5 things I learned from one year of blogging

To be frank, I can’t believe it has been a year already. I remember vividly as I was setting up my blog on WordPress and how ecstatic I have been about choosing the most appropriate theme, layout and writing my first blog post. I posted a very simple introduction, saying hello to the world in a computer programming manner. Oh boy, have I been overly tacky. For a year now I have been blogging about anything from lifestyle, sports, travel, tips and hints and of course beauty. I might not have achieved a tremendous online success with my blog, but I have learned multiple things that might help you achieve yours. So get comfortable, because that’s going to be a one long post.

Reasons for setting up your blog

Let me start with elaborating on one of the most important things you should consider before starting-up your blog. Why do you want to become a blogger or why are you one? Do you want to share your inner thoughts? Do you want to have a personal outlet for your creativity? Was it always your dream to become a writer, but you never had a chance to try? Do you think it will make you famous and get numerous PR packages? When I first started, I have been right in the middle of preparation for an important exam. I needed something to distract me from constant studying and I have decided blogging would be a perfect solution. I believe now that I set up this blog for a wrong reason entirely. This was one of the factors influencing my ‘on and off’ involvement with it.

It was too much of a flash in the pan straight from the beginning. Only recently have I been really involved in working on the blog and perfecting my blogging skills. Hence, before you dive into blogging make sure you know exactly why you want to blog. My reason now is very simple; I simply enjoy writing down my thoughts and interacting with readers and other bloggers.

Blogging is hard work

You’d think blogging is simply typing for several minutes and inserting fancy photographs of flowers and your MacBook with a cup of coffee. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing takes a lot of time, research, choosing appropriate layouts, checking spelling and how well your post goes through search engines. Taking photographs for the blog takes ages, I’m not even exaggerating, ages. To set a perfect scene, make sure it’s correctly lit, everything is in the right position takes time, that you might not necessarily have while starting your blogging adventure. Keeping up with comments and interacting with other bloggers is time consuming as well and requires a lot of effort.

1. Don’t take shortcuts

At the beginning of my blogging adventure I tried to figure out who I want to become online. The Internet gives us unlimited possibilities of evolving and becoming anything we want. I have to admit I have taken several shortcuts that I thought would make my blog more viewable and… from lack of a better word, popular? I wanted all the splendour all successful bloggers have and I did write several (quite literally seven tops) comments like: “great post, visit me here” and I still feel ashamed. Can’t even describe how much I hate this kind of attitude. I learned that while taking shortcuts like that I start disliking blogging, instead of loving it even more. So I vowed to never ever take shortcuts. If it takes years to gain loyal readers that love my content – so be it, I can wait.

2. You don’t need fancy equipment

Before I started blogging, I used to think you need a MacBook PRO, newest iPhone, Canon digital camera and a spotless, modern house filled with fancy decor. I thought that only having all of that I’d be able to run my blog the way I wanted. That I could succeed if and only if I presented my blog in the exact same way that successful bloggers do. Right now, after an entire year of blogging, I know, that what you need is a simple phone and a computer. That’s it and it doesn’t have to be an Apple product 😉 I have started my blog on an old Samsung laptop I purchased in 2013 and an HTC u11 phone and hey, I’m doing just fine!

WordPress congratulations message

3. Write from the bottom of your heart

Another common misconception I used to believe was that you have to write what your readers want to read. That the fact I’m getting most likes and views on travelling posts means I have to focus primarily on just that. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If I did that I don’t think I would’ve kept blogging. I would be discouraged and unhappy. I didn’t start my blog to keep writing about the same, small niche. Honestly, I don’t even know if it’s possible to find a niche anymore. And if it is, I’m not sure I want to find my own. I want to write about anything I feel like at that moment and not focus on what others feel I should. Don’t get lost in all the likes, followers and views and simply write about anything you want.

4. Don’t loose yourself in blogging

At times it’s difficult to keep up with work, studies, personal life and blogging. There were several instances I stayed up late just to schedule a post (and I’ve only published maybe 5% of the ones I’ve written) and I cancelled posting because I felt it wasn’t good enough. I have rewritten that particular post 43 times and it still didn’t get published. I learned that sometimes you have to ditch the perfectionism and published what you wrote even if it’s not perfect. Don’t loose yourself in an endless loop of improvement and simply open up. This thought process has helped me accept that my posts will never be perfect and publish more often. You can find the post I’m talking about here.

5. Caring too much about SEO

I have used Yoast SEO plug-in for several months now and I’ve been stressing about SEO ever since. For some reason getting two smiley faces on each of my posts has become an obsession of mine. Quite honestly, it’s become my nightmare. I have never put much effort into my blog being overly popular and searched on Google, but I decided to try it out and I’m greatly disappointed. Not in the plug-in itself, it works perfectly well and has improved my results, but it also got me into a vicious circle of constantly improving my posts so that they perform better in SEO. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter how well your blog posts can be searched online if you end up hating blogging.

Blogging tips that I learned from successful bloggers

There is no reason I should re-write things other bloggers already covered, so instead I’m going to suggest reading the following posts by one of my favourite bloggers Carly the Prepster:

I think she gave an in-depth description of everything she learned during her decade long blogging journey. Also, she has a YouTube post about that as well and I suggest you watch it, if blogging tips is something you’re exceptionally interested in.

And what do you think most important tips are? What did you learn? What your hopes are?

