Monday, November 13, 2017

Minimalists. I Admire them From Afar

I am currently in the last week (insert sad emoji!) of my Mini Grand Tour of Australia. Being the little consumer goods victim that I am, I have seen oh so many things on the way that I might have just picked up and stuffed into my suitcase if a) I was not accompanied by my Mum who I knew would have disapproved of half of my impulse buys (you really always stay a child with your parents, don't you?) and b) did not have to self-discipline until our final stop in Sydney when I could take my second item of check-in luggage for the return trip out of my monster Rimowa suitcase. As we all know, being allowed to check in not one, but 2 pieces of luggage on Star Alliance flights is my favourite perk of enjoying Frequent Flyer status. I love it and at the same time am mildly disgusted by my inability to travel light. I really don't like travelling with cabin baggage only as I prefer not to have anything to put into an overhead locker at all, leaving the space to business men with their trolleys. Instead of limiting myself to carry-on luggage only, I have perfected another "technique" over the years. Let's call it "Wardrobe Decluttering Holiday Style". Half of the garments you see below have already been discarded between Bangkok and Brisbane. I collect frayed knickers and threadbare socks as well as "mehp" clothes I would have thrown into the textiles collection bins at home for months and it gives me great satisfaction to create space (for souvenirs) in my suitcase whenever I am on a longer vacation.
It is always the same: I get excited and start packing my suitcase pretty early. I pat myself on the shoulder for only taking the bare minimum. Then I worry I have packed to little in fact. Followed by realisation that it is probably way too much and I start taking out a few things. When on vacation, I will inevitably realise that I have taken too many pairs of shoes and, randomly, 3 lip balms with SPF, while I have forgotten my mini scissors or some other important item. I am clearly out of practice with business trips when I had everything down to perfection. 
I think I'll just resign myself to the fact once more that in this life I won't become a minimalist, but I will stick to my konmari packing method that allows me easy access to everything and does not require hanging and ironing of clothes. Better than nothing.
Whether I will ever understand how "just a few t-shirts" can add up to 20 kilos remains unlikely and the orange tag of shame will therefore be a permanent fixture:

Monday, November 06, 2017

Your Bars, Your Temples, Your Massage Parlours

I am writing this in Sydney (and when this post goes live I will hopefully be near Uluru) that welcomed me with rain, just like on my previous two arrivals here. Before that, Mum and I were in Bangkok for 2 nights. It was a really lovely visit and I am so glad we chose this fascinating city as our outbound stopover destination. I had actually asked Mum which of many options to divide our long journey to Australia she would prefer and she chose Bangkok.
When I first visited Australia in 2011, I also travelled via Bangkok, but only experienced its (huge and very nice) airport. I have to say that I did so with quite a bit of apprehension and the fact that the Austrian airlines cabin crew reminds you that the import or export of drugs gets you the death penalty did not ease that. I suppose I have read one too many articles or watched one too many documentaries about allegedly innocent people whom someone abused as a drug courier. Let me just say I was glad my suitcase did not have any outer pockets...In addition to that mild paranoia, I had major prejudices that were again fuelled by media consumption.
For the longest time, to me, Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular stood only for one thing: sex tourism of the worst kind, where (ugly) Westerners exploit young girls or boys in the worst kind of way or return home with a wife several decades younger than themselves. I readily admit that this was pure ignorance on my part and while Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong always represented the cool Asia, Bangkok was "Third World Asia" in my head, with the only other association apart from abusive sexual relations being counterfeit luxury products. I did find the latter in the night market close to our hotel and also saw more than my fair share of explicit bar signs and dubious looking pills and sex toys being sold by the side of the road (not mentioning men that looked "the part"), but I also saw an infrastructure as modern and efficient as the one in Tokyo, clean streets and buildings, extremely friendly locals and overall a surprisingly international vibe. Those shopping streets could just as well have been in Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong. While Bangkok never made it to my list of must-see-places for the longest time, I have always been a big fan of Murray Head's iconic One Night in Bangkok (where the title of this post is borrowed from). Now that I ended up spending not one, but two nights there, I wish it had been more!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Payback Time

