“Smart” detox: the results and conclusions

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

Try to rest from digital world from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago, I screwed up all my willpower and decided to leave my smartphone home together with the hustle and bustle of the city for the week-end. What came out of it was that my phone screwed up, too 🙂 But in the negative meaning of the word.

I guess it was a terminal offense to my poor device: upon my arrival, it crashed. To be more precise, it became an ordinary cellphone without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Just like that. No failed landings on the floor, no bathings in the water. Nothing. Just a final and categorical No Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

So, my smartphone diet was involuntarily prolonged (as fixing the issue cost me quite a lot of money and time which is another story). I blew away the dust from the once-posh Motorola L6 and embarked on the smart-less journey.

As a “glass is half-full” person, I decided to take advantage of my new circumstances. Just to relax, not to check for notifications and messages every 10 minutes, to toss away the trash information that’s the social media is overstuffed with and relish other joys of the non-tech life. The results?

  1. More peaceful sleep and no rushing to grab the phone to look through Facebook updates. Instead, 15 minutes of productive writing and reading time in the morning.
  2. Less backache. We’re doing too much texting with our backs twisted and our heads bent causing the constant tension on the neck and back.
  3. More time for my long-forgotten hobbies, such as playing the piano.
  4. And lastly, more quality time to connect with family. (By the way, they turned out to be quite interesting conversationalists 🙂
  5. But for the constant need for my favorite playlists and the camera every now and then, I’d never miss this piece of technology. Honestly, I didn’t have the desire to chat or comment or check notifications on social networks for all this while.

The conclusion? I’m going to deliberately “leave” my smartphone somewhere inside my desk and organize such “smart” detoxications once a month, at least for 2 days. (I’d do more if my job allowed it). And I strongly recommend you to enhance your lifestyle with this simple yet very salient method. Let’s go even further- do digital detox– computer and phone-free days once in a while! 🙂

P.S. My smartphone is  now ok, of course, not without considerable money investments 🙂

Life: our friend or foe?

life-has-no-ctrl-z

Recently I’ve been ruminating over the rules of life. Like a little fretful princess, it likes taunting us, torturing to tears, biting and stinging and then, at the end of the game, “award” us with a shiny smile.

Suddenly, in the middle of my reflections, I thought how good the life can be at throwing us to the situations opposite to the ones we would strive to be.

Love being in silence? Here you go- a job in a crowded office with constant buzz and bubble (over the work or everyone’s husbands’ work).

A passionate person? Good for you! Go and find your way of sublimation- shouting, yelling, bitching around or- more civilized variants- beating the pillows and dancing like a crazy- since you are not going to have any affairs (or a single meaningful one) for a long time. Deal with it.

An extrovert? Sorry, but there is only this available job opportunity in a small office with no colleagues. Go and grab it, you’re broke and have nothing to chew.

A tough woman seeking a strong man? Then you’re sure to be exposed to either a bunch of mellow losers, or shrewd gigolos, or- just the “perfect” but…married ones.

Life is sometimes against us. It’s our enemy, the most hostile and bellicose rival that you could ever meet. But it’s the fight that makes us stronger. It’s the acceptance of the impossible to change that makes us resilient. And it’s the bit of irony and cynicism that helps us stay sane in the most hopeless states.

As the closest friend may one day become your fiercest enemy, the life can play both roles at the same time. As one of the ancient sages said: “I don’t know what’s good, what’s bad”. Let’s at least TRY not to judge the events, just to accept them and be optimistic about what’s awaiting as in the Life’s next twist.

The autumn tree vs cubicle: an episode from my journal

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From time to time, I read a random passage from my to find clues to my present emotional state and reconsider some areas in my life to get out of shitty moods. Today I again went down my memory lane to analyze and make some conclusions for a few life-changing choices. Scrolling down and down, I ran into the following episode, written 2 years ago. It struck me with its despair and urgency and listlessness yet it totally conveyed the whole inner drama I was going through at that time.

