Tag Archives: happiness

Sleepless in Slovenia

This marks my 200th post since I first started this blog. Can’t believe how much I have learned and experienced all because I made some bold changes to go after what I really want. I’ve also been really inspired watching some friends and family go against the grain in order to pursue their passions. It just goes to show that we all have that drive and ability in us to change things up if we want to, we just have to take the first steps. 

 

“Your life always has a Plan B.” – Robert

I met Robert almost one year ago when I was working at Projective Space. He and his friends had a start up and were working out of the space, and we instantly bonded over our love of football (and really, how could you miss a group of tall Slovenes anyway?) When I told him I was heading to Milano for the year, he mentioned how I had to visit Slovenia and how he would show me around next time he goes home. Of course I said yes, but who knew if it would actually happen.

Fast forward to March and I found myself on a train making the trek across Italy to Trieste, the Italian coastal town near the Slovenian border. Robert had invited me over not once but twice when he was home for winter to join him and his friends skiing but ironically both times I was studying for finals. So when he sprung a last minute invitation to join him in Izola, a beach town just a half hour from Trieste, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. And I was extremely excited because I’d be visiting Slovenia for the first time, and nothing beats that high you get when you step into a new country.

Izola

Izola is a sleepy beach town, which if you know me you know is one of my favorite types of vacation spots, so I was all smiles as we arrived into town and checked out the gorgeous view from my friend’s apartment. Mental note: definitely live by the water once you settle down.I have been curious about Slovenia ever since my friend Shawn told me about what an unknown gem it is. Slovenia is a small country, tiny really in comparison to some of its neighbors, but it packs a lot of punch. As we were driving to Ljubljana, the capital (and they really do refer to it as The Capital, almost in an eerie Hunger Games style), I was marveling at how many different types of places this country has to offer: the beach, the countryside, the mountains to go skiing… what the, did we just drive by a shepherd herding his sheep? I love this place! I was given the option to either check out Bled, a town with a lake that’s quite popular among the tourists, or Ljubljana to visit the city center and the main castle. Bled looked beautiful but we in Milan are spoiled by having Como only a short distance away so I opted for the capital. And I must say I am a big fan of the city! Its smaller in size than Milano, and with a river running through it its filled with many cute bridges. The city’s castle is quite nice as well since the city put a lot of money into renovations – you can see an interesting mix of old and new when you visit. The castle’s viewing tower offers a fantastic view, and it’s said that on a clear day you can see up to a third of the entire country.

Aside from visiting the castle we made it a point to have some traditional Slovenian food, starting off with some Slovenian schnapps to keep us warm while we were walking around. We went to one of my friend’s favorite restaurants, Güjžina, which serves food from the Prekmurje region (in northeast Slovenia) – two hours later I was in major food coma from all the deliciousness. The typical drink which many locals prefer is the “prekmurski spricar” which is a spritzer of white wine mixed with mineral water, and the most pleasantly surprising find of the day was trying pumpkin seed oil, the country’s equivalent to olive oil. Ljubljana has a lot of character with it’s artistic expression, for example all around the main streets of the city you can see tons of shoes hanging from wires, and there were also interesting floating orange Monopoly-esque houses that we couldn’t exactly explain. Personally though, what I liked the most was the emphasis on dragons: the dragon is the symbol of the city and is on its coat of arms, and it symbolizes strength and courage. Robert even said the local football teams fans wear green to dress up as dragons at games. Love!

Our main feature: Bujta repa (cabbage with meat), dodoljev tris (potato dish), and ravenska (buckwheat salad)

In addition to checking out Ljubljana, we also visited Izola’s neighboring town Piran which is the oldest Slovenian coastal town. It’s charm, aside from being along the water, has to be its narrow winding streets that lead through the town. Piran is such a picturesque town, and its no wonder that its the country’s main tourist destination. Slovenia in general is a very warm, friendly country. It’s so safe that many people don’t even worry about locking their doors or cars. Robert mentioned that many people here are too shy to speak English, and we actually noticed several times as people started to approach us, overheard our conversation got nervous and walked away! I found it adorable actually, and have to say I can relate after living in Milan these past 6 months and watching some of my guy friends unsuccessfully try to flirt with Italian girls. Overall I’d have to agree with my friend Shawn – Slovenia really is a gem, and I’m glad to have seen it through the eyes of a local.

I’m always amazed at where life can lead us. A year ago I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d be in Slovenia sharing a glass of wine and good conversation with a friend I made in NYC. And two summers ago as I was visiting my friend in Milan during my month of backpacking, I only wished I could live in Italy and couldn’t foresee that I’d be making it a reality this year. As I was sharing the past year’s highs and lows and my concerns for my future career path, Robert reminded me that years ago we were worried about different things in our lives that have managed to work themselves out today. I’ve had major disappointments and setbacks in the last few years in both my professional and personal life, and yet I could not imagine that those would lead to this moment here today, spending a year learning so much about business, other cultures, Europe and about myself. So when I think about it that way, that our lives will always have a plan B and that it’ll still work out magnificently, it relieves some of the tension and anxiety that I have been putting on myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying for the things I really want; on the contrary I will continue to kick like hell to go after it. But perhaps what is right for me is something that is so big that I can’t even wrap my head around it yet but will be patiently waiting for me when the right time comes. And that is pretty damn exciting.

