Barcelona

 

I have to admit, I really was not ready to leave Portugal. But part of the reason I do these little vacations are so I can get a taste of a place that I want to build on further down the line. Take Boston, for example; I've already visited the city twice and have every intention of a third trip.

Barcelona airport is...quite overwhelming, to say the least. I got off my flight hungrier than I would like, as I spent the entirety of my day writing and working, only to discover Uber is banned in Spain once again. An ignorant mistake, I can admit, but having used the app in many destinations all over the globe, I simply didn't think much of it in such a big city.

After some frustration with the self serve machines and a less than helpful Google search, an airport employee informed me I had to take the shuttle to the other terminal (2B). There, you're able to hop on the grey line to go to the heart of Barcelona, Passeig de Gracia. I think the trip cost around 4 euro, and took maybe 30-40 minutes at best.

When I emerged from the subway line, I felt the warmest wave of déjà vu; Barcelona is shockingly similar to Santiago, Chile. The architecture, the climate, the avenues -- even the angry sunburns on my shoulders that protested my cabin bag. Barcelona was a lot of sightseeing for me; I'm not usually drawn to big cities (living in one kind of wears off the novelty), but the shopping was very enjoyable.

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Anyone who knows me in real life knows I'm a guilty slob for Taco Bell. So when I found one on my way to the hostel, I couldn't help but pop in. Once I discovered you could order a beer with your meal, I was sold.

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The hostel I stayed in was the Safe Stay Gothic -- as the name implies, it is in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, close to many bacillias, gorgeous alleyways and plenty of bars and cafes. I spent a majority of my time in the common area, which was usually pretty populated, but offered numerous outlets and USB ports for charging. Here are some of the books and crannies I stumbled upon.

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The kitchen was pretty dismal, and the dorms were quite jammed, with barely 3ft of room between each set of bunk beds. I'm not a particularly large or gangly person and yet I found myself constantly bumping into other bunks. On my last night, I ended up crashing on the couch in the common area. Over all, I don't believe I would stay there again.

In spite of this, I tried my best to avoid being there longer than necessary, which resulted in a lot of walking. In fact, I didn't bother to use the metro after my airport experience. To a regular city dweller, everything you needed was within reach. A super market was a stone's throw away, providing cold beers, water bottles and snacks. I ate at a different cafe every meal, including a gourmet papas fritas Cafe, where I enjoyed cheesy fries (a birthday traditional of mine) with garlic aioli. If you're in the Gothic quarter, I highly recommend popping in.

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Close by is a square is named after one of my favourite writers, Plaça de George Orwell. Orwell had written “Homage to Catalonia,” a first hand account of the Spanish Civil War. He came to Barcelona to simply write of the Spanish Civil War, but was so engrossed by the Republican resistance that he decided to fight the Fascist government of Franco, almost killing him in the battle.

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Another first was my booking for a wine tasting via Airbnb Experiences. My host emailed me ahead of time to ask if we could switch the time, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy some focaccia pizza in Passeig Del Born. A good chunk of my day was spent in the sun there, which I enjoyed immensely.

The wine tasting was at a gorgeous shop called Vivinos. There was an air of renaissance and passion in the stone walls that made me feel right at home. I arrived considerably early, followed by a lovely couple -- who, against all odds, live just two blocks away from me in Toronto. The rest of the party followed en suite; a bachelorette group, who were incredibly knowledgable when it came to wines. Along with the tasting, a small snack board of cheese, meat, pretzels and olives were provided -- overall, a wonderful experience to learn about the local wine industry, flavour notes, and new friends.

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My new friends

My new friends

Originally I had anticipated on going to a Michelin star restaurant for my birthday. However, travelling solo kind of changed my mind on that experience. Food is a gigantic part of my life, and a huge part of my up-bringing was cooking for and eating with others. I found that void to be particularly noticeable during this leg of the vacation, so I let myself get lost in the beautiful, haunting allure that is Barcelona.