“I looked out of the office window today to see this totally yellow tree standing in front of me with the whole splendor and majesty that the autumn brings to the nature. Someone’s laundry hung beside the tree making the whole picture even more sentimental. I wish I had a photo beside the tree or of the tree but unfortunately I didn’t take my photo camera today (I didn’t have a smartphone back then- edit.). I could stand by the window and meditate long on the tree but I had to go back to my cubicle. That symbolizes the whole office life- attached to the computer, half-asleep at the end of the day.  The real life seems to pass by my office window sometimes. Especially when it’s sunny and warm – like today. When you go out and breathe deeply, the life starts sprinkling your soul with joy and happiness, even more motivation to life than any of those great books that I read during the day.

Anyways, I am grateful for what I have and feel. Mostly – for what I feel. Because life is all about feeling and not having”.

An ending of an incorrigible optimist:)  At least, it reminded me of being one.  And it helps to repeat it from time to time, as a mantra, to help us out of difficult times.

5 taboo phrases you should never tell your single female friends

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

There are phrases to be avoided while dealing with a single person

My personal life has never been a piece of strawberry cake lately. Actually, I haven’t recently had one in the first place ( to judge it in terms of good and bad). After my latest failed endeavor, I just dropped my guns and quit the personal front. Travel, career and family- this is what I substituted the romance, dating and love with.

I don’t complain. It’s been a life of a happy single surrounded with happy couples J However, this seemingly idyllic life (which undoubtedly is better than being in a rotten or dead-end relationship) is often challenged by supposedly well-intended phrases thrown here and there to cheer your single soul up.  I’m sure the intentions are most noble and sincere, but they do backfire.

So, I decided to deliberately stop narration of the last part of my trip (so urgent the topic was!) and  brought together top 5 phrases that have just the opposite effect on single women. Here we go! (NB: Hey, I haven’t always been single, and I’m guilty of making these mistakes, so the examples are life-tested from both sides).

  1. “It’s okay, enjoy your time alone (with your friends, family, hobbies and whatever)”. Well, with a couple of hobbies, great friends and nice family, that’s what I’m doing now (and many others, too, I hope). But thanks for reminding 😉
  1. “Just wait- the right person will show up at the most unexpected moment”. No comment. Just a nod. I myself am a protagonist of whole concept of “right person at right time”. But believe me it is of no use when on a particularly dismal winter evening you eagerly desire he were by your side here and now.
  1. But, at the same time: “Hurry up! You’re already 25+.” Well, my answer in such cases is something like: “Okay, set me up with a super nice man. Oh, you don’t know one? Then, I like my life of a happy single as it is for now. Bye”.
  1. My favorite “Any news in private life?” (Especially when the curious one is just a neighbor who you meet once a decade or a colleague who you can’t but see every day…unwillingly ;)). Believe “the news” you would be at least holding my hand at the moment of your asking. I know but a few other questions that can be so annoyingly inappropriate (with the “When are you planning a baby” topping the list).
  1. You’re a strong woman, men are intimidated by them”. One correction: men (if you know what type of a man I mean) are not so easily intimidated (if yes, then I don’t even consider the option), especially by a strong and a bit bitchy woman (if you know what type of a woman I mean). So, dear strong women, go on with your self- and career-development and never lower the bar.

Actually, all these taboos boil down to a common conclusion: as long as possible, just bypass the topic. Talk about art, nature and even your neighbor’s wedding but not the prospects of private life of your (happily) single friend, colleague or neighbor. Unless you know a super nice guy who could be a match for her 🙂
 

Day #795: “When you complain, you make yourself into a victim..”

Complaint-free and happy life is our choice

Complaint-free and happy life is our choice

Let’s be winners, not victims. Let’s act or accept instead of complaining. Let’s not compare us to others but to our former self. Let’s just spare our energy for more constructive things than complaint and constant frustration.