Thanks to Robert for being not only a fantastic host, but also such a great and inspirational friend!

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Filed under Europe, International Food Tour

Fulfillment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

– Dalai Lama

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November 13, 2011 · 12:30 pm

The Soapbox Chronicles: On the Road Again – Thoughts on the True Meaning of Wealth

Current location: Somewhere between Berlin and Prague

Currently reading: Game of Thrones Book II – A Clash of Kings

 

Ah, it’s Monday again. My third Monday in Europe, which also means my trip is past the halfway point. It’s a sunny day and I’m looking out the window as my train rides alongside a river surrounded by lots of trees and beautiful houses. My At&t courtesy text message informs me of my new international rates so I now know that I am in the Czech Republic. For the first time ever! I’m very excited to explore a new city and learn about a culture that I know very little of. I hear Prague is very touristy, but hopefully I can bypass some of the tourist parts and find more local flavor. Rob, a coworker from CB, was kind enough to pass on a Prague guide written by one of his friends who studied there so I’m already armed with some great places to eat and other must-see spots. Thanks, Rob!

This trip has been so awesome so far, what an experience! Booking my hostels the day before I arrive. Having the freedom to go wherever I want when I want. At this point, I only have things planned through Wed night – come Thurs morning I don’t even know what direction I’ll be heading or who I’ll be running into next. Why did I wait until I was 27 to do this?? Well at least I’m doing it now.  It’s been an extremely liberating experience and exactly what I needed after feeling suffocated at my last job.  I wish the funds would never run out so I could live like this more…

Back in San Sebastian, I had a long conversation with one of my hostel mates about traveling and wealth. I  believe those guys are traveling for like 10 months, and being able to afford something like that with my current lifestyle  is not an option for me at this time. But how much I could see and do with the money I spend on my studio each month! It’s painful when you look at it that way. Of course, it was my decision to live in Manhattan and have the nice studio and get my HBO and enjoy a social life of going out several times a week (which is NOT cheap). But here I am, hopping from country to country and spending $30-50 a night on “rent” instead and getting soo much more out of it. I mean, really what is wealth — the accumulation of nice things, a great apartment, a short vacation every year? My friend Alessandro from Rome is pretty much a nomad, traveling to new places every chance he gets. I think he’s currently somewhere in Asia right now and I hope to meet up with him at some point in the future. Ale says he’s pretty poor, but really he’s so rich in his experiences and he’s seen more places than most of us will see in our lifetimes. I won’t lie, I do want it all. I want to live in this moment AND to have my nice place and nice things. And I do want a family and to raise my kids with many opportunities and a level of comfort where they will never have to worry about finances. But I also don’t see myself having a family within the next few years (sorry Mom, and no I don’t want to be arranged) and so the idea of ditching the luxuries of New York for the chance to explore and open my eyes to new things sound more appealing, right? I also do want the career. I want to find the right place for me, where I’m excited to go to work and I’m challenged every day and feel truly appreciated. I think when the right opportunities present themselves (in love and career) maybe then I’ll want to just be in one place. Or perhaps I’m destined to be with a man who loves traveling as much as I do, and I can get some dream job of taking photos of food from different countries. A girl can dream!   Either way, I have been extremely blessed in my life and I do believe everything will come in time. So for now I will enjoy the scenery out my window, which definitely trumps the view of the Hudson River.

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Filed under Europe, The Soapbox Chronicles

Owning It

Excerpt from Cutting For Stone, by Abraham Verghese:

“In prison, lights were out by eight o’clock. We’d each tell a story. that was our entertainment. I told stories from the books we read to you in this room. One of my cell mates, a merchant, Tawfiq – he would tell the Abu Kassem story.”

It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of them. But his every attempt to get rid of his slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main dram and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

“One night when Tawfiq finished, another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man, said, ‘Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.’ The old man laughed, and he seemed happy when he said that. That night the old man died in his sleep…

“We all saw it the same way. The old man was right. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…

“I never knew my father, and so I thought he was irrelevant to me. My sister felt his absence so strongly that it made her sour, and so no matter what she has, or will ever have, it won’t be enough.” He sighed. “I made up for his absence by hoarding knowledge, skills, seeking praise. What I finally understood in Kerchele is that neither my sister nor I realized that my father’s absence is our slippers. In order to start to get rid of your slippers, you have to admit they are yours, and if you do, then they will get rid of themselves…

“I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own your talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

 

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