I am all geared up with a packed suitcase for my 2.5 weeks trip with my Mum. Flights have been booked since March and it's quite an adventure. We're flying to Australia with stopovers in Bangkok (outbound) and Singapore (inbound). I am treating my Mum on this no-expenses spared holiday for her 70th birthday. Dad contributed to the flights, but hotels (some of them quite fancy 5* ones), concerts, day-trips, etc. are all my gift. It's not that my mother would not be able to afford such "extravagant" vacations out of her own pocket - quite the opposite. It's more a matter of showing my appreciation and splurging out after having been the beneficiary of her generosity, in fact both my parents', for decades. Her treating ME on trips together was always the default setting and I was really grateful for that while I was a student or not-that-well-paid employee at Coma HQ. Since the travel bug only runs in the maternal side of our family, she was glad to have a travel companion and I would have joined her even if she had not paid my share. Win, win! I am also an only child and even if I always protest when people come out with those "spoilt brat" stereotypes, I won't deny that this comes with a lot of privileges unless you are at war with your parents. I definitely can't complain about mine and am truly spoilt in many ways. So, to cut a long story short, the idea of treating my Mum to a short vacation in Singapore for her 70th that came to my mind as I was swimming in the breathtaking infinity pool of the Marina Bay Sands hotel a few years back somehow snowballed into this bigger project. This type of present would definitely be a punishment rather than a gift for my Dad (not mentioning the fact that his health would not allow him to go on such a trip), so it's definitely for everyone, but it is something that gets my Mum excited and also made her win for once in the daughters-trumpcard-game. While she cannot take part in the comparison of cute photos of grandchildren, much to her regret, she definitely "won" when it comes to family present for their 70ths birthday.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Backlog

[First World Problem Alert] Does this picture make you uncomfortable or slightly stressed? Well, why should it. At first sight, it does not trigger these emotions in me, either as it is actually a photo of thingsI love: my books and magazines in my favourite reading nook. Not pictured: my super comfortable Jolly chair where I am writing this post. What makes this still life less than perfect is the fact that I never seem to be able to work off my pile of magazines or book backlog completely. It's the offline equivalent of an inbox with dozens of unread e-mails. None other than me is to blame as I don't have to hoard books or download them to my Kindle, nor buy magazines. I actually only have two magazine subscriptions left, but this does not mean I don't buy them or grab them for free in airline lounges. Essentially, I am a glossy mag magpie and I love reading them, too. Magazines are my favourite side dish when laying by the sea/lake/pool or in the bathtub. They make weekend more colourful, too. However, there is always other stuff to do or YouTube channels to watch so I never quite seem to be able to completely diminish the pile. And it stresses me. Seeing this pile of unread reading material is like an to-do-list with no items ticked off, i.e. a failure of some kind. Does it keep me from adding to this pile? Nope. #newyearsresolutionmaterial

Monday, October 16, 2017

One Pump of Syrup

I know some people who deny themselves so many innocent pleasures. Like ordering dessert although they would like it. Or choosing one scoop of lemon sorbet even though they are secretly craving 2 scoops of hazelnut praline. Or dragging themselves to the gym even though they would rather finish that good book or meet a friend after work. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating undiscriminating overeating with no exercise at all, but the older I become, the less fixated I am on the things you “should do” (says who?!). If I want dessert, I eat dessert...knowing that I won’t pig out every day of the week...probably, but if I do, I will automatically become a bit more disciplined when my favourite jeans start making me look like a sausage close to bursting apart. I can’t even give you a personal realistic example with exercising as I don’t do anything that deserves that name. Then again, I love walking and sometimes take the stairs to my office which is on the 6th floor of the building. Why? Because I am that weird kind of person who actually enjoys climbing stairs.
Currently, Starbucks is serving its wildly popular PSL ( that's Pumpkin Spice Latte for the uninitiated). Personally, I simply cannot stomach any of the regular Starbucks concoctions with syrups or whipped cream of any kind, finding them way too sweet, but I do love pumpkin spice. Therefore, I treat myself to one (!) pump of pumpkin spice in my favourite Starbucks beverage in Vienna, the skinny Melange (a double espresso with low-fat frothed mild) quite often when they stock pumpkin spice syrup. One pump only, because I love the extra flavour in my coffee, and not because I want to avoid all those calories of a regular PSL. If I liked it, I would drink it. And no, I don't opt for the skinny milk for diet considerations either. That coffee with one pump of PS is something to look forward to in the morning, as is my daily Starbucks fix as such, for which I actually take a little detour to work. Yes, it's overpriced and yes, I have a Nespresso machine both at home and at the office (and I do use both), but as long as I can afford a treat and it makes me happy, I will not deny myself the pleasure. If I had it every day, I probably would not like it as much, but as it is a seasonal phenomenon, I treasure it while it lasts, as I do seasonal food and drinks in general. But I digress. What I am trying to say is that it makes me sad when people are so strict on themselves and settle for something they don't actually like when they could just as well make their days (if not lives) better by treating themselves. If you don't spoil yourself, you can't expect others to do that either. After all, they might think you actually like lemon sorbet best.