1000 Days of Inspiration

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

-Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

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BeNe Trip: Day 6- Ghent, or Mission Completed

What could comfort me, a solo traveler with a lot of insecurities and fears who, above all,  just said goodbye to new friends- participants of Ent-Ex programme? Perhaps, the sweet anticipation of meeting old ones.  After an aimless stroll in the Amsterdam streets and my final must-do in the city- the boat- trip, I packed my things to wake up early next day and take a train to Ghent – where I was supposed to meet my good old friend Tigran and his sister Sona.

What happened in reality was off my schedule. Still slow and lax due to my recent booze and weed-trial (they say its effects last a few days- or, at least, it holds true to my case ;), I miscalculated the time needed for getting to the station. Then I successfully failed to find the right platform, and eventually saw my train leave – completely deaf to my screams and pleads, which, to put it in a coherent speech, were “wait, wait for me”.

Thank God, the cannabis and easy-going Amsterdam vibe has had a calming effect on me, too. Sticking to my recently acquired “I-don’t- care” attitude, I just took the next Thalys without further panic.

Here I was – standing beside the Ghent Saint Peter’s station waiting for my friends and simultaneously trying to “detect” the vibe, music and color of the city. The vibe- that of a student, nonchalant and maximalist at the same time (for objective reasons, since the Ghent University campuses are scattered all over the city, and my friend was doing his post-doc in one of them), the music – Medieval Flemish tunes (which from time to time was heard in the historical center) and color- soft terracotta mixed with Gravensteen-gray.

Gravensteen, Ghent

Gravensteen, Ghent

I guess I fell in love with the city during a boat trip which we relished with Belgian waffles – a perfect mix of aesthetical and foodie experience. The city views were something, so were the waffles: from the very first bite, all the sweets which I’ve had before (even the Italian tiramisu) momentarily paled into this mouth-watering blend of waffles, vanilla ice-cream, chocolate and strawberries to top with. And all these- against the background of well-preserved (and renovated) medieval blendings, flower-clad canal houses with metallic small statues on the roofs ( I loved them!) and surprisingly (for Belgium) cloudless blue sky (I loved it even more!). Envy me how much you want 🙂

Boat trip and Belgian waffles

Boat trip and Belgian waffles

Our next destination was the famous 91-meters-tall Belfry (UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, by the way). When I saw the narrow stairs leading to the top the first thing I recalled was Duomo. Soon enough did I realize it was not the only similarity with Florence. The enthralling panoramic view of the city reminded me of Florence- similar colors, vibe and terracotta-tiled roofs (NB: I missed Florence…For me, it’s the most beautiful of the ones I’ve seen so far).

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However, my must-do program didn’t only include marveling the city gems. I had a “mission”, so all three of us headed for the Boekentoren– Tower of Books- Ghent University Library. Why? That’s what the librarian’s face expressed when we started taking photos of a memory board of a man with mustache with a not-so-Belgian but so-Armenian name and surname. Actually, it was a memory board dedicated to an alumnus of the university, famous Armenian poet and victim of the Armenian Genocide Daniel Varouzhan, with an excerpt from his poem. Having studied at school named after this great poet and man and scrupulously learned his biography, I couldn’t but pay my homage to the great contribution he made in Armenian literature and history overall. Only then, after traversing the Ghent streets and accomplishing my modest “mission”, I could leave for Brussels (where my hotel reservation was) ticking all the MUSTs for me (not the ones mentioned in travel guides) 🙂

Mission completed: Daniel Varouzhan memory board found

Mission completed: Daniel Varouzhan memory board found

Goodbye Ghent- Florence of the North. Next station is – Brussels– New York of Europe.

P.S.  I highlighted my recommendations or must-dos with bold. Just explore the city on foot and explore other hidden gems by yourself -this is the best tip from me:)

BeNe Trip. Days 2- 5: My “Entrepreneurship” and Networking Experience: Ent-Ex Amsterdam Programme

We've got certificates! Photo Courtesy Ent-Ex

We’ve got certificates! Photo Courtesy Ent-Ex

Those who have read the previous posts about my BeNe trip (by the way, despite the modest visitors, the geography of my readership is expanding daily!) might be intrigued to know what I did during the Days 2,3,4 and 5 in Amsterdam. I’m going to disappoint some of you: I wasn’t lavishly indulging in the “legalized pleasures” this city is associated (at least in my home country) with during those days. As a reasonable person (or at least, considered one), who besides paid money which could have been spent on trendy outfits, by the way ;), on the Day 2, I  took a tram to Vrije University – the venue of the Ent-Ex Amsterdam programme.

