Archives for July 2018

July 25, 2018

Minimalist Travel: Less Luggage, More Substance

A seasoned traveler’s recipe for low-stress, high-impact international adventures.

I once heard that the average American spends more time planning a vacation than the actual duration of the getaway. And perhaps, I too was part of this statistic in my youth. But today, after 33 years and 33 countries visited, I have developed a rough-but-yummy recipe for travel success:

Pack Half

The journey begins at home. If you’re like most people, you stress about needing items ‘A through Z’ while abroad. But, also like many people, you probably won’t be using most of your clothes, toiletries, and other tchotchkes that you stuffed into your now-bulging luggage.

I challenged myself to packing at most half of my normal haul. It wasn’t easy the first time around, but once it was done, it felt like a milestone achieved. And once I enjoyed how carefree it was to travel with fewer pieces of luggage, I doubt I’ll ever go back to my old ways.

Book Buffers

I don’t overstuff my schedule, either. While abroad, things happen. Planes experience mechanical troubles. Trains are late (okay, maybe not in Germany or Japan). Travel companions fall ill, tired, or moody. Weather does not cooperate. Plans change. If my itinerary were ever jam-packed, I was constantly anxious and running on adrenaline the entire time with little chance of unwinding or de-stressing. And wasn’t that the whole point of the getaway?

Spend an Afternoon Like a Local

In between my planned adventures, I always carve some time to do… nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I’ll spend an afternoon meandering the lesser-known neighborhoods, usually away from other tourist hordes. I’ll often sit at a café and people-watch or go see a movie (subtitles or not). In the evening, I’ll attend a comedy show or music/jazz club, or whatever the local flavor of entertainment might be. In essence, I do everything to NOT feel like a tourist. And it makes the entire trip that much more pleasant and memorable.

Resist Over-posting on Social Media

This is a tough one. Especially for me, a former semi-pro photographer (my Instagram is @itakemanyphotos, which I hope one day becomes a misnomer). Whenever I go on an international adventure, I usually wait a few days before posting about my adventures. This helps me process, and more fully cherish, my own experience instead of worrying about social validation, likes, or retweets from my friends back home. It reminds me to spend less time taking photos, and more time using my eyes to enjoy the beautiful scenes in front of me (although, in my defense, I take a lot of photos back home, so when I travel, it feels natural to continue doing the same). To get my social fix, I talk to as many locals as I can. Not in a speed-dating sort of way, but to a degree that makes me forget I miss home, even if for just a few days.

When I do post photos online, rather than posting 18 photos of that amazing sunset, I pick my best one or two—especially if they’re wildly different. I think about curating the experience for the person on the other end. Who wants to see fourteen videos and ten pictures of the same one-eyed lizard, cute as he may be? No one. Less is more.

Realize the Obvious

None of the above is rocket science. It’s common knowledge, but like all common sense, it’s rarely practiced. So next time you’re planning your next adventure, consider carrying less, doing less, worrying less… and experiencing a whole lot more.

July 19, 2018

fourweeksgood: Budapest

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Budapest, HU.

After introducing you to the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo, Berlin, Antwerp and Melbourne, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature moves to Hungary. Once upon a time, two separate Hungarian cities—Buda and Pest—straddled the Danube River. Today, with more than a 1,000 years of history and a complex ethnic background, the two have grown together to form Hungary's cosmopolitan yet charming capital—Budapest. Filled with plenty of picturesque backdrops, Budapest is the city that could very well offer you some of the most beautiful spots to take remarkable photos.

A minimalist’s dream, the Heroes Square is a humongous landmark with plenty of space for you to expand your creativity in taking some gorgeous and creative shots. The Chain Bridge is most beautiful while illuminated at night. The various spots along the bridge are simply excellent for some artistic nighttime insta-shots. Another unmissable place is the Fisherman's Bastion: this minimalist-looking terrace is filled with a beautiful white background to work with. To top it off, you’ll get panoramic views of the city from the various lookouts and viewing platforms. If you want to experience a more contemporary feature to the city, you'll have to have go underground and experience Line 4 of the subway, which is a stunning piece of architecture. Budapest is a big cultural city with gorgeous backdrops that exude a lot of flair and character. Be it cafés, second-hand fashion stores, pubs, monuments and statues or the random streets. Time to pack a camera and explore this city!

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

July 12, 2018

Simple Sustainability

Incorporating sustainable practices in a throw-away culture.

When I began my minimalist journey, I found it hard to hold myself back from diving head-first into the wide variety of lifestyles that minimalism presents. There are so many to choose from—a nomadic lifestyle, zero-waste living, living with only essentials—just to name a few. Though there are many paths to explore in the world of living with less, the freshly curated trail of sustainability caught my eye and I began to tread softly into the benefits it had to offer.

In my eyes, living sustainability meant that I could easily reduce the amount of effort, time, and money I put into purchasing items, completing tasks, and generally living life. There were immediate benefits to incorporating sustainable living into my everyday life, such as knowing that I was doing the earth/environment a favor while swapping things out for more sustainable items, increasing the longevity of the items I was using, and saving myself so many resources by only purchasing things I truly loved and fit within my values.

I soon began to look for companies that fit within my values and allowed me to spend my money wisely, knowing that the item would be long-lasting. While there are few companies that are dedicated to sustainability, Modern Essentials is one of the few that allows their personal values and minimalist journey shine through their products.

Modern Essentials is a New York-based clothing brand that is dedicated to sharing their passion for minimalism through their products. While living in a throw-away culture, they bring together minimalism and sustainability in order to create the ideal closet for people aspiring to live with less. As minimalism transitