A feeling of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong.
In Latin, “culpa” means guilt. You may have heard the term “mea culpa” (my fault).
Guilt can be an emotion that comes and goes, or stays based on when someone feels like they have (accurately or not) compromised their own standards of conduct.
Guilt can give rise to a feeling which doesn’t always go away easily and is driven by our conscience.
Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, described guilt as the result of a struggle between the ego and the superego.
Superego is the internalisation of cultural or traditional rules often taught by our parents and the ego.
RIGHT OR WRONG
To some extent it would be our elders, parents, mentors, teachers and eventually our own conscience that plant seeds of ‘good and bad’ and ‘right or wrong’ in our minds. We are taught a lot of things when we are young and while growing up. These concepts could be influenced by cultural, societal, generational, familial factors and more.
As adults, our own interpretations of these teachings lead us to apply the learnings to our lives and decisions.
It’s estimated that an average adult makes about 35,000 semi-conscious decisions every day (Source: UNCTV).
Most of these (small decisions) will be based on automated responses by our subconscious, but some of the bigger decisions could require more thinking, weighing up of factors and perhaps having to tap into our belief systems, values, situation analysis, past experiences and more.
Sometimes we make bad decisions, which by the way are retrospective, as I don’t think most of us do things when we think it’s a bad idea.
When we’ve done something and the result is good: “well done for being brave”; if the result is bad: “why am I so stupid, what was I thinking?”. These may be a familiar chatter in our heads, with many of us having tendencies to find accountability for events, and if these are negative ones, feeling like blaming someone, something or even ourselves.
We must remember that although we are often advised to go with our ‘gut feel’ when making tough choices, our brains, hearts and guts can all make miscalculations.
There’s something called ‘false guilt’ which is an idea that what you feel must be true. If you feel guilty, you must be guilty.
Sometimes we feel guilt because we should have done something differently or not done something, but maybe in someone else’s eyes it wasn’t that bad or it was the right thing to do etc. It’s all very subjective.
Some of us can feel anxious when our feelings of guilt become overwhelming.
Others could try to reduce their guilt by blaming others, or even sharing their guilt with people who have similar experiences to feel better.
Those who have high levels of psychopathy lack a sense of guilt or moral reasoning for any damage they may have caused others and they could justify their actions. However such people are less likely to develop deep emotional connections with others.
SHAME VS GUILT
Ruth Benedict, a cultural anthropologist described shame as the result of a violation of cultural or social values, often projected on someone by others.
Guilt on the other hand is an internal creation when someone’s own morals are violated.
Therefore shame comes from a negative perception from others and guilt comes from one’s own thoughts or actions.
Feeling guilt is very normal and makes most of us more human.
Many of us have empathy for others and guilt often helps us make sure we don’t intentional wrong others.
If we have done wrong to others or ourselves, it’s important to train our minds to forgive, to learn from the past and not to dwell on the guilt or let it grow. After all, we are imperfect and we make mistakes.
Most of us do not get everything we want. We have to adapt to situations, people, changing times, and more. But to what extent?
It comes back to the point of finding a balance between what is truly important to us and what options are available to us at a given point in time.
We need to have some boundaries and non-negotiables that we remind ourselves about, in every situation, if we need to decide on whether we shall be compromising on something or not.
I have travelled with strangers, with family and with friends and I can confirm there have been and will be plenty of moments of compromise for the sake of not ruining the mood of the holiday and even relationships.
Family holidays have been happening for us since I was two years old, so I have over three decades of experience in that field.
We argue about things like where we want to eat, my dad making a big deal about the lack of service at a restaurant; my mum walking into a shop in a random city and not picking up her phone. I am pretty sure they have a list of things that I do which are annoying to them too. But we still bear with it, purely because it is familiar territory and they are our family.
Travelling with friends is very much a learning curve for all parties involved, even if you thought you knew each other very well.
The main thing that I have learnt and would suggest when travelling with friends is that you communicate clearly from the start of the trip about what each of you want to do over the days or weeks, as well as during the trip.
There will be times where you need to improvise, compromise, but you will need to remember what your boundaries are as well.
Ideally, you do not want to go back home after the trip not having done or seen most of the things that you wanted to, or even blame anyone else for this. This could obviously affect your friendship. If there are misunderstandings, it is best to raise them then and clarify them on the spot or soon, or else it can get worse over time.
Try to be calm, adapt and compromise a bit on things that are not that important and try to have a good time.
Finally, travelling with strangers may involve an element of compromise, but hopefully not to the detriment of what you need to see and do on the trip. It is your trip.
Although there will be times when you may need to do what the majority of the group wants to do, sometimes for personal safety and perhaps on other times because you do not want to spend a whole day on your own.
I have had days during organised tours when I needed a break from everyone. The same people that I had spent the last week or so with, was starting to annoy me. This could just be me and my occasional anti-social streak, but I do think a bit of time and space never hurt anyone, once in a while.
So on one of the days in Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon), Vietnam, I excused myself from the travel group and hopped onto a Cyclo, which is a one person rickshaw (imagine a wheelbarrow with a cycle at the back) and saw a bit of the city myself. It was a lot of fun and in the evening I caught up with the rest of the travel group. I was very pleased to see them and hear about their day too!
You can read my article on what to consider when travelling solo or in organised tours.
No one is perfect. Remember to apologise and forgive and raise things that are not working during the trip, even if it is uncomfortable. If you do not do these things and let these build up in your head, things may be blown out of proportion.
I could be sat in front of my laptop wondering whether I should compromise on the star ratings of the next hotel I book (for whenever my next holiday may be...) while someone somewhere is wondering if they should use money to have a meal or to repair their only pair of shoes.
