Lifestyle

Dancing in the Rain – New York

July 14, 2016

The sky was black and the sound of thunder rumbled from the darkening skies behind me. The American anthem had just finished playing, echoing out from the baseball stadium across the way and was followed by an eruption of cheer from the crowd as the whistle blew to indicate the start of the game. The clouds were rolling fast overhead, almost as though a painter was mindlessly brushing dark grey strokes across what was left of the blue sky. In a matter of minutes, Manhattan Island, which stood opposite me across the water was completely shrouded in thick low clouds and in no time at all the heavens opened and large raindrops started falling hard and fast all around us. Welcome to New York.

New York, Manhattan

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Lets Just Go Somewhere

May 28, 2016

As some of you may know, my definition of the word ‘travel’ does not involve jumping into a plane & flying halfway across the world to a climate, culture & landscape completely opposite to your one at home. It does not mean spending copious amounts of money on tickets, accommodation & travel expenses, but rather the word ‘travel’ means to leave the place that you are currently in & exploring new or old places that may be an hour away, a day away or yes, a 12 hour plane journey away. It’s about going somewhere, anywhere.

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2016: A New Year, The Old Me

January 14, 2016

”The Secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

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Congratulations, you’ve made it to the year 2016. You’ve survived yet another year of natural selection and that is a rather commendable achievement in today’s times. Survival and what not. Anyway, that’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is to firstly wish you all an official ‘Happy New Year’, it’s that time of year where we all take out new gym memberships, start new things (on that note I went to a meditation course the other day. I enjoyed it. Didn’t meditate once. Did however notice that I can change the position of my nostrils in numerous ways.), eat healthier, be kinder, work harder, blah blah blah and so the list of things continue as we walk solidly on the road to becoming ‘The New Me’. We’ll see when March comes. That leads me into my second point of this post…

You see, I’ve had these fantastic new years resolutions every single year, in fact I’m pretty sure that I wrote a blog post about them at the beginning of 2015. I’m also pretty sure that I did not adhere to the majority of them. That is the problem about these resolutions, they’re often not sustainable, they’re not coherent with our daily life, they’re not in tune with our personalities and they’re often put into place at a time of year when the stress is at a minimum, when we’re in the holiday zone often at our happiest and we quickly forget how chaotic and crazy life shortly begins to get as the new year marches in. I’ve been wondering how I achieved so few of my 2015 goals, it’s actually quite embarrassing really, is it because I’m not proactive? Is it because I don’t actually care? Is it because I’m lazy? The answer to all those questions is both yes and no.

Of course I care, I care about the state of my beaches, I care about my body and my health, I care about looking good and feeling good, I care about making other people happy, I care about my country, my friends, my family and I care about you. I care but I’m lazy. Ask my mom, she’ll have a field day telling you about how lazy I am whilst I shake my head in disagreement too lazy to argue that I’m not lazy. I forgot during that ‘New Year, New Me’ period about these things, I forgot that I had a hectic final year of studying ahead of me, I forgot that my weekends would be consumed with work, I forgot that I would prioritise surfing above most things in my life therefore leading me to some of the reasons that I actually didn’t do more beach clean-ups last year than I should have or why I didn’t take up kite-surfing, or put up a YouTube video sooner. These are all pathetic excuses I know, but I’m afraid that it is the reality of many people’s lives. I already knew all these things when I was writing my 2015 New Year resolutions but I thought that by some miracle 2015 would make me a better person all-round.

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One of the other resolutions I publicly stated in my post was about introducing new habits. Here is an excerpt: ”Some habits that I would like to introduce is less sugar intake, improved posture, floss more, increase my water intake and do more intense exercise!”. Well guess what Nicole from the past? I ate the same amount of sugar as I did in 2014, my posture if anything got worse, I definitely did not floss more, I was as useless about my water intake as I’ve ever been (in my defence I do have the bladder a size of a pea, so that doesn’t really work in my favour) & my exercise was…well, the same intensity that I’ve been doing for the past three years.

If I knew all this now I could have saved myself a lot of guilt whilst reading that past post. But the point is that we all try to change & that has to count for something right? We all try…until February comes knocking at the door holding Netflix & pizza, asking if I want to chill. ‘Yes February! Yes, I want to Netflix & chill dammit!’