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As I was getting ready to catch my next flight (7:20am, yuck. That meant leaving at 5:45), I asked front desk to call me a cab. Another girl burst through the doors and was shaken to her core; she had been pickpocketed of everything, including her phone, money and passport. This is literally my worst nightmare and something I didn’t take lightly. I read plenty of thieves in Barcelona, so I got a chain card holder and attached it to the wrist strap of a clutch; this way, it wasn’t able to be separated from the clutch, which was attached to my wrist at all times.

A female cab driver came into the lobby to walk with me to the car. I thought this was incredibly comforting, all things considered. Since she didn’t speak English, we talked the whole time using Google Translate. She was incredibly motherly and made all anxiety dissipate. When we got to the airport, I was surprised to find she had gotten out to offer me a big hug, a kiss on both cheek, and a big happy birthday. Sometimes it’s nice to be an anonymous stranger in a place where no one knows your name. Sometimes, when you’re traveling solo in a different time zone from your better halves, it’s nice to be hugged goodbye.

Sintra

I have to admit, being so in love with Lisbon and having such a short amount of time in Portugal, I had to really drag myself into gear to explore Sintra. I reminded myself how important history is in my life and how much I enjoy exploring castles, and decided to start my journey -- albeit later than anticipated, admittedly, since I slept in until almost 10AM.

After a quick breakfast at my hostel, I caught an Uber to Rossio station (mentioned in my last post) and grabbed my lactose-free latte. The train to Sintra runs every 30 minutes; however, the queue for tickets was overwhelming. I'm unsure if it was because of the time I was attempting to leave (noon), but the wait for even the self service kiosk was well over twenty-five minutes. Being in no rush, I happily waited, mounted the train and admired the views. The journey itself was a straight ~45 minute shot with the trainline ending in Sintra which made it very easy for a first time navigator. Disembarking the train, however, was a different story.

Remember how I said walking in Portugal was a challenge? If Lisbon was a 3 for walking, Sintra would be a solid 9.5.

Almost immediately, every rider on the train stepped off and halted in their tracks to find the exit. I sneakily by-passed the crowd of confused travellers, only to find another traffic jam at the exit terminal, where people seemed confused with the ticket gate. Quite like the tube in England, the trains in Portugal use a paper card that you can reload with fares. It must be scanned at the entryway and exit point in order to assure proper fares are collected. Unlike the Oyster card, there's no card collector; it's simply an electronic pad that reads the card with a tap.

Just when I thought the confusion was over, I had to struggle through literal herds of people congregating around the stations exit, most of which now trading aforementioned phones for the complimentary Sintra maps, which they now we're spinning with as opposed to a sudden wield.

I decided to just dart for a more peaceful area before getting overwhelmed, trampled or accidentally punched in the boob. I found that even with my international SIM card, the maps app on my iPhone was registering Sintra as a national park, and the roads looked quite intimidating. As per the advice of another travel blog I had read, I decided to take the buss -- opting for the 435, which is twice as much as the 434, but took me directly to my point of interest in about 5 minutes flat.

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Something I really struggled to find was the bus stop for the 435. While most other posts are marked, the 435 picks you up on the side opposite to the train tracks and a little further down, at a stop labelled for the 409 and 413. The 435 is a smaller bus while the 434 is a large, standard coach.

At 5 it seemed a little steep for how short of a distance it was to travel, so I decided I would only take it the one way.  I knew with the amount of exploring I was going to be doing, my feet could use a break. Plus, taking the bus uphill was a lot more logical.

The only castle I had my heart set out on was  La Quinta da Regaleira, the first stop on the 435.

The Lidl near my hostel provided me with lots of ingredients for my travels (even overbuying, I only spent €17 and only ate out twice over the course of 3 days). I had packed a sandwich and some juice boxes which I quickly devoured in the ticket queue. I am not sure if there was the option to repurchase tickets to skip the line, but it moved very quickly, and it was only 8 to enter the grounds. (There is a cafe on the castle grounds, but I try to avoid these stops as they're usually marked up for tourism).

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The combination of my maxi skirt, dreamy music on my Spotify and the overall happiness from clear blue sunny skies made me feel like an absolute queen. The grounds were everything I had hoped they would be and more -- magical, mysterious, dark, moody, sunny and lively all at different times.