People in many parts of the world still do not have basic needs or choice on things like education, consent for marriage, independence. They may have many more limitations when it comes to the types of jobs they could apply for and even be considered for, followed by being able to survive at them with the lack of acceptance in certain cultures around the world.
Such people have to compromise on many things on a daily basis than most of us have to. Some people can not afford childcare, so they may have to choose between bringing up their children and a job.
The reason I have brought this up is that, before we look at our compromises, based on our personal standards with magnifying glasses, we could all try to remember how fortunate we are to even have a choice.
Having said that, having standards, boundaries and non-negotiables are also important for us, in order to have an element of control in our lives.
Some may have overtly high standards for themselves and can come across as egoistic, proud, picky or even snobby. In many cases this could be true, especially when these individuals impose their views and standards upon the rest, without considering their personal situations, beliefs or preferences. Others may be very easy-going, to the point of forgoing many of their own desires, perhaps too often than is necessary.
If we try to understand others better and keep an open mind towards different people, we can experience life more fully, where we can learn, improve and face fewer difficulties, especially when travelling with others.
CAREER, PASSION AND RELATIONSHIPS
Say I was a talented dancer (sadly, I am not), and I decided to give up dancing for the sake of a relationship. It is very likely that at some point in my life I will feel regret that I gave up on something I loved, for something or someone else that I loved. As a result, I may blame the latter.
It is obviously not easy to say that I should have continued to be a dancer, no matter what, because perhaps at a certain point in time I did not have the choice, or I had to pick one thing over the other and I made an informed and practical decision then.
Dilemmas can be life-changing, especially when we need to make difficult decisions.
One way of dealing with these could be to think of a short and long term plan, with pros and cons of both, drawing non-negotiables for now and the future.
And in case we regret our past, there is always a way to see what good came out of that, and see how we could make changes in future to do more of what we are passionate about.
Obviously we need to take into account all the variables, such as our age, physical and mental abilities, dependents and more.
For instance, an aspiring footballer would struggle to fulfil his passion and dreams to play his best game if he starts playing at the age of 30. It could just be the harsh truth of life that we have to choose and we can not have everything, and so we have to compromise.
If you make choices because of someone else, be it family or societal pressures, you are quite likely to blame them down the line and feel angry about it.
Ultimately, the goal is to be as sure as possible that whatever choices we make, we will try not to hold anyone accountable for the compromises involved, but ourselves.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Whether this is at a fish market, a car dealership or for big business deals, we have all had to question how much we could let go of. What are the opportunity costs of one thing to another? What is at stake?
Our thought process is affected by many factors, such as our:
TOP 5 THINGS TO REMEMBER:
As a takeaway from this article, some things to consider when you are faced with a situation where you need to compromise:
Accept and Reject are antonyms but if we combine the two words, they can become quite meaningful and useful.
If you’re a bit like me, you detest rejection.
After all we may have invested time, emotions, effort, money, hope and more towards something or someone, and then it all stops. Whether this is a job interview, promotion, potential or existing partner, a competition... often the outcome is out of our control and we don’t have a choice but to accept what is.
This is when accepting rejection can be essential. By surrendering to the results as something that is not in our hands and hoping that at least one positive thing will come out of it either way, imminently or in future, we can save ourselves from unnecessary pain or stress.
My Physics teacher once told me:
“Remember that you did what you thought was right at the time, and if you did your personal best then, that’s all that matters. Forget about the outcome of whether you pass or fail.”
As soon as I sat my exams, I told myself that I would forget about it and enjoy my summer holidays, rather than stress about the results until they were published.
Although this advise is more about accepting 'failure', rather than 'rejection', it's applicable to other aspects of our lives.
REJECTION: JOB INTERVIEWS
Turning the spotlight onto job applications and interviews, there may be times when we feel like we have met our career-soul mate i.e. the perfect job.
I remember interviewing at a boutique company a while ago, when I met almost everyone in the company except the cleaners, including the CEO. After five rounds of interviews (for a graduate role...), I was convinced that they loved me and I would get the job.
I didn’t hear from them for a week, then another week... I actually never heard back from them.
In those few weeks, my heart felt increasingly heavier and I wondered “why wouldn’t they give me the job?”; “did I say something that made them change their minds?”; "maybe I shouldn't have cracked that joke...".
The truth is that often we will never know the real reason behind other people's decisions.
Reading rejection letters from job applications also never failed to amuse me over time, with the standard:
Thank you for taking the time to interview.... blah blah..... Unfortunately....." and that's when I stop reading. I remember when reading the word "Unfortunately" would make my heart sink.
Over the years, having interviewed at many other companies, I have finally seen the benefit of accepting rejection as soon as possible. Sometimes, on the same day.
The sooner we accept rejection, the less time we waste by thinking about it, minimising unnecessary stress building up in our lives.
Sometimes when we are in a relationship, we can feel like we’re sat on a see-saw and no one is at the other end, and all the effort is one-sided. That is one form of rejection... a small, regular one that can eat into our confidence over time, if we dwell on it for a long period of time.
With relationships, it’s obviously not as easy to forget about people and cut them out, like we can with other forms of rejection like from a job interview. Sometimes we have to live with rejection, especially if there are longer term implications or potential for improving the situation.
In relationships many of us have experienced a break up or not feeling like a priority for someone we deeply care about.
I have noticed that there is often the temptation to feel like the world revolves around us. It's natural for us to think about ourselves, our hurt feelings, the impact of rejection on our future. However, it is also crucial to remember that rejection from someone is often personal and has more to do with their own reasoning of right and wrong, than it being all about who they have rejected. It's best to think of such situations as a 'mismatch' of things like traits, habits, beliefs, etc.