So this year I’ve not set any goals or resolutions and not because I don’t have any, I have many things that I’m working towards but because of life itself. Life’s inconsistencies. Life’s spontaneity. Because life happens. Because even if I did set new resolutions in place, guess what? It’s still going to be the same Nicole as last year saying the same weird comments, still surfing the same break everyday despite ht fact that there about 5 better ones up the road. It’s still the same Nicole that dislikes waking up early & takes half an hour before actually enjoying human company. It’s still the same Nicole with the same passions that fuel me, inspire me, drive me forward. It’s still the same Nicole in every way except that I have one more degree to add to my name, which is pretty cool actually. It’s still the same Nicole who remembers my teacher telling me that I should ”Never start a sentence with ‘because”’…and I just did that. Twice. It is the same Nicole with different visions, different challenges and different opportunities compared to last year, compared to last month, compared to yesterday even. I often think that the goals that we set at the beginning of the year are unrealistic and inflexible. I realise that this is a sweeping statement & I’m sure there are a number of you who actually stick your goals out to the end. I acknowledge & respect that.

My year 2016 is extremely different to any other year of my life. I am no longer a student. I’m a ‘working woman’ trying to pursue my dreams, and what is that you might ask? Right now it’s traveling. Seeing how the world works, seeing waves on every continent, watching strangers from different cultures going about their day, immersing myself within nature from the rainforests to the desert, learning more about my continent, seeing the problematic issues first hand and telling you about what I see, writing my experiences, my thoughts and documenting my journey. Ideally making money to support myself at the same time through grabbing opportunities that come my way via my blog & my new YouTube channel which I’ve just kicked off. I’ll tell you one thing though, its scary. Lots of my friends have started working this year, jobs that society would consider a ‘proper job’ such as engineering, teaching, law and medicine, which makes me feel more uneasy & uncertain about this year as this path is one of the most uncertain and inconsistent ones available, despite how amazing it looks. I’ll tell you another thing, I’m more determined than ever to make this work, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been in my life to work, to sit down and create content, to write, to film & edit videos, to develop my photography and of course to explore the world.

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So I guess that my point is: life changes all the time. Every second of every day. One minute I had a timetable in front of me that mapped out my entire year from January to December, and the next that timetable was over, December was ticked off & it was thrown in the bin before a fresh blank calendar was put in front of me except this time there were no schedules, no routine & no teacher showing me the ropes. Here I am, halfway through January, pretty plan-less, stressing slightly, excited mainly.

Don’t try & create a ‘New Me’, no-one wants a new you, we liked the old you, unless you throw your cigarette butts out of your car window…then by all means create a ‘New Me’. My approach is to just incorporate new things into my life everyday if I can, if I have an hour spare I’ll make the effort to go for a run, learn something new or read an interesting book. Why don’t we make 2016 the year about you & me, about learning to love ourselves without the need for drastic change or without having to create new updated versions of ourselves as we tend to do every year. I am by no means encouraging no change in our lives, change is important and change is vital to our growth. This year is the biggest change I’ve ever encountered. I’m not saying stay in your comfort zones either, in fact I would encourage the very opposite. I guess I’m just saying make positive realistic changes in your life, but make changes that don’t alter your personality, fit in with your busy schedule and your lifestyle, because you are you and the 1st of January shouldn’t try and change that.

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Chapter Closed

November 15, 2015

I put my pen down and closed my book, my hand cramping after cramming as much information as I could within the allotted 4 hour time period. I packed up my highlighters, my pencil and spare pen which were strewn across my desk and quietly pushed my chair out against the wooden floor. I walked to the front of the class and handed in my four exam books to the invigilator, I signed my name off on the list, picked up my bag and walked out closing the door gently behind me.

30th October 2015, 1:00pm. I was finished. Done. 13 years of school and studies and I was finally finished. I had imagined what this moment would feel like for months prior, how free I would feel, how relieved I would be. Every minute when I was behind my desk with my blinds drawn and my windows closed in an attempt to block out the sunlight and horrid cries of joy coming from the kids outside, those free little buggers squealing with happiness as they walked down to the beach, the stench of freedom wafting in underneath my sliding door, but there I was feeling sorry for myself studying and stressing about whether or not I knew enough to get by in my final exam. I would reward myself for daydreaming every 15 minutes by taking a cheeky glance at my phone. It felt like every Instagram post that I saw was of girls traveling the far corners of the globe, every YouTube video I watched was of my friends having the best time and I would think ‘soon that will be me’. And soon it was me, but like most moments that we replay over and over again in our minds, the moment didn’t quite go as anticipated.

I sat outside the exam venue waiting for the rest of my friends to finish so that we could all furiously compare our answers and talk about how crap the paper was. Slowly, everyone started drifting out the venue with a few hints of smiles and a few faces close to tears. I had pictured how we would all hug each other and scream with joy, but instead we all stood in stunned silence with the occasional, ‘guys, we’re finished studying forever’, being muttered before swiftly heading over to the nearby bar for 2 for 1 cocktails. I don’t want to downplay the moment, I felt great because after all it was a momentous occasion for myself and my peers but I was proud & I was scared, I was happy and I was sad but most of all I was excited for what was next.

