Wandering around Iceland

It’s been three weeks since I went to Iceland and for some reason I have struggled to sit down and write a blog post since – it’s very weird as I absolutely loved the trip and want to recommend it to everyone I know!

Iceland has been on my list of places to visit for ages, but the reputation of being quite expensive has always put me off while I wait ‘until I can afford it’. I have since changed my mind and believe you can travel anywhere you want on whatever budget you have and still have an amazing time! So, anyway back in early December a few friends got on to chatting about places we wanted to go and Iceland came up. Two of my friends have been before, but not seen the northern lights and myself and another friend hadn’t visited. So we were all up for heading out for a few days in January.

We got a really good deal on flight and accommodation (under £400 for return flights and 3 nights B&B hotel). We went with EasyJet and stayed at Storm Hotel, just off the main shopping street and close to the water front.

It was cold, but not as cold as the same time back in the UK. It also rained a lot! We made the most of it though and had a fantastic time exploring Reykjavik and further afield. The trips we went on probably doubled the price we paid for the flights and hotel, plus food and drink means be prepared to pay more once you’re out there.

The food was amazing! It was pricey for sure, but you can find places that are better value than others. The drinks are what astounded us as in many places they cost at least the same, if not more than the food. There are lots of happy hours at the bars and hotels, but if you’re doing trips you can’t always be back in time for 4-7pm slot. So we ended up not drinking at all – totally weird for a holiday, but totally worth it!

We took two main trips and had a third one cancelled because of the weather, all with Greyline. We went out to the Blue Lagoon. It was so weird as we got there at 8am and stayed until 12pm. It was pitch black, middle of the night dark! My brain was playing tricks on me as I kept thinking it was 8 or 9pm, not am. It was so quiet when we arrived and we got to explore while it was empty and dark. It had expanded since my friends went before so it was funny to find new places. It was also horizontal rain and so windy the lagoon was choppy with waves. It was so hilarious! You could not call it relaxing in the slightest, but it was fun and the water made my skin feel amazing!

The second trip we did was out to the Golden Circle. We went to see the UNESCO world heritage site called Þingvellir National Park which is home to Iceland‘s largest natural lake and the place where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and drift apart.  It was raining so much I didn’t take my camera out at all.

We then went to Gullfoss waterfall, which was amazing. It was colder here and there was still some snow on the ground and parts of the waterfall was frozen over. It was loud and tranquil all at the same time. If you ignore the amount of people stood around you, you can see nothing for miles.

We then went to see the Geysir hot spring area. It was amazing to see the geysers bubble and explode at times. There was so much colour on the ground that I would love to go back as it was getting dark when we were there.

On last full day we further explored Reykjavik by taking the hop on hop off bus. You can easily walk around the city, but as it was raining so much we didn’t want to get cold and miserable walking around. It was good as we got see everything we wanted and also took a trip to the local public swimming pool which is geothermally heated.  I loved the wall art dotted all around the city and there is really good coffee!

We tried every night to go out and see the northern lights, but due to the weather we did not have the right conditions for them to appear. On the plus side we didn’t have to go out and try as they cancelled the trips during the day, which meant we could get a full refund.

It was great fun to go away with my friends and we are already planning a trip to Norway for next year to see if we can track down those pesky northern lights.

Red Lips

I’ve been looking at different ways to making myself feel good and that has meant experimenting with make up a bit more in the last 6 months. It’s been fun and confidence building. It makes me feel good to put on make up purely for myself. I enjoy putting it on and seeing a bit of a transformation in the morning, especially when I’m feeling a little low or tired. It’s like a 10 minute morning pep talk to help me start the day feeling fresh and confident.

I started off buying a few products I’ve tried in sample versions and loved them so decided it was time to buy the full size ones. All from Urban Decay I love the Makeup Setting Spray, the Eyeshadow Primer Potion and the Naked Skin Concealer. These all make so much difference and with a good primer help my makeup stay put all day. I didn’t think it was possible, but I have been proved wrong on eyeshadow and face coverage. All I need now is way to get lipstick to stay!

My next purchases were wild cards for me! All lip based from MAC I decided to take a chance on two of their iconic shades and a lip primer to help me keep them on. The lip primer is fantastic and make my lips feel smooth. I’ve since teamed it with a sugar scrub form Lush to get rid of any dry flakes. The only thing I wish I could do would be to add this on top of the lipstick, but I’ve not tried it and don’t know if it would work!

I first went for Velvet Teddy in a matte lipstick. This is very similar to a colour I already wear, but is definitely longer lasting than the moisturising based one I have been using. This was different because it’s matte, but I love it!

It’s definitely my new everyday and office colour. I love how it looks as it is a bit darker than I would normally go and it catches my eye in the mirror. The only thing I am still getting used to is how matte it is. After a while I can feel my lips starting to dry out and I have yet to figure out how to keep the moisture in my lips. I end up licking my lips more than I would like. It’s something I need to look into.

The next one I went for was a red! A true wild card for me! This is Ruby Woo in matte and it amazing!