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After spending a couple hours on the castle grounds, I decided to start my walk back to Sintra. I found it quite easy to navigate, only checking my phone once. The roads are sprinkled with cafes, restaurants, gift shops and vendors if you are looking to grab some unique knick-knacks to bring back home.

Some adorable music boxes from two of my favourite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Casablanca.

Some adorable music boxes from two of my favourite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Casablanca.

At a very leisurely pace and stopping many times to browse, the walk took maybe 30 minutes at best. At a more efficient pace, it probably could be done in 15-20.

Since I was fairly sunburnt and sweating from every pore imaginable, I decided to treat myself to some coconut gelato at Almo Gelaterie, just down the street from Sintra station. I wanted to get back to the city at a reasonable time since it was a Friday, and my social quota was very quickly approaching its capacity with the amount of people I had to zig-zag around throughout the day.

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Local trends:

Makeup: nonexistent. Sintra is a resort town and everyone had a very beachy approach.

Hair: most womxn wore their hair up. I did see one younger man sporting a mullet.

Although sporting an invisibobble, I left my hair down.

Fashion: anything and everything in between. Summer dresses, rompers, shorts, tshirts, pants, sweaters, Birkenstocks, runners, Vans, big sun hats, small ball caps.

I wore a halter crop and a high waisted maxi skirt with my aforementioned creepers. The castle grounds were quite dusty and I was pleased to not be wearing sandals.

Lisbon

Watching a beautiful sunset melt over the coast of Portugal and tracing the illuminated veins of winding roads, it was as if the sounds of La La Land (I watch it on every flight, sue me) seemed to disappear. My plane landed 30 minutes early, much to my satisfaction as my hostel (HUUX Hostel) only allowed check-in until 11pm. I hadn't planned much as far as transportation in Portugal, although I learned quickly that public transportation is incredibly accessible, and the price to pre-book taxis was almost triple that of Ubers. That being said, it was roughly €5-11 to travel anywhere I needed to go using Uber, and all my drivers were incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.


I couldn’t be bothered to buy a converter for my iPhone charger, so if you aren’t partial to using any North American electronics with a fixed plug (styling tools, etc), you can just purchase the EU plug for your lightening USB cord at Ale Hop for €6, or at the airport Relay for €11.50.


Right before leaving, I was downloading the locations onto my phone when I realized the first hostel I booked (months prior) stopped checking in around 10pm. This was foreign to me as most hostels I've stayed in had 24h reception. Luckily I caught the error, as my flight wasn't anticipated to land until 10:15 (in reality, we flew in at a steady 9:45).

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I only stayed one night in HUUX so my review isn't the most thorough, but what I did enjoy most about it was its location. The whole vibe of Lisbon reminds me of a cute, unique love child of Leslieville/the Beaches (in Toronto), San Francisco (because of the incline/decline fluctuation) and Santiago, Chile. A couple minutes down the road was a lovely park where roosters punctuated my morning, and wandering the streets was very dreamy.

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I always look up food on trips, so I decided to head to Café Zurich for highly anticipated brunch. Most of the staff at Zurich spoke English and were very inviting; however, as I finished my meal around 11:30, the queue for tables became increasingly longer and I was happy I came early.

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Passing places like Michael Kors, Hard Rock Cafe, and Miu Miu, I managed to walk all the way to Rossio Square before realizing the cobblestone, inclines and my cheap Dollarama flip flops were not friends. I promptly switched to my creepers.

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Rossio train station is just across the street with a Starbucks for all you iced coffee addicts like myself. We will also bring up this destination in my next post on how to get to Sintra.


Uber note: you cannot specify station or square, so be sure to tell your driver where you’d like to be dropped.

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San Fran-esque

San Fran-esque

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Sao Nicalou was absolutely stunning and reminded me slightly of Florence with its marble archways, colourful rooftops and many patios.

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The weather only got warmer as I got closer to the coast, where it was absolutely impossible to grab a boomerang of the waves with the amount of stroller moms parking their carts and enjoying a cool dip.

