The Expat Diaries: What will you give up?

IMG_6082I haven’t written an Expat Diaries post in a while, but I want to get back to them this year.

Having lived in the UK for over a year now, being an expat doesn’t feel like something I have to figure out and navigate anymore. It’s my lived reality. Questions about how to set up a bank account or find a doctor no longer plague my mind and I’ve just settled into creating my life here.

There are still times when I don’t understand the slang or I get confused about a custom. People still often ask where I’m from. And now I’m navigating the waters of getting a long-term, more permanent visa.

But mostly I just live this expat life as my own. Reveling in the experience of seeing my dreams come to fruition and actively designing my lifestyle day-by-day.

And then something hits me upside the head and reminds me that becoming an expat isn’t all holidays abroad and afternoon teas.

It’s sacrifice and missing out, too.

Sometimes it’s just little things. Family dinners I can’t attend. Nights out I don’t get to enjoy. My stocking got lost in the post and it was the first year I’ve woken up on Christmas morning without one.

But there are bigger things too.

Not being there for my nephew’s first Christmas.

A friend’s wedding invitation slips through my letterbox and I know I’m unable to attend.

Another friend has a baby that I know I won’t meet until he’s nearly a year old.

IMG_6079Being an expat seems to make so many of life’s lessons even more poignant.

Even though we strive to have rich, full lives, we can’t have it all. We can’t be there for every moment, every milestone, every crisis.

But perhaps this makes us more conscientious and intentional. Better at prioritizing what’s really important to us.

We find ways to keep these connections strong despite the distance. To show our love and support from afar.

Nothing comes without a price. Every dream requires sacrifices. But when you know what you really want, it’s easier to accept the downsides. And you learn how to minimize their impact. How to work around it.

So even though my heart twinges when I’m reminded of what I’ve given up, I know that this is my dream coming to life. Every path and every choice opens up some possibilities and closes off others. But I’m still a good friend, a good sister, and a good daughter. It’s just taking a different form.

What have you had to give up to get where you are? Does the thought of making sacrifices hold you back from your dreams?

Love, calico kittens, & fields of daisies,
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P.S. I’m giving away a copy of Romance Yourself. Just pop over to my Instagram for the details.

The Birthday List: Take a Circus Class.

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus2Of all my Birthday List missions so far, this one has stretched me the furthest out of my comfort zone. Which is great, because before I die, I want to be able to say, “Pffft. Comfort zone? This whole fracking world is my comfort zone!” Or something.

People keep asking me why I decided to take a circus class and I’m not entirely sure. It was a decision 25-year old Sarah made when she was on the verge of turning 26. The reasoning probably went something like this: 1) It seems bad ass. 2) I love reading about xoSarah’s aerial adventures. 3) I love watching circus performers at cabarets but have wondered what it would be like to actually DO that.

So I booked myself in for a 2-hour static trapeze taster class with AirCraft Circus. But as I pushed the “Confirm Payment” button, I was filled with fear and trepidation.

I began having flashbacks to crying as I walked down the steps of the Arc de Triomphe. I have a paralyzing fear of heights and I was having visions of melting into a full on panic attack in front of the class.

In truth, I didn’t even know what static trapeze entailed but it was recommended as the most suitable for absolute beginners. I was afraid that further research would just increase my fears, so instead my mind filled with visions of ladders, and vertigo, and getting stuck on a trapeze unable to move for the sheer terror of it all.

But on Sunday I put on my bravest face and made the trip down to Greenwich. The whole time I was giving myself a pep talk that went something like this: “You are definitely not going to die. They’re not going to let you die. Even if you got hurt, it probably wouldn’t be the worst injury you’ve ever sustained. It probably wouldn’t even hurt as much as being tattooed, which you pay people to do to you regularly. You just have to get through two hours and you’re going to feel like a total bad ass afterwards.”

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus1AirCraft Circus is tucked away in an industrial estate but once inside, it’s bustling with amateur and professional performers who have come to practice their moves.

Our class was full with 8 students and once we’d all arrived our instructor Matt led us upstairs into the rehearsal space. The floor was lined with crash pads and trapezes, silks, hoops, and ropes hung from the ceiling. Around us, students were practicing all manners of circus arts – slithering up and down silks, flipping onto their partner’s shoulders, and swinging daringly from trapezes.

Deep breaths.

Matt led us through a short but intense warmup and by the end I was already feeling the urge to drop out (ugh, burpees!)

After a short spiel on safety, it was time to learn how to get onto the trapeze – which involves holding yourself up and flipping your feet over your head so that you can hook your legs over the bar. This was the part I had the most trouble with and most of the time Matt had to help me get my legs high enough. From there he showed us how to pull ourselves up so that we were sitting on the bar. I’m not sure what I’d expected from the class but I hadn’t really anticipated going much further than this, but we instantly moved on to tricks!