I first wore it at Christmas as I was dressed up as a Christmas tree. I have then wore it a couple of times, but am still feeling a little self-conscious about how bright it is. I do feel goo when I put it on though and round the house I exude confidence, but for whatever reason I am self-conscious as soon as leave the house. I have been following a few more body positive people on Twitter and Instagram and that is definitely helping as they are amazing!

The other thing I am trying to do more of, but again it is taking a bit of time to get used to it, is to take fun selfies. I love it when people I follow do fun and free selfies and I want to do that myself. it is definitely fake it until I make it at the moment, but I am doing them, which is progress!

Let’s talk about mental health

Another aspect of my life I want to focus on is my mental health. This is another subject I find people don’t talk about, like money, and I want to change that in my life. I want to speak out and be an advocate for better care and de-stigmatisation in the ways I can. This feel really important for me this year.

For the last few months I have felt myself struggling more and more even though everything was feeling really good with work and home. I knew something was wrong and have been working ever since to find out what and I think it was the reduced amount of contact with friends that I hadn’t realised was happening. I’ve been very focused on my job and I love it, but I do need to make the time for proper self care, beyond going to therapy every week. There are other things I know are important to creating a healthy life and I have needed to remind myself of them recently, which is why it feels important to take stock at the the start of the year. I’m not looking to track any of this or make goals out of it, but rather for it to serve as a reminder to myself of what I need to do and let others know someone else is working on this too.

I’m not a mental health expert (disclaimer!) and so I am just sharing my story so that more people are talking about it. There is no right way to support mental health, you have to find what works for you. It might change along the way too and that’s okay. Last year was about letting go of my belief in diets and focus on creating a non judgmental relationship with food. I had to let go of something I’ve held on to as a support mechanism for so long. It’s not been easy, but I have felt so much better for it.

So my plan for the foreseeable future is focus on the following things:

Go to therapy

This has played important part of my life for the last year and I am going to continue to make time and put money towards this. In time I may be able to talk to others about the things that I talk about in therapy, however right now I working through long standing, deeply embedded beliefs that are causing pain.

Focus on self care

These are the other aspects of my life that I think are important to my mental health. Before last year I would have focused on the first two alone, but they are only part of the story. Our lives are made up of so many moments that we need to make them count and saying no is just as important as saying yes.

  • Eat well and what I want
  • Stay active through fun ways
  • Dress how I like and makes me good
  • Feel good and even sexy in makeup
  • See friends regularly and suggest to do things
  • Say no without guilt and apology

I am also thinking about volunteering for an organisation that supports mental health like Samaritans or Mind. This would be a commitment and I would not enter it lightly, which is why I am going to take more time to consider it and look into properly before taking it on. I would like to give back in some way and this sounds like a way to help people, but also the organisations that talk about mental health openly.

I feel quite passionate about this for this year. Depression has been part of my life for probably longer than I realise and although it sucks, I’ve been learning to deal with it. When I get complacent it reminds me and I learn to catch it quicker than before. I want to help others and let people know they can live amazingly fulfilling lives even with depression creeping around. I’ve found ways to fight it and I want to help others do the same.

Let’s talk about money

This year I have made a few deals with myself that I know will pay off in the long term and a few of them revolve around money.

I do find it quite weird how in general people do not talk about money openly. It is a subject we find emotive and personal. Everyone is in a different situation and has different priorities in the their life that mean different spending habits. It’s too easy to compare to external views of people’s lives though as we only see part of the story. I admit I am the same and very people know an detail about my incoming and outgoings. I also know I can be really judgmental about other peoples spending habits when I only know limited this information (this is family related, not friends). But for the most part I think it doesn’t matter what other people do as long as they are happy with their lives and how they are living. I want the same in return, as I can probably seem quite selfish when it comes to some of habits, for example I will budget socialising so I can save for a holiday and that works for me.

So the last few months I have been reading the blog The Financial Diet and have become obsessed in making my money work differently in ways that will be less stressful and more fulfilling. It has made me set a few goals for this year to get myself in a better position financially and set myself for a future I want to live.

Firstly I am paying off my credit card!

I’m not a big credit card spending, but when I bought my house and had a few years of lower salary than before I ended up with £2k on credit cards. Ever since I have been paying the minimum and moving it round for the 0% balance transfers. This is more annoying than anything else. I am frustrated at myself for keeping it hanging around for so long. So this year I am going to get rid of it! I’ve budgeted it out and any additional income I get will go towards getting this gone. I will then seriously consider how I take credit cards forward. I would like to earn air miles so I am tempted to get a card that will allow me to do that, but I need this gone first.

Secondly I am creating an emergency fund!

This is one I have specifically taken from The Financial Diet and it makes so much sense. Next year I will have been in my house 5 years and all my warranties will be ending and so having a fund that will cover anything going wrong will be a lot less stressful than relying on emergency credit cards.  I am going to start by building up to £1000 in a completely separate account to everything else by the end of the year. Then I will continue to build up a nice amount that could cover me for a period of time if the worst happens with a job or illness. It feels extremely important to me that I am set up to be self-sufficient. I’ve always had my parents as a safety net, but they are getting older and I want to be fully able to take care of my own life going forward without that net. I also don’t want to be like some family who continue to depend on others to supplement income. It makes me angry to see it and I don’t want to be that person. So this makes good sense, but is also a personal value/belief I hold.

