right place, right time

Is being in the right place at the right time something we can master? Or does it all come down to a splash of chance, a bout of good luck, fate? I often wonder if everything is predetermined, if this path I’m on was decided the minute I popped out into the world, or if I am where I am today because of the choices I made and the control I have over these choices. To be honest, I have no idea and if I ponder this philosophical stuff for too long I just get even more confused. But I do like to believe that I’m a little bit in control, but also that something bigger, more powerful, helps to sway my decisions and give me a little push on to the right path.

Last weekend I was hiking with a few friends on the mountain near my apartment. As we huffed and puffed our way up the thousands of stairs (nature, yeah right!), I was chatting to my friend about how I want to put myself out there a bit more this year, with regards to my career and passions. I told her that I should probably get in touch with the guy from Shanghai who is in animation and who I’d previously had a meeting with the month before. Right after this conversation we spotted a pagoda on the top of the mountain and crawled up to take a rest and an obligatory photo of the hazy view from above. One of our more ‘fit’ friends had already jogged up the stairs of the pagoda and was happily chatting away to a group of American guys about cameras. My friend called me over and said “what a coincidence, these guys also work in animation.” As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that they are here to make a big film and are currently in pre-production. They are pretty big in the animation industry back in the USA, and even more coincidentally they all happen to live in exactly the same apartment complex as me. Lucky for me, my friend had one of my business cards crumpled up in the bottom of his bag. Now I have the opportunity to meet with these guys next month! How flipping cool. Networking in nature. I think that could become a thing…

You really never know who you’re going to meet and where, or when. That’s why life is so crazily exciting! There are opportunities around every corner, you just need to open your eyes and not be afraid to talk to people. Oh yeah and after I met those guys in the pagoda, the guy from Shanghai messaged me inviting me to an animation networking fair in Shanghai. Like exactly five minutes after I said I should contact him. Um, hello Universe, you really are listening to everything, aren’t you?! So maybe it’s not all about being in the right place at the right time, but more about being in the right frame of mind. I acknowledged my wishes and desires and the Universe delivered. She (the Universe) didn’t hand a beautiful career to me on a golden platter, but she she did serve up a nice big serving of opportunity, with a side of networking for good measure, and I can do with that as I please.

I was talking to my Mum about it last week and she said “That’s life. You wait for the bus for ages, and then suddenly they all come at once.” It’s good though, as I was starting to think January was just like any old month, and then suddenly “hello opportunities!” Getting out of your comfort zone and adventuring a little is a sure-fire way to meet some new faces, and you never know where that might lead. Keep an open mind and if your heart is telling you to go to Iceland this summer, do it! (I wish!). Maybe there’s a reason why you’re supposed to go there at that exact moment. I always follow my heart, and most of the time it goes well, but really if it’s telling you to take that particular road because there’s a beautiful tree at the end of it, or telling you to choose the Thai restaurant over the Japanese one, listen to it! You might end up sitting next to your future business partner, or your future lover or you might just eat some of the most delicious food of your life, either way there’s a reason you’re meant to be there.

Don’t question things too much, don’t over-analyse. If a decision feels right in your heart, chances are it is right. Our hearts are wise little things and combined with an open mind and a positive outlook, you can make any situation feel like the right one. This weekend follow your heart! If your heart whispers to you to try a new cafe for breakfast, do it. If it tells you to lie in bed all day and read that book you’ve been meaning to start forever, don’t hesitate to listen.

Your heart, it knows.

How beautiful is this artwork by Christian Schloe. I am in love with ALL of his work, wow! I think maybe my head really is filled with butterflies…

The Serenity of Solitude

A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.