The trapezes we were working on were only a few feet off the ground, so there were none of the daring heights that I’d been fearing. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the sheer amount of strength and body control it takes to perform each move.

Matt would demonstrate and then two of us would give it a go at a time.

From sitting we moved onto hanging upside down, standing on the bar, gazelle (my favourite!), and on and on to increasingly difficult positions.

static-trapeze-aircraft-circus3Some of the other students took to the trapeze instantly and could perform each trick with almost no difficulty. Others fumbled a lot more and I’d say I struggled the most, but I’m proud to say I gave everything a try.

There were moments, when hanging upside down with only one leg wrapped around a rope to support me, that I felt absolute terror. Panic rose up inside me and I was close to tears. But I was able to calm myself down and keep going.

By the end of the class my arms were so exhausted that they were shaking and it was a struggle to even pick up my bag to leave.

On the commute home I was filled with adrenaline and a sense utter elation – I had done it! – before settling into complete exhaustion.

The next day I woke up with dark, rope-shaped bruises along the backs of my knees and every muscle in my body hurt in a way I’ve never experienced before – it’s painful to get dressed, pick up a cup of tea, type at my computer, or even lie still in bed. But there’s something satisfying about pushing yourself to your physical limits and making it through.

I’m now completely in awe of performers who can not only perform these tricks but make them look effortless and graceful.

I loved the experience of taking the class, but I don’t have any dreams of running away with the circus. Understanding the time and dedication it takes to become a performer, I know there are too many other things I want to accomplish to commit to that lifestyle. But I certainly want to give it another go sometime. And I feel really good about facing my fears, trying something new, and having a really interesting experience.

Have you ever gone to a circus class? Would you want to?

Love, top hats, & twinkling fairy lights,
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Should You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

IMG_6288I love a fashion accessory that makes a statement.

So many people believe that style is purely shallow and materialistic. But I think that the way we dress ourselves and adorn our bodies provides a wonderful opportunity to express who we are.

I suppose at a fundamental level, it says that we appreciate aesthetics. Perhaps that we value beauty.

But our style can say so many other things.

It can express our identification with a certain subculture. Or where we’d place ourselves on the gender spectrum. It might provide insight into who or what inspires us. What colours we like. What our lifestyle entails. Even how we feel about ourselves on any given day.

Just like a book cover tells us a lot about what we can expect within its pages, our style says more about us than we might imagine.

But looks can also be deceiving.

A painting is interpreted differently by everyone who views it based on their own unique history and beliefs.

So as tempting as it is to make assumptions about people based on what they wear, it’s better to get to know someone. Strike up a conversation and find out how their style fits into the large picture of who they are as a person. It can often be surprising.

I know I’m often mistaken for a degenerate roustabout because of my tattoos and slightly punky style.

In other words, there’s some truth to that old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

And how cute is this clutch purse that serves as a fitting reminder?

Take a look at how I styled it…

IMG_6279IMG_6295IMG_6289IMG_6313I’m wearing a striped top from H&M, a Stella McCartney skirt (from the#VCSwapShop), polka dot tights from Hue, thrifted brogues (label: office), and a clutch purse c/o Vendula London.

I was sent this purse by Vendula London and it’s the perfect statement bag for a book worm like me. All of their purses are vegan and are designed in London with absolutely exquisite detailing. My book bag is lined with a beautiful print of the London skyline and on the back, there’s an explanation of where the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” came from – stylish and informative!

I took it out for a spin yesterday, when I was meeting up with Bel for a veggie fry up and a bit of thrift shopping. I think it perfectly complimented the quirky chic look I was going for.

Have you gotten into the quirky clutch trend this season? And what do you think: how much can we really tell about a person by how they dress?

Love, red lips, & mismatched prints,
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P.S. 16 babes have started their 40-day journey to self-love with my Romance Yourself ecourse today. I got giddy with excitement sending them their course materials today and to celebrate, I’m extending the early bird price + bonus content offer until tonight at midnight EST. To sign up for £17 and make a commitment to loving yourself truly, madly, deeply in 2015 (and forever!), you can do that right here.

Did you know I send out weekly love letters to my mailing list on Sundays? Words of encouragement when you’re feeling stuck. A reminder of your greatness when you’re doubting yourself. Tips for living with flair when life feels dull. Strategies for defining your dreams and plotting a course for making them a reality when you’re feeling lost. Invocations to step up and create the life you want. They’re a cheering squad, agony aunt, and gentle kicks in the ass all rolled into one. Sign up if you’d like to me to start whispering sweet nothings in your inbox.