Thirdly I’m focusing on travel!

Being able to go to Japan last year was amazing and reminded me how much fun and experience you get from visiting completely different parts of the world. I feel in a place financially where this will be possible as long as live within my means and spend my money efficiently and effectively. This means making short term sacrifices for long term gains. This has to be a big part of my life and as I want to go away for Christmas this year the timing works out well. I can get my credit card paid off and save up an emergency fund and plan a nice trip for the end of the year.

What does this mean for daily life?

In essence not much will change as I have just divided up how I was saving for Japan last year into different pots. I have a spread sheet with this all in and I am going make sure I open it everyday, just as a reminder, to keep myself accountable. I have reduced my monthly budget a bit to ensure I think my purchases through more than last year. I know this will mean saying no for money reasons more often, but I know the long term pay off will be worth it. This is also goes hand in hand with another aspect of my life I want to focus on, which is having people round my house a bit more instead of going out. I am also debating going to a cash based system for a while as it seems with contactless I have become a bit loose with my spending and I do not like it, I’ll let you know how that goes!

So I have set myself a few rules for the next year:

  • Books – no new books until I have read the ones I have (I have 30 unread!)
  • Eating out – reduce eating out and when I do it has to be with others
  • General spending- do not buy replacements until the previous one has run out

Money makes life easier, but it can also make things very difficult. I don’t want my life to be about things and so I will be getting rid of more stuff over the next year. I doubt I’ll ever be minimalist, but I would like to reduce the clutter and only keep the things that hold meaning or purpose. I want my life to be about the simple things that make me happy and feel peaceful – travel to new place, reading great book, fluffy cats, restful space, and knowing good people.

I’m not setting new year resolutions

It’s coming to that time of year again, the time to look back and look forward. There have been lots of comparison trends popping up on Twitter and Instagram and I cringe every time I see one. I think it because I’m working so hard on not comparing myself to to other people and also comparing to the ways things used to be, including my self. Looking back can help you grow and shape your future, but right now I that does not work for me I’m afraid. That just means I pass those posts by and continue on my own journey. However I do like this time of year for thinking about the things I want for the upcoming year. However I want to do it differently this year. I don’t want to set resolutions or goals, but rather make sure I am focused on the things that matter to me and each little bit adds up to a better whole.

Travel –  I would like to travel more in the future and need to plan for that. That means looking at my spending habits and looking at ways to book last minute or budget friendly deals. I also want to ask people to join me on trips and not assume I have to do it all on my own, although I will still go if no one else can make it. I get a lot from travel and always feel amazing experiencing new places that I want to make this a regular part of my life. It doesn’t have to be exotic, as being able to grab a hotel on a weekend to explore somewhere a bit further from home would be amazing!

Finances – I did really well this year saving up for Japan, but I did not tackle my credit card beyond the minimum required. I don’t like that I’m left with debt this year and I would like to get rid of it. I also want to create an emergency fund going forward as I am aware I am coming up to 4 years in my house and all my warranties run out at 5 years and therefore if anything goes wrong I need a fund to use, rather than emergency credit cards. I mainly want to be less stressed about money and know I am leaving fully within my means and have a buffer as well.

Health – my physical and mental health are also super important to me. I’ve been working hard on the mental side of things this year and know I have lost fitness and I would like to re-balance my efforts. I want working out to be fun and at the moment love going to the lake with that group of friends and also love circuits classes with a different friend. I would like to get walking more and heal my plantar fasciitis. I’m continuing with therapy and have made great progress on the ditching the diet mentality, but I still have deeper embedded issues to deal with. I’ve also been cooking more and would like to continue that with the weekly boxes and upping my Japanese repartee.

Work – I’ve had a fantastic year at work and have thrived in my new role. I am getting the freedom, responsibility and experience I have wanted for a while and am making the most of it. I know want to progress in the next couple of years so am going to keep working hard and seizing the opportunities as they come along. I need to make sure I keep a sustainable work/life balance and that is something I will keep thinking about. I want to be flexible and acknowledge I enjoy my work and so do not mind working long hours when required, but also I want to make sure I have enough energy to enjoy my down time.

Home – I love having my own space and am very protective about it. My cats are also super important to me and I want to spoil them. I’ve created a space that suits my needs, but I also fancy a change. I have thought about moving, but I am not sure about doing it just because I want a change, but would prefer to move for a job. It’s something I will keep thinking about. I think there are smaller things I could do to make my home feel refreshed. I might change up the curtains or add some colour to the walls or move furniture around. I’m quite excited to think about, but I do wonder if I’ll actually change things!

This feels like a nice way to approach 2017. I have things that are important to me, but none of which have to to reach a destination. I can’t really fail any of them and there is room to change things up if something becomes more or less important with time. I want to create a life that allows me to grow, learn and change over time. I don’t want to stay the same as I am today!

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