It’s been awhile! A lot of things have happened in the last few months: I’m single, I discovered meditation, and I’ve lost a ton of weight by stopping drinking!
My break up in August sparked a season of change. Suddenly, I had the time and emotional capacity to focus on self-care. Losing weight has always been a struggle for me. Being in a relationship with someone who loved trying new bars and restaurants meant most of our date nights were spent eating or drinking – a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE trying new food, so I was happy I finally had someone who could afford to do it with me…. but it also meant I was eating a lot more than I had before. During the first 3 months of our relationship, I gained 15lbs.
In February of 2016, we both resolved to cut back on the restaurant dates. We did a round of Whole30 together and I lost those 15lbs by March. I tried to keep losing weight, but it wasn’t working. Even though we weren’t eating out, we were still drinking on the weekends because we wanted to continue being young-20-somethings. Plus, a conversation over drinks by candlelight is a lot more romantic than sitting at home on the couch…. We didn’t want our chemistry to suffer, so we kept going out, but both felt conflicted about it as we HATED the after effects on our bodies.
Our breakup was a blessing in disguise. Now that I didn’t feel social pressure to keep going out, I could shift my focus to fitness. I could start working out at 7am before work because I didn’t have to shuffle my clothes/makeup/gym bag between my apartment and his. We had always meal prepped food together, but now I reliably had all my meals at my OWN apartment, not split between both of ours, so it was much easier to keep on track with my food.
By simply cutting out alcohol and hitting the gym every morning, I have lost 30lbs since March… and 20 of those pounds have been in the last 3 months since we broke up. My body feels amazing and I am so much stronger in the gym!
Since my morning fitness class ends at 8am but I don’t start work until 9am, I’ve started meditating in the downtime. It began during a particularly stressful time at work and I was desperate for a way to escape it and quiet my mind. Once I realized how effective it was, I began doing it every day.
I use the Headspace app and I can choose if I want to meditate for 5, 10, 15, etc. minutes. It helps me stop worrying about tiny details of the day and focus on the bigger picture and my overall well-being. The biggest thing I’m focusing on right now is letting go of the past and present. Most of my mental dialogue is spent worrying about things in the future. “What are my plans Friday night? Will I have enough time between work and my date to go home and eat dinner? How will I handle this crisis at work? How much work are people expecting of me today? What did my friend mean by that offhanded comment? What will I do if it rains when I planned to run outside?”
I am trying to realize that none of those things are immediate problems and none of them require my current attention. Some of them I can’t even control! But yet, I spend an insane amount of time thinking about them. I am always anticipating the future instead of appreciating the present. By meditating each morning, I am trying to become more mindful of my thoughts and my emotional reactions to them. Overall, it is helping! My coworkers have told me I seem much happier and less stressed out.
In the whirlwind of these life changes, I neglected planning a fall vacation. I have a resolution to take two international vacations per year. This spring, I went to Cuba! Shan and I planned to go to New Zealand or South Africa this fall, but obviously that can’t happen.
I had planned on just staying in Portland and saving money, but then I saw an absolutely insane deal on a flight to Amsterdam. A round trip from Seattle to Amsterdam was only $380! That is cheaper than flying home to Kentucky! Plus I had 4 vacation days to use before the end of the year, so I figured it was the perfect time to do a solo trip.
I didn’t want the deal to slip away, so I bought it that same day!
I’ve been all over Europe, but never to Amsterdam. I don’t know anyone in the city, so it should be an adventure! I am trying not to plan my trip like I usually do. I want it to be an experiment in being flexible. I’ve researched some cool cafes and activities, but I’m not going to make an itinerary. I’m planning on waking up each morning and seeing what I feel like doing. Maybe I’ll go for a run if its nice outside. Maybe I’ll rent a bike. Maybe I’ll walk to a little salad cafe. Who knows!
I did book my accommodation in advance and I couldn’t be happier with my finds:
Days 1-3: Central Amsterdam. I am staying at the EcoMama Hostel in central Amsterdam. I’ve stayed at budget hostels before and shared a room with 40 other people in bunk beds, but I feel like I am a little past that stage in my life. I value sleep! Plus I don’t plan on drinking, so I can’t rely on alcohol to help knock me into slumber. I chose the EcoMama hostel because it has a smaller 8-bed dorm room that looks adorable! The entire hostel is well designed and looks like such a nice place to wind down. It is also connected to a cafe, so I won’t have to walk far for coffee (but I probably will, because I love exploring on foot!)
I’m going to participate in a bunch of the hostel activities (evening family-style meals, pub crawls, etc) and hopefully meet some fellow travelers. I am also going to try to go to some Amsterdam meetups. The website Reddit has forums for most major cities. I am very active in the Portland page. We have meetups every 2 weeks where we all go to a bar and hangout and meet any new people who want to join. I’ve met all of my best friends through Reddit! Hopefully the Amsterdam community is as active!
Days 4-5: Remote Farmhouse. I am most excited about this experience. I am going to be traveling 2 hours north of Amsterdam to the little town of Wieringerwert. I’ll be staying in a small cabin on a family farm underneath a windmill! The family provides breakfast each morning with eggs straight from their farm. There’s also a bicycle to use, so I can pedal around the tiny town. I know there won’t be anything to do, so I plan to use this time to read, write, and reflect. It’s not often I get the chance to go somewhere so remote and beautiful to unplug.
Days 6-8: Vondelpark. On the outskirts of Amsterdam is a large park called Vondelpark. I’ve found a small Airbnb guesthouse nearby that looks perfect for a solo traveler. It is verrrry small, but it was a great price for a private spot in a good location. The guesthouse is what is pictured above – just a room and a heater! But I have access to the bathroom and kitchen inside the house, across the patio. A young couple lives in the house and they have great reviews. It will be nice to meet locals and get an inside scoop.
It is located on the southwestern side of Amsterdam, so it will be an entirely new neighborhood for me to explore. It cost a little bit more than a hostel, but I think one weekend spent sharing a room with 7 other people is plenty. This neighborhood seems much more quiet and suburban. I’m excited for runs through the park. There’s even an expat bootcamp-style fitness class I am eager to try!
Everyone I’ve talked to who has been to Amsterdam says there isn’t a big food scene. I am secretly happy about that! I won’t have the temptation to try street food like I did in Asia (octopus kebabs, squishy spicy rice patties, custard filled fish pastries, etc!)
Eating alone in a restaurant is also a very awkward experience. I don’t mind spending time by myself, but I hate feeling judged by others who are wondering why I am alone. Maybe it is all in my head, but I definitely plan on spending more times at cafes where it is more acceptable! Plus, my hostel and farmhouse both have kitchens, so I plan on cooking for myself a lot. I’m determined not to let this vacation get in the way of my fitness goals!
I plan on seeing all of the typical touristy things (Anne Frank Haus, Van Gogh Museum, etc) but if you have any unique or unusual suggestions, please share!