“Well, the first thing I was expecting of the programme. Let’s see what comes next”, I gladly murmured to myself after the initial “ice-breaking” coffee-break with representatives of at least 10 nationalities. Actually, that was one of the reasons (if not the primary one) why I decided to cut off the “fun” part of my vacation and attend the programme instead, which, despite the saturated schedule and competitive spirit “reigning” among the participants, turned out to be fun, too.

Honestly, what I anticipated could more fit in the  “speakers-lectures-questions and answers- follow-up- farewell party” frames. However, our programme coach Steve, did his best to bring us out of the “comfort zone” (almost a cliché, but a really pivotal skill for a entrepreneur, as all the speakers kept claiming). Interviews- team discussions- conclusions- and final presentations interrupted by coffee breaks and lunches- mini networking and cultural exchange events- this was what all of us would be going through. A very serious, almost 9-to-6 endeavor, indeed).

Green Dream Team: Photo Courtesy Ent-Ex

Green Dream Team: Photo Courtesy Ent-Ex

Well, first I was very reluctant to these rules of the game. “Siri the Quitter” part of me was rebellious: “Hey, Steve, it’s been a tough year and I’ve just gone through the whole stress of the first-time solo travel. Are you serious? Am I going to rack my already drained brains over interviewing the speakers and making a huge presentation?”. “Yes, you will. And, besides, no one is to blame for your recent workaholic schedule”, the verdict was made by the “Siri the Reasonable Girl”. So, here I was: together with my  smart and sweet team mates (who also seemed to be a bit reluctant at first) – Robert (Germany), Camilla (Italy) and Gargi (India)- I gradually fought the laziness and, surprisingly, fatigue, and plunged into the process!

Despite really intense schedule (almost 9-to- 6) -both for us and programme managers-I found my “second breath” opening over a delicious beer at the Dam Square or walking around the Red Light District until late evening (Special thanks to UniPartners Amsterdam for the sightseeing and partying events, and again waking up in the early morning to go to university (I found out I missed it!).

Dinner and multicultural networking are key:)

Dinner and multicultural networking are key:)

Actually, on the day of final presentations on “Essential Skills for Entrepreneurs” which each of the 4 teams diligently crafted after interviewing the speakers, I was already missing the whole friendly yet competitive atmosphere of the workshop. New friends from all over the world, possible future business contacts and, new theoretical skills that will help many of us build our businesses – and all this happening in one of the most multicultural and friendly cities in the world: I couldn’t believe my luck! I may sound the PR agent of the programme, but I do recommend the Ent-Ex to:

a) aspiring or current entrepreneurs

b)employees who want to be more effective at their 9-to-6 jobs as entrepreneurship skills are nowadays required everywhere

c) those who just want to relish “the only real luxury, the luxury of human communication” and celebrate the difference of cultures and mindsets in one of the wonderful European cities of the programme.  Honestly, I a bit envied Steve, Alice (programme coordinator) and my favorite teammate Camilla (who was skillfully juggling her duties of an intern at EIIL and programme participant) who would travel afterwards to Barcelona and Porto to go on with the programme. Thank you all for your efforts and time!

P.S. To whom it may concern: I may gladly share some of the newly acquired skills over a coffee or beer 😉 If bribed properly, I may also share the presentation 😛 (read- a joke: I will never do that ;).

Discovering Amsterdam: Dos and Don’ts for first-time travelers

The

The “I AMsterdam” sight and Rijskmuseum

I intentionally omit the Days 2, 3,4 and skip to conclusions as I’m going to devote a separate entry to the Ent-Ex Amsterdam – that’s what I’ve been doing over these days!

