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Review: Hotel Los Castaños (Cartajima, Spain)

Earlier this month I traveled to Spain to attend a friend's wedding in Malaga. To make the trip worth it, my boyfriend and I decided to spend an extra few days in the Andalusian mountains. We wanted to explore the beautiful countryside and include a trip to Ronda, which my parents had recommended to us. When looking for hotels, we were disappointed at the prices of accommodations in Ronda itself. So we decided to look a little further and found this charming little hotel not too far from Ronda. I had no real expectations for this place but was absolutely blown away by its charm, comfort and the friendliness of the owners. I also did not plan to do a review of this hotel. But after my stay there, I was itching to share this little gem with the world.

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Why less is more

What drives our excessive desire for more? Despite all our wealth and abundance, we always want more to fill us up. We crave the latest fashions, technologies, and hotspot destinations. Consumption has become our favourite pastime. In a society that seems insatiable, how can any of us even begin the quest for enough? Our hungry hankering brings with it an overbearing heaviness, an exhaustion, a longing for a slower pace of life. Yet we cannot seem to escape the yoke of desire. The question springs to mind: what is the relationship between our desire for always more and a good life?

The psychology of scarcity

Any person living on welfare in the UK now has a significantly higher (absolute) standard of living than king Richard III. In fact, most royalty in history did not have central heating, plumbing, access to clean drinking water and toilet paper, to name just a few of the luxuries Western people can now enjoy in abundance. Of course, we do not care much about our absolute standard of living. Once we rise to a level where basic physical needs are met, our material satisfaction becomes relative. The psychology of scarcity teaches us that we quickly become used to our standard of living and are in continual, self-inflicted comparison with our peers. Our happiness thus soon evaporates when we realize that our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours have more (stuff, holidays, happiness and so forth). This way we are chasing a never-ending finish line, a fata morgana.

A game of leapfrog

To free ourselves of this scramble for the evermore, we first need to understand the mechanisms that drive a world filled with imagined shortages. Why do we feel we never have enough? Our likes-culture surely has something to do with it. The privatisation of recognition that social media has unleashed made personal happiness and status a meritocratic endeavour. How well we do in life is no longer subject to class distinctions or even capitalistic limitations. Self-help books tell us that how successful (or happy) we are in life, is entirely up to us. Happiness has become a game of leapfrog. Every step of progress I make will be matched and exceeded by others, which I turn will then need to match and exceed. We have unwittingly entered a collective game of madness none of us can win.


The antidote of this restlessness seems to lie in movements on minimalism, tiny houses, and freeganism. Yet don’t these movements run the risk of achieving the same comparison and meritocracy we wish to escape from so longingly? People show off their ability to live with a mere 50 possessions with a gleaming sense of pride and the interiors of tiny houses are presented on Youtube in much the same fashion as all the other interior design videos that leave us feeling that we are not enough. We always want more – more stuff or more minimalism.  When having less becomes a choice rather than a necessity, isn’t it just another form of luxury to aspire*?

Stopping the madness

I assume that part of this madness will never cease to exist. As social creatures, we are hardwired to fit in and belong to a tribe. Comparing ourselves to others is a primal instinct for survival. Living a good life (preferably slightly better than our neighbours) is not a 21st-century invention. The mechanism of our ‘always more’-culture can be untangled, however, if not collectively then at least individually. A slower pace of life in this hectic, meritocratic culture of selfies can be possible when we become deliberate in our approach to life.

Stop the mechanisms of comparing – It is unlikely that we will ever completely stop comparing ourselves to others. (If you have been successful, then please share your secret with us!) That does not mean however that comparing must be actively encouraged. Limiting social media usage to the bare minimum or deleting it completely can work wonders for generating a sense of enough, as I can attest to from personal experience.

Stop desiring what you don’t have – The best way to create a sense of enough is by wanting what you already have. Turning your focus from what you do not have and instead appreciate what you do have (try making a physical gratitude list if you struggle with this one) can be helpful. Limiting exposure to marketing material, whether through promotional blogs, email marketing or TV ads can further reduce the focus on wanting what you do not have.

Stop believing in the makeability of life – We live in a world where we are told that anything is possible. Although that belief might help some to reach greatness, it also leads to a lot of frustration and disappointment. Life is not makeable, and humans are not optimisable. When you stop comparing your capacity with others, life becomes slower, gentler and more graceful.

In my teenage years, I loved spending money on low-quality clothing and overhyped makeup pieces. At age 20 I started traveling and soon found the world of self-improvement and Instagram yogis. I ditched the frantic consumption of things and instead started a journey of frantically becoming more – more smart, beautiful, social, successful and happy. Although I picked up a few good habits along the way, the excessive desire for improvement left me drained and exhausted. In the last couple of months, by the grace of sheer lack of energy, I quit my life improvement madness and started focusing on forgiving myself for all that I was and all that would never be. In that, I found so much peace and contentment, that I can now confidently say ‘less is more’.

*Minimalism has the benefit of reducing the environmental pressure that comes with consumerism.