 

 

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Mountain biking 101: the basics

How to start mountain biking?

If you follow me on Instagram you probably already know I got seriously hooked on mountain biking. It all started, as most of my stories, with my boyfriend, who used to bike very often when he was younger. I was not overly keen on trying, as you might imagine, as I come from an area so flat highest hill I had to ride my bike onto was probably the driveway to my garage. Also, it seemed exhausting and I’m not in the best of shapes. Riding up a hill, descending on a steep slope – well, that was not for me. Plus, I didn’t even have a bike. Nevertheless, a while ago, my boyfriend finally convinced me to go to Bieszczady Mountains for a biking trip.  If you follow my blog you probably already know how much I love this place, you can read about my adventures there here and here.

A picture of a bike on a grassland in the mountains.

I started my journey with a basic question; what do I need to start? I ended up missing a rather important piece of a puzzle; a bike. Choosing a perfect mountain bike is not easy, actually it’s so complex I left it altogether to my boyfriend, who did an amazing job of researching most optimal bike for me. You can check out my bike here.

Choosing a perfect mountain bike is not easy

My boyfriend is a very detail-oriented and thorough person. He started by a step-by-step interview with me of what exactly I wanted from my new bike.

Mountain bike types

Before we purchase a bike we have to answer a very important question where and how we want to use it. With current technological and cultural development of mountain biking we encounter numerous opition to pick from; recreation biking, stunt cross-country riding for faster riders, stunt-jumping riding and even downhill. For me, the decision was rather easy and without question I chose a bike dedicated for calm, recreational riding.

Price

Like with everything price is one of the main factors in picking a bike. Price span of mountain bikes vary from couple of hundered to thousands of Euro. If you want reliable bike that won’t break on the first trip my advice would be not to go for the cheapest option. For my budget (if you’re interested I can show you just how I gather all that cash in less than 3 months) I decided to spend 450 Euro.

The frame

One of the most important factors while picking a bike is definitely size of the frame. It is probably the only part of the bike you will not change in time, so it has to be perfectly adjusted to our size and weight. For recreational mountain biking frame is designed in a way, that enables calmer, more comfortable ride. Taking into account information written on the producers page I have chosen size M (I’m 168 cm), or 17” (producers sometimes use different sizing system).

A bad day on a mountain bike always beats a good day in the office

For a budget that I had choice of gears was not tremendous. It is always a good tip to purchase Shimano gears from the classified group, for example Tourney model. Another, for me probably the most important factor was how the bike looked. I loved it’s slim line (and no, Kross didn’t sponsor this post ;), colours and how dangerous it looks.

Where to purchase?

You can buy your bike at a stationary shop or online. For me it was important to purchase mine at a local Kross dealership. It was extremely convenient for me as the seller callibrated my bike before I went for my first trail. If you want to buy your bike on the Internet be careful: online shops sell bikes in parts for assembling! Also, before I purchased my bike I took a very detailed look at all the parts and since I found a single scratch on the front gear I got 5% discount for everything I purchased that day. Also, be aware of servicing your bike – mountain bikes require check-ups and it’s quite difficult to send your bike via post.

Start with the equipment

Mountain biking requires some preparation for better performance and general safety. My advice? Get the following equipment:

    • Helmet – a crucial tool for a safe journey. Make sure your helmet is correctly positioned and set – it should cover not only the top of your head, but also a part of the forehead,
    •  Gloves – fingerless gloves for less friction. You definitely don’t want to get blisters!
    •  Cycling shorts – don’t ever hop on a bike without the shorts! Purchase the ones that have a built-in pad that offers a long lasting seat comfort on the bike. Trust me, you’ll thank me 😉
  •  A backpack – for you to carry necessary equipments; a bottle of water, snacks, bike pump etc.

Rules to live by while riding a mountain bike

You’re all set now and have everything you need, except experience. The main thing I had to learn is simply not to be afraid of steep slopes. I was terrified I was going to break my neck, so a break was in use almost all the time. Going uphill suddenly seemed like a piece of cake. What I learned is that it’s vital to remember to use correct breaks – my advice? – improvise and with time rely on your instincts and experience. Generally, the more the bike is loaded, the stronger the breaks are. If you’re breaking while going downhill, be careful about using a front break – you might fly over the handlebars! For beginners I advice to try the breaks (with both hands) on a flat surface first and then descending on a small hill to gain experience.

Use appropriate gears!

There is a rule I learned during my trip to Bieszczady recently – if you’re going uphill and your front gear is set on low (first chainring) make sure to not set rear gear too low or too high. Optimally, back gear should be positioned on, more or less, 4, 5 or 6th sprocket for first chainring. The optimal rear gear position for position 2 of front gear is anything from 1-8. Optimal position of back gear for position 3 of front gear is 1, 2 and 3. I made a mistake of going uphill with lowest possible gears and my bike only squeaked in pain. Make sure to adjust your gears properly.

Remember, that number of sprockets and chainrings differ in each bike!

Choosing appropriate bike gears.

Trail etiquette

There are several rules you have to follow while embarking on a route;

    • The most important rule there is in the mountains in general is “leave no trace”.  Don’t ever leave garbage, don’t go where the path doesn’t lead you. Make sure not to destroy nature (by carving your name into a tree or picking flowers). Leave each place you go to like you’ve never been there, unless it requires cleaning,
    •  be polite – say hi to everyone on the trail, offer assistance if you see someone who needs help, one day it might be you,
  • be careful while riding on the streets (your path might lead through several kilometers of regular road), ride along the curve, don’t stop abruptly, have lights on at all times. Mountain biking can be dangerous, so be cautious.