Now, you can decide whether you want to change yourself or things you do, every time someone rejects you or something you do...
While taking feedback or criticism on board is an important source of growth, I strongly believe that we need to have a filter where we weigh these up against our own beliefs and then accept the final outcome.
Some may think that acceptance of situations is 'passive' behaviour, but it doesn't need to be.
For instance we can accept our bodies for as big or small, tall or short that they are, but still work towards improving them. We can accept feeling our emotions and know that they are temporary and still get on with life when we are ready. We can accept rejection or failure one day, but also take notes on what you would like to improve and change in future.
ACCEPTING OR REJECTING 'REJECTION'
Personally, I find that rejecting rejection is usually tiring, upsetting, a waste of energy and time.
People usually make choices believing that it’s the right thing to do. Only retrospectively can we look back and judge whether it was right or wrong. That too, varies from person to person.
Accepting rejection is therefore a way to minimise our suffering and be at peace for as much of the finite time in our lives, as possible.
An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.
The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.
Fear of loss. Fear of danger. Fear of failure. Fear of death.
We all experience different levels of fear at various points in our lives. Sometimes, it’s more dramatic and comes from an element of surprise, for instance if you ever walk through a wild forest and are faced by a tiger. According to WWF (World Wildlife Fund... not the wrestling federation), there were approximately 3,900 tigers left in the world in 2019. So, the reality of that kind of fear is very small.
More realistically, when we travel to a new country, we should be more afraid of humans, than animals. The fear of being robbed or attacked in Caracas, Venezuela is more rational. Regarded as the second most dangerous city in the world, Caracas has a murder rate of 111.2 deaths per 100,000 people (World Population Review, 2019).
However, statistics can always be interpreted. Just because South Africa is the fifteenth most dangerous country in the world, with sixty-two deaths per 100,000 people every year, this hasn’t stopped the tourist trade which continues to thrive and have positive reviews.
Other types of fear involve illnesses and its impact on us and loved ones, and with the latest constant media coverage of the pandemic from the coronavirus (COVID-19), this is a constant battle of managing fear.
WHAT IF THINGS GO WRONG?
If we are unfortunate enough to be faced with unforeseen circumstances, we need to have some easy-to-access tools or ideas up our sleeves.
For instance, when I was visiting Antigua in Guatemala, we heard about people on motorbikes snatching bags and, on some occasions, attacking their victims. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, there was a trend of people smearing a smelly, unidentifiable brown paste on tourists’ clothes as a form of distraction. While you would try to clean up, they could grab your bag and run away.
When we face danger, whether it’s a contagious illness, a hungry tiger or a mugger, our bodies and minds can react in many ways, one of which is called a ‘Fight-or-Flight’ response.
Walter Bradford Cannon (1871–1945), a well-known American physiologist, first described 'Fight-or-Flight' as a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat. Different approaches exist to deal with the response our bodies make before our minds can process things. Here are some tried and tested tips:
DEALING WITH TRAUMA
If you have already experienced something unpleasant on your trip or in life, you need to ensure you don’t let that ruin the rest of your holiday or travel plans... or life.
According to helpguide.org, here are some ways to deal with a shock or trauma:
This is not an exhaustive list of solutions but is hopefully a good reminder of how we can take care of ourselves during difficult times, whether at home, when travelling alone, or in groups or just while getting on with life.
What moves us forward is the ability to build up courage to understand and address, rather than fight, that fear.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.
There is something about your birth place which can make you entirely forgiving of almost all of its flaws, at least in my case.
I landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 5am, which has finally been renovated and expanded for the first time in decades. I went to a modest looking counter for a taxi, where the lady asked for USD 28 to go into town (30 minute drive) and I managed to haggle it down to USD 15, which I was quite proud of.
Thankfully, I also had the offline map of where I needed to go, as I quickly realised that my taxi driver was close to retirement and could not tell the time on the car, who was also clearly a great multi-tasker. He was texting for the entire ride and only occasionally looked at the road. The only thing that gave me peace of mind was that he told me that he had been driving for 30 years and the road was mostly straight.
The history of Kenya is quite diverse, including the arrival of Vasco da Gama in the 15th century, followed by Arab, Portuguese and Indian merchants and traders. In 19th century, the Imperial British East Africa Company was formed, with strong infrastructure links with Bombay in British-ruled India. Kenya celebrated its independence from the British in 1963 and has been through some ups and downs with Asian and European citizens.
However, looking at Kenya and especially Nairobi today, time seems to have healed and accepted the past, at least in most cases.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya is considered to be the capital of East Africa for a number of reasons: the people, the collaboration between the native Kenyans and those of other ethnicity. With almost 10% of the population of Kenya residing in Nairobi, it is increasingly populous over the years, which we can experience more in the traffic within the city.
Kenya has a very diverse population that includes Asians and Europeans and has evolved into a hub for growing businesses and new ventures, real estate and investments, adding to the tourism sector for attractions like Maasai Mara and others like the Equator, National Parks, Animal orphanages, Rift Valley, Lakes and more.
Visiting Nairobi after a decade showed me a fine balance of how the city has grown to accommodate the needs of the wealthy, while having more sources of hope for diverting street crime from the poorer parts of the slums. It still feels like the Nairobi I was born in and grew up in, but with a few expansions and makeovers here and there.
Infrastructure wise, there seems to be a mix of a lack of public funding for road improvements but a gradual growth in private and commercial properties and some flyovers with a substantial amount of Chinese investors.
