Friday, 22 August 2014

Running From Love

On Sunday I am leaving Germany for good. I leave behind my boyfriend and the many friends and memories I have made this year. I can't imagine my life anywhere else, but it's time to go. I have no idea how to say goodbye to the man I have loved here. He has seen the highs and lows of my experience as an au pair. He has held my hand through the hard times, traveled with me, introduced me to the special people in his life. He has fed, sheltered and supported me in every way. I will never be able to repay or thank him enough. 

My heart is breaking. I am scared I am making the wrong decision. Why am I running from love? The answer for me is I have to. I can't live my life in a way that would not fully satisfy me for just one person, when that person is not me. Maybe that's selfish. But right now that's the choice we've made together. We don't know what the future holds, if our paths will one day cross again. It seems unlikely, but I know even if I never see him again. I won't forget nor regret falling in love so unexpectedly. It makes leaving even harder, but I wouldn't change my experience for the world. Loving without expectation and with uncertainty of the future is the most pure love I have both given and received. Every single day counts. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Reminder for Today

I think sometimes we could all use this reminder. I hate that my first instinct in some situations is to put down another person. I make a conscious effort not to do this, but sometimes I slip up. An example from recent times is leaving my host family early. I wanted to blame everything on my host parents and point out all their flaws. In reality I know I am nowhere near perfect. I am most defintely not the perfect au pair. And what's done is done. Putting them down doesn't make me a better person, in fact it probably produces quite the opposite. It doesn't change the situation, so I think in that experience,  it was best to keep my mouth closed altogether. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Should I Run Five Races and a Half Marathon?

It's on my bucket list to run a 10km, half marathon or even full marathon. But I seriously need to work on my stamina first, especially after months abroad, with a grand total of two short runs the entire time. I got searching for races in Auckland for next year, and found the Auckland Run Series. It starts at the end of March and is six, 5km or 10km races, with the final race a half marathon. I am pretty keen on this idea, it forces me to train, and I will (hopefully) achieve my goal of running a half marathon. Maybe I will even get the courage to enter a full marathon! I guess one can always dream!

Calling all who have trained for races before, what are your top tips for running?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


I love exploring Germany. Every city is so different. So after four months breathing no sea air, I thought it was about time to head north. Here are some of my favourite photos and experiences from Hamburg, a little trip I made by myself in June.

Check out this awesome underground station which changes colour!

The town hall of Hamburg is spectacular.

 As an ocean loving girl, I spent a heap of time at the port and on boats, making the most of the sea.

Look at the sweet lighthouse!

Even though it was quite windy, it was great to hang out on the beach for awhile.

Exploring the lovely suburb of Blankenese.

Hamburg is vastly different from inland, Stuttgart, but it's interesting in it's own way. I loved walking through the Elbe tunnel (it's underwater), visiting the fish market and just taking my time to explore the city.

See you again Hamburg.

First Run After Surgery

Went for my first run/jog after having surgery today. 4.66km. I didn't time it, just wanted to see how I would go without any pressure. I had to slow down quite a lot because my stomach was hurting a little. But overall I'm pleased. It's better than nothing and hey, I'll take what I can get.

I am always amazed at how much better I feel after some exercise. I was being a grumpy bum, but after being outside for less than an hour the frustration dissipated. Yay for endorphins! 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Leaving an Au Pair Job is Hard!

Leaving any job is hard. Even if it's horrible, I still feel awful about quitting. It's even worse when you live with the family you work for. For my au pair job in Germany I had to give four weeks notice. All I could think about leading up to "the talk" with my host family was how that four weeks were probably going to be the most awkward of my life. 

What if they scream at me or make me work thirty extra hours a week because I'm leaving? What if I'm not invited to family BBQs anymore? Or even worse, they kick me out right then and there. These thoughts honestly ran through my mind for days. But I knew it was my time to move on, so I had to be brave. 

First I spent some time thinking about my decision. Am I just homesick? Do I really want to leave or do I only need a break? Is there something myself or my host parents could change to make me want to stay? After careful consideration to these questions and many more, I decided that it would be best for me to resign with grace (as soon as possible).

I started working on an official resignation letter. I know au pairing is quite informal, but it is Germany after all. Plus, in my contract it did state I needed to give written notice of my intention to leave. I didn't want to get too personal with this letter, so I wrote a generic nanny position resignation letter. 

I am an emotional person. I realised I would need to maintain a business like attitude towards the situation otherwise things could get ugly. I didn't want to make it harder for my host parents, or myself for that matter. I hoped that my last four weeks would pass by as normal as could be and without fuss. I explained that I truly did want to stay in contact. This was a personal matter, nothing to do with them. That I was homesick and having surgery in a foreign land made me realise I do just want to go home. Sometimes you need your Mum, even if you are twenty three and on the other side of the world!