-Rumi

I guess that means I’m getting old, who’d have thought it?! At first, the thought of living alone scared me a little. Nobody to vent away the day’s mishaps with, no one to cook with, no one to argue with over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom (yeah, right). And then I thought just try it. Wow. It is blissful. Waking up to the melody of birds singing outside my big window that is all mine. Dancing- sometimes in clothes- whenever I want. My space, my mess. It’s something to revel in, a delight to return home to a peaceful haven. It makes me feel so grown-up and independent, almost like a real adult, almost. I can’t imagine how cool it must feel to actually own your own home. One day, one day. But for now, just renting my own little studio feels good enough. I’m about to re-sign my contract for another year. After finding out that the rent had increased crazy amounts, I frantically searched the city from top to bottom to find something as cosy as what I currently live in, but to no avail. I guess I got lucky last year and so I’ve decided to stay. When you live in a heaving metropolis, finding a gem with sunlight all day long, a view of lush trees and a constant blue sky (it’s seriously only blue outside my window), you don’t give it up. Not in China anyway. And don’t get me started on the dreamy rooftop that can successfully host a few dozen people and a picnic fit for a King, complete with a view of the mountain and sometimes live music from a sweet, serenading Chinese man on the street below.

Solitude can be beautiful and yet in some societies it is frowned upon, especially here in collective-thinking China. When I finish work I often grab a quick bite to eat at my favourite local Vietnamese restaurant. Seeing as it’s right next to my apartment I usually go alone. One evening the waitress asked me for my We Chat i.d. I gave it to her thinking she just wanted to chat. She messaged me later that night and asked why I always eat alone? Do I have friends? Am I lonely?

I laughed. I told her of course I have friends, but sometimes I just want to eat something quickly by myself, and that I enjoy reading or people watching when I eat alone. Is that weird? No, it’s not. I actually genuinely enjoy eating by myself. It’s quality time where I can read or think and really enjoy my meal. Of course eating with loved ones is fun, but who says eating alone can’t be fun too?! I like being the girl who’s not afraid to sit in a cinema by herself and laugh out loud at a movie. I remember the first time I went to the cinema by myself was to see The Perks of being a Wallflower, in Taiwan, one day after class. I LOVED the book and the soundtrack was my current go-to morning music, so I was pretty excited to watch the movie. No one really seemed interested in going, and I was hesitant at first to take the plunge and go alone, but then I thought screw it! I want to see this movie and so that is exactly what I will go and do. There is also something cool about going to the cinema during the day. I love coming outside and still being able to bask in the few hours of remaining sunlight. So yeah, I went to the cinema by myself, and I will do it again, and again. It’s seriously perfect ‘me time’ and I don’t need to share my popcorn…(ha!).

I also like to travel alone. Anyone who has travelled with me will know I’m pretty organised and love to plan where we will stay and where we will eat etc. But for some reason, when I travel alone I just go with the flow. I get lost in a maze of alleyways and it doesn’t matter because no one is there to panic with and so I just throw whatever plan I had out the window and enjoy every moment of wandering and exploring this new place. I talk to strangers more. You never know who you might meet when you travel alone and more often than not, you’ll encounter some wonderful souls and find yourself with a whole group of new travelling friends. You can go wherever you want and there is no one telling you otherwise. The only compromises you have to make are between your head and your heart. Travelling alone is truly something special, and back in the day I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it, but now that I’ve experienced it there’s no turning back. Even if you’re married or have a family, I still think that solo trips are essential to unleashing your true inner wanderluster and giving yourself some quality self-growth time.

If I didn’t have the courage to do things alone, I think my life would be fairly dull. I’ve met some of my closest friends from solo missions. When I first moved to Shenzhen (the first time) back in 2011, I had no friends and really wanted to meet some friendly faces so I went to a gig by myself. I sat there, sipping my gin and tonic, nodding along to the Cambodian music and I noticed a girl with the longest hair I’ve ever seen dancing next to me. She was also by herself and yet there she was, long hair flowing, dancing as if she was the most care-free girl in the world. I looked at her and smiled and she immediately came bouncing over for a chat. We became good friends after that and I have to wonder, if both of us hadn’t been alone would we have struck up a conversation? I admired her courage so much. She didn’t give a shit if other people looked at her and wondered why she was alone at a concert. She was having fun and that was all that mattered. Afterwards, I took a leaf out of her book and started going to concerts and dancing by myself too. I made so many random friends and the boss of the bar always prepared my drink when he saw me coming through the door. Not sure if that’s a good thing (haha), but the point is, don’t be scared to do things alone!