Down Town Nairobi is still where one can have a full meal and a cup of tea for under the equivalent of 50 cents, while the rooftop bars can charge you USD 20 for a main meal and on average two or three dollars for a non-alcoholic beverage. In the western world, the rooftop bar prices are quite standard.
While staying in Nairobi with my friend, who drove us around the city and its peripheries, gave me a flavour of the life led by those who are well off and / or tourists, while walking the streets with the locals, was a completely different and warming experience. As a child I never walked the streets of Nairobi, and it seems like it is still rare to.
Thankfully Uber has become widely available and is very reasonable. You could even be a bit more adventurous and take a Boda-Boda (scooter taxi).
NATURE & WILDLIFE
Nairobi retains its image as home to less, but still some abundance of wildlife. As a child, we used to drive towards the airport and were likely to see giraffes crossing the road. That does not happen these days, with the exception of the odd lion escaping the park. However, in Nairobi National park, you could still sight lions, giraffes, zebras and perhaps a rhino. You could also venture out to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage that helps preservation of baby elephants and baby rhinos who have been orphaned, mostly due to poaching.
Karura Forest in Westlands has plenty of wildlife to spot while you walk through the greenery, such as monkeys, bush squirrels, hares and a lot of pretty butterflies. After exploring the forests, caves and waterfalls, you could head to the River Side Cafe for a drink and a nice burger.
On one of our free days, we decided to book a day tour for USD 35 with some twenty and thirty-something year old ex-prisoners, who have turned their lives around and have started their own Nairobi street tour company. They told us about how their childhood in poverty made them go into crime, robbery and in some cases murder, followed by going to jail.
If nothing else, their stories showed us that there is always a second chance for everyone. The boys showed us the real streets of Nairobi, which one of them called Typhoon said was called Nairoberry. Because they were known in the area, having good relations which the local police (for multiple reasons), it felt relatively safe for us to walk.
As long as we dodged the Matatus (small vans for public transport). I heard my friend say Scotland around 20 times when random people asked him where he was from, followed by me hearing the word Musungu (caucasian person). I, on the other hand was less exotic, with around 20 per cent of the Nairobi population being Muindis or Mbais (South Asian people).
I was walking on pavements that were still being built, driving over hundreds of pot holes with some reckless driving and overtaking, buying vegetables from a local market, negotiating prices at Kariokor market for handmade leather and beaded accessories, while watching them make these themselves.
After returning to my leisure mode, I decided to go for a massage and meal at Jacaranda hotel. I was asked by the waiter if I would be visiting again soon, while I was paying for my Tusker Lite (less calories and still 4% alcohol volume and almost the same taste. End of commercial).
I said I did not know but maybe in a few months or years, although I will always have a soft spot for this city and country. He told me to come back and start a business.
After all, home is where the heart is.
THINGS TO DO IN NAIROBI
Nairobi National Park & Orphanage
Carnivore (game meats and cocktails)
Karura Forest walk with waterfalls and River Cafe
Sheldrick Elephant orphanage
Giraffe Centre or Manor
Nightlife: Bao Box (drinks, food and board games); Gipsy bar & club; Js Lounge & Kitchen for live sports and music
Food: Hashmi (masala chips and chicken); Furusato (BibinBap); or head down to Ngara for local cuisine like Ugali & Sukuma, Githeri or Mandazi
Walking tour with former street kids (Like Local)
Fashion (women): Vivo (yaya centre), Kariokor market (Downtown),
Entertainment: Village market (shopping, food courts and bowling), Sarit centre, Yaya centre
ANTICIPATION & PURPOSE
A video that was part of ‘Small Thing Big Idea’, a TED original series, debates how progress bars make waiting more exciting.
According to a survey mentioned in this video, people care more about the fact that there is a progress bar, rather than the actual number on it. If there is a percentage, people get some fulfilment from the sense of achievement and hope there is an end goal in sight.
Watching a webpage load, food until it is cooked, noticing a plant grow, watching our children stand, talk, walk, run, graduate, all of these give us a feeling of purpose over different periods of time. Some people even use tally charts to count up or down days, like prisoners in cells who scratch the days spent in jail and hence towards the end of their potential sentence.
So, all in all, progress bars could be literal, or metaphorical.
The opposite of the previous concept is when a progress bar is working backwards.
Sometimes I feel quite anxious when I see that the battery power on my ancient iPhone 6 is under two per cent, especially if I am not home or somewhere close to a charging point, although I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of telecom companies or other electronics manufacturers. Or when my car is low on fuel and it's on its last bar, the least clever thing to do would be to go for a long drive without fuelling up.
This reverse progress bar is therefore, more of a preparation for when to start thinking about a situation and acting and finding a source of power, fuel, energy etc. It teaches us how to pace ourselves. So, next time your mobile phone is on ten percent battery and you have a two-hour journey home, you may choose not to listen to music or watch a video and switch it off for some time. Unfortunately, for running out of fuel, there isn't much of a practical solution apart from fuelling up or suffering the potential consequences.
The battery charged on your phone, the amount of petrol in your car, the amount of milk left in the fridge, the number of pages left in your notebook... these and more status checks on various parts of our lives are just early warning signs that prepare us for the consequences of running out.
Similarly, if we find ourselves running slightly low on energy ourselves, although we don’t have a clear electronic display of our remaining power, we should try to detect and remember the triggers for having low energy. These can act as our health progress or status bar, which we can consciously act on with remedial action, such as finding energy sources or reduce the level of physical activity or exertion.