Yet with all my good intentions and professionalism, it didn't go quite as planned. I ended up packing my things that night (last night). The door slammed behind me as I was not allowed to even utter good bye to the girl I cared for during those six months. If that's the treatment I get for having one week off because I had appendicitis and surgery, then I guess I'm not so much a part of the family as I was led to believe.

I am not bitter. I just have to move on with my life. Of course I will miss caring for one pretty special three year old, I will miss the friends I've made. But at the end of the day, New Zealand is home. I love traveling, but it all just becomes a bit too much sometimes. And that's okay. I don't see it as failing, just moving on to something better!

Sunrise from bedroom window in Germany. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Making Friends Abroad

One of the scariest, yet most freeing things, is stepping off that plane, into a new city without knowing a single soul. It's a fresh start. That's how I choose to view it anyway. It's exciting to know your possibilities are endless, that you have no idea who you might meet tomorrow. Yet, at the same time it's terrifying to feel alone. I'm so thankful for skype! Traveling is about being open, to new experiences and new people. 

Here are some ways I make friends in a new city;

1. Get on Meetup 
Meetup is an awesome website. You make a profile then search for groups in your area. I have used Meetup with great success while being an au pair. I met some pretty awesome people. The positive is you are all in the same boat, so it's nice to talk to other expats who understand the struggles of moving abroad. Plus you often find out about activities and events you wouldn't normally realise are on. 

2. Go to church...
I understand church is not everyone's thing. But if you are inclined that way, or even if you're not, why not seek out a church (or any other religious gathering) near you. I have made some of my best friends at churches. Normally people should at least greet you, and from there you can ask about small groups to become part of the church community. 

3. Facebook/online communities
Just do a quick search for your area, for example I found a group on Facebook specifically for Au pairs in Stuttgart. I joined this group and people would post when they were free to hang out. I made a great friend by randomly messaging her after seeing her post on the page, and now we hang out all the time. I also found another group for expats in Stuttgart which had over 10,000 members. 

4. Use any connection you can
If you are in a host family, become friends with your host family's friends, through these people you might meet others who you get along with well. It's all about expanding your social circle. It might seem strange at first to be friends with people 20 years older than you, but you just have to get over it. When I was in the park as an Au pair with my host kid, I would say hello to other nannies and mothers. It was nice to see a familiar face every so often, even if they didn't turn into lasting friendships. Get to know your neighbours if you can, you never know when you could use their help!

5. Just say yes
Say yes to everything. When I first moved to Germany I was going to a running group with my host grandfather. Yep, that's right I was running with the over sixties on Monday nights.  But you know what, it was fun, it forced me out of the house, I saw more of my town and improved my German.

6. Language courses
Language courses are really a win win situation, you meet others learning the language, you bond over the struggles of grammar and you should end up improving your skills...Unless you are like me and end up sitting in class with an Australian talking about MTV. But hey, at least I made a friend. 

7. Enjoy your own company
At the end of the day, sometimes you are just going to have to entertain yourself. Find things you can do alone. I love being alone so it's no problem for me. Grab a book and go to the park, take a walk, get a drink at a cafe, go sightseeing, or to an art gallery, anything to get out of the house. And you never know, you might make a friend along the way. 

Hopefully this gave you some ideas on how to get social. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and exciting things shall happen. And be proud of yourself! 

Thought of the Day

Hands up if you agree with this. 

Well I sure see my own hand being raised here. Going through hard times, through the difficult parts of life is not what I would call enjoyable. Often during these times, I'm thinking to myself "this better be worth it in the end", and usually it is. These times are when I find my strength. I find out what's important to me. So I am thankful for my struggles, they have made me who I am today. And today I am strong.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Five Remedies for Insomnia

Recently the FDA approved a new drug to treat insomnia. It is a sedative which blocks chemicals in the brain that keep people awake. Find more information here.

During my naturopathy studies I learnt a lot about common health issues. Insomnia is one of the top reasons that gets people knocking on their naturopaths door.

I've only had true insomnia once and it happened to be during my time at university. So as I was suffering, I was experimenting with ways to relieve it. Here are some ideas you could try if you're having trouble sleeping. 

1. Limit caffeine and alcohol
I did this to the extreme, I drank absolutely no alcohol and limited my caffeine to just one or two coffees per week. When I got desperate, I cut coffee out all together. I do believe this helped me as I am sensitive to caffeine. But it's an individual thing, effecting people in different ways. In some cases caffeine before noon doesn't interrupt sleep at all, and drinking coffee and alcohol will make no difference to your sleep quality. 

2. Establish a bedtime schedule and ritual 
Did you know that sleep is a behaviour? Yes, our bodies do follow a natural circadian rhythm but through practicing good sleep habits and schedules we can reinforce this rhythm. During university I would often stay up late to finish assignments, so I had to set a bedtime for myself and I stuck with it. I developed a bedtime routine which I found relaxing. This could include reading, praying, journaling, taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, whatever you find calming and can be used as a wind down to your day. And of course you've heard it before, turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 

3. Melatonin
Melatonin if used incorrectly can cause insomnia and depression. Therefore I strongly recommend speaking to a healthcare professional. I personally have never used melatonin, although I have seen clients, case studies and family members using it as prescribed, and experiencing great success. 

