The Expat Diaries: Manifesting My Dream House.

house3Finding somewhere to live in London is a rat race. Properties are snapped up within hours (or minutes!) of being listed. Sifting through listings, making appointments, and darting across the city from viewing to viewing can feel like a full-time job. And it’s shocking how much even the dumpiest of places cost. Case in point: one of my co-workers paid hundreds of dollars a month to live in a converted shed when he first moved to the city.

I’ve already written about finding my first London accommodations.  Before moving I’d envisioned a terraced house on a tree-lined street with a little garden out back. But I’d just landed in England and I only had a week booked at a hostel. It wasn’t a lot of time to find a place, so my expectations weren’t terribly high. I knew I wanted to live in East London, preferably in zone 2 or 3, somewhere that felt safe, in a room that had a double bed and space for a desk. Beyond that, I knew it was going to be a compromise.

The flat I moved into was far from terrible. But it definitely wasn’t homey – there was five of us and only one bathroom, no den, and the aesthetic was very ‘college dorm.’ And I always knew it would be temporary. So with my licence set to expire at the end of September, it was time to start looking for a new flat.

house2I was ready to be pickier this time. I didn’t just want to find somewhere else to live; I wanted to find a home.

While I was visiting Canada, I decided to get really clear on what I was looking for.

I know the thought of “manifesting” might make you cringe. Perhaps it summons images of stroking crystals and chanting about your desires by candlelight while doing absolutely nothing to get whatever it is you want (Jen Dziura of Get Bullish put it well when she tweeted, “Every time you try to ‘manifest’ is time someone else is learning to code, or speak Chinese, or not be an idiot.”) But hear me out, because I still think manifesting is a useful concept.

Why?

Because manifesting is about crystallizing our desires and taking positive action towards them, while allowing space for synchronicity to help us along the way.

Too often we float through life, not really thinking about what we really want. But when we voice our desires we can do what needs to be done to make them happen. And it becomes more likely that we’ll get a helping hand from those around us – and yes, perhaps even from the proverbial universe.

But back to my dream house share.

house1I opened my journal to a fresh page and wrote a really vivid description of where I wanted to live. But I phrased everything as if I had already found it. “I’m so happy and grateful to be living in a house that…” and a list of everything I was looking for, from the big, non-negotiables (a garden, living room, within walking distance to work and, of course, in my budget) and even a bunch of smaller, perhaps ridiculously specific details (black and white tile in the bathroom, big windows, near a canal…)

Once I’d written my list I started reading it to myself everyday. And when I began hunting for a house on SpareRoom, this list helped me stay really clear on what I was looking for even as panic about my looming move-out date started to set in.

And I found it. In fact, I ended up moving into the very first room I looked at. With the exception of hardwood floors in my bedroom, I found a house share that ticked every box on my list and has some incredible bonuses (an en suite bathroom with a tub, French windows in my bedroom looking out onto the canal, a working fireplace in the living room). All for less per month than the rent at my old flat.

I moved in a week ago last Thursday and I already feel so at home. I have two terrific housemates and I’m really enjoying settling in and planning the decor for my new room. Now I really live in that terraced house, complete with the back garden.

So is this all a big coincidence or did I really manifest my dream house share? I’ll let you be the judge of that, but what I’m certain of is the undeniable value of getting clear about what you want and then taking action to make it happen for yourself.

Love, canal boats, & pink bath bombs,
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What I Learned From the Self-Love Book Club

rosie-harder-readerFor 12 months, myself and a small group of women (and one man!) connected online through our shared commitment to self-love, improving our lives, and more fully accepting ourselves.  Each month we read a different book related to self-love (you can find a full list of the books we read and links to the recaps here), sharing our thoughts and lessons learned with one another.

The experience ripped apart so many of my limiting beliefs and reinforced the truths that I held in my heart, while showing me how to bring them into practice in my day-to-day life.

While each book provided its own insights into what self-love means and how we can truly come to adore ourselves, there were also truths that came across again and again. Although they were often expressed differently depending on the particular worldview of the author, these messages came through as almost universal principles. The basic tenets of self-love.

Here they are, as I see them.