Riding a bike on streets

Don’t be afraid and enjoy yourself!

I was very much afraid of enjoying myself on a bike. Quite frankly, not only was I freaked out about steep slopes, I was also very aware of every single loose stone on the trail. Only when I gained some experience and got to know my bike and how it tics I finally started having fun. I advise you to take things slowly and simply allow your skills to lead you down the mountain bike path 😉

Have you ever tried mountain biking? Let me know how it went! If you’re planning to start I hope my tips are going to make things much easier!

7 steps to a healthy diet

A healthy diet is something that we all strive for. For me a healthy diet is not about constantly limiting yourself. It’s about deciding to eat products that are beneficial for your well-being. You will never feel great after devouring a Big Mac. Each time I eat one I always regret I did. There is not one occassion where I was genuinely happy I ate something processed, oily or tasting artificial. On the other hand, there were numerous times I felt amazing after having a smoothie, vegetable soup or a homemade lunch.

A ball of fresh grapes

Personally, I struggle constantly with a healthy, well-balanced diet. I had problems with what I eat ever since I moved out of my home a decade ago. I lived alone in a huge city with all those possibilities within arm’s reach and gained an astonishing 20 kg (50 lbs). My problem was that we live in a world where food is very easily accessible. I move my finger over the screen of my phone and McDonald’s is delivered to my apartment in less than 30 minutes. I can online shop for food, order anything I want and there’s no one to judge me, as I’m all alone in my four walls. 

Food is obviously a great part of our life. We cannot live without it, nor would we ever want to. It became an anti-depressant, stress-reliever and  happiness inducers for many of us. Unfortunately, good quality of meals is directly related to how our bodies look and as well all want to be attractive our diet must improve.  Ever since January 2019 I have embarked on a weigh-loss journey and lost 7 kg [15 lbs] and going strong towards my goal. I’m not a specialist nor am I a trained professional, but I think my progress and how well I feel with all the changes can be of help for you.

Here are my 7 steps for a healthy diet that I had successfully implemented into my own life.

A sliced, healthy avocado

1. Eat outmeal or muesli for breakfest

Ever since the beginning of the year I made sure to incorporate low-sugar muesli or oatmeal into my diet. I usually purchase a bag of muesli and eat it with natural yoghurt. During week days I prepare it at work (it takes around 10 minutes for muesli to soak in the yoghurt and not taste like sawdust. At first I struggled with the flavour – it’s not a delicious piece of cake and it’s hard to get used to… very delicate taste. After eating enhanced food for years, it’s quite demanding to switch to a natural one. Fortunately, just after a couple of weeks I noticed a visible improvement in taste (or maybe I simply got used to it, I can’t be sure). I ate muesli so often now I crave it. This morning I had an avocado toast and felt like oatmeal is so much better. It is important not to immediately give up. I understand it won’t be pleasant at first, but when you give it a try it will get better in time. I promise, you will thank me later.

2. Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate

You probably hear that a lot, don’t you? But have you ever followed that advice? Do you actually drink at least 2 litres of water per day? For the last several months I do, but it took me a significant amount of time to get accustomed to. I started with a very easy task: I had a glass of lemon water each morning, just after waking up. I hated how the water tasted and had to add flavour by adding either lemon or cucumbers. Then, after several weeks, I added another big glass of water to lunch. At first I felt as though I drink too much, but the more water I consumed, the better I felt. Another week passed and I drank 8 glasses of water a day (or 4 bottles). When I reached my goal, I felt amazing! I had so much energy and spark. For a person that never drank lots of water I started craving it. Quite frankly felt unwell when I didn’t get enough. Even now, typing and figuring out which pictures would be most suitable this particular post, I already had two big glasses of sparkling water.

Convince yourself that the more you drink the better you’re going to feel. Also, drinking water boosts metabolism and helps you along the weight-loss journey. 

3. Switch to home cooking

Won tons.

Treat it as an adventure. Developing a daily cooking habit is quite difficult, but it will have so many positive effects you will never regret it. First of all,  food you get at the restaurant is never healthy. It is loaded with preservatives and flavour enhancers. I know it’s much easier to get a yummy hot wing, but your body is not going to be impressed by you devouring so much fat. Second of all, it’s pricy. Obviously, lunch at this new bistro you noticed down the street is at least twice more expensive than lunch you could prepare at home. Also, pre-prepared meals are a trap of enhancers, debatable ingredients and lost cash. 

If you’re motivated, but don’t know how to start, think about what’s stopping you. I discovered that most of the time I didn’t want to cook because I simply didn’t know what to make. I found a website with delicious and healthy recipes and have been following ever since. Even tonight, when I’m sick and trying to calmly die in my bed flooded by running nose, I am going to get up and prepare chicken, rice and vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch at work. 

Sometimes I gave up cooking because I felt like it takes way too much time. 