Equally, as we grow older, it's recommended that we get regular health checks for things like our Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Sugar levels and so on. These are so that we keep an eye on our body's progress bars, so we can maintain our health and if we act appropriately, watch the progress of any improvements.
We can't manage projects efficiently in life or at work without having a project status report. This could qualify as a detailed progress bar, or perhaps a collection or project bars, which can create accountability within the project team, with given deadlines and dependencies.
So if Person A hasn't completed the task by Day 5, Person B can't start their job, which will have an effect on the whole project, with a possible domino effect. So, no pressure on Person A...
These visual representations of situations can also come in handy for businesses and their customers, for example.
When you return something that you purchased online and hear nothing from the seller, you may feel some uncertainty and annoyance. Yet, if you receive an email status update, that they have received the returned item or are supplied with a 'link to track' the return or delivery, it makes you look at the seller as a professional and you're likely to do business with them again. Your mind is put at rest, that something is happening and the end result that you want i.e. getting your money back, is close to happening.
If people or companies didn't communicate to others, this could result in unnecessary frustration and possible complaints.
We all secretly love the occasional pat on the back for a job completed, and on a less human sense, those big green ticks we get when we complete an online form correctly or completely.
Humans fuel their motivation levels on validation, in different ways. Whether it involves producing a checklist or a To-do list and ticking every job that has been completed, or when you receive a certificate.
When we receive a certificate or prize for completing something, it gives us a sense of accomplishment, at the end of an actual or virtual progress bar that you were working through. For example, for a course on flying a plane, getting to the top of a mountain, a qualification for your career, a marriage certificate for giving your relationship a new(ish) name... most of these are feel-good moments and well deserved.
Well done, you.
An article called the Tail End, really made me think about the amount of time doing things I love or spending time with those who I love. The author compares how much of their own life has passed and is left, assuming a generous 90-Year Human life.
The purpose of this article wasn't to scare us, I'm sure, but to remind us to periodically check how we are progressing through life and how much of our time we are planning to give different aspects of our lives, including to those who we love dearly.
How are we prioritising our priorities, within an approximate, but finite time frame of just one life time?
These progress bars are only ways of managing our psychology and behaviour, to have a clearer idea of situations, in order for us to make better informed decisions, to the best of our abilities.
How much we use them, how we use them and when, all depends on how we, as individuals benefit from them over time.
A word is a sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.
A word can have a completely different meaning to us today, compared to what we thought it meant when we were younger.
There are words that we hear and use, some of which go through an evolution process, often based on personal experiences as we go through life.
In this article, I analyse my past and present definitions of certain words that have resonated with me on several occasions.
A severe headache or other after-effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
In all honesty, I had no idea what this meant before going to university.
When I was around sixteen years old, I remember studying my older brother who was slouched on the sofa for an entire Saturday, without uttering more than a few words like: 'Pass me the remote' or 'What's for dinner?'
It puzzled me. What could have possibly happened that had the ability to turn someone into a vegetable, that isn't a serious illness?
I asked my brother to explain himself, which appeared to be the only thing we could talk about that day and he told me that he was hungover. To me, this meant that someone is hanging over something... what was he hanging over except the sofa?
Not long after, once I experienced Student Union bars, Happy Hours (that make you happy until the next morning), pounding headaches and what feels like a shrunken brain playing pin-ball within the boundaries of my skull... I can now define a hangover.
Feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity.
When I was bored as a child, I complained but did nothing about it. I got bored of studying, because I wasn't interested in the subject, or bored of being at a party because I had to play with all the other kids who were my parents' friends' children, whether we got along, or not. Sometimes everything was boring.
What I didn't realise was that when we are bored, we are not doing something that interests us much (or at all) and we could look for something else, that does. In fairness, we didn't always have much say in deciding what we wanted to do back then, but as adults, we should look at boredom as an opportunity for learning, growth and exploring unexplored territories, interests that we never pursued and so on.
For instance, I started srtravels.co.uk when I was bored and now I have confirmed my passion for writing and sharing my thoughts - even if it is about boredom itself!
"When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Feeling pleasure or contentment.
To some extent, I feel like I was happier as a child, in the sense that I worried less, enjoyed every moment that made me happy like having my favourite chocolate ice cream... and didn't let that become more than what it was: a temporary feeling.
As adults, we may ask ourselves or others, perhaps more often than necessary: Are you happy?
The answer could be based on that moment: yes, because my best friend is getting married, or no, because I just got robbed. But we could be inclined to dwell much deeper into the search for 'happiness' and start worrying unnecessarily if we are not happy all the time or most of the time. As human beings, and probably many other living creatures out there, we have good and bad days and ups and downs or else life would become uninteresting (i.e. boring: refer to point 2).
On top of that, we start worrying about whether we will be happy in future if we did X, Y or Z. The reality is that we don't know, but we can make informed decisions to keep moving and take calculated risks so that we experience as much as we can, in this life.
In my blog about Work-Life balance, I mentioned a TED Talk by Emily Esfahani Smith who highlighted four 'pillars' to living a good or meaningful life:
Note that she doesn't call it a 'happy life', because maybe there isn't really such a thing?
Pressure or tension exerted on an object or person.
Stress balls were as far as my understanding of the word stress was before I stepped into my mid-twenties.
To me, the implications of persistent stress can cause permanent damage to our mental and physical health, be it our bad posture resulting in muscle spasms or crazy working hours, which could slowly eat into our mental health.
Difficult situations and environments can put people through varying levels of stress.
According to the American Institute of Stress, there is good and bad stress. As shown in the diagram, increased stress could result in higher productivity, but only until a certain point, after which things could go downhill.