The only people judging you are the ones who are too insecure to try it themselves. Independence is one of the sexiest traits you could possibly have, so embrace every last smidgen of it. My best friend reads her book in bars! She just rocks up at the bar, sits herself down on a stool and opens her book. Why? Because she loves reading, and why shouldn’t she be able to do that in a bar while sipping on an ice-cold cider. I love people who don’t care what other people think about them. I can understand that the lady in the Vietnamese restaurant was curious about why I was OK with eating alone, because like I said earlier, here in China people do everything together! A Chinese girl just backpacked through India by herself and it was on the news! I guess it’s a pretty big deal here. Chinese people also worry about single girls. Apparently it’s not normal to be single, and worrying if you’re older than 25. Oh cultural differences, the world would be a boring place without them! You just have to smile and laugh and not worry about justifying your decisions. The next time someone questions my choice to eat alone, or dance at a concert by myself, I’ll just say “Have you ever tried it? You should! It’s fun.”

Feeling hungry but none of your friends are free to join you for dinner? Go alone. And treat yourself to a big glass of wine at your favourite restaurant. Or at the very least cook yourself something homemade and delicious and don’t feel sad to be eating alone, feel grateful for the love that went in to making this meal in front of you and cherish every bite.

Always wanted to travel to Mongolia but your friends think you’re crazy? Buy that ticket immediately if you have the money and time, and go! Life’s too short to wait for people to make decisions. Be spontaneous and be brave! You won’t regret it.

Solitude is something that shouldn’t be looked down upon. After all, this is your life and your life only, so being able to enjoy every minute you spend with yourself alone is as important as developing and nurturing loving relationships with people around you. I dare you to put yourself out there and enjoy those precious moments you spend alone. Let me know how it goes!

Love,

Luna

Illustration by Inslee

My Heart’s in the Highlands

Breath swirls around in the air, drifting up towards the misty clouds which are so close you could almost touch them. The sky is low in my homeland, the moon is closer and there are stars everywhere. Sometimes when I peer out of my little window at night, it’s as if the moon is perched on the church spire, it’s that close. And my family are right there, not inside my computer or composed of a little grey-haired emoticon that represents my Dad and a smiley with rosy cheeks that represents my Mum’s smile (the people who live in my phone). They are real, the way it’s supposed to be. When my sister and me laugh so hard we cry actual tears and can share the moment together, not just a typed ‘LOL’.  Being home is so good. It’s a constant whirlwind of childhood memories and dusty books brimming over with fairy tales from days gone by. And it’s cosy, everywhere, even when it’s freezing cold outside. There are arguments and love, all squashed next to each other on the little sofa. No grudges are held, hugs are tight and at the end of the day we always go to bed with a kiss and a “goodnight grumpy”. That’s family for you, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Nor would I change my country, except maybe a bit more sun and independence, but let’s not go there. Scotland is seriously the most beautiful place, even in the darkest depths of winter when the sun only rises at 9 am and sets again just after your mid-afternoon cup of tea. Those mystical, rain-drenched clouds splattered against the midnight-black sky, it’s beyond picturesque. See it for yourself. There really is something magical about Scotland, in all its chilly glory. The dramatic peaks of the highlands iced with frosted snow, flakes flurrying around your freckled nose, the gothic architecture sprinkled around the cities, cobbled streets for days, smiles so genuine you’ll never want to leave, and of course the laughter that pierces the air so poignantly and instantly makes you feel so warm you could almost be home.