The same site with recipes helped me by offering short and simple instructions for cooking great, healthy meals. If I was too lazy to go shopping I looked at my bank account and convinced myself, that spending 50 PLN [12 euro or 15$] per lunch is not going to help me save money. I also visualized myself looking bomb and it’s been a great help as well. If you’re interested about my meal-planning routine or my love for slowfood check this post here

4. Make several smart swaps

It’s difficult to eliminate unhealthy food from your diet entirely, but you can definitely make several swaps that will improve your health. I have started with not adding sugar to tea. Instead, I drink them plain or with honey. I eat only full-grain bread as it’s easier to get full with smaller slices.  Look at my list and think of more products which can be easily swapped:

  • never buy flavoured yoghurt. It’s so much tastier to eat a natural one with pieces of fresh fruit. 
  • don’t spend cash on pre-produced products, rather buy fresh ones and cook them yourself,
  • skip the mayo and change it for a greek yoghurt,
  • always order the smaller size of portions, chances are you’ll get full with the food you get. If not you can always order more, if yes – you get additional cash!
A piece of cake and coffee

5. Eat sweets in moderation

I have a full understanding that living sugar-free is a difficult existence. But boy, have I tried! I have struggled with weight for my entire life and a sweet tooth I have has been rather detrimental for my “slim” figure. With years passing I have accepted that there is no way I will ever be able to eliminate sweets from my diet. I accepted that a long time ago and so instead of forcing myself to ditch sweets forever I’m simply eating in moderation. I can have a piece of cake at my niece’s birthday party, I can eat dessert on holidays or even eat a candy bar during a cheat day, but I won’t eat more than I really want. Sometimes one little candy can be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.  

The problem is that more often than not we don't focus on our needs and keep eating more chocolate because we didn't notice we've had enough

I try to focus more on food and be present and mindfull of what I put in my mouth. Each time I take a bite of something sweet I’m wondering if I want more of it? Was it enough? How did it make me feel? Do I really want more sugar? In most of the cases I don’t and I simply stop eating. Try this exercise at home as it really helps to eat sweets in moderation. Also, as I am used to eating whatever I want (and thus I’m on a weight-loss journey) the cognitive dissonance of not wanting more sweets is quite mindblowing.

6. Believe in 80/20 ratio

80/20 ratio is a simple rule  of eating food that is in 80% good for you and in 20% less healthy. I use this canon for everything in life as I believe balance is necessary for happiness. My regular week consists of 6 days when I eat healthy and a cheat day when I can eat everything I want. I plan cheat days in advance: this week it’s going to be Sunday. There is no limit of what and how much I can eat during a cheat day, but if you keep strong on remaining days you’re not going to eat much more for a splurge day. Also, the healthier you eat the less harmful food you’re going to crave. Right now I have spread myself a little too thin and got lost in sweets and fats. I have simply lost track of my healthy habits and have been struggling to go back, but I still kept the ratio of 80%/20%, hence I didn’t gain any weight.  

7. Keep away from alcoholic beverages

In general alcohol is a terrible idea. When I was younger, I used to party all the time. I could return home at 5 am, get a couple hours of sleep and go straight to work/classes. Then repeat the whole process and never feel bad or too tired. Right now as I’m 28, I can feel the difference. I never stay up later than 1 am as my eyes are already shutting down anyway. I also can’t drink too much alcohol as my stomach protests in the worst of ways. And the thought of the headache, exhaustion and all the other symptoms of hangover is just damming. 

It is not a secret that alcohol is not good for health. 

Quite frankly, it not only causes you to eat more (and less healthy) but it is also dehydrating and damages your natural immune system. I don’t have any tip for you as to how to stop drinking alcohol in general. I’m terrible at it. Seldomly, I love a glass of wine with a fancy dinner, or a pint of beer with friends on Friday nights. Because of my 80/20 rule I indulge in an occasional drink only once a week (it has to be a cheat day) and I’ve noticed positive changes in my skin and general well-being.

Start your healthy lifestyle right now

I hope my tips will help you get on track with a healthy lifestyle. If you have any questions or tips for me, please write them in the comment or contact me through e-mail. Thank you very much for reading my post and visiting Journal of Dorota.

Within your own self is a treasury… an ocean of pure bliss, consciousness, intelligence, creativity, love, happiness, energy and peace… within every human being.

Weekend Break in Belgium – discovering Brussels

When I first considered travelling to Brussels I encountered numerous articles, blog posts and reviews which strongly discouraged me to ever visit the capital of Belgium. Described as grey, boring and dangerous, the city seemed like the last place I wanted to visit. In October my best friend and I found cheap flight tickets, which were so inexpensive (around 20$ or 15 Euro both ways) that I simply had to go, even if I was extremely agitated with safety issues. I literally freaked myself out reading safety articles and how Brussels’ safety index in only 59%. Then, to increase my disconcern, I watched documents on terroristic attacks on 22nd of March 2016 and even considered not going. Above all, my paranoia was infused by the fact my landing date was on the third anniversary of the attacks. Luckily, my boyfriend convinced me not to be such a crybaby and we flew to Brussels.

A great arc in Brussels

Charleroi Airport and getting to Brussels

We landed in Charleroi Airport just before 11 PM. Being a control freak as I am, I planned everything in advance, purchasing tickets for the shuttle bus. It was a rather neat idea, as we were one of the last ones to get on a bus to Brussels (it was second-to-last bus that night so with the crowd that gathered in line, there was a great concern we would not make it, if I didn’t purchase tickets online). The bus took us through well-lit highways straight to Brussels-South railway station in Rue de France. We were a little bewildered by the marking system, so we decided to take a tram instead of metro. What is interesting, the timetable of trams was so confusing, we didn’t really know which way we should go. The monitor above tram-shelter projected direction the tram was coming from, as oppose to where it’s going. Also, the timetable showed next stops above the stop we were on, which was even more confusing. I don’t know how it is where you live, but where I come from it’s the complete opposite.

