5 reasons to visit Mexico

If you read my previous blog posts this year you will know that I have recently come back from a two-week holiday in Mexico. There are many opinions out there about Mexico, some are exaggerated, some are true. I can honestly say that I tried to go there with an open mind, but of course I still had certain expectations and hopes. Mexico exceeded all my expectation. My experience of this wonderful country was so vibrant that I promised myself to go back while I was still there.  These are my top 5 reasons for visiting or re-visiting Mexico.

1. Colours

From green, coral, red and bright blue colonial buildings to vibrant trajineras in Mexico City’s Xochimilc, to red blossom of tropical trees, to perfectly turquoise colour of the sea in Yucatan – Mexico is one of the most vibrant and colourful countries I have ever visited. For anyone who craves colour, especially after a dark and grey winter season, I could not recommend a more exciting place.

2. Food

Mexico is famous around the world for its cuisine. Having been to many Mexican restaurants in Europe (and some in New York), I was excited to discover that real Mexican cuisine offers so much more that burritos, fajitas and guacamole (although I love guacamole and could not have enough of it). Bring your appetite, get ready to savour and enjoy. If you ever feel that rich Mexican cuisine is too much, there is no lack of restaurants serving European and Asian cuisine.

3. Style

People rarely talk about Mexico in the context of style. It is very famous for being a stylish destination. If you think Mexico is only pyramids, mariachi music and big seaside resorts, be prepared to be surprised. Mexico City in particular is a stylish destination, with its trendy Roma and Condesa areas that have a very bohemian vibe and a unique mix of European influence and traditional Mexican heritage. Think fusion food, bars and cafes, stunning decors, stylish people. Playa del Carmen in Yucatan. the Ibiza of Mexico, has a unique style too.

4. Landscapes

Mountains, valleys, deserts, forests, coast – Mexico is a country of striking diversity when it comes to landscapes. Even if you are not into nature (like I claim I am not…), it is impossible to remain indifferent to these breathtaking views.

5. Fascinating history

Pre-Hispanic historical heritage in Mexico is simply impressive. It is hard to imagine how its ancient people built pyramids thousands of years ago without any of the technology that we have today. Equally impressive is its colonial architecture. The combination of both is what makes Mexico what it is.

How to avoid post-holiday blues

January is known as the most depressing month of the year, at least in the northern part of the northern hemisphere. Holidays are behind, spring is still months away and all we have is cold weather, work, long to-do lists and the pressure of keeping up with strict new year’s resolutions, such as going to the gym 3 times a week and starving ourselves with post-holidays diets, while staying in to save money after holiday spending. No wonder people are feeling miserable in January!

But just because holidays are over, does not mean that enjoyment and pleasure have to be too!

Having had years of bad cases of post-holiday blues, I know what I am talking about. This year, however, is different. My January is surprisingly non-gloomy. Having spent nearly four weeks away from London, two of them in beautiful Mexico, I should be going through a period of feeling down, sad and unhappy to be back to winter weather, lack of day light, packed trains on my daily commute to work and a very stressful work schedule. But thankfully this is not the case.

What has changed? This year (ok, starting at the end of last year) I made a conscious decision to focus on my daily requirements and make them my priority, starting with establishing healthy boundaries that protect my needs from the demands of a busy city lifestyle.

So here are my tips on how to make simple changes to your daily life and your mindset to help you avoid post-holiday blues. I do not like the commonly used phrase “beat the post-holiday blues” because to beat something you need to come in contact with it. My intention is to avoid it altogether.

1. Create a daily routine that suits you

I start my day with a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger, then I do 10 minute of light stretching and breathing exercises, finishing with a short meditation, often involving colour. Having 15 minutes of calm and stillness while setting my intentions for the day really helps to reduce my stress levels. Then, only after I have taken my shower, applied all my moisturisers and chose what to wear, do I allow myself to turn on my phone and emails. Beauty and expressing myself through style is important to me, so I honor it before I attend to anyone else’s request.

Do you know what is important to you on a daily basis? Do you honor it? It’s not about simply copying what a celebrity from a magazine you read does, but about allowing yourself to be authentic and honest about your daily lifestyle requirements and desires. And of course we can use other people’s daily practices for tips and inspiration. Check out this website for ideas.

2. Forget about diets

Instead choose to listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs. Mine told me it needed a cleanse. So I decided to go gluten, dairy, caffeine, sugar and alcohol free for two weeks. This may sound very scary and limiting, but for me it is not about deprivation, but about finding new interesting recipes, new flavours and new yummy foods to enjoy while my body is benefiting from lighter meals. I have started to feel better after the first four days. Your body may tell you something different. Check out this blog I discovered recently for recipes.

