My Kaleidoscope of Butterflies

She bounced into my life in a Beatles t’shirt, her short black hair bobbing in rhythm with her grin and it was instant. Some friendships require not even the littlest smidgen of work. One day this person was a total stranger, and the next you start thinking how is that possible? Weren’t they there all along? Who even was I before I met this soul? The kind of people that just slot into your life without any adjustments, in fact are you absolutely positive they weren’t there all along?! These are the type of friends I fill my life with. The ones who just get me, and me them. Friends I meet in the most bizarre of situations. Two years ago my friend asked me to collect her friend from the subway station in Taipei. I had no idea what she would be like, but seeing as she was a friend of my friend, I assumed she’d be cool. Well, she is cooler than cool. I skipped along to meet her in my horse t’shirt and I didn’t know she loves horses. Hello new friend! We talked nonstop that night and now two years later she is one of my bestest friends and seriously, where has she been all my life? We talk everyday and we live in different countries and yet I feel like I have known her since the very beginning.

These are the friends we should be flowering our lives with. Kindred spirits that never cease to inspire or amaze and make us laugh so hard we can’t breathe. Friends you can cry into a bowl of rice with at your local Vietnamese restaurant. The friends who turn the kettle on as soon as they hear your distinct footsteps jumping two at a time up the stairs. The ones who just know you, even when you don’t know yourself. They are the friends I’d like to keep in my pocket and pull out and perch on my desk to make me laugh all day every day. And I guess they kind of do, if by pocket I mean phone. I’m not the biggest fan of technology but I am eternally grateful that I can contact my friends in a second via my phone. Actually, until last weekend my best friend was still rocking an old school nokia or something like that, and she was only contactable via a carrier pigeon in the form of her boyfriend. Now that she has finally joined the social media party, I can harass her nonstop. It’s great.

I love my friends. I wonder if the way I connect with people these days is the same as when I was a little girl? I know my cousin was my first ever friend, and then along came my sister. But I think my first friend outside of my family came into being thanks to a shared fear of being made to lie on a giant piece of paper and be drawn around. And really, when I look back, I realise most of my closest friendships have been formed in situations when a ‘two heads are better than one’ type of scenario pops up. Lucy and I did not want to be drawn around. We refused to hand over our unique little souls to the world of paper and crayons. And so we did what any two 3 year olds would do. We ran away and hid. And cowering behind the door of a bathroom in an old church, a friendship that has lasted 25 years began to blossom.

A month ago whilst travelling in Malaysia, I had a day to myself before my friend arrived. I was quite determined to be an anti-social creature and just read my book in bed, but I couldn’t help but notice that the girl on the bunk opposite me was also just chilling by herself. I decided to stop being such an introvert and I said “Hi, how was your day?” Now, a month on, we chat everyday via wechat about life and love and books, and I am so thankful that I made an effort to get to know her. She is awesome. That’s what I love about travelling. I always meet like-minded people in those dusty dorm rooms, or squeezed together at the back of a bus, or even in an airport when you find out your flight has been delayed by 17 hours. That’s when the beauty of our human nature really shines through. When we group together and figure out how best to tackle such an annoying situation. Actually, all it comes down to is that, as long as you have someone lovely to connect with, nothing can be that bad. Not even a delayed flight, or being stuck in a lift. Even just a little smile is enough. Last night I tripped up the stairs in a restaurant and I laughed at myself, and then all the waiters laughed with me. I like those moments.