The Grand Place

We started our first day with a long walk from our hotel to the narrow streets around La Grand Place. In the heart of Brussels, the “Great square” one of the most often visited places in Belgium. It is a great quadrangle surrounded by architectural masterpieces altogether forming a UNESCO Heritage Site. The 15th century Town Hall and King’s House, as well as 200 years younger guild houses give the La Grand Place an astonishing feeling of wealth and luxury.

 

We spent a rather long time reading interesting details about guild houses and how each sculpture or even shape of facades conveyed a deeper meaning. My favourite building, the baker’s house named Le Roy d’Espagne, decorated with busts of Saint Aubert (patron saint of bakers) and sculptures of six figures representing force, wheat, wind, fire, water and security, all believed to be necessary ingredients for baking a perfect bread, charmed me immediately.

 

Manneken Pis

From the Grand Place we ventured towards the statue called Manneken pis. “Little Pisser” is a bronze figure just next to the Town Hall, depicting a toddler urinating into the fountain. The statue is the best-known symbol of people of Brussels, representing a rather dark Belgian sense of humour. Each week a non-profit association “The Friends of Manneken-Pis” dress the figure up in various outfits. While we visited Brussels Manneken Pis was dressed in FC Barcelona attire and we have yet to discover why.

Manneken PIs statue in Brussels

After a rather long walk through narrow streets around La Grand Place we decided to head for lunch. We found out earlier that our hotel is just next to the place with “greatest pommes frites in Belgium” so we headed there. There was quite a queue, with a lot of Belgians so I knew the fries were going to be delicious. We ordered and were pleasantly surprised that we could take them out and eat in one of the nearby bars where we ordered additional beer. The size of fries is rather tricky, so if you visit Brussels always go for small ones as you will get full quite easily.

The Atomium

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

Used as a museum, exhibition center as well as a viewpoint the structure is a great place to explore. We did not enter inside as the tickets were rather pricy (20 Euro per person) and the weather wouldn’t allow us to appreciate the view anyway. If you ever visit Brussels and the sky is clearer visiting interiors of the Atomium is an absolute must!

Dinner and Belgian Ale

In the evening we returned to the Grand Place for dinner and drinks. We started out in the restaurant called Chez Leon, as we did not have to wait long to be served. We ordered seafood (of course!) and a bottle of cooled, white wine. I really enjoyed the food, although if I knew while ordering it would be covered in cheese I would have probably picked some that was not. We have also visited Delirium Tremens, most recommended bar in Brussels, but it was way too crowded for us and we finished our evening with some beers in a bar next to our hotel.

Autoworld

Visiting Autoworld was one of the main points of our trip to Brussels. Displaying more than 250 cars the Automotive Museum was one of most entertaining museum I’ve ever been to. I learned a great deal about the history of automobiles and discovered various trivia. Did you know that in 1955, during a race a car crashed and it’s scattering particles killed 82 people? Considered as the worst crash in motor sports history, it happened during a Le Mans 24-hour race in France. The accident was so tragic both France and Switzerland banned motor racing, the latter still holds the ban active today. You can read more about this here.

After visiting the museum we had only one thing left on our “to do list” before catching a bus to Charleroi Airport. WAFFLES. I could not leave Brussels without the famous chocolate! Therefore, we returned to La Grand Place, visited the oldest shopping centre in Europe and devoured delicious waffles!

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Brussels and I would recommend a weekend trip to anyone. It was safe, beautiful and the food was quite delicious. I really enjoyed museums, historical buildings as well as modern parts, with bars and fancy restaurants.

Have you ever been to Brussels? Did you enjoy the city? Let me know in the comments!

The importance of travelling

As the proverb says: travel is to live. Since I started travelling often I realised how true this motto is. I tend to measure my time from one trip to the other, so when my day at work is particularly hard I’m motivating myself with simply stating when I’m going to visit some great place. Right now I’m counting days until my next adventure: I’m going for a weekend to Brussels, Belgium with a couple of friends and that is exactly what makes me endure some tough moments.

The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.

So why is it that sometimes we forget travel makes us happy and instead we rot at home? Mostly it’s the amount of chores we impose on each other, deadlines, sometimes feeling overwhelmed with social issues and workload. I know that when I become corporate robot I forget about anything really and simply sink in all the chores. If you’re in the same place right now where you walk and walk but you’re always in the same spot and feel zero motivation to move and drive anywhere really, here are several reasons why you should keep going and never give up on travelling.

1. Travelling broadens horizons and makes you a better person

It sounds strong, doesn’t it? Like getting into a car and driving to a nearby city for a sightseeing tour would make you truly a better person. And yet… It’s true, or at least I believe so. Going on an excursion always broadens your horizons. Even if it’s very short, to a place you’ve already been to, it’s still going to teach you something. It’s going to build up your experience and simply make you wiser. Example? Visiting another nation and learn about their culture.

Bonus anecdote: When I moved to Portugal (for my Erasmus) I was pretty much disgusted with all the people simply snapping their fingers to call a waiter at a restaurant. I thought it’s so rude! And yet… it’s normal there, so I learned that when I’m in Warsaw, I don’t have to get all airtight and silently rant and rave on their bad manners, but rather understand they might come from a completely different place than I do.