However, that turning point is different for individuals so we need to be alert to symptoms of when the mental stress is going from good to not-so-good (distress).
An intense feeling of deep affection.
At the age of two, I remember telling my mum, dad and brother: 'I labba you' and that was as far as love meant for me.
Since I was a toddler, I watched several movies, especially Bollywood movies, which are almost always love stories and I still didn't understand what all the fuss was about and why people did stupid things for someone they just met.
For instance, a typical Bollywood plot in the '90's would involve a daughter of a rich man falling in love with a poor guy and when the parents are against the relationship, the daughter ditches her platonic love of twenty years and picks her romantic love of a month or so.
How ungrateful is that?
Everyone has a different definition for love and some people may have amazing love stories of eloping and living happily ever after... however, personally I feel that romantic and platonic love should be held accountable on equal principles, with different types of 'feelings' associated to them.
Romantic love is often described as being accompanied by 'butterflies', excitement, passion and desire, while platonic love is secure, comforting and probably a bit more boring.
From what I have experienced, a combination of traits like the below are (or should be) common in either types of love:
“Let love be genuine; hold fast to what is good.” – Romans 12:9
An unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.
I still remember a recurrent nightmare that I used to have as a small child, of an angry brown bear that chased me down the stairs of an apartment block (like they do...). I was also afraid of spirits possessing my favourite baby dolls, to the point that I locked them up in a cupboard for several years and didn't go near them, thanks to a not-so-considerate uncle and his terrible horror stories.
In my case, fear back then was based on superficial stories which disappeared over time as I came to realise how bears don't really like living in cities and spirits probably have better things to do than to haunt young children.
Nowadays, I feel like fear is more about the future or about failure. This comes in different times and is amplified by situations, but there is an unseen level of societal pressure of living the 'perfect life', which could make a perfectly normal and successful person in their own rights, wonder if they're 'on track' or not as successful as others.
Sometimes we also try to predict our future and have fear about things not going as planned, when the reality is: we really don't know what will happen, even if we do everything we think is right to get the outcome we desire.
I covered this topic in more detail in my blog about freaking out.
As an adult, I have been afraid of change (fear of lack of control), leaving past jobs (fear of failure), leaving relationships that didn't work (fear of being alone), traveling on my own (fear of safety)... but what I have noticed is that, for all of the things I have mentioned, once I found the courage to overcome that fear and move forward, good things came out of them and I was a much stronger person than I was before then.
There are more philosophical discussions around the fear of death of ourselves or loved ones, but the only 'medicine' for this topic, with death being inevitable, is: acceptance of the impermanence of everything.
“Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them." - Rita Levi-Montalcini
These are just some words that I have learnt to explore a(nother) side to, over time, but who knows, the definitions could change again as we experience more of what life has to offer, molding our past and current understanding of words and the importance they hold in our vocabulary.
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The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.
Speaking of time, the one good thing that comes out of my long-haul plane journeys is the time to think about my next blog post. Over the years, I have observed the behaviour of others and myself and noticed a few things that I thought is worth taking the time to write about.
Sometimes life does just come in the way: as we grow up, have new goals, duties, move around the world, get jobs, priorities change or we want to achieve new heights. All of which often result in even more responsibilities. The opportunity cost is often: our time. Although we are all apparently meant to live until 90 (so I have heard), we do not know how long we will actually live, so time is in fact limited, so we need to spend it wisely. Sorry to lower the tone...
When you do not or cannot give something (or someone) your time, it is worth asking yourself if you have genuinely prioritised them in your life in the first place. Sometimes, we are genuinely spread thin and it is impossible to give our time to others or our long to-do lists, but a routine check is always helpful when it comes to ensuring we do not neglect vital people or duties etc. with further consequences.
Physical vs. Virtual time
Sometimes beggars cannot be choosers. We all know that there is nothing better than a good catch up with someone close to us, in person (in most cases), but some contact is better than none, right?
Despite how much the media and even mobile software tell us to get off our phones and minimise screen-time, technology has enabled us to stay close to people, much faster. Whether it is one emoji or GIF or photo via instant messages, text messages (for those dinosaurs out there), video or audio calls, we have plenty of ways to share our time with those we would like to (or have to). Although it is not quite as having dinner with someone or the hand-written letter from your grandma, it is something.
If we look at the time we give ourselves, I know at least three people who have gym memberships for several months, but have not been more than a few times. Apart from being a total waste of money, it shows how they are not giving time to themselves or their plans to get fitter or healthier (or generally feel good).
Determined to do (something).
âWhere there is a will, there is a way.
This modified version of a proverb from the 1600s was hammered into our heads by our father, when my brother and I were growing up.
It is true, though.
If you really want to make an effort with a project, a challenge, a person or relationship... you will do everything you can to make it happen. If you become complacent about it, and your intent is weak, it probably will not happen or may not happen soon, and if it happens, it may not be that great.
The reason behind that could be that the intention was not strong enough, or was not really there in the first place.
The process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.
We need to have the intention to give time, then we need to act in order to make things happen. Whether it involves keeping our loved ones happy, or becoming healthier, getting a promotion, changing our lives around to do what we love, we can act on it by:
1. Writing it down;
2. Giving ourselves a deadline;
3. Doing something about it.
When someone prints out a list of flights for your next trip and leaves it on the table, or cooks your favourite dish the day you come back from a long journey, or bakes you cake when you are sad, or puts your name on their university coursework when they know how busy you are interviewing for a job... they are acting on their intentions to give you their time.
They do not always have to come to you and say: Look what I do for you. They just do it. They act.