Finding people you connect with, people who share your same zest for life and run on a similar wavelength, surely that’s what this whole life thing is about, no? That’s why, now that I’m getting older, I just don’t have the time or energy to waste on half-hearted friendships. Obviously I am willing to exert myself to a certain extent, but friendships and relationships should be easy. As easy as running through a field of daisies or laughing until you cry. Those friendships that require work, yeah, I don’t have time for those anymore. I’d say 80% of my friends live in a different country from me- some of them are on the other side of the world- and yet they are so simple to maintain. All it takes is a little ‘hello’ now and again, just to let them know that I am thinking of them and hope they are happy and well. Then, when I see them every few months, or every few years, it’s like no time has passed. It’s comfortable, even when we are silent. There is no awkward small talk. We don’t have to search for things to say, and we constantly interrupt each other because our minds are buzzing with all the exciting stories we want to share., and that is totally OK. Of course, it’s not ideal. I mean, in my dreamland we would all live in the same city forest and have picnics together everyday and have dinner parties and sneak into each others houses and leave cupcakes for when they get home from work. But I guess I’ll have to settle for sending little heart emotes and cake emotes via whatsapp, at least for now anyway. Thanks again technology. Oh, and friends? Can we all please move to the same place? Thank you. Preferably a green forest place, but somewhere near the ocean is OK too.

Oh, and the same applies for relationships. Why settle for less than a kaleidoscope of butterflies? That little caterpillar wriggling around will most certainly turn into a butterfly at some point, but as I said for cultivating friendships, it should be easier than that. Instant flutterings of connecting. A stolen glance and sneaky smiles. And then…enjoy.

It really couldn’t be simpler. Don’t force those old friendships. If they fizzle out, then let them. There’s only so much saving you can do before you run yourself dry. And if those dancing butterflies turn into uncomfortable moths, you know what to do. Surrounding yourself with people who make you happy is all you need to do. Goodbye toxic people, goodbye negative nancys, goodbye gossipers. And hello to all the souls that slip into the jigsaw puzzle of your life with absolute ease.

You can stick around, I’ve been looking for you.



Illustration by the talented Katogi Mari

Here comes the sun

I don’t see the point in doing things half-heartedly, and so when sunlight poured into my room this morning I took that as a definite sign that summer is well and truly on the doorstep and I slipped my sunglasses on and now I am sipping on a coconut, blasting summer tunes from years gone by and feeling pretty happy that it’s warming up around here. Blue sky sunny days are a rarity in this part of the world (cough, China, cough) and so we must take full advantage. If that means blinding all your colleagues with bright sun beams by opening all the blinds, do it. Soak up that vitamin D because you never know when you’ll get your next dose and throw an ice cream or two into the mix as well, because that is what summer is all about.

Spring lasted about a week here in China. Just as quickly as the streets were lightly showered with a sprinkling of raindrops and baby pink blossoms, the sun appeared and dried it all up. Now the roasted chestnuts of winter have been replaced by boxes of irresistibly sweet mangoes and the Chinese girls have whipped our their trusty umbrellas to shield them from the freckle-inducing rays. I’m partial to the odd freckle, and so now it will be my daily routine to skip up to the balcony at exactly 4pm to indulge in a little freckling. I’d say ‘tanning’ but well, I’m Scottish and the closest my milky skin will ever get to a tan is when all my freckles join up to form beautiful constellations. And thus it is, dot by dot, freckle by freckle, I spend my summer days.

I used to hate the sticky feeling of a freshly applied layer of sun lotion, but now I love it. In fact I often put it on even when it’s cold and there is absolutely no sunshine, just because. Because of the delicious scent that catapults me back to summers growing up, and also because I am getting old and nobody likes wrinkles. Seriously. Even if the warm rays can’t penetrate the hazy polluted skies here, I’m still lathering that lotion onto every single surface of my skin. I want to be forever young. There, I said it. And skin cancer is also very much a reality. And people will sniff you as you walk by and instantly feel like they’re on holiday. Everyone’s day is made.

I want to go on holiday. I don’t mean travelling which I do way more often than my bank balance can handle, but I mean really go on holiday. To an island in Indonesia or the Philippines that is filled with banana trees and coconuts, where the waves trickle along the shore to where my toes are buried in the sand. I want to read a book a day and eat my bodyweight in fresh fruit. I want to do nothing. I rarely do nothing. I actually don’t think I’ve ever really been on a holiday like this. I thought it would be the kind of trip that would bore me, but when you live in China and have to zigzag through a gazillion people a day just to hop on a bus with another billion, you start fantasising about places with NO people. So, maybe that’s what I’m going to do sometime this summer. Run away to a deserted beach and come back smelling more coconuty than an actual coconut.