My breakfast starts with a delicious green juice or smoothie every morning
My breakfast starts with a delicious green juice or smoothie every morning. Try it for yourself!

3. Treat yourself, indulge all your senses

Many seem to think that post-holiday period is the time to deprive ourselves after the festive season and treats are a taboo during the January weight loss programme. But treating ourselves daily is an essential element of quality lifestyle. There are so many experiences to enjoy with all our sense – from tasty food to walks in a park. Since coming back from holidays, I have introduced a daily treat ritual in the afternoon. It can be a small piece of raw chocolate or my new favorite – a cup of warm almond milk with cinnamon (always in a beautiful mug). Another part from my daily routine are short walks (can be as short as 5 minutes) when all I do is enjoy all the beauty around me, be it London architecture, nature in parks or stylish people. This is time to be fully present to enjoy and receive the pleasure of experiencing beauty, no thoughts about daily problems allowed. Another thing I decided to treat myself to in January is a weekly massage with essential oils.

Almond milk with cinnamon in a lovely mug I brought from Mexico
Almond milk with cinnamon in a lovely mug I brought from Mexico

4. Spend time outside and in nature

Lack of light is one of the main reasons we feel depressed in winter. It is especially noticeable after holidays, and, if like me and many of my friends, you sent your holiday in a sunny destination, the contrast will be striking. Make sure you get enough daylight every day. I go out for lunch for at least 30-40 minutes every day, no matter how busy I am. This is a non-negotiable. Daylight and sunshine are essential for our moods and immune systems. Daily walks I mentioned above is a great excuse to be outside.

Spotted on my morning walk today. Spring is on its way!
Spotted on my morning walk today. Spring is on its way!

5. Focus on your desires for this year

Many of us are not completely unhappy but most of the people I know would like to change at least one area of their life or improve their current lifestyle in some way. This is especially obvious in January when we set new plans and resolutions. These plans can be overwhelming and may seem very far away from where we are now. No wonder so many people drop them too soon. I have done this many times.

This year, by choosing to focus on my desires for 2014 and the lifestyle I would love to create for myself, instead of thinking about what I don’t like and don’t have, I am able to remain in a creative state. Being in this state allows me to take small yet inspired daily action to make these desires reality.

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Do you get post holiday blues? If so, how do you deal with it?

Do you know what lifestyle you desire to create for yourself this year?

If you would like more clarity on what lifestyle suits you, get in touch with me here for a free discovery session.

How letting go of perfectionism rescued my holiday

For many years I had a dream to visit Mexico. Bright colours, incredible landscapes, amazing cuisine, music, people, rich history and culture where colonial and ancient indigenous styles and traditions are mixed in a unique way have all been calling me. So when a last minute opportunity showed up in late November to visit Mexico after Christmas, I had to take it and make it happen despite the tight timing and lack of time to plan the trip properly.

After a busy and stressful December in London and Christmas in Canada (where I witnessed one of the worst ice storms in recent years) I finally arrived in Mexico ready to relax in beautiful hotels, eat amazing food, soak up the sun and all the beauty around me to get inspired for the new year. My expectations were sky high. After all, I was finally on my dream holiday.

Mexico certainly lived up to the beautiful vision I had in my mind. It was what I expected and so much more. I was overwhelmed by my experiences in the first few days. From day one in Mexico City, where I started my trip, all my sense were constantly engaged. I was surrounded by the brightest and boldest colour combinations in the streets, in architecture, in restaurants, while enjoying delicious, spicy, rich food and hearing local music everywhere  I went. And if that wasn’t enough, the the sight of beautiful mountains that surround Mexico City took my breath away each time I looked at them.

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But less than a week into my Mexico trip I caught myself thinking that this holiday was not looking quite like the image of perfection from Conde Nast Traveller magazine I had in mind. I began to allow myself to get annoyed by small things, such as difference in the level of service, loud music in the hotel and lack of wholewheat bread at breakfast. Later things got even more challenging: boyfriend caught a cold, then it was my turn to get sick with stomach bug, one day we got stuck in an airport for the entire day when our internal flight was delayed for 6 hours and when we finally got to the beach it was raining, a lot, and one of the hotels we stayed in gave us their worst room, well below our expectations. Even though this was only for one night, it felt like the last straw.

I was not prepared for this. My expectations for a dream holiday did not include this scenario. Why me?! Why did the universe decide to spoil my dream trip? Couldn’t at least the weather be sunny if I had to be sick on this trip?