Once we have figured out how much time we intend to give something or someone, we could use the SMART rule for these goals to actually (or be more likely to) happen:
To conclude, I hope I have been able to go slightly beyond stating the obvious, that when we seriously want something, or someone, or for something to happen, we should do anything except nothing.
The equation is simple:
Time + Intention + Action = Outcome
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A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
There are several causes of anger and it’s important to know how to understand it and manage it. When something doesn't go our way or feels unfair in life, inevitably many of us can become angry.
You know the feeling of a ‘switch’ that flicks itself on when something happens and all you can feel is an excessive build up of (negative) energy. Muscles tense, hearts race and there’s the urge to do or say something with immediate action. In extreme circumstances, people can shout, break things, do or say things that they may regret in future and more.
In moments like this, I wish I was a monk. But I’m not, and if you’re not either, what we can do is learn how to try and manage ourselves and our reactions when we become angry, while living a normal life so we use our misplaced energy and actions correctly.
There’s a book by Dr. Gary Chapman: Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion, which highlights that when you’re angry, you should:
If we take the necessary time to keep our anger under control and ask the right questions, we could be closer to a more positive and constructive response. At least more often than never.
keep calm and speak up
Not everyone reacts positively to this idealistic behaviour, even if we were to follow the steps we mentioned here.
Sometimes people can continue to be unfair, rude, hurtful, etc. This is when we should say what we think is fair and if it’s not reciprocated well, we should step away from the situation and make peace with the fact that it was unproductive and ineffective to try and resolve the issue, at least for the time being.
Having said that, it’s important that we do confront some situations. Whether this is done at that moment or at another point in time, soon after the event. We should aim to remain calm and if need be, assertive (not aggressive).
Another approach that could help us calm down is visualisation or meditation, which I'm sure our monk friends would agree with.
Visualising a positive outcome (rather than the worst case scenario) and avoiding a vicious circle of more negative, angry thoughts that could add fuel to an argument, as well as meditating with deep breaths (this could work alongside counting till ten), even for a couple of minutes, can help diffuse the flame inside us.
This obviously takes some time and practice. I have personally felt the positive immediate effects myself (probably just once or twice... but it's a start!)
“Imagine yourself being grounded as the energy passes from you into the earth below and is transformed from negative to positive, from dark to light.” - DailyOm
I don’t believe anger is always wrong and it’s often likely that our values and beliefs have been violated, which is why we react automatically and also when we should decide to do something about it.
Some of the positive outcomes of anger could include:
We’re only human, so as long as we try to manage our natural reactions to external events, we have done our bit.
Maybe even monks get angry, after all, but probably less and they are most likely to be better experienced at dissolving the anger quickly and turning it into positive energy, acceptance and so on.
We just need to decide: when or what we say or react and how.
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DAY 1: victoria falls, zimbabwe to chobe national park
Turns out the mosquito that came inside our tent, never went back out.
Both my friend and I had been bitten by these silent assassins and I suppose the 85% Jungle formula DEET wore off at some point.
We were still at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where we had breakfast after being taught how to bring down our tents. Bran flakes and yogurt and plain tea in camping dishes and cups.
Once we packed up, we hopped onto the 'Lando' i.e. G Adventure's purple bus, which got us through the border to Botswana. The immigration office ran out of forms, so we didn't have to fill in any. The whole process seemed very simple and straightforward... just how we like it!
While driving through the roads, we saw a couple of elephants, including one casually grazing on some leaves and giving itself a little back scratch on a less fortunate tree, just on the side of the road.
We got to our campsite in Chobe in Botswana where we set up our tents (although we accidentally got someone else's tent) and some free ants. Apparently the ants are super active in Botswana and if we keep any food lying around, they'll invite themselves to the party in your tent. So we ate all our biscuits.
We did a sunset cruise on a wide boat, and paid around 50 USD. Not sure how much I would recommend it for the wildlife, but we did see some crocodiles cooling themselves with their mouths open (like they do) and some elephants having a little bath. One of the elephants was enjoying the audience and was rolling around in muddy water for the entire time. I think they are my favourite animals now.
The sunset was gorgeous, and the champagne offered by one of our travel buddies for their birthday made it even better. A nice way to end the first day in Botswana.
DAY 2: SAFARI (CHOBE) & BAOBAB ISLAND (GWETA)
Woke up early for the overland safari drive in Chobe National Park and pretty quickly realised that I would need a jumper or long sleeve shirt as it was dark and windy.
Climbed onto the less crowded safari truck and actually loved it. Saw an entire elephant family from a few meters distance, a lioness, hyenas, impalas, a jackal (fancy fox), warthog (pumba!), mongooses (had no idea what these were) and some random birds that others took more interest in than I did. No zebras or giraffes though.
We were told that the Botswana flag has black and white for the national animal: Zebra and also signifies the unity between black and white people in the country, working well together. The blue is for the water bodies that is home to a lot of the wildlife, including the Okavango Delta and several rivers across the country.
After 7 hours with a few stops in between, including one stop to have our shoes treated for foot and mouth disease, to get to Baobab island in Gweta, which was like a little Nature Disneyland. Gweta is a small village around 200 km away from the city Maun and was named after the sounds made by their bullfrogs who interestingly surface from the underground when they would like to mate.
So in my head I'm thinking: 'Gwetaaa. Gwetaaa.'
The Baobab trees in the village are quite wide, to say the least. Apparently, one of them used to be called the 'Chapman's Baobab' that had a 25 meter circumference, which sadly collapsed in 2016.
We set up our tent with the blessings of some helpful gentlemen on the trip. We will become good at this eventually. Hopefully.