Edinburgh: the ultimate (vegan) travel guide

Today it is time to turn our heads to my favourite place in the entire world, namely the beautiful capital city of Scotland. I have lived in Edinburgh for a year when I was a student and during that year I fell utterly and hopelessly in love with the city. I don’t suppose I will ever outgrow that love and still try to visit the city as often as I can. I also still hope to settle my roots there again at some point in the future. As I have such fondness for this city and have gotten to know the place quite intimately during my time there, I thought it would be a good idea to share all of my tips for making a trip to Edinburgh unforgettable.

When to go

Edinburgh is beautiful year-round, as it is located on the east coast of Scotland. This means the city gets relatively much sunshine and little rain (because of the mountains in the middle of the country) and has notoriously beautiful sunsets in winter. In fact, winter is a great time to visit, as the cosy charm of the city really shines during this time. Summer is also a good option to visit, particularly if you want to see more of the outdoors of Scotland. Just keep in mind that is never truly warm in Edinburgh, so it might not live up to your expectations as a summer destination. Every August, Edinburgh celebrates the Fringe Festival. This is a month-long event that has the city buzzing full of shows and performances, many of which are free. It is incredible to witness this event and partake in the festivities, but if you have never been in Edinburgh before, I would say you are doing yourself a disservice if your first visit to the city is during the Fringe. I would suggest getting to know all the city has to offer on its own before you return to get consumed by the Fringe madness.

What to see

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The entire city is one big charming bubble of history, so just strolling around is never a bad idea. It has a lot of famous and touristy sites, including the castle, the royal mile, Edinburgh old town, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the national museum of Scotland. All of these sites are without a doubt worthwhile a visit, but if you have limited time in the city, I would suggest making sure you make a stop at these sites:

  • Arthur’s Seat is arguably the most famous site in Edinburgh and for good reason. The hill is found at the edge of the city and although Arthur’s Seat very much part of the urban environment, when you are climbing the hill, it feels like you have been transported to the highlands. The top of the hill also offers beautiful 360° views across the entire city. My absolute number one must-see!
  • Princes Street is the big shopping street of Edinburgh, so not many tour guides will tell you this is worth the visit. But it is not so much about the shops (unless you enjoy shopping of course), as it is about the views this street offers of the old town, the Castle and the valley between. Particularly the view from North Bridge, overlooking Princes Street and the Old Town takes my breath away every time (see the picture above this section).
  • Grassmarket is a square in Old Town that is well worth a visit. The place oozes charm and has loads of quirky little shops and bars. Leading out from the square is Victoria Street, a street so colourful and crooked that it looks like a street straight out of the world of Harry Potter (it is no wonder J.K. Rowling wrote her masterpiece just around the corner from this street).

What to buy

Edinburgh has loads of great places to shop, from the high street shops on Princes Street to vintage shops that are scattered all around the city. The reason I am including this section is because of Armstrongs Vintage, an amazingly weird and wonderful vintage shop in the corner of Grass Market. They sell some odd costumy items in there, but also some real gems and in my humble opinion any trip to Edinburg is not complete without a visit to this shop. Just a little walk away from this shop, is Armchair Books, an equally wonderful vintage book shop. Although books can be a bit expensive in here, particularly compared to goodwill shops, the charm of this shop cannot be beaten.

What to eat

A travel guide to any place would not be complete without some food recommendations and luckily Edinburgh does not disappoint. It was quite tricky to narrow these suggestions down to three, as exploring new places to eat is one of my favourite pastimes and Edinburgh has so much to offer. With that in mind, these options are truly exceptional.

  • Hula Juice Bar is the only place in Edinburgh that does acai bowls. Since we don’t have acai bowl anywhere in Leeds, it always feels like a treat when I get to eat at Hula. The cafe has a big range of healthy treats, so it is perfect for a breakfast or lunch. Just bear in mind that this cafe is in one of the most touristy locations in Edinburgh, so the cafe can often be full.
  • Loudons Café and Bakery is an informal, Scandinavian-style café that used to be just around the corner from where I lived. They also happened to serve the best pancakes I have ever eaten in my life. Somehow their pancakes are super airy and fluffy, something that I have yet to master in a vegan pancake. Be warned though, this place is super popular, so there is often a long queue on Sunday morning of people trying to get in. If you are set on trying these amazing vegan pancakes (which I promise will not disappoint), I suggest going on a weekday or getting up early and arriving there shortly after they open.
  • The Forest Café will have you channel your inner hippie in this quirky place that serves a great filling lunch. The menu in the Forest Café changes daily but always has mostly vegan options. The food is simple, yet tasty and the portions are very generous. The café is completely volunteer-run and in fact, I have helped out behind the counter a couple of times myself. This is a great place to unwind and admire all the quirky items and people that assemble here.
  • 10 to 10 in Dehli must be one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is absolutely tiny and you sit cross-legged on a raised platform in an over the top Indian décor. The food here is tasty, simple and filling, but the dining experience is really the selling point. Avoid usual dinner times, ie. 5-7 pm, as it can get very crowded. Instead, opt for a late lunch or grab a 9 pm dinner after a long day of sightseeing.

These are some of my favourite spots in Edinburgh, but the city has so much to offer that even a 10.000-word post would not have covered it all. Edinburgh has so much charm, beautiful views, and rich history that it truly makes the perfect place for a weekend getaway and I cannot recommend it enough. And if you happen to visit the city, please give it my warmest regards!