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Are you in control of routine or is routine in control of you?

This blog post was inspired by a podcast episode of Little Chapters. In the particular episode, Kayte and Jessica discuss their relationship with routine and how it serves them. This made me wonder. What is my relationship with routine and how can I improve it?

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Dear Isreal

Temple Mount in Jerusalem

If you like this post, why not read the lessons I learned in Morocco?

Dear Israel. Let me start by saying thank you. Thank you for your heartfelt conversations, your rich history and your equally rich present, your delectable hummus and your contradictions that let me understand how little I really understand. During the week I shared in your presence, I swallowed so many impressions that I will probably spend many more weeks digesting the little Israel-bits stuck in my memory. I thank you for a week of deep insights, but most of all I would like to thank you for these lessons.

You taught me that slow travel is difficult with a lively travel companion

Sometimes you only notice how much you have grown when you meet an old friend. This is what Israel has shown me. Making this trip with my best friend from Holland was wonderful, but also exhibited how different our approaches to travelling have become. Whereas my friend wanted to cram in as many hotspots as possible during our time in Israel and take countless Instagrammable pictures, I noticed a deep urge to slow down and soak in the impressions that surrounded me. In the end, I surrendered to the long days and busy itinerary, vowing to take it slow down next time.

You taught me to argue, but not with the girl holding a machine gun

soldiers in Israel

I quickly understood that Israeli culture is very different than British culture. In Israel, small talk and courtesy are replaced by assertiveness and directness. Nothing made this more apparent than the many bus journeys I took, where locals would simply refuse to share empty seats with me. At first, I was taken aback by this apparent rudeness, but I soon realised that ‘Excuse me, would it be possible for me to sit next to you?‘ doesn’t work in Israel. If you want the seat, you take the seat. My new assertive attitude worked like a charm until I stepped into a bus full of young female soldiers carrying their machine guns. When they refused to let me sit next to them, I thought it was best not to argue.

You taught me that under each conflict lay human stories

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is complicated, and this trip has only highlighted the complexity even further. But it also made me see the human face of each side. I wondered what had made Israeli people so harsh in their demeanour and luckily, they were happy to explain. Several people pointed out that when you don’t know if your country will still exist tomorrow and have to live with the fear of sudden death on a daily basis, all the trivial things in life – such as common politeness – become unimportant. When I made my way over to Palestine, I talked to locals and their experience of the conflict. Nothing was more heart-wrenching that the story of the local Christian woman in Bethlehem (Palestine), whose house was surrounded by the wall, cutting her off from her relatives in Jerusalem. She paid taxes to both Isreali and Palestinian officials, but as a Christian was not receiving benefits from either side (you can read more of her story in this article).

You taught me that my hostel days are truly over

Masada desert

I used to swear by hostels. Meeting people from all over the world, making new friends, laughing about the grimy bathrooms and sleepless nights. But this trip has shown me that spending time with drunk 18-year-olds (or drunk 35-year-olds) as a sober person isn’t enjoyable for me anymore. Whereas sharing travel stories with fellow travellers was inspiring and eye-opening for me only a few years ago, this time around I couldn’t stand yet another person coming up to me to tell I really need to go to Pai. ‘No honestly, you haven’t truly seen Thailand, until you have gone to Pai.’ Thanks, but I will decide for myself which places I will visit. I think my hostel days are truly counted now.

You taught me that long walks are a great cure for insomnia

As expected, my sleeping was disrupted by my trip to Israel. Between getting up at 4 am to catch my first flight and getting used to new sleeping surroundings, the first few nights I was restless – despite being exhausted. But there was one big upside to the hectic itinerary that my friend had stipulated. It meant that we walked for miles each day, with our shortest walking day coming in at 27.000 steps. Towards the end of the week, I would fall into a deep and peaceful sleep at around 8 PM. I slept through loud hostel parties and roommates coming in and out of the room to get ready for a night of partying. This experience has only intensified my desire to walk a pilgrimage trail, such as the Camino de Santiago. Walking is a good cure for many woes, not the least for insomnia.

Dear Israel, you are a country unlike any other country I have experienced. You gave me an adventure I will never forget and from which I can learn for years to come. Thank you.

What is a lesson you learned on a recent trip?

The joys of keeping some things to yourself

Chess board with roses in article about sharing

A little while ago, my manager asked everyone in the team to send her a song. She wanted to bundle our songs into a big playlist on Spotify. Happily, I sent her one of my favourite songs, Belong by Tim Chadwick (which I have shared in this post). It is a beautiful song that means a lot to me. In fact, I didn’t even hesitate to pick that song. However, my manager quickly proceeded to make fun of the song, calling it oversentimental. She is a very sarcastic person, which makes coming to work an absolute joy. Normally. Because on this occasion, I felt saddened that she didn’t share the same enthusiasm about Belong. Her remark somehow tainted the song for me. As if it was less beautiful now that someone had expressed their disdain about it. And this made me think. Should we really be sharing all our favourite things with the world?

A sharing world

We live in a sharing world. Our travel memories no longer live in photo albums. Our bodies no longer get shared with our partners alone. Food no longer simply serves as nourishment. Instead, these ordinary and often intimate aspects of our lives are freely shared with the whole world through our social media platforms. And I am not here to bash that. Although there are problems with oversharing and comparison anxiety, sharing my thoughts through this blog has been one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It is freeing and exhilarating to share something you have created with an engaging audience. Whether that is a beautiful plate of food, a meticulously groomed body or an inspiring story. Our sharing society has done us a lot of good. But perhaps – and I am thinking out loud here – there are some things that we can better keep close to our chest.

The ordinarity of the little things

I am thinking about that plate of pasta that doesn’t look Instagrammable, but that tastes like that summer you have had in Rome when you were 16. The trip you took to your grandma’s little village, that made you feel more alive than all the fancy city breaks you have been on recently.  The rom-com that doesn’t appeal to the sophisticated taste of your audience, but that you have watched more times than you can remember. And that song you play on repeat, even if it is a little sentimental. There are so many things in our life that give us incredible joy. Joy that is personal and ordinary. That doesn’t fit into the sharing moulds. Joy that is enjoyed better when we keep it close to our chest.

A little checklist

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big proponent for owning every part of yourself. For being proud to listen to oversentimental music and going to Italy over and over again, even if it means you run out of travel tips to share. I love it when bloggers share their guilty pleasures and people on Instagram share their no-makeup selfies and dimpled bums. And I am no stranger to sharing vulnerable stories and questionable taste myself. But I also realise that I don’t have to share everything, whether offline or online, to receive pleasure or meaning from something. So I have devised a little checklist for sharing intimate parts of myself with the outside world. Now I try asking myself the following questions before sharing:

  • Would I mind having to justify myself over this?
  • Can I take potential criticism about this?
  • Am I offering the receiver something valuable by sharing this?
  • Do I mind my boss seeing this? (In case of online sharing)

If the answer isn’t an unequivocal yes to all questions, then I am becoming more and more inclined not to share it. Particularly for the ordinary things. The things that give me so much joy, but that might be just a little tainted when shared with someone who doesn’t experience the same joy from these things.

Because being able to find private joy in the ordinary things might just be the secret to life. (Or truly not caring what other people think, but I am still working on that one.)

Are you a sharer or do you like to keep some things to yourself?