It was now dark and we had a fireplace, chairs around the bonfire and had really nice spaghetti bolognese and salad and after a few nice conversations with our fellow travelers, we went to our tents to sleep at 10:00 pm like good school children (after my friend got over self-imposed laughing fits).
DAY 3: MAUN
We woke up promptly and used the washrooms (race to the showers, as always). The showers have no doors so we have to use all sorts of signage and noises to ensure no one walks into an unprepared version of ourselves.
We unpacked our tents and packed our bags at super-speed (practice was making us perfect) and got everything done for the Lando by 7:00 AM. Ants and sand everywhere!
We reached our new campsite which was nice and had a swimming pool, so as soon as we were done with lunch we went for some Windhoek beer, swim and.....WiFi! Caught up with messages on WhatsApp, mostly reassuring family that a) I haven't been eaten by a lion b) I haven't got lost in a desert and c) I have made some friends and/or retained my one friend who I traveled with.
I swam a few laps with a little local girl from Botswana who wanted me to teach her front crawl, although I'm not even sure I do it right.
While getting to Maun, we stopped at a shopping area with a couple of supermarkets, Forex Bureaus and a Wimpy's. The shops were basic, but I managed to buy a hat for the Okavango delta for USD 5 and pay with my Debit Card, instead of the local currency (Pulas), which was great.
Had dinner after what should have been a nice shower, but then three things happened:
Fortunately, I survived. But there was one point when I thought this was totally ridiculous and not fun and camping is NOT my friend.
The lights eventually came on and I went for dinner and sat with the group of travelers, which cheered me up and went to bed at 11:00 PM which was rebelious considering our early start the next day.
DAY 4: OKAVANGO DELTA
We got on two enormous open metal trucks at 7:00 AM, and were driven through sand and thorns to the Okavango delta, after being warned about inheriting 'African tattoos' from the thorny branches that frequently brushed through the sides of these truck-things.
Apart from being whacked on the neck with one branch (no tattoos), the journey was fine. We got to the small port where all the long fibre-glass canoes called 'Mokoros' were lying around. Each mokoro carried two of us and our daypacks and our 5 litre water bottles for survival on the island we were heading to live in for the night. The 'polers' who navigate the mokoros use a big wooden stick to push these through the shallow waters of the delta.
The polers also had cool given-names. Ours was called Mr. K. There were others like Flamingo, Mr. T. Another poler was: Mr. Bombastic (and he was probably fantastic...).
It was scorching hot, but it was lovely. We were maneuvered through the delta to our campsite and saw elephants and giraffes at a distance
and apparently some hippos (they're mostly dipped under water to cool down as apparently their skin is sensitive to the sun).
I have to say I did feel like I could get used to this. We had some salad and salami wraps for lunch, which we compiled ourselves and the polers set up our tents for us, helped us clean up and were generally a great laugh. Their goal was to ensure we all enjoyed the island experience to the max.
Some of us decided to go for a swim in the delta (i.e. have a bath as we felt dirty). The polers took us on our designated mokoros to a clean part of the delta where around ten of us went for a dip while the guys looked out for any uninvited hippos.
A leech found a way to attach itself to my friend's back. It didn't take long for the rest of us to decide that it was a good time to go back.
We went for our bush walk and it was hot and full of shrubs, but we did see a lot of animals from a distance, after they showed us all the
footprints and their respective droppings. Lovely.
We saw giraffes, zebras, wilder beast and a beautiful sunset before heading back on our mokoros to the campsite.
Back at the campsite and dinner was waiting for us. Liza, our CEO made us delicious chicken stew with maize flour. Loved it.
Post-dinner entertainment involved all of us sitting around a bonfire with all our local polers, underneath the galaxy of stars, when they all sang and danced to 'Beautiful Botswana' a common song for tourists. Mr. K. our poler showed us fireflies for the first time, which was really cool: blue ones are female and red ones are the male fireflies. The polers know animal sounds by heart and the directions around the island and delta.
The stars, the music and the bonfire in the middle of nowhere really made the night feel quite magical and grounding.
DAY 5: GHANZI
Woke up for the sunrise walk, which was serene, but I was barely awake. This is what living in the bushes feels like: wearing the same clothes since yesterday morning, sand and sweat mixed with DEET and sunscreen.
Mr. K. packed our tent for us, after which we took our mokoros back to the mainland, followed by the 'African massage' took the same bumpy truck ride back to the campsite in Maun where we had time for a quick WiFi session and some time for a Windhoek beer.
After another long bus ride we finally got to Ghanzi, the capital of Kalahari desert. We went to see some tribal bush men along with a translator to see how they treat themselves and live in the desert. They wore animal skin as clothes and use ostrich eggs as a water bottle, plants for contraception, soap, laxative, make up and more. Very interesting.
Dinner was delicious rump steak and potatoes in the campsite. I feel like I have maximised my monthly steak allowance.
DAY 6: WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA
Finally used my sleeping bag the night before as it was freezing in the desert.
We packed our tents up for the last time and put everything into the Lando. Used WiFi for five minutes to let the family know about my
After a three hour drive to the Namibian border, we filled in our exit and entry forms and then had a lunch stop at a Wimpys including cappuccinos!
We started to make plans for meeting up after the tour with some, while others we know that we will probably never meet again but we had a great time.
It amazes me how you get to know people so well in just a few days. We had a blast on this trip, and a lot of it was because of my ridiculously energetic, offensive, hilarious and intrusive friend who I traveled here with. I think this trip was one of my best and I have made at least a few new friends and a few new travel plans for Africa.
Good group of humans, great trip. Now time to go home...