my whole life: 

- Consistency. Working full time and blogging in my spare time means that focus on my blog flexes with the time I have available. I've fallen out of love with blogging, not had time and beaten myself up for being a "bad blogger". But over since 2017, I've found my groove and rediscovered the joy of writing and creating content. I want to be more consistent and write one post a week and also be more consistent about sharing my writing on social media. 

- Create authentic, meaningful content. Over the last year, I've really learned the impact of using my voice. My most popular posts have been the ones where I talk about my experience as a British Indian woman or talk about the pressure bloggers face. I want to keep creating content which resonates with my audience, makes a difference and is authentic to my values. 

- Grow my socials. I don't have a set goal of reaching 10k followers on Instagram because IG changes the goalposts on a bi-weekly basis and we all see the effects of this - follower numbers yo-yo-ing up and down and wildly inconsistent engagement. While I do want to grow my following, I don't want to be a slave to exact numbers and get upset with each setback. If I lose 15 followers overnight, I'm not going to worry about it too much as long as my overall number is growing monthly. 

- Continue to support young designers. I have been attending London Fashion Week for 8 years and Paris for 2 years. While the big-ticket shows are fun, what I love the most is discovering new designers before they have hit the big time. There's something so exciting about seeing raw talent and using my platform to support them. Fashion is a tough industry and I think it's so important to nurture young design talent. 

- Continue talks with young people. One unexpected opportunity which has come my way is giving talks to young people who are in college. In the last seven months, I've given two talks and it's been so rewarding. Talking about everything from my career journey to stress, dating and social media, I feel so fortunate to be able to share my journey to inspire the younger generations. I really enjoy doing these talks and want to do two more before the end of the year. 

What are your goals for the rest of the year?  

Tshirt - H&M | Skirt - Topshop | Heels - Aquazzura

Photography by Adorngirl.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Five Ways to Deal With Stress Positively

What a whirlwind life has been! In my previous post, I shared exciting news about my day job and shared that I will be travelling to the US a fair bit over the next couple of months. My first trip, a two-week stint in San Francisco, is over and I have two more trips to gear myself up for. But in the meantime, I have three days to prepare for a huge work event where I will be hosting a panel discussion. What's that saying, no rest for the wicked?! 

I'm not complaining, I actually relish a busy, stressful life. Being a Londoner, it seems to be the norm to be rushed off your feet rather than having a quiet life. But busy shouldn't be worn as a badge of honour. I love having a full plate and travelling but that doesn't negate the toll it's going to take on my body an mind. I'm really feeling the effects of jetlag and honestly, everything is feeling like a struggle. Waking up in the morning is a struggle, being able to fall asleep is a battle, there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything, where did all that laundry come from and do my friends even remember who I am?! 

Sometimes it feels like life is stacked against you and you're fighting against the world. At times like this, it's easy to react negatively. I can hold my hands up to reacting to stress by becoming irritable, short-tempered and snappy; I'm sure everyone reading this can attest to indulging in that behaviour. It's a natural reaction but I've realised it's so counter-productive and only serves to produce a cloud of negativity. Instead, I'm trying to be conscious about how I react to stress. I realised that we can't necessarily control the amount of stress in our lives but we can control our reactions to it and I've been retraining my brain to unlearn those negative knee-jerk reactions and reacting more positively. 

You know what, it has made a huge difference in my stress levels, my mindset and my overall happiness. I can honestly say that despite being hella tired, stressed and a little grouchy, I'm the happiest I have been for a long time. I attribute a lot of this down to shifting my mindset. I'm always one to spread good vibes so I wanted to share my top five ways to shift your mindset and deal with stress in a more positive way:

1. Switch off
When life is stressful, it is totally fine to withdraw slightly and take time for yourself. Cancel plans, take a raincheck on the gym, do what you need to do but put yourself first. Sometimes downsizing your obligations can be incredibly liberating and necessary. As an introvert, I actually *need* time alone to process and it's taken me a while to realise this is okay. 

2. Focus on solutions
It can be really easy to indulge and wallow in stress. I've definitely worn stress as a badge of honour and focused on how stressed I am instead of trying to fix it. But why waste that energy focusing on the problem rather than the solution? Instead of stressing about being wide awake till 3 am and waking up knackered after just 4 hours of sleep, I've focused on finding a solution - baths, sleep sprays, reading, sleep tea. I'm still jetlagged but I'm feeling better with each passing day because I realised I have the power to change my situation. I feel positive as I've taken ownership of my problem and taken steps to fix the situation. 

3. Reframe
I learnt to reframe from a wonderful therapist I saw a few years ago. Instead of dwelling on a problem or situation, we worked on reframing my mindset to think positively. This is helpful because some situations simply can't be resolved and I found that acknowledging that the issue is bigger than you can be freeing. It allows you to focus on the positive things and express gratitude. Expressing gratitude actually improves your psychological health by reducing toxic emotions. This tiny shift in my mindset has been extremely useful in dealing with the big stuff, like my mum's cancer or being made redundant. 

4. Random acts of kindness
Sometimes when you're most in need, the best thing to do is give. When you're feeling down or stressed, sometimes you need to be an agent of change and be the good you wish to see in the world. I try to practice kindness every day, especially when I'm down as it cheers me up and it's empowering to see that you can positively impact someone else's life. Whether it's offering someone your seat on the tube or giving your Deliveroo driver a hefty tip, try doing something nice for someone. 

5. Meditate
I'm a huge advocate of the benefits of meditation. It can help quiet your mind, give focus or clarity and help with healing. Recently, I've been far too exhausted to meditate "properly" so I've been turning to meditation music to help me find my centre. I found tons on YouTube which are set at various frequencies to help your body heal. I found this one useful to cleanse any anxiety, this one for healing and promoting positive energy and I pop this on when I'm sleeping as it's 6 hours long. I always wake up feeling much more refreshed. 

I hope my tips have helped!

Bodysuit - T by Alexander Wang| Camo pants - Missguided | Heels - Brian Atwood | Belt - Off White Jewellery - Topshop

Photography by Adorngirl
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