In the meantime though, I can at least apply my ninth application of hand lotion for the day, so perfectly labelled ‘my coconut island.’

Are you dreaming of summer too?



The Feng Shui Way

As the coconut oil swirls around my mouth, remnants of last night’s dreams slip away and an awakening begins. After a whole year of oil pulling, I can’t imagine a morning without this daily cleansing. Followed by a ceramic bowl of freshly frothed matcha tea, a sprinkling of chia seeds and a quick boogie to whatever music has been fueling my heart lately, and my day is already a happy one. I wish I could say I wake up at 6am and do a 45 minute yoga sequence and don’t touch technology until I get to the office, but well, I’m not that much of a saint. That would be ideal. And perhaps when the mornings start getting warmer that is precisely how I’ll start my day. I’m blessed to have access to a beautiful rooftop so if I can kick myself out of bed and up to the roof, I could really do some sunrise yoga before work.

Your morning routine is seriously essential to setting the mood for your whole day, and so it’s important to wake up feeling grateful and excited for the upcoming day. If you can wake up and smile, even if it’s forced, you’ll be setting yourself up for a much more positive day. That’s what I’ve been trying lately and it really works. I like to mix my morning routine up a bit with the music I listen to, otherwise it can feel a bit robotic. Also, throwing open the windows and letting fresh air clear away the stagnant night air, and letting bird song flow in, helps too. I love my little slice of nature in such a throbbing metropolis. If you don’t have a view of trees like me, maybe you can fill your apartment with plants and pretend you live in the forest. That works too. Also, be sure to make your bed and put everything back in its place so that when you come home in the evening you can kick back and totally relax and not worry about chores. It only takes 5 minutes to wash a few dishes and hang up your towel etc, and it’ll leave both your space and mind free of excess stress. I think this is why I absolutely love cleaning (yeah, you heard me!!). That feeling you get when everything is in its right place and you can flop on your bed in a space free from dancing dust. It not only leaves my apartment gleaming, but also my mind. A clean, free, decluttered space equals a free, decluttered mind. Yeah, I love cleaning…haha.

To get a decluttered mind though, you need to do more than just declutter the space around you. You need to declutter your entire life, and yes that means exactly what it sounds like- throwing away stuff that is no longer of any use to you, and yes that also includes people I’m afraid. As they say “Out with the old, and in with the new.” That is so true. If you want to move forward in life, you need to let things from the past go. That can range from something as simple as clearing out your wardrobe of clothes you no longer wear, like or fit into, to as big as cutting ties with friends who no longer add anything to your life. I’m talking about toxic friendships, the ones that suck the energy right out of you and provide you with nothing but stress, worry and misery. In the past I wouldn’t have considered just cutting off a friend, but lately I feel differently. There’s only so much effort I can make before I give up. If I’m getting nothing in return why should I bother? Let me tell you, I am very good at maintaining strong friendships with my friends. I make an effort. If I don’t get the same back, then it’s a real shame, but also a sign that’s it time to move on. Also, I think I’m just getting old. If there are awkward silences, or too much gossip, or negative energy emanating from someone, I’m just not interested. I already have the most beautiful souls as friends on this planet, and I don’t want to hang out with pessimistic, negative, uninspiring people. I’d actually rather be at home alone with a book than force myself to hang out with average people and form half-hearted friendships. Life’s too short for that.

So, cut those toxic ties. If someone doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, or if they’re constantly complaining, why are you hanging out with them? You can choose your friends in this life, so choose people who make you laugh hysterically, people who listen and who you want to listen to, people who challenge your thoughts and opinions in a good way, people who you can sit in silence with and not feel awkward. The same applies for relationships. Don’t date someone just to avoid being single. Unless there are butterflies bursting out of your body and your heart is beating happily, why are wasting your time? Don’t settle for anything less than mind-blowingly beautiful relationships. Otherwise you’re just kidding yourself and you’re not really happy, nor are you respecting yourself and what you need.