SONY DSC

A photograph of Prague, Czech Republic 2018

2. You can learn another language and improve your CV (resume)

Learning languages is vital. I don’t think I can stress enough how amazing it is to be able to communicate in a foreign language wherever you go. Right now, I’m using skills I learned years ago and can (hopefully) successfully communicate with you, my dear Reader in English. Before I moved to Portugal I used to learn the language from books and some additional classes, but only when I moved my knowledge of Portuguese sky-rocketed. Knowing languages can improve your position in applying for a job or even grant you get one!

2_importance+of+travelling_picture_post_nazare

Nazare Beach in Portugal, 2014

3. Travelling makes you stay younger

Ok, I might not have any scientifical proof that it’s true, but I do believe travel makes you more active and therefore younger. Constant planning and plotting stimulates the brain and sightseeing is a great way to reach your 10000 steps needed for a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, when you spend so much money on plane tickets and hotels you just can’t afford food anymore… Just kidding, although it might be true in some cases. For New Years Eve this year I travelled to a city of Torun in Poland. Just for one day, a very short trip. And during this day I visited so many places, I walked more than 20 km in less than 10 hours!

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Barcelona, Spain, 2014

4. You can make friends from across the globe and cement relationships you already have

Meeting people from around the world not only broadens the horizon (see point 1), but also creates connections which not only let you have so much fun, but also allow you to travel further and cheaper. I keep in touch with many of my friends from Erasmus and we’ve exchanged many trips (I travelled to their hometown, they visited mine) for a fraction of a normal price. But what’s most important? The memories, because as you know, people forget years and remember moments. All these precious moments laughing at similarities and differences between our cultures (sometimes very distant, hello, my Brazilian friends!), teaching each other various things or simply hanging around could never be the same if I only had friends from my own country.

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Porto, Portugal, 2014

5. Travel lets you experience amazing cuisines

Oh, the food… how I love it. One of the best virtues of travelling is trying out different cuisines, flavours and products. My long time dream is to visit Italy, Parma, to be exact, and try all the amazing dishes there, including pizza with potatoes and different flavours of pasta. When I visited Croatia last year I fell in love with white wine (Grasevina), sea food, eating freshly caught tuna grilled at the beach, watermelon at noon under an umbrella, and so forth. Celebration of food teaches us love of life. I also learned several tricks of Croatian and Portuguese cuisine and definitely improved my cooking skills.

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A great steak in Lisbon, Portugal

So let’s go on an adventure!

So, don’t dwell on tough times, take a look at some sites with cheap flights, bus or train tickets or even, for a free trip, pack your bag and venture to a place you’ve never visited in your city. Learn new things and don’t let work and chores overwhelm you. Travelling really is a sollution for sadness!

Do you travel often? If yes, did you learn anything interesting during your trips?

Let me know in the comments.

New years resolutions

As January approaches it is the last moment to let the old year pass and take a look forward to the new one. And what would January be without casual new years resolutions? All these goals we are never going to achieve, but we think about for at least a week until we find ourselves on a coach with a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine, even though we solemnly swore never to touch any of it again?

This year I approached my resolutions a little differently than in the past. I have established five main goals for me to achieve and then described them all down in something I’d like to call my “bullet journal” when it’s actually a notebook with words scribbled in a way imitating calligraphy. Or trying to imitate. imitating trying to imitate. It’s really bad, honestly. I hope this list is going to help you establish your new goals/resolutions and maybe this time we are able to achieve them.

  1. Explore new hobbies and develop old ones

This is by far the most important goal of mine. I really would like to pursue new interests, especially sport related; like systematically attend Zumba classes (which are awesome), or start taking longer walks after work. I have learned (with all the previous resolutions) that unless my goal is tangible, can be verified easily and assessed “binarily” (either 0 or 1), I will never achieve it. So for this point my goal is to attend Zumba class every single week of 2019.  If you aren’t into dance classes you can always pick any other one; like pilates, yoga, swimming, jogging, whatever really, that you actually like. If you don’t have a heart for it, there is no way that you will stick to your resolution.

In terms of developing old hobbies I really would like to work on my blog and Instagram account more. I have great plans for both of these platforms, so if you have any tips I’ll be happy to hear it.

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2. Do one thing at a time.

I know, I know, you are not a real woman unless you’re juggling work, home, 10 children + 5 adopted ones, neighbours’ house, volunteering work and oh, yeah, training for climbing K2. Obviously, everybody want us to think it’s better if we work harder, more efficient and faster. I thought that it’s going to make me excel at work as well, but only when I relaxed and let myself do one thing at time I’ve noticed positive results – not only in my well-being, but also in how my boss perceived me – I got a raise and a bonus, so hey me! For the upcoming year I would really like to keep going, master my self-assertion, work on the way I think and simply slow down. I really love, as mentioned here, slow living movement. Savouring each moment of our lives with amazing food, great places, trips and mind-fullness. I’m listening to a YouTube video right now while typing, so this rule obviously doesn’t apply to background music na videos.