What I did not see at that moment was that the pressure and huge expectations I was putting on myself were ruining my travel experience. The problem wasn’t the weather, the food or different service, it was my perfectionism and that by choosing to focus on the negative I was allowing myself to slip into the victim mode.

The minute I realised this I decided to drop the expectations I was carrying all this time (it felt very liberating) and let go of the need to have perfection in everything. And then I was able to really enjoy my holiday again.

Why? Because when we stop obsessing about things being perfect, we are able to become present and enjoy the beauty around us. “Getting out of my head” allowed me to engage with my senses and discover new ways to enjoy my travel experience.

I enjoyed noticing every small detail in my new surroundings and allow myself to be inspired by what I saw: new colour combination, interior design and style ideas, food and drink presentation.

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If the weather was not warm enough for sunbathing, we went on walks on the beach or one day simply relaxed in beautiful hammock on the beach while meditating to the sound of the waves.

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Eating delicious local food felt like the biggest luxury when I recovered from my short illness.

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Having deeper conversations and getting to know people I was lucky to spend time with on this trip was one of the best things about it.

My lovely friend Paola, who helped to make this trip more fun than I could even expect
My lovely friend Paola, who helped to make this trip more fun than I could ever imagine

These and many other beautiful moment made my holiday. The less lovely moment helped me to learn important lessons.

If you ever find yourself on a holiday (or any other situation) when things are going wrong all the time, here is what I suggest.

  1. See if you can change the way you see the situation. By focusing on the negative we attract more of these experiences. Try focusing on the positive instead.
  2. Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself, your holiday, your partner, the situation? Let go of these expectations and perfectionist ideas. You will feel much lighter and will open yourself to new experiences.
  3. Practice becoming fully present. I know this sounds very new-age, but it works. We can only experience enjoyment here and now, when our different senses are engaged. You may be surprised how many things there are to enjoy in the present moment.

And one final thought. One day, when it was particularly cold and windy, I was watching children on the beach. Seeing how much fun they are having, rain or sunshine, made me a little envious. We, adults often require certain conditions and circumstances to be “right” to be able to have fun. Maybe instead of unrealistic new year’s resolutions aiming to make us and our lifestyles more perfect we could commit to having more unconditional fun in our life and being truly present?

Beautiful lifestyle does not begin with media-defined luxury, it begins with being present, noticing the beauty around us and having fun unconditionally.

Nothing to wear? It’s not necessarily a fashion issue

Recently, I was 20 minutes late for dinner because I faced a problem that I am sure every woman has come across at least once in her life: I had nothing (appropriate) to wear. Let me re-phrase that. I had nothing to wear from two wardrobes full of clothes. And did I mention I was only going for a movie at my local cinema so dressing up was not necessary?

Having a wardrobe full of clothes yet nothing to wear is described as a common problem for many women but it is not usually my problem. Those, who know me, may be smiling as they are reading this, because I have a lot of clothes and I invest a lot of effort into looking after my clothes and ensuring they match. I love creating new looks and putting outfits together. I approach each outfit as if it were a blank canvas and clothes in my wardrobe are my paints. It’s a daily creative process, that is so much more than putting on weather and occasion appropriate clothes. So when I say I have nothing to wear it is like saying I have no imagination or desire.20131211-234026.jpg

I was so upset to find myself in this situation (not to mention annoyed when I had to tidy up all the clothes I threw on my bed in a desperate attempt to see something suitable), that I decided something needs to change. First thing I had to do was to become still to be able to reflect on what was happening in my life, because I knew that with all the clothes that I have, having nothing to wear is a symptom of something else that has little to do with my actual wardrobe. In my case it was a symptom of feeling uninspired, tired, stressed and overwhelmed for weeks. I realised I did not feel like sharing myself (no blogging, no photography, no catching up with friends), I only wanted to stay in and hide. How incredible that I was going at such a fast speed that I was unable to notice all this and needed my clothes to “tell” me the truth.

Having this ‘mini crisis’ had some benefits. I decided to slow down, let go and bring back my self-case routine which I had been neglecting because I was ‘too busy’ during the pre-holiday season. Saying no to others, saying yes to me, establishing boundaries and de-cluttering helped me to slowly bring back my ability to enjoy life and style on a daily basis and notice all the beauty around me.

Enjoying a beautiful cup  of coffee not from a paper cup
Enjoying a beautiful cup of coffee not from a paper cup

Other women have shared their “clothes stories” with me and these stories helped me to see that our I-have-nothing-to-wear problem very often has nothing to do with the actual clothes.

So next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel you have nothing to wear, don’t rush to shops, instead ask yourself if there is another issue behind this.