Some other things you can do to declutter your life are to think about your habits. Have you mastered the art of saying ‘no’ yet? That’s a tricky one and it’s only recently that I’ve cultivated this habit. I used to let people take advantage of me all the time and I’d say ‘yes’ to everything, even when I didn’t really want to do it. I was always afraid of letting people down, but because I always said ‘yes’ I was letting myself down. People: it’s OK to say NO! In fact it’s essential to maintaining your own well-being, which is why this weekend I am saying ‘no’. I am going to go back to my little apartment and read my book, cook my own food and not feel guilty about saying ‘no’ to friends. Sometimes some quality ‘me’ time is the perfect decluttering method. I’ve already stocked up my fridge and I am extremely excited to just sit and cook healthy, hearty meals that are meat free because right now I am also saying ‘no’ to meat. And it feels really good.

As does closing chapters, both literally and metaphorically. I haven’t been giving enough time to reading lately, so hopefully this weekend I can focus more on enjoying the written word, as well as finishing up some unfinished business and ticking some errands off my list. That’s a sure fire way to feel free- getting all those little tasks completed that you’ve been putting off for so long, or turning the page to begin a new chapter of your life. I love having a completely blank page to fill with new memories, new habits, new goals. Now that Spring is here, it feels like a really good time to embark on new ventures and let go of things from the past that have been lurking in the depths of my mind. Decluttering is actually just another way of saying ‘self-reflection’ and so it’s the perfect time to really focus in on what you want, what you don’t want, what you no longer need in your life and what you can do to reach your most happiest potential.

Start small. Decrease the amount of time you spend on social media. Delete Facebook friends that you don’t actually really know or haven’t spoken to since high school, or who don’t add anything of value to your life. Spring clean your apartment from top to bottom. Say ‘no’ to that colleague who keeps asking you to go above and beyond what you are required or want to do. Clear our your cupboards and give the clothes and books you no longer need to charity. Minimise the amount of money you spend on new ‘things’. Do you really need to buy magazines and clothes every single Saturday? Start cooking healthy meals- you’ll save money and your body will thank you. Spend more time with people who make your heart dance with happiness and less time with people who suck every last dreg of energy out of you. Start doing more things that make YOU happy. If you’d rather lie in bed and read your book than go out with friends, that’s totally OK. It’s YOUR life, so do whatever it is that makes you happy. And don’t think of that as selfish. It’s not selfish at all to focus your energy on your own well-being. You will be so grateful you did.

Clutter is chaos, and nobody likes chaos. I challenge you to declutter all that you no longer need. I promise you will feel so much more joy and peace and have a lot more time to focus on what is actually necessary and important to YOU.

Let’s Feng Shui our lives!



Illustration by the talented Alexandra Eldridge: “We Are In The World To Love The World.”

On forgetting where you are

Time fizzles along and days float on by and one day you wake up and it’s April. April! But it was only just yesterday that I was sipping my champagne to bring in the new year, a sparkler glittering in my hand, my brain buzzing at the thought of the coming year and all the new moments to be made, the fresh adventures to be had. And here we are, in April, waking up to bright sunlight glinting off the trees with chocolate bunnies hopping off the horizon and spring flowers bursting out of the ground. I feel as if the past 3 months have been compacted into 1 day and disappeared in the blink of a wintery eye. It took an old man from Northern China sporting a leopard print Adidas t’shirt to jolt me awake to the fact that time is literally flying and there is nothing we can do about it, except enjoy every single moment we have. When I saw him wearing such a funny hipster t’shirt and his wife came running over and grabbed my arm to say hello, I suddenly realised where I am. I am in China. I mean, obviously I’m in China, but really, I AM IN CHINA. Sometimes I actually forget that. I go about my day to day life and I feel so comfortable here, and maybe that is why time is running away from me. I am not waiting for some moment in the future to rescue me from my current situation, or wishing time would hurry up so I could go home. I am just going about my life with more emphasis placed on the now. Lately, however, I may have been a bit guilty of doing this with my eyes half closed because how on earth I could forget that I am in China is beyond me! I don’t mean I blacked out and thought I was in Scotland, I just mean it’s crazy how normal this place is to me now. If you’d told me 6 years ago that I’d feel so OK with living in China, I’d probably have laughed in your face. But here I am, 6 years on, still living in China (OK, I cheated a bit with the occasional break, but still…6 years!!).