Self-love is a form of spirituality.
Last month I read Mastin Kipp’s debut book Daily Love and in it he writes, “Spirituality is a measure of how Loving you are, how unconditionally accepting you are toward yourself and others.” And in one way or another, I think this is what all of the authors we read were saying. All of them experienced some sort of spiritual transformation through their self-love journey – some through religious practice, some through new age mysticism, and others through a deeper communion with their heart and intuition. But ultimately, the practice of self-love is spiritual in and of itself because it’s all about getting in touch with your own unique spirit.

rosie-hardy-one-more-storyLoving ourselves is not selfish.
We can’t truly love others until we learn to love ourselves. Although most of us know this on some level, we still seem to feel guilty if we don’t prioritise the needs of everyone else above our own. Putting ourselves first and committing to self-love is the first step in being of service to the world.

Gratitude is the attitude of self-love.
Self-love happens in the here and now. We can’t hinge our self-love on some future achievement. This is a practice in savouring the present moment and learning to accept ourselves just as we are. When we practice gratitude we cultivate a pervading sense of contentment, we see the beauty that is all around us, we learn the lessons when things don’t go the way we wanted, and we free up space to stop wishing and start making things happen.

Happiness is a choice. Or rather, it’s the product of our choices.
We might think that one small choice – to act out of integrity with our beliefs, to fall out of line with our ambitions, to disregard our intuition  - doesn’t really matter, but each time we make a choice it becomes easier to make that choice again. And those choices add up. They become our habits. We are the product of our choices. They dictate how we feel and how we think. With intention, we can create happiness and a life we love.

Surrender breeds clarity.
We hold on to things so tightly – our hopes, our feels, our relationships with other people – that we can no longer see them clearly. We become confused about who we really are and what we really want. When we learn to let go and surrender the outcome (which we aren’t really in control of anyway), we give ourselves the space for clarity.

rosie-hardie-a-new-chapterWe already have all of the wisdom that we need.
Self-help books, gurus, and workshops have the power to enrich our lives, but they don’t have all the answers. You can’t learn anything until you’re ready to learn it. Self-love tunes us into our inner knowing – the wisdom we already have about who we are and what is best for our unique spirit.

Loving yourself is a radical mode of being.
We aren’t taught how to love ourselves in school. In fact, for most of us growing up means being instilled with the belief that we aren’t good enough and that we need to repress what we really want in order to climb society’s ladder. Loving yourself is a radical act and it has the power to transform your life. But you can’t just say it once and be done with it. Self-love is a lifelong commitment that you must reaffirm everyday through the choices you make, the thoughts you think, and the very way you live your life. But it’s never to late to get started (or start again).

The Self-Love Book Club is currently on hiatus, but I want to hear from you: should we bring it back? How would you most like to participate? Did you like the monthly linkups and Facebook group or would it be easier for you to engage if we held the conversation in the comments of a blog post? Would a Twitter chat be more fun? Do you have an entirely different idea for a format? Is one book a month too much? What books would you most like to read? I’d really appreciate any feedback you have!

Love always,
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Photographs by Rosie Hardy.

This is London: VegFest

VegFest London 2014A couple of weekends ago, Matthew and I headed over to Kensington Olympia to check out the London VegFest – a cornucopia of shopping stalls, entertainment, expert speakers, and mouthwatering food stalls. While crowded convention centres tend to put me on edge, we spent a fun hour or so browsing the aisles and finding delicious things to eat.

Vegan Tuck Box at VegFest London 2014We meandered through the stalls, sampling the treats that were on offer and doing a bit of shopping. There were so many great brands to check out, and being relatively new to the UK, there were lots that I’d never seen before. I was particularly tempted by Vegan Tuck Box (pictured above) – a monthly subscription service that includes ten vegan treats delivered to your door each month. But rather than signing up (such restraint!), I bought one of my favourite Go Max Twilight Bars (like a vegan Mars bar) and a Vego Hazelnut Chocolate Bar. Throughout the afternoon I also picked up cacao nibs, Breakfast Without Cereal, and the first issue of Vegan Life, which was on sale for £1.

VegFest-UKVegFest-UK-2After doing a circuit of the food stalls, we both decided we wanted to get lunch from The Hungry Gecko. Matthew decided on a Bahn Mi Buddha stuffed baguette (with gochujan tofu, roasted pate and pickled veg), while I opted for these baked “veggie duck” spring rolls. I tried a bite of his and have to say that both were absolutely delicious! I would have happily gone back for seconds, if I wasn’t so stuffed.