  • Maybe you are not excited or uninspired about what you are dressing up for?

Do you struggle with getting ready for work every morning? Can it be that you don’t feel you fit in or are generally bored with your job? This is an opportunity to ask yourself important questions about your life.

I have worked with a woman who was completely uninspired about her wardrobe because she had no interest in her daily job. As soon as she changed her career, her interest in style and clothes returned.

Perhaps you are not excited about dressing up to go out. Is it possible that you are over-committing yourself and saying yes to things that don’t light you up? I do this from time to time (and have been doing a lot recently). Slowing down to connect with our desires and saying no to what we don’t feel inspired to do is important, especially during the hectic end of year season.

  • Body image issues

Another reason why you may not be excited about dressing up and think you have nothing to wear is poor body image. I have met many women who choose not to even look at themselves in the mirror because they don’t like what they see. Learn to appreciate your body, think about what parts of it you love most and dress it in a way that highlights these parts. This will help you to feel and act more confident. There are clothes for every body shape, if you would like to find out more, get in touch with me here.

  • Clutter

Clutter is one of the biggest barriers for inspiration and enjoyment in our lives. Clutter in our wardrobes is created when we shop because we are bored or want to fix an emotional issue by buying new clothes. But just as emotional eating, emotional shopping does not fix the actual issue, it only creates clutter in your wardrobe as you keep adding new items that don’t match anything else.

Mental ‘noise’, having too many things on your to do list, overbooked diary are all clutter too and prevent us from enjoying our style and lifestyle.

Whatever your form of clutter is, set time aside to remove it. I de-clutter my wardrobe regularly, but recently I have also freed up my diary by canceling what does not inspire me and scheduled time for dealing with my to-do list, delegating where possible. I feel a lot lighter as a result.

  • Buying new clothes

Of course, there are situations when having nothing to wear literally means that. It could be that your body shape has changed, you have changed lifestyle completely or moved to a country with completely different climate. Naturally, in these situations buying new clothes is the solution. My advice is to make sure you are shopping when you feel inspired and relaxed. You are more likely to be happy with your buys.

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Relaxed and enjoying my winter style

Have you felt you have nothing to wear recently? How do you deal with it? Are you currently putting the first thing on without even looking at yourself in the mirror? Are you in love with your style or do you fail to even acknowledge it on most days? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Style tips from designer Liz Cardenas

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a talented Ecuadorian designer Liz Cardenas. Liz is the sister of my close friend Susana, whose stylish outfits (many of them created by Liz) I’ve admired since the day I met her. Having been a fan of Liz’s work for years, I finally got a chance to meet her in person and chat to her about style and how to have more of it.

Liz is one of Latin America’s most recognised and respected contemporary fashion designers and currently lives in Egypt. The combination of these two very vibrant cultures creates a unique design vision. Liz creates colourful feminine clothes from luxurious natural fabrics such as handmade silk and cotton and makes beautiful jewellery from tagua nut (also known as ‘vegetable ivory’) and semi-precious stones.

Liz and her beautiful collection of jewellery
Liz and her beautiful collection of jewellery

So here are the tips I took away from my conversation with Liz:

  1. Style is about expressing your personality, how you present yourself to the world. It has little to do with following the latest trends.
  2. To create a stylish look you need to mix things up: wear a luxury designer piece with something from high street, mix a romantic look with rock chic elements, for example something in leather.
  3. Colour is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to add colour to your outfit and to create your own colour combinations. Experiment. Sometimes the colours we think should not work, will work together beautifully.
  4. Shoes and handbag can make or break an outfit.
  5. So can a necklace! It can make or completely change your outfit. Accessories are very important ‘tools’ in style if you don’t overuse them.

    Susana and I wearing statement necklaces
    Susana and I wearing statement necklaces
  6. It’s not only about your clothes and accessories. Hair and make up are very important too. Make sure your haircut, make up and outfit are age appropriate. Wear make up, but don’t over do it. A good haircut is essential, especially as we get older. Flat long hair, for example, can lengthen the face and make a woman look older.
  7. Present the best version of yourself will make a difference to you and to others. It does no matter who you dress for (women, men, yourself…), the most important thing is to love your reflection in the mirror and be happy with how you look.

This conversation inspired me to get a new haircut with softer layers around the face (pictures coming soon), invest in a couple of statement necklaces and go through my collection of bags and shoes and get rid of the ones that do not make an outfit any more. I hope you find these inspiring too!

Liz Cardenas jewellery

Liz’s jewellery will be available online in the UK in the near future. Watch this space for further news.