It goes deeper than just a flag, a place of birth on your passport or a sweet spot for a wee dram of whisky. It’s a place that can overwhelm you again and again, and then some. Flutes and folk music flirt with the trees, that in turn dance with everyone they meet on the street. Strangers hug at the stroke of midnight, entire flights of passengers laugh and sing and banter all the way to their final destination. People might complain in this land, but their friendly, kind faces give way to something more. It’s a country with an unbelievably brave heart, a history, culture and traditions that live on even today. It makes you feel light and free to walk on its earth, earth that is honest and rich and filled with stories and secrets and legends that will never die, no matter how much time passes.

Scotland, I am so happy and proud to be able to call you home, and happy birthday to Robert Burns for yesterday. Here is a poem by him that pretty much sums it up…

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.

The Year of Spontaneity

The more I think about it, the more I realise happiness doesn’t arrive when you arrive. Be that at your destination of the trip you’ve been planning all year, your home after a hard day’s work or your bed after an excruciatingly long plane journey. Happiness is a constant state of being that comes from being fully present and appreciating life for what it is, in all its misery and glory, all its ups and downs. As the end of 2014 came to a close, I was looking through all my lists of goals and resolutions, places I’d planned to travel to and things I wanted to write about. I started thinking about what I want to achieve in 2015, and then I thought SCREW IT! I ripped up my scribbled goals and half-hearted resolutions and threw caution to the wind.

I always write lists. Lists of books to read, places to visit, groceries to buy and so on. I love that feeling of ticking things off my list and feeling that sense of achievement. But this year I don’t want to write lists. I want to live more spontaneously. People keep asking me what my plan is.  What plan? Why must I know where I’m going to be in 5 years time? Or even 1 years time for that matter? Of course I know where I’d like to be, and what I’d like to be doing, but if I write it down or speak it out loud, the pressure cloud instantly appears and hangs over me until I actively make the plan happen. I don’t want to live my life like that. It’s too stressful. It’s not that I’m worried I won’t be able to achieve it all, it’s just that sometimes it’s more fun just to live right now, in this exact moment, instead of being uptight and freaking out about all the things you told yourself you’d complete before the fireworks go off next year.

This is the year of spontaneity. The year where anything could happen. I’m completely open to new opportunities, new lands to explore, new friends. I don’t have that crazy urge I normally have to wanderlust my days away. I feel quite cosy and content in my current place. Even though I know living in China is always going to be only temporary, I feel comfortable with that. I’m just enjoying each and every day and the mad adventures that come from living in this quirky country. One day soon it will probably be time to fly back to the mystical land I like to call home, but for now- hello world, surprise me!

The first act of spontaneity for this year is my upcoming trip to Malaysia in a few weeks. One of my best friends live in Melbourne and I messaged her and said “Let’s go to Malaysia!!!!” Being a fellow spontaneity fan, she was like “OK!” and within 30 minutes we’d booked our flights. I never really thought about Malaysia before, but now that I’ve started reading about it, I am so excited! Perhaps this will also be the year where I wake up one day and just book a ticket somewhere random, or even better…rock up at the airport and go wherever the cheapest ticket will take me!

Actually, looking back, I realise I’ve always been like this- creating goals and trying to map out my life the way we all do, but ultimately letting them fizzle out as time goes by, when I discover that it’s way more fun to just be. Free of plans and to-do lists and big goals and stress and panic and…you get the picture. Maybe little bite-size goals are a nice compromise. Little things such as: tomorrow I will buy flowers to make my house smell sweet, tonight I will study 2 hours of Chinese, when I receive this month’s pay check I will put 1/3 of it aside for a rainy day adventure (or my future, Mum…haha).

Here’s to letting go, to dusting off all the built-up goals from past years and to living each day as it really is- a fresh start. No more big goal setting, but also no more procrastination. I guess it’s all about balance, but mainly it’s about happiness and being inspired and love and adventure and exploration and laughing and waking up smiling and dancing and climbing trees at 4am with friends on a random street in China.

2015, hello you! Let’s do this!

Love,

Luna