After overcoming some fears  which kept me awake at night at the pre-vacation period, immersing in some culture on Day 1 and improving my entrepreneurial skills within the days to come, I was freely navigating in Amsterdam discovering the whole charm of the city and trying to live rather than be a tourist here.

So, what  I think you should or shouldn’t do in the Dutch capital? Let’s start with Dont’s.

  1. Don’t take photos of the GIRLS. The Red Light District Girls. Yes, some of them are stunning but it’s not allowed to capture the beauty with your camera.
Must-see but must-not-photo place, Red Light District

Must-see but must-not-photo place, Red Light District

2. Don’t have high  expectations to the local cuisine. “If you’re going to Belgium next, then save your appetite till then- here you’re not going to satisfy your gourmet tastes unless you’re going to a really posh restaurant (which you won’t, of course:)”, I was constantly told when I asked about a nice local restaurant to savor local food. Just like that: simple pancakes, fried potatoes and herring (which is a must-taste, though!) that’s what I managed to spot.

3. Don’t have the hope for even the slightest hint for steady weather. Even in summer. Even when there don’t seem to be any clouds in the sky. The unpredictability of Dutch weather is almost legendary. That holds true to Belgium, too. So, be prepared for sudden weather metamorphoses – and always keep your raincoat or umbrella in the backpack.

Rain in Amsterdam

Rain in Amsterdam

4. Don’t go to the local Dutch pubs! Especially if you’re claustrophobic and allergic to pop. Go for a classy, hip club (flocked in the city center, by the famous Bulldog coffeshop). The quality of music and service is higher here.

Amsterdam nightlife

Amsterdam nightlife

5.  Don’t fight with a bicyclist if you’re about to be hit by him/her. There is an unwritten rule in Holland: the bicyclist is always right. Even if he/she is wrong 🙂

6. Don’t buy water in the supermarket: the Dutch are proud to have the cleanest water in Europe, so you can just drink from the tap.

7. Especially if you’re from the warmer part of the world, don’t take beachwear or tiny shorts or sleeveless t-shirts (unless you’re hardy enough): even in summer, you just won’t need them here. Pack light- meaning pack warmer things.

And, what you should DO in Amsterdam?

  1. Do stroll around Museum Plein every evening, read a book lying on the grass at Vondel Park or just have a beer at the Dam Square. (Warning: high concentration of tourist traps here as on almost all the “historical centers”).
Museum Plein

Museum Plein

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2. Do try the national herring – fast food- which is not a junk food surprisingly, and is (thank God) the only dish in the cuisine that I liked.

This is how Dutch raw herring is eaten

This is how Dutch raw herring is eaten

3. Do take a boat trip. Well, some people may consider it a splurge, what if you don’t take it on your vacation when else are you going to pamper yourself? It costs around 10-20 Euros, comes with an audio guide and unrivalled views of the city.

Amsterdam boat trip

Amsterdam boat trip

4. Do take Thalys train at least once if you’re going to other cities after Amsterdam. A bit pricey but very comfortable journey is guaranteed. With free Wi Fi and magnificent views of windmills, of course.

New windmills in Netherlands

New windmills in Netherlands

5. Do try the local beer. For me personally it was a bit heavy, but it has a unique flavor and smell different from, for instance, Belgian ones (which I love a lot!). So, swap your Heineken (which is Dutch as well, by the way) with local beers made in the Amsterdam Brewery.

Amsterdam beer is a must-taste

Amsterdam beer is a must-taste

6. Do take trams. I absolutely love this transport (some time ago we used to have them in Yerevan as well). Cozy, clean and quite fast, they work on a 5-6minute basis. Just get a transport pass in your hotel and voila- enjoy the ride!

N5 tram- fast and cozy

N5 tram- fast and cozy

7.  And, of course, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or just feel like developing your entrepreneurship skills for your job, visit Ent-Ex Amsterdam next year. As promised, I’m going to write about the programme in the next blogpost.