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I decided it was time to switch from my lactose-free iced coffee to a nice cold beer. Luckily, the Museau de Cerveja was steps away and offered a wonderful patio. I enjoyed one of the best beers I've ever drank, albeit I remember nothing about the brand other than it being a blonde.

Around 3:30 traffic (both of the human/foot and automobile variety) was at its peak. I decided to head to my new hostel, The Dorm (LX Factory), only to be cancelled on by 4 different Uber drivers. Finally, the last driver to not cancel explained that civilian traffic isn't allowed in the square due to the buses, streetcars and taxis. This would have definitely been good info to have on hand for first time visitors whose phone batteries are literally overheating!

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Once I arrived at the Dorm, a loft style hostel, I immediately felt at ease. The common area walls are lined with old Tony Hawk skateboards, plastic water bottles are repurposed into light fixtures and well-loved pleated leather couches. At night, twinkling string lights illuminate the cafes below, and live music softly drifts through the windows.

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I immediately ditched my bag and explored LX Factory, an old industrial area where factories were turned into retail lofts boasting delicious coffee shops, niche clothing, homemade jewelry and even a pretty badass tattoo shop. If I could describe it to Torontonians, it would be a cross over of Kensington Market and Liberty Village.

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Sardines

Sardines

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Something I learned quickly about Portugal is that walking is a task. Most city dwellers can attest to the madness of navigating slow walkers, but this was like an episode of Twilight Zone where people actively stop mid-stride, flail their arms around to point and hold their phones out like the old "Can you hear me now?" commercials. Keep this in mind if you are a hustler like me, as you will have to dip, dive, dodge, duck and dodge quite a fair bit.


Overall, Lisbon proved to be an absolutely gorgeous stop on my EU2 trip.



Local Trends

Makeup: minimal. Skin was fresh and natural matte, as the heat makes any highlighter melt almost immediately. Eyeliner was nonexistent or a faint/soft waterline, and mascara was a light coat of brown.


Most days I wore Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (mix of 1C1 and 1W1 because I’m a neutral ass bitch).


Hair: most people wore hats, so hair was either clipped up or worn naturally. Not a single person I saw wore straight hair or iron curls.


A soft, diffused blow out treated me well for the duration of my stay.


Fashion: locals seemed pretty climatized to the weather as they wore pants, button up cotton blouses and jackets. Comfortable footwear or flats seemed to be the common denominator.


How they survived I am unsure, as I was in mid/maxi dresses and almost melted. I wore knock off Steve Madden slip on creepers and was fine.


Tattoos: many people were sporting script or minimalism black/grey work.

Intro: Travel

Beginnings have never been my strong suite; even as a young kid, pouring over writing techniques, I was a particular favourite of "in medias res" -- the practice of prose beginning in the middle before offering an introduction. Every time I set out to launch a new post, I know there won't be any critical rewrites if there's no rough to edit. Still, that doesn't stop a wandering mind from locking onto the mundane nuisances of our everyday lives. As if suddenly, studying them with a more creative or inquisitive eye will make them all the more interesting.

When I set out to start my blog, I heavily delayed myself over every excuse but the honest one. I justified that there were enough beauty gurus, enough blondes abroad, enough socially awkward (and slightly cynical) people writing about the suddenly creative everyday nuances.

What I can admit, only after almost a year of construction, is this blog may very well go on unnoticed. It is not juicy, it won't teach you how to cook a killer casserole, or how to navigate young adulthood seamlessly. If nothing, it gives me the opportunity to put (sometimes sarcastic) words to experiences that otherwise lay dormant in the wandering mind of a twenty-something beauty professional who travels the world.

So. To begin this piece. I'm going to tell you I'm sitting on a red-eye to London Gatwick. I'm absolutely dying for a glass of wine. I'm listening to John Mayer's discography, the lights are low, and I'm still mulling over the conversation I had in the car with my other half. However, a list of cities and countries are glaring at me in the sidebar, waiting for some wit to bring them to life.

Edit: I got that glass of wine, chugged it, and passed out the rest of my flight.

