Sending snail mail

IMG_1454
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #28

Though I love receiving postcards and letters, I think I enjoy sending them even more! The idea of the recipient opening their mailbox to find something other than bills and junk mail for a change makes me very happy. So last weekend I took some time to write some postal mail to a few friends around the world.

Here’s my ritual. First I select a card or find some paper to write on (once on the Camino I didn’t have any paper so I just ripped out a few blank pages from the novel I was reading to write a letter, really anything will do).  I settle quietly and think of the person I’m writing to before jotting down a few words, it doesn’t have to be long. Then I attempt to write the address as legibly as possible, and stick on a stamp or two (bonus points for lovely stamps:).

Remembering to post the envelopes is usually my struggle as I tend to carry them around in my bag for a few days by mistake before I finally send them off on their way…  The uncertainty of when (and whether?) the postal mail will arrive is a large part of the magic of sending postal mail.

*****

Simple tips for writing more snail mail:

  • buy nice postcards or greeting cards when you see them in shops, having them handy at home makes it so much easier and quicker to write one
  • always have a stock stamps in the house, this saves the effort of having to go out to buy them specifically
  • write postal mail in batches of a few postcards/letters at a time for increased efficiency and satisfaction

Highlights and lessons from the Camino

One year ago, at this time, I was enjoying my adventure on the Camino del Norte. It had been one of my dreams for many years, however I had no idea what was in store for me and what it felt like to walk about 6-8 hours a day along the coast of Northern Spain.

Looking back after having processed the trip in the last 12 months, here are some of my personal highlights and lessons learned.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Architecture-wise, the coolest place was the guided tour of the El Capricho designed by Gaudi, so many insanely creative ideas built into one house!

    20160522_175434

  • The favorite albergue where I stayed was La Ferrería in Alimandi. I remember the warm welcome from the host Sergio serving us local cider and picking fresh japanese plums in the garden. Great chats with the other peregrinos over a delicious vegetarian dinner, while rainshowers came and went outside.

    20160529_165923

  • The most improbable place I visited was the sand cemetery near Bayonne, where the tombstones are made from sand and decorated with beautiful scallop shells. Since the elements erode the sand, the tombstones need to be made again every year.

    IMG_3586

  • The awesome people from all over the world who I met and travelled with on the Camino made the experience unique.  I’m so grateful to have shared this experience with Tom and Cindy, Kim, Sara (and her courageous dog Freccia), Anna, Isolde, Justine and Mike, Maricruz, Carlos and Irene. It’s funny how quickly conversations with near-strangers become deep and personal when you walk kilometer after kilometer together and share a ‘menu del día’ after many hours on the road. Also the joy of meeting pilgrim friends again by chance after our paths seperated was wonderful.

LEARNINGS

  • Take more time off that seems necessary. I regret having shaved a few weeks off from the 2 months I had initially asked to have off work. In the end the difference between 6 weeks and 8 weeks off is minimal when you are at the office, but 2 weeks extra would have been wonderful on the Camino.

IMG_3884

  • People always want to give advice and tell you how you should walk the Camino, but in the end it’s your Camino. You will see people doing it differently and making other choices. They may walk more or less kilometers per day, stay in cheaper or more expensive accommodation, carry heavier or lighter backpacks, get up earlier or later, spend more or less money, taking leisurely breaks to drink wine at lunch time or rush to arrive first in the albergue…  Comparison is the thief of joy, in the end you have to do it your way if you want to really enjoy it. It’s your Camino.

20160528_113856

  • I loved the power of the Camino to make everybody equal. It is humbling to see that when we walk several hours a day we are all the same. No matter what our age, nationality, sex, strength, equipment or how healthy we are, everyone is doing the same thing, putting one step in front of the other and doing their best. There’s an amazing common feeling of empowerment linked to the simple act of being able to walk great distances.

Things I loved about Thailand

IMG_0809

  • Fresh fruit vendors in the street

Imagine if there were people selling fresh fruit that was peeled, chopped and ready to eat on every street corner in Europe?? It would be so much easier for me to be healthy and reach for fruit instead of getting a piece of cake when I feel like a snack:) Loved the mini-pineapples, watermelon, papaya, mango…

IMG_0753

  • Hundreds of colourful temples

I couldn’t get enough of the beauty of the temples with their flashy colours and intricate designs, the golden buddhas, feeling the cool pavement inside the temples with my beare feet, the quiet compared to the bustling city, only interrupted by the sound of monks chanting or people shaking budhist fortune sticks to find out what the future has in store for them…

IMG_0742

  • Offerings

Colourful offerings of bright flowers, water, ribbons, soft drinks and more near buddhas and spirit houses.

IMG_1046

  • Paradise beaches

Soft sand, colourful boats, transparent water, snorkeling with multicoloured fish and  observing the details of corals, finding tiny sea shells… It was so relaxing, good for the body and the mind.