4. Valerian
Valerian root is a herbal remedy for treatment of insomnia. I used valerian for about a month. It takes two weeks of regular use for it to become effective. I am not a big fan of valerian root, firstly I can not stand the smell and taste of it. Secondly, maybe it was pure coincidence but I suffered terrible dreams and even some nightmare while I was taking valerian. It has been shown to improve sleep quality and decrease anxiety, but for me, it's not the answer to sleepless nights. 

5. Magnesium
Magnesium encourages muscle relaxation and the deactivation of adrenaline among a host of other benefits. Every single person I have talked to who uses magnesium swears it made a difference to their sleep quality. Try taking 400-500mg of chelated form magnesium before you go to sleep. I found this to to also be great for decreasing muscle cramps and soreness.

Comment below with your tips for better sleep. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

People Pleaser

"Some people won't be pleased, no matter what. If the person who you are trying so hard not to disappoint will be displeased with a no, they'll eventually be disappointed even if you say yes." - Lysa TerKeurst

People Pleaser. 

I used to be one. 

It took a long time for me to realise that I shouldn't be living my life seeking approval from others. That it's not my duty to say yes to every question, task and favour. 

I started to think about it this way, when I ask someone for something, and they say no, it doesn't make me like them any less. I found that actually, the people who care for my wellbeing don't hold it against me if I happen to let a no slip from my lips. 

I felt my self confidence was controlled by others. I have since realised that it comes from within myself. Yeah, that's right, from within me. I am strong. I am smart. I am loved. If someone vanishes from my life because I didn't "say yes", well, maybe they shouldn't have been there to begin with.

It took much self examination, and it was a terribly long and hard process, but saying no is freeing. Discovering my own self worth from the inside out was what I needed to stop my "yes addiction".

Here are my four tips to stop people pleasing.

1. Realise you have control. 
If you feel mad, frustrated and are secretly brewing inside, then maybe you shouldn't have said yes. Check your motivation, if it stems from love and compassion then go ahead. But realise you do have control. You are responsible for the words you speak, your decisions and actions.

2. Learn how to say no (with grace), and put it into practice. 
At first it will be difficult, but start out small and work your way up to a bigger "no". People will forget you aren't a people pleaser anymore, so don't worry, you will get a lot of practice using the magic word.

3. Get used to asking for what you want.
Think about something you need help with, even if it's just locating and item in a store, and ask. Get used to suggesting ideas when someone asks what you would like to do, instead of saying "I don't know, whatever you want". What do YOU want? You are allowed to have a voice.

4. Examine your fears. 
Work out why you are a people pleaser. Why do you feel like you have to say yes all the time? For me it was a lack of self confidence and sense of purpose. Saying yes made me feel needed. Once I figured that out, it was a lot easier to focus on improving my confidence and therefore losing some of those people pleasing tendencies. My confidence improved, so I didn't feel the need to seek validation through others anymore.

Of course this is an ongoing exercise. Sometimes I feel myself reverting to my old people pleasing ways, but then I catch myself before the yes comes out. I'm proud of that! I remember that it's okay to put myself first. And it's okay for you too.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Day in Vienna

Lucky, lucky me. I got a couple of weeks off to do a bit of traveling. I decided to go to Vienna, Austria. This beautiful city holds a special place in my heart as I was an AFS exchange student here for a year during high school. Returning again after five years was truly like coming home. I had forgotten so many details, so I loved rediscovering the old and uncovering the new. Here are a few photos of one day in Vienna.

I started my day with a lovely breakfast and wandered down to Stephansplatz, it's always buzzing with both tourists and locals around here. 

I checked out the cathedral and opera house, before heading to the parliament. 

Of course I needed some food! Palatschinken (thin pancakes) filled with nutella and coffee it was. Cake may also have been involved...

Some more walking as I was in search of specific bank, I ended up crossing this bridge (and getting slightly lost for a while there). 

Made it back in time to catch a glimpse of this gorgeous sunset!

And it wasn't long before I ended up at a winery on top of a hill. 

Thank you Vienna for a brilliant time! You were just what I needed. 

Roast Vegetable Salad

Growing up I was never one of those kids who was tortured by the thought of vegetables ... well apart from peas. And to be quite honest, I'm still not much of a fan. But I do love all roasted vegetables! Think you don't like brussel sprouts or carrots? Have you tried them roasted?! 

Seriously, turn on the oven to a medium-high temperature. Grab all the vegetables you can find and cut them into chunks, wedges, cubes, whatever tickles your fancy. Lay those bad boys out on an oven tray, lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Whack them in the oven for a good forty minutes (you might want to turn them over at half time). I love a sprinkle of feta over mine, it turns into a roast vegetable salad. 

Get those veggies in your belly and enjoy!