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So what about quantifiability of this one? Simple, for the upcoming year I’m going to assess how much time I need to perform tasks and keep myself only working (by doing one thing at a time) during this period. For example, if I go to work, I’m going to work for eight hours only. If I work on my blog I’m going to spend exactly the time needed without interruptions (like checking Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

3. Spend less time glued to the phone.

I conducted an experiment several weeks ago when I didn’t use my phone at all (not even calling, just put it in the drawer and forget it exists) after work. This time, I think I endured around 5 days, was eye-opening. Not only did I suddenly have time for everything, I also realised how much time I spend on the Internet. I quit using the phone, left my blog, Instagram account, Twitter (which I have yet to explore) and stopped checking out Facebook. I didn’t manage to stay away from the phone completely after those 5 days, but I think it was a good start. Now, my goal for 2019 is simply to limit my phone usage to absolute minimum – that is Instagram (which is a mean of helping my blog develop), Twitter and occasional e-mail check. No more YouTube beauty drama videos, no more weight loss successes, Little Mix Acapella nor Crazy Roommate stories for hours in my bed eating chips.

As with all the other goals, I’d like to specify this resolution to a point that’ll allow me to assess progress and verify if I really achieved what I hoped for. Therefore, phone usage of 1 hour a day is allowed. This will enable me to work on the blog and Instagram without wasting time on things I don’t really need to.

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4. Keep clutter out of the house.

I was generally inspired by a great YouTuber and blogger Miss Amy Rach, who I really love binge watching while cleaning my house. I noticed recently both my boyfriend Floret and I have been gathering things and not getting rid of any obsolete ones, so expect a lot of decluttering posts here.  I planned my decluttering process in steps, as described here:

  • step 1 – Declutter living room (get rid of boxes, old candles, useless papers, sell books),
  • step 2 – Declutter kitchen (get rid of broken things, check all the jars and labels for expiration date and/or content),
  • step 3 – Declutter bathroom (throw out all the expired products, things I don’t use anymore, product I hate),
  • step 4 – Declutter wardrobe (get rid of things which weren’t worn in ages).

I plan to spend a quarter of the year for each step, so that it doesn’t seem like a burden, but rather a goal to achieve drop weight off my shoulders.

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5. Morning and evening beauty routines

For obvious reasons. I am not getting any younger. I can see thin lines around my eyes which surely weren’t there several months ago and it haunts me how quick time flies. To stop the aging process, I have decided to incorporate morning and evening beauty routines. Before Christmas I found several great deals and bought various cosmetics, including both of the Bioderma creams below.

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The pink one is Bioderma Sensibio Eyes and the blue one is Bioderma Hydrabio Perfecteur with SPF 30 filter.

I know I’ve said here that one of my beauty essentials is All about eyes rich by Clinique, but I was already sick and tired of all these products I’ve been using for years and needed a change. They came with the cute white toiletry bag made of material imitating leather reflecting various shades (unfortunately it can’t be seen in the picture above). I think it’s super cute, I really like simple things and the fact you can’t really see Bioderma logo is an added bonus. I know it is supposed to be a blog post about new years resolutions, but I have been using both of these creams for the last couple of weeks and I can really see a difference. Both give my skin a very delicate, velvety-like feeling as well as a little bit of glow (in a good way). If you have a similar skin to mine I think both are worth trying out!

For the evening routine I have yet to find appropriate night cream, so for now I’m using the ones I have – maybe you have any suggestions for rather dry skin?

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I can’t stress it enough but goals have to be specific. It’s not enough to decide not to eat junk, because there is no tangible way to evaluate progress, and therefore it is easier to be less inclined to stick with the resolution. Even though I decided to declutter my entire house I’m not planning to do it in one single day, because the thought of me decluttering for 24 hours straight is repellant. But if I say, ok, I have these four places that I have to take care of and I have an entire year to do so, it sounds much better in my head, so it is acceptable. Same with hobbies and phone usage, you can’t simply say ok, I’m not using my phone anymore ever, because that’s unrealistic (especially if you’re a blogger like me), nor that you’re going to start diving if you can’t swim.

To conclude this rather prolonged post let me just add, that my biggest hope for the upcoming year is to keep up with blogging at least once a week. I have various ideas for blog posts (I stacked 40 drafts already) and I really take a lot of pleasure from writing, taking pictures and following all of you guys.

So let this year be amazing for all of us.

Happy new year everybody!

My 2018 wrapped

2018 has been quite a year for me.  As a classic once said; I’ve been down for so long it looked like up to me, and when I finally conquered all of my demons I have discovered many new shades of myself, my friends, family and loved ones and finally reached a point in my life when I can honestly say I am happy with where I am.

It didn’t come without an adventure, of course, so let me tell you a story, of how I survived 2018 and how it’s been the most hectic and wonderful year of my life.

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2018 started exactly the same as any other year for the last decade. I made many plans, more or less unrealistic, from which only one withstood the test of time and only for a simple reason it was the most effortless and smooth one from all the rest. In the middle of January I already forgot about my “bikini body” and how I should take better care of my hair, skin and mind. I worked full-time (still am) and as I usually returned home I was drained. Quite literally exhausted, didn’t feel like doing anything really. In February, I applied for a two-part exam, that would enable me to get promotion and earn more. I blew it and the fact that 90% of other people also failed that particular day did not make me feel any better.

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Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

It was my first failure of that sort in a long time and I felt completely crushed. What saved me from dwelling and whining was… lack of time, really. I had so much work, with my full-time job and my side business (oh yeah, I forgot to mention launching my own company) that I completely forgot about the exam. I jumped right into normal flow of the day; waking up, going to work, eating junk (most of the time, really), returning home, lazing around watching YouTube and finally going to sleep. There was no activity whatsoever, I didn’t even like going out.