If you didn’t make it to VegFest in September, don’t fret as it happens every year and they also do fairs in Brighton and Bristol. In fact, there are lots of vegetarian and vegan events happening across the UK all the time. Check out the VegFest events directory to find out what’s happening next! And perhaps I’ll see you at the Animal Aid Christmas Fayre in December.

Have you ever been to VegFest? What’s your favourite veggie brand?

Love, hazelnut chocolate, & cacao smoothies,
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Top two photos courtesy of VegFest UK.

The Birthday List: Watch Psycho.

psychopsychopsycho3I’m far from a film buff. If one of my favourite authors is releasing a book, I’ll pre-order it on Amazon but I’ll often give new blockbusters a pass at the cinema, presuming that I’ll catch them on “video” before forgetting about them completely. And growing up I usually watched the same films over and over again (hello Peter Pan, Bambi, and Dumbo as a child and Empire Records, Clueless, and Fight Club as a teenager).

Needless to say there are more than a few classic films that I’ve never seen. So when compiling this year’s birthday list and thinking about what new experiences I wanted to have, I decided to watch a classic film that I’d heard referenced countless times without ever seeing for myself. I chose Psycho. I’d only seen three Hitchcock films previously, so I knew some serious catching up to do.

Luckily Matthew has a copy on DVD. One evening we cuddled up in bed to give it a watch. We actually ended up watching it in two parts – because that’s what happens when you put on a film right before bedtime.

In case you’ve never seen it, Psycho is the story of Marion Crane, who steals $40,000 from her employer and goes on the run. She disappears after checking into the Bates Motel and having an encounter with its propietor, creepy mama’s boy, Norman Bates. Marion’s sister Lila and boyfriend Sam Loomis, along with Detective Arbogast, set out to find out what’s happened to her.

I’m surprised that years of pop culture references hadn’t spoiled the ending for me. And while the film wasn’t quite what I was expecting (that shower scene is way overhyped!), I really enjoyed it. Psycho has that unsettling suspense that builds slowly (very slowly sometimes) and there was at least one moment near the end that almost made me jump out of my skin.

Have you seen Psycho? What classic film is on your must-watch list?

Love, thunderstorms, & the silver screen,
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The Expat Diaries: My 1st Londoniversary!

2014-07-17-09-50-36_decoLast Thursday marked one year since I landed at London Gatwick, lugged my suitcases to a hostel in Hammersmith, and set about starting my life in England.

This seems like an important milestone to stop and reflect on because my life has changed in so many incredible ways in the past year, and my decision to move to London is no small part of that.

London isn’t for everyone. She’s too busy. Too crowded. Too big. Too much.

But, as I’ve written before, coming back to London feels like coming home.

For me, she has all of the electric buzz I love about NYC, but with an old soul. That’s something I can relate to.

I take solace in her winding streets and historic buildings. I get inspired by the endless list of things to do and the countless people making this city their own and bringing their dreams to life. My heart lights up knowing that all of London stands outside my door, beckoning me to explore it.

Any day I can get on a train that will drop me outside of Buckingham Palace or around the corner from the Tate Modern or down the street from Hampstead Heath. That’s not to say I go to these kinds of places everyday. But living in London reminds me of what’s possible. It reminds me that I live a miraculous life.

It took courage and a sense of adventure to decide to move across the world. And living in London has only made me more courageous and adventurous. Being surrounded by a city that constantly lights me up has inspired me to dream bigger and do more. It’s a testament to the fact that when you find a place that just feels right it’s worth fighting to get there, even if it seems illogical to everyone else.

londonLiving in London has taught me that we truly have the power to create our lives.

It’s taught me that we have the choice to be calm, even when everything around us seems chaotic (hello, early morning commutes!)

It’s taught me that people are essentially helpful and kind and totally willing to go out of their way for a stranger in need.

It’s taught me that we all have a tribe out there waiting for us to find – and maybe even connect – them.

Living in London has taught me that no dream is too big.

Every day I spend here inspires me to connect more deeply with myself, to figure out exactly what kind of work I want to create, and to consciously create my life in every moment.

For some, London is just a place to visit. But for me, it’s truly become my home. And I was so happy to celebrate last Thursday by moving into a house that also really feels like home.

This year has been challenging, but mostly it’s been wonderful and I can’t wait to see what adventures the next 365 days of expat life have in store.

Love, bear hugs, & butterfly kisses,
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Top photograph by Soops.
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