How to Stop Feeling Inadequate or Unsatisfied in Yourself

I wake up most mornings with an insatiable desire that I have often mislabeled as “inspiration” or “drive.” Constantly I am finding myself looking for more. More home improvements. More meal prep recipes. More exercise routines. More hobbies. More skills. More material possessions.

I sit in my office and spend hours staring at my glowing laptop screen like it will provide me with the answers I am searching for, before I’ve even sat down and asked myself what the question is. I recently read an article about the millennial scam to feel obligated to turn your hobbies into financially profitable “side gigs.” This is something I relate to more than I care to admit.

My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.
— Jack Kerouac

When I sit down and reflect on where this energy has come from, I find it in my writing even before I began my career -- as far back to before I even started high school. The answers never seemed clear and I would write about days when I had moment of clarity in an otherwise thick fog that rolled through my life path. It wasn’t until an actress I worked with asked me a simple question.

“When you find yourself looking for something, why not look for it in yourself? Why not cultivate it yourself? You seem like a strong, smart and capable enough woman.”

It almost knocked the wind out of me. I spent years preaching about cultivating what you want in your life and learning when you’re being held back -- I never realized that A) I was holding myself back so much and B) I had the power to not only let go, but push myself onwards.

To jump back to my second paragraph: self reflection has been a huge accessory in my growth. The number one root to my problems seem to stem from the same seed: patience. Or should I say lack thereof? As a Taurus, I know I am a energetically streamlined for success. However, this stubborn attitude to challenge and overcome hardships paired with the amount of crazy circumstances I am subjected to has curated an aerodynamic version of myself that makes compartmentalizing my emotions simple.

When I compartmentalize my emotions, I often forget to revisit why they came up in the first place, why I need to process them, and why even the bad emotions are important to my growth. Patience is hugely important to me because it is the centre of balance to my life, whether I want to recognize it or not.

Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while waiting.
— Unknown

A huge test for me is to put the laptop and phone down and regroup. Remind myself how hard I’ve worked and how easy it is to reach burnout when you don’t recognize patience with yourself. When you don’t listen to boundaries, there are physical and mental repercussions. Catching colds, feeling drained, frustrated crying, binge eating (or shopping -- super guilty). Slow down and listen to yourself more. You know that idea of driving around a crappy car, but turning up the radio to ignore the sounds your engine is making so you don’t need to get it fixed?

That is exactly what overworking is. We don’t constantly need to be efficient. Rest. Relax. Regroup. Realign.

A Travelling MUA's Makeup Basics

(Not Sponsored)

As a makeup artist, you might think I reserve enough luggage space to cart along my whole kit while I travel. The truth is, I don't. And I don't like to. In fact, the less makeup I have to bring on a trip, the happier I am.

That doesn't mean I want to make sacrifices here -- I'm professionally obliged to be compulsive about appearing like I have my face together. In fact, on most sets I work, it is literally my job to make people look like they woke up looking effortlessly, naturally, good. So why can't I do the same? To spare you a long and tedious answer involving my lack of patience and unlucky skin genes, here's what I bring when I don't have the space (or time!!) to lug my whole kit.

1: Skin Care

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen my stories about the countless products I’m trying (or loving) lately. I fell deeply in love with skin care when I was employed by Sephora in 2017. I do not start or end my day, or trips, without skincare to some degree.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of makeup remover wipes. I don’t feel clean after I use them, most are overpriced, and they aren’t exactly great for our environmental impact. Micellar water great solution for those nights you’re way too tired for a full wash, or maybe when I’ve had a few too many vinos under the moonlight of a new city. Plus, most (if not all) of them are safe enough to use near the eyes, so they save me the space of packing remover. I use Bioderma Sensibio h2O. Bonus: it comes in a travel size!

Three Step: Cleanse, Tone, Moisturize

My travel cleanser is always Fresh Soy Cleanser. It too comes in a travel size (which is how I first became hooked) and I just love the way my skin feels after I use it. My toner that I recently switched to is Thayer’s Unscented Witch Hazel solution. It has enough aloe to not leave my skin feeling stripped, and it’s antibacterial to fight off airplane acne. I’ve been using the Origin’s Original Skin moisturizer for my summer skin, but in the colder days, I’ve been using something a little thicker: Josie Maran Argan Oil Light.