Thanks to Bel for taking these photos of me!

My 3 Favourite Ways to Eat Baobab.

IMG_6185I love discovering new superfoods, exotic spices, or other ingredients I’ve never tried before. I don’t buy into the hype that any particular food is going to completely restore my health and change my life. But I find it somehow romantic to try new ingredients – especially when they’re from faraway lands – and experiment with incorporating them into recipes. And sometimes they do have a significant impact on my energy levels and overall health.

Like baobab.

When Minvita offered to send me an item from their site, this superfruit powder instantly stood out. Baobab comes from inside of the hard-shelled fruit of the African Baobab tree. It’s rich in vitamin E, calcium, iron, vitamin C, fibre, and potassium – so it’s a great supplement to a plant-based diet and I find it gives me a nice energy boost.

Baobab has a mild, slightly tangy taste that blends into things easily without adding much to the flavour profile. I enjoy eating a teaspoon stirred into a bowl of yogurt, served with fresh fruit and a sprinkling of granola or cacao.

energy-bitesblogRaw energy balls made from a combination of nuts and medjool dates are one of my favourite homemade snacks to have on hand. They’re the perfect little energy boost to curb my hunger between meals.

This recipe from Deliciously Ella incorporates baobab powder and coconut oil to create a snack that helps balance your blood sugar and satiates my growling tummy so that I don’t reach for a packet of crisps instead.

Baobab SmoothieAnd baobab has also become a regular addition to my morning smoothies. This one was spinach, cucumber, pineapple, banana, grapefruit juice, and baobab – but I’m itching to try it in Jessica’s Pina Colada smoothie recipe.

What about you: are you on a particular superfood kick at the moment? Do you know any yummy ways to eat baobab?

Love & chocolate-flavoured everything,
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Second photo from Deliciously Ella.

The First Step Forward.

forestDo you ever get frustrated that the people you love seem to hold themselves back?

The next step forward seems so simple and obvious to you, so what the heck is stopping them?

You know your best friend is capable of all of the dazzling dreams she’s always talking about if she’d only take that next step …whether it’s enrolling in a class, getting her butt off the couch, or properly saving money. Instead it seems like she’s constantly sabotaging herself.

But sometimes the obvious next step isn’t the necessary one.

Because making our dreams come true requires two prerequisites: clarity and self-love.

We need to be really clear on what it is we really want and what it will take to get there.

We need to sit down and ask ourselves, what makes us happy? Where is our genius zone? Why do we want what we want? Are we willing to make the sacrifices it will take to get there? Does our lifestyle support our dreams?

This takes a lot of soul searching and self-awareness and sometimes we need the perspective of a coach, a course, or a wise friend to help us figure it all out.

But we can create all of the action plans, SMART goals, and to-do lists we want. Yet if we don’t fully love ourselves, self-sabotage will remain our raison d’être. Self-loathing will rule our minds and our fears will be in the driver’s seat. Even if we know what we need to do, we’ll find excuses not to go after our dreams.

That’s why I created Romance Yourself. Each day you’ll have a daily practice for falling in love with yourself. But we’ll also get clear on what’s holding you back so that you can start tearing down your fears, get the clarity you’re searching for, and step into the life you’re dreaming of.

When you love yourself, you take real responsibility for your life. You gain the confidence to go after what you want because you truly know that you deserve it.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll never be afraid again. But you’ll chip away at your limiting beliefs so that they no longer shape your reality. Instead you can see fear as a sign that you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone into that place where all of the most amazing things happen. And you’ll cultivate the bravery you need for all of the next steps in front of you.

Facing our fears and loving ourselves is a lifelong journey and no two paths are the same. That’s why Romance Yourself is one part daily action plan and one part choose-your-own-adventure guide.

The program launches officially launches on Sunday, but I’m offering the opportunity to pre-order at a special introductory rate. Normally the course will cost £23, but if you order by midnight EST on Saturday January 10, you can get the whole thing for £17, plus you’ll get access to a private Facebook group with bonus content and a community of amazing babes.

If you’re interested, you can find out all about the course and sign up over here.

Ultimately, any self-love journey begins with learning to trust yourself and taking a leap into the unknown. Find a way to move forward that feels right for you. Maybe that will mean romancing yourself with me and maybe not.

Either way, I encourage you to spend some time today thinking about what’s been holding you back. What limiting beliefs are looping through your mind? What fears come up when you think about living the life you truly want? What can you do today to begin busting through these blocks and start loving yourself?

Maybe it’s enrolling in an ecourse, signing up with a coach, reading a book, or creating a daily practice. Whatever it is, just make sure it feels good for you – even if it scares you. Just take one tiny step forward.

You’ve got this.

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Photograph by Krist Papas.
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