I’ve always enjoyed school and university. I’ve always been able to put my head down and work when I needed to, often very close to a deadline and somehow always get it done on time and done well. For those of you who don’t know my fairly recent studying history, let me quickly fill you in. After I finished my final year of studying in an all-girls school in Cape Town, I packed up my suitcase and left to go on a gap year to work at a boarding school in England in the hopes of being able to clear my head and decide on what I wanted to study when I returned back home, but when December came and I had to board the plane, I was even more confused than when I left. In January 2012 I started my first year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town majoring in Psychology and Environmental & Geographical Sciences, two subjects which deeply interested me however I had little desire of pursuing either as a career. After a pretty great three years of university, I found myself being called up in front of a sea of people receiving a rolled up piece of paper and a handshake, which meant that I had graduated. I might have been a graduate but I was still confused.

I had had enough of studying by this stage but found myself in a bit of an awkward position. I was in a cross-roads between taking the year off and attempting to get things going on the traveling side of things, however if I found that that wasn’t my thing, I didn’t really have much of a back-up plan to fall onto. I knew that studying an extra year after traveling would not be an option and in South Africa, qualifications are sought after in the business world, of which my current degree didn’t look very promising especially as I didn’t want to pursue it. I tried to persuade my parents to let me travel and do my own thing, however was strongly ‘advised’ to look into completing an honours degree in branding, something which realistically seemed to be a lot closer to the line of work that I wanted to head into.

After dreading the start of this year, I was picturing how this would be the worst year of my life, hindering and pulling me away from my ideas of traveling the globe. The year got off to a slow start and although my class mates were awesome, I had a very negative attitude towards my course and the rest of the year. Before I knew it, I was into the second semester of my studies and we jumped head on into something called brand challenge, whereby you are allocated a team of 8 or so students mixed from second year to honours and each group gets a brief from a brand to work on over a period of 5 weeks, after which each team then delivers back to the brand. I absolutely thrived in this competitive environment and although it was long hours spent indoors, meeting harsh deadlines, getting up before the sun rose and getting home after it set, I loved it. Slowly my perspective changed and I realised how my negative attitude had caused me to be closed-minded and stubborn, instead of embracing this wonderful opportunity. The rest of the second semester went well and before I knew it I was walking out of that exam venue door, a scene that I had imagined for the duration of the year.

On the drive home I was in high spirits jamming and jiving in my car, tunes blaring, singing out loud, cracking a little boogie in the driver’s seat and feeling larger than life. I got home and my parents were there as always waiting with wide grins and open arms and a whole lot of head pats. Without these two magical beings nudging, supporting and catching me when things got unsteady, I most definitely would not be where I am. After a celebratory dinner with my family I headed home for my first night of unemployment. Naturally, I watched David Attenborough’s ‘Madagascar’ documentary which inspired me more than ever to go and seek out tales and sights from nature. But as I lay in bed that night, my head was spinning and my thoughts kept taking me back to: ‘What now?’.

That’s the scariest thought of them all, what do I do now? What’s the next step? I was already stressing about my depressing bank balance which I could no longer blame on ‘being a student’, the most satisfying excuse of them all and I was stressing about my lack of plans. But this is what I had dreamed of for so long wasn’t it? This new found freedom is awesome I won’t lie, it means that I can finally sit down without any distractions and plan my travels and my future content which is what I am incredibly excited for.

But I guess in a very roundabout and indirect way, what I am trying to say is don’t wish away the different phases of your life no matter how green you think the grass is on the other side, always be in the moment and use the future as a way of striving to succeed to get you closer as opposed to a hindrance or distraction. Use it as motivation, as a source of power and energy to make you work harder so that you can attain your future goals and most importantly, stop and take it all in. I’m usually very good with being able to stop myself and take life in, but during the first half of this year I was so determined on what my life would be like after I finished my studies that I didn’t stop once to realise how lucky I am to be surrounded by friends that have my back no matter what, I have a privileged life and I live in a beautiful place surrounded by ocean to allowed me to pursue my greatest passion being surfing and on top of that all, I had an amazing opportunity regarding attaining an honours degree.

But now my friends it must be said that I am extremely stoked to close that amazing chapter of my life and begin scribbling down the first few pages of my new chapter, of which I have no idea what it entails. For those of you still studying, don’t be jealous of mine, or Ben’s or anyone else’s life because like you we worked to get we are in life, like you I sat behind my desk wishing to be somewhere else when scrolling through social media, but my advice would be to rather use this content as motivation to work harder at what you’re doing instead of wishing you were elsewhere, because trust me, sitting behind your desk taking in vital knowledge is not the worst thing in the world. In fact it is great, it is an opportunity some people can only dream of and the world needs you, we need you, to keep on learning 🙂

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