BeNe (Lux?) trip: Part 2: I heart Amsterdam: Day 1- Exploring the city

Amsterdam- the bicycle city.

Amsterdam- the bicycle city.

Before I dwell on the feeling and emotions overflowing me in this incredible city (read: pathetic women stuff), just one remark. You can skip the “lyrics” part and straightly go to the pragmatic part below: the lessons learned and tips to be shared. I won’t be upset, I promise. (Well, just a bit:)

So, I’m alone and free in one of the most classy and vibrant cities in the world, where weed is legal in coffee shops and it’s allowed to have sex in the largest park, Vondelpark. What should I do? Of course, behave myself, as most of the locals do 🙂 Forbidden fruit is sweet, but make it legal -and people are more relaxed about trying one.

As a “19th century aristocratic lady” (dubbed by a few friends for my passion for classical music, books and classy outfits), I couldn’t but pick up a hotel with a very “classical” name out of the bunch of cheaper choices: Hampshire Hotel Beethoven located at the Beethoven Street. Could there be a better choice? At least, I would remember the address of my 5-day dwelling. And at best, as I intuitively sensed, the Dutch people couldn’t place a hotel named after a genius in a crappy neighborhood. My intuition was right (as in 90% of cases). The hotel was nicely situated in a posh district (as all my Dutch friends kept on claiming later).

City view from Beethoven Hotel.

City view from Beethoven Hotel.

On the very first day, after an hour of rest, I stepped out of it to explore the neighborhood and get to the Van Gogh Museum – the only one on my must-see list (honestly, I managed to satisfy my hunger for the art in Italy, after the 3rd museum).

But before getting there I should have at least stay alive among the hundreds of bicyclists flocking in the middle of nowhere. I guess there are more bikes in Amsterdam than people. That’s proved by statistics. And that means you have more chances of being hit by a crazy biker than a drunk driver or tram.

Miraculously surviving the bike attacks and a few grumpy cyclists who threw a few Dutch curses to my direction, I got to the Museum Plein- home to a bunch of world-class museums: from the landmark Rijksmuseum up to Diamond Museum and even Torture Museum!

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Looks scary.

Sticking to my initial plan, I headed forThe Sunflowers and The Bedroom (read: Van Gogh Museum) instead The Night Watch (read:  Rijksmuseum). Colors, colors, colors…and.. some of Gauguin’s naked Tahitian women (yes, as Van Gogh’s friend, his painting were scattered in some of the rooms despite the fact he was the reason for Van Gogh’s ear cut off: real friendship outlives the minor quarrels, indeed:)

No photos inside the museum :)

No photos inside the museum 🙂

Splurging a bit in the museum store (I have a boon for sometimes unjustified price tags in all the museum stores, I confess), I went out to fully breathe in the fresh air after the rain and carefree faces of “selfie-stickated” tourists feeling behind the stress of the transfer and my fears that I wrote about.  My gut told me: this is going to be an unforgettable trip, which will fully change the course of my life.”We will never gonna be the same”, a tune was swirling in my head till I got to be bed and slept calmly since ages.

Watching raindrops and doves from Van Gogh Museum.

Watching raindrops and doves from Van Gogh Museum.

Lessons learned and tips to be shared:

  1. I liked the hotel, so strongly recommend for solo travels especially- safe and quiet neighbourhood, nice staff. I don’t know anything about the breakfast though.
  2. The best way to get around is by a tram. Just buy a 2, 3,4- day passes and enjoy the ride!
  3. Keen on burning calories? Relish the walking in one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities, as long as you don’t forget it’s the most bicycle-friendly city as well.
  4. So, logically, beware of bicyclists: they are always right, even if you’re hit.
  5. Skimp money on water. You can just drink from the tap- the Dutch water (as Armenian one) is drinkable.
  6. Keep your food expectations low. I’ll write about it later as well. 🙂
Green carpet of Vondelpark.

Green carpet of Vondelpark.

In the next chapter, I’ll focus on the Ent-Ex programme, my (self)-discoveries and, of course, lessons learned and recommendations.