Monday, October 09, 2017

A New Routine Every Decade...

(spot the spelling mistake if you speak German...)
I'm a creature of habit when it comes to my lunch routine as a blog post from 12 (!) years ago testifies. About 95% of my nine years at Coma HQ I had the same type of cold sandwich lunch and a warm dinner together with my then-boyfriend. This changed when I started working at the Firm where we got to enjoy a nice restaurant lunch on the company in Vienna (and a great free canteen lunch when visiting their bigger offices elsewhere) that meant I was not really hungry enough for a proper dinner any more and had no problem skipping that altogether. With the exception of business trips when overeating was on the agenda every day anyway, this was my routine for the 10 years I worked at the Firm. Also, I did not have a live-in partner and my whole "life routine" was very different than during my Coma HQ years, with nobody waiting for me to come home from work. These days, I enjoy a typically Austrian work environment: ugly nondescript office and a subsidised lunch at the canteen that is somewhat hit or miss regarding its culinary offerings. From day 1 I copied my team mates that always order the "half portion" of the lunch dish (there are usually 4 varieties of warm dishes on offer) and take a salad from the buffet every day, too. It's 4 Euros well spent, but I had to adapt from (free) food being available everywhere in the office every day to having to pay for my own meals again and having to think ahead and buy snacks if I felt peckish. To be honest, that half portion does not keep me full until dinnertime really and I now crave (and eat) a proper dinner again on most days. I might not have appreciated all that free food at the Firm as much had I never worked elsewhere before, but since I had, I could never quite get over how spoilt we actually were. Now that those privileges are a thing of the not so distant past, I sometimes think back to the soft-serve ice-cream machine in the dessert corner of one of the canteens in Dublin with nostalgia as it symbolised absolute decadence for me and would definitely feature in my personal dream kitchen if floor space and money were no issue. For the next 10 (?) years, however this new routine of mine is very much o.k.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Technology

On Saturday night, my phone decided to die from one second to the next. I was not pleased. The two of us have been through a lot together, basically from day one, and I had grown quite attached to it despite its less than perfect battery life (which is probably due to my obsessive charging at any opportunity). I was a lot more chilled, though, than I was when I realised I had lost my phone in Zurich on a business trip a few years ago. This time, it happened a few subway stops from my home and I knew I was about to return to my flat where I had a landline and spare (old, but functioning) smartphone waiting for me. Not a tragedy by any means, but a nuisance. I was up until rather late, reading forum posts and watching some YouTube videos of people taking their phones apart and fiddling with screwdrivers, hairdryers and the like, which I had no intention of doing, before I realised it was a common LG bug called "bootloop" and there was nothing I could fix myself.  I am now hoping that when the Pixel 2 comes out this week I will be able to get my hands on a Pixel (1) phone for a decent price. We shall see.
On another tech-related note I also wanted to recommend a book I am currently reading, called Bored and Brilliant. If you have ever thought that your use of electronic gadgets and the internet is stealing precious time of your day and you would like to change that, it is a worthwhile read. Well-written and not preachy at all. I was actually surprised that due to one of the smartphone-usage-tracker apps that were recommended in the book, I was not such a bad junkie as I had thought by any means...meaning that there are people out there wayyy more addicted to their phones than I am. Some people in my life might find that hard to believe, but that is another story.
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