Anyway, it got me thinking. Are we really living in the moment and embracing where we are right now? I am so fortunate to not only be experiencing the crazy but cool Chinese culture, but also all the other countries and their vastly different cultures right on China’s doorstep. I’ve mentioned my sneaky wanderlust before, but seriously, why shouldn’t I hop across the border to Hong Kong or Macau or fly 1 hour to my favourite place in Asia- Taiwan? I’m just taking advantage of what is right there in front of me. I now feel though, that it’s time to turn my wandering heart back to where it finds itself, right here in China. I’ve only seen a smidgeon of the places this ginormous country has to offer, and lately I’ve definitely been neglecting both the language and culture, and even the food now that I’m following a vegetarian diet. I’m not sure what the solution is? I get really upset when I meet people who make no effort with the local language of the place they find themselves in, or people who constantly look down on the culture or food. I am still very happy living in China and I know, deep down, that both the language and culture of this country will always be a huge part of my life. I’ve left China twice, and I’ve always come crawling back. But why do I feel like I’ve suddenly become a bit numb to it? Is that what happens when you stay somewhere for so long that it becomes normal, the initial excitement wearing off? Is the honeymoon phase officially over?!

Scotland was normal to me for 19 years of my life, and then I left and now I love it more than ever. It’s the little things such as the fresh air, the way strangers greet each other, the wild ocean lapping on the shore, the mystical skies. And perhaps that’s the solution right there. Not to leave China so that absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz- but yes, short breaks are also essential for rejuvenation in such a chaotic land- but to start treasuring the unique, positive aspects that this land is known for. The way old people dance the night away under the light of the moon, while nearby, children frolic and laugh until way past their bedtime, cherishing every inch of outdoor space before they get whisked away to their high rise bedrooms. The abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit on almost every corner, piled high on a tray on the back of someone’s bicycle. The way a country with billions of people works, and the laughter that occasionally results when it doesn’t. The fact that there will be at least one adventure a day, stemming from either a misunderstanding or just the general madness that a ‘China day’ entails. The people, in all their shapes and sizes, smiles and frowns, their fashion and their strong determination. The scent of osmanthus dripping off the trees. A freshly brewed cup of green tea.

And voila, I am now smiling at all the things I love about this country. No day is ever dull here. And if you want to avoid driving yourself crazy or getting sad about the amount of ‘China days’ you keep having, you just need to shift your attitude a bit and laugh it off. In fact you just need to shake it off and embrace it all, yes, even the spitting. No matter where you choose to live, you need to accept both the pros and cons, and quit complaining. If you hate it that much, leave. It’s simple. But, if like me, you actually enjoy the hilarity and curiosity that comes from experiencing such an intensely different culture from your own, make the most of every single moment while it lasts. If you feel like you’re just plodding along, wake yourself up. Go outside and take a walk and remind yourself of where you are and take note of all the little quirks that make the place you are living in so special. Get out of that expat bubble, I promise it’s more fun when you challenge yourself a bit.

I guess that means I better dust off the old Chinese books, rack my brains for that Chinese tongue I used to know so well and get out there and start revelling in everything that this weird and wonderful land has to offer.

Hello China,

Can we hang out again?



 This illustration was done by my talented friend Eva.