In August my boyfriend Floret and I went to Croatia for summer holidays. While enjoying the country (and people) I realized how amazing my life is and how much I should focus on fulfilling my dreams, rather than focusing on all the obstacles. My holidays made me grateful for what I have and who I’ve become. Upon my return I received a rather substantial raise, which might have been additional factor for realising my life doesn’t suck that much!

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In November I decided to perform several medical tests. I felt constantly exhausted (which didn’t escape Floret’s attention, his questions about my wellbeing motivated me to check what’s been going on with my body lately), I suffered from extensive hair loss, mood swings and, which hurt me the most, memory lapses. You know the feeling when you call someone and they say you just talked? Or that you get something delivered and it turned out you ordered it yourself but don’t remember a thing? Yep, that’s me. When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease I wasn’t very shocked. A close relative suffered from it for years and as it might be hereditary I suspected I might have the same issue in the future, but now when I’m 28.

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When I started taking medicine, suddenly I felt so much better. I don’t think I ever felt so energized in my life. I can now work for 9 hours, return home, prepare lunch for the next day, dinner, clean the kitchen, take a walk and even go for fitness classes, which up until this point was unthinkable. Literally impossible. I can spend more quality time with Floret, improve my lifestyle and still have a little bit of time for myself.

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So here I am in December, planning my goals for 2019. This time, unlike all the previous years, I am going to succeed.

And how was your year? Did you struggle the way I did?

 

Yet another trip to the mountains

Those of you who follow me on Instagram probably already know that I had visited Bieszczady mountains last week. For those, who still didn’t click that follow button – yes, I took a week off from the “big city” and travelled all the way to Bieszczady mountains AGAIN. It took me around 5 hours to drive there and I have truly and passionately enjoyed every single moment there.

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Bieszczady is a mountain range running from Poland through Ukraine and Slovakia and is a part of Outer Eastern Carpathians. I have many times heard of beauties of that particular place, but up until last year I never had a chance to visit. I have described my last trip in details here.

An area of no light pollution

From what I’ve learned only Bieszczady Mountains out of all the mountain ranges in Poland maintain the original darkness of night, all the other areas are light polluted to varying degrees. This is probably one of very few places in which you can experience true darkness of the night. The night sky is absolutely stunning, I can’t even begin to describe how many stars can be seen there. Unfortunately, I don’t own any camera that could catch that picture and give it justice.

Winnie-the-Pooh house shelter

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Winnie-the-Pooh house is a shelter located on the top of the mountain in Bieszczady. It is the highest located shelter in this mountain range. The place has no electricity, nor running water and only sells tea (also with a little bit of additives like… cherry vodka) and other assortment for tired hikers.  You can also sleep there, for a symbolic price, if you ventured too late into the mountains and want to have some rest there.

I was quite interested about the history of this place. I have learned that it was build just after the war to check the borders. Later on, when the borders shifted a little bit, it was given to the Polish Tourist Association which runs it until now.

The road leading to the Pooh-house leads through the Carpathian mountain pasture of Wetlina, which is quite an easy route really. When we ventured there we’ve seen such little kids on the way, we were pretty ashamed we got so flustered after each peak.

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A great place to practice hiking

I am not used to hiking. For my entire life I lived in the place that was flat as a bottom of my shoe. The first time I tried hiking I didn’t really like it that much – I was sweating, tired and simply hated looking so terrible. After some time though, I got used to it and now, except that I whine all the time anyway, I really like it. Especially the feeling of accomplishment when I reach a great, great place and can finally rest.

Bieszczady mountains can be demanding. Can take a lot out of you and leave you exhausted. But each time you finish a hike you already want to go back. The mountains have undeniable charm that draws people back. I met a nice man while climbing to the Winnie-the-Pooh house, who told me he visits Bieszczady for the fifth time and already plans to come back for more.

Although getting tired is not so difficult here, you can also find various routes which are not as demanding. That way, the range is perfect both for experienced, and inexperienced hikers.

A great hotel base

Bieszczady was quite a popular touristic spot in the 90s and now it goes back to its full glory. Both Floret and I enjoyed nearly every single one of the accommodation spots we stayed in. Many of these places offered a lot more than we expected and we loved the owners, who were extremely nice.

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We ate dinner with such a view in one of the places and I totally loved it. The owner was so sweet she even drove us to the mechanic who worked on our car. Oh yeah, my car broke – again. Fortunately, they fixed it in time and we could continue our journey.

We also got friendly with other owners who even treated us with some delicious fruit infusion, let us play with their cute cat and adorable dog and made us a bonfire. I really loved staying there and if you get a chance you should definitely go and stay in the village of Precisne. It is a little remote from the more popular places, but I really enjoyed staying there.

How did we spend our time?

When we booked our holidays we were expecting some beautiful weather and great hiking conditions. It was a little rainy, and the sky was usually cloudy, but we didn’t let it destroy our holidays. Actually, we loved it even more.

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For a couple of days we were simply hiking and making a BBQ in the evening (we walked through more than 65 km) and we needed some rest, hence we decided to spend one full day on the beach at the Solina Lake, relax and try some kayaking. We also checked several other places, such as Arłamów SPA Center. We loved every single second of this trip and we can’t wait to go for another one already.

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Let me know what do you think of this place? Where did you go for a holidays?

Dorota