SPF

Do you know the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens? I like to discuss it with many of my clients -- especially ones who are fair skinned, have acne-prone skin, or issues such as eczema or rosacea (like me!). Clinique has a wonderfully sheer physical sunblock that also comes in a range of SPF factors, and even an oil-free version.

2: Makeup

My staple foundation has been the same since I was 17 years old: Smashbox Studio Skin. They just recently redid the line and expanded the shades, boasting a 24H wear (which is perfect when you’re cruising through a city tour). Just don't make the same mistake I did -- while applying before my flight to Jasper, Alberta, I smashed the glass bottle all over the bathroom of Toronto Pearson Airport. (PS: the Rexall in Jasper does not sell Smashbox, regrettably.) I redeemed a couple of the Too Faced Milk Chocolate bronzer 100-Point-Perks when Sephora was offering it, and I love to pair that with my Physician’s Formula Butter Blush.

I fell in love with Anastasia Brow Wiz many years before being employed by the brand: I pair it with Essence Make Me Brow in Soft Browny Brows (an AMAZING dupe for Gimme Brow, since I had to do something during its little hiatus). Did you know Essence products, while inexpensive here, are actually kept behind glass in Santiago, Chile? I was shocked when I saw the $2.99 product locked away -- but also proud of the brand’s worldwide success.

Through hell and high water, my Smashbox Full Exposure mini has survived it all. It has been dropped, broken, lost and found, and has been a must in my carry-on for years. The travel size offers the perfect combination of neutrals for my hazel eyes, plus the neutral brown doubles as a great powder for topping up the aforementioned brow pencil. My mascara of choice, however, has been another long-time winner in my personal makeup kit. Smashbox Full Exposure Mascara has proven itself time and time again, and in my opinion, has a great drugstore dupe you can pick up at Boots: Rimmel's Scandaleyes.

If I don't set my makeup, I feel naked. My usual setting spray is Urban Decay’s All Nighter -- a classic. However, some days I find myself leaning towards a more natural look, so I switch to NYX Dewey Setting Spray. It’s great for a more romantic look, or when I'm shooting the more -- erm, intimate -- scenes in films, as overly shimmery makeup often translates to "sweaty beast" on camera.

I always bring along a Chapstick with SPF in it, or even pick one up at the drug store, since I am not a savoury snacker but rather the salty goodness of chips and pretzels.

What do you swear by in your travel essentials?

"Candid" + "organic" ≠ social media

Social media, while a brilliant marketing tool, has eluded us to believe life is a series of candid nights captured in a hazy teal Lightroom preset, full of blue-light teeth whitener and hair growth candies.

Truthfully, I haven’t invested a lot of time in my blog lately because I needed to take time off. My work/life balance was suffering tremendously — to the point where I was completely unaware of what to occupy my time with, if not work.

What have the words “candid” and “organic” transpired into due to the impact of social media?

This pressure to feel or look a certain way ALL the time is incredibly unhealthy, and I know I am not alone when I admit I feel an incredible amount of anxiety when generating content. As a millennial, I guess you could say I have been experiencing a degree of “FOMO.” You see people at hip bars, their highlight beaming from the Edison bulbs, posted up on velvet furniture, all decked in Fashion Nova... I realized I found myself gravitating towards a “longing” to experience such things... even though I know full well I don’t enjoy being in those types of environments!

That is the smoke and mirror illusion of these platforms 🌬 ...and what I began to realize was the type of happiness I was experiencing did not have to be discounted simply because it was not highly publicized. I am happy. And I haven’t felt it like this in a long time; that long, warm stretch of open road through the glass of the passenger window. Sunshine in my otherwise mid-west cloudy climate. I spend most nights researching skin care, doing puzzles, reading, writing, sketching. And maybe it’s not romanticized or as sexy. But it makes me happy and I think that’s an important note to document.


What are your favourite self care rituals? Are there certain things that make you light up after a tough day?