IMG_0964

  • Children playing in the sea during magic hour

I loved to walk up and down long stretches of the beach at that time when the sunlight gets golden and the colours soften, and watch kids playing, laughing together and collecting sea shells in the magic hour.

IMG_0975

  • Amazing sunsets

On the western side of the islands the sunsets are gorgeous with their spectacular colours bouncing off the whispy clouds. Every day the colours are different and breathtaking. Such a simple pleasure!

IMG_0928

  • Wandering around night markets

Exploring the night markets was so much fun. I could spend hours walking around looking at the beautifully presented vegetables, trying to figure out what the plastic bags with bright mixtures contain, and people watching as locals buy their dinner… The markets are such a feast for the eyes (and tummy;)

Such a perfect day

IMG_1166

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #26

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Leiden to spend one of our ‘creative afternoons’ with my friend Eva (a.k.a. eating delicious lunch, talking about all sorts of things over coffee and cake, getting some creative inspiration and then enjoying more food for dinner and chatting further into the evening:)

IMG_1157

We decided to go to the Hortus to observe plants and spark our imagination.  It was so different from the last time we went in November! With the arrival of spring there were many lovely new plants, and we spent an amazing afternoon strolling through the sunlit gardens and then sweating profusely as we explored the tropical glasshouses.

IMG_1181

The collection is so abundant, that there was an infinity of amazing shapes and incredible colour combinations to look at.

20170428_160151

Soon we were completely in the flow, pointing out tiny details to each other and admiring the rich textures and striking shapes, orchids in retro-colours and wonderful bright purples and blues.

IMG_1173

 

Nature just around the corner

IMG_1194

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #25

I am deeply grateful for living in a part of the city that also has nature close by. It looks like I’m deep in a forest, but this picture was taken just five minutes from my flat.

IMG_1225

After a day sitting at my desk, it feels so good to go for a walk and stretch my legs, and feel the sun on my skin.

IMG_1186

Today I was accompanied by bird song from the trees, and when I listened carefully even the buzzing of some bees and other insects.

IMG_1228
Just taking the time observe these plants and look at their details is like a meditation for me.

50 shades of orange

IMG_0845

Hi my name is Fanny and I have an obsession with buddhist monks. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help myself. Their stunning orange robes attract my eye with an irresistable pull and I love how each monk expresses their own identity with a slightly different hue of orange.

Also, they have these wonderful shoulder bags in different colours, with gorgeous designs.  I love these bags so much that I searched to buy one on my last day in Bangkok. I even tried asking one monk for some shopping tips (he didn’t understand English, so I dropped it). But to no avail, I couldn’t find a shop selling them.

IMG_0833

The monks seem so calm and somehow otherworldly, so it always makes me smile to see buddhist monks posing for a photo or a selfie and speaking on the phone like anyone else.

IMG_0831

I would like to be able to claim that this is a recent obsession, triggered by the multitude of monks peacefully milling around the temples in Thailand… however that would be a lie.  I vividly remember stalking a bunch of buddhist monks who were simply enjoying discovering the Bean in Chicago back in 2014… The camaieu of their robes is just so beautiful!

Short walk around the block

IMG_1109

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #24

In the last few years I usually try to flee Amsterdam on King’s Day to avoid the crowds of people dressed in orange who hit the streets to celebrate the King’s birthday.

IMG_1141

This year I’m in town but I took the opportunity of this day off to chill at home and do some spring cleaning at home whilst listening to S-Town (I’m hooked!).

IMG_1125

Neverthelsess with the sun shining so nicely outside, I decided to get out of the house and go for a spontaneous photo walk around my neighbourhood, where luckily there are no crowds.

IMG_1123

Despite May being just around the corner, it was still pretty cold, practically glove weather.  The flowers popping up on every corner, bushes growing shiny fresh new leaves of all different colours and trees in full bloom tell another story.  Winter is over!

IMG_1116

It was a pleasure to be mindful and take in all the colours and textures to be found on a short walk.

Discovering Thailand

IMG_0612

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #23

My trip through Thailand was amazing!  It was a perfect blend of exploring Bangkok and making my way down to the South via Suratthani on my own, and then meeting up with wonderful friends to celebrate a wedding and travel on the paradise islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Everything was so different from Amsterdam that it took no time at all to switch into holiday mode, forget any thoughts about work and be in the moment. I must say trying all sorts of delicious foods, learning to navigate my way around Bangkok, observing buddhist rituals in the colourful temples, exploring the bustling streets with their tuk-tuks and street vendors, as well as getting regular massages really helped to disconnect from daily grind back home:)

I feel so privileged to have had the possibility to discover some of this beautiful country and had the time to explore at a leisurely pace without rushing.  I will be sharing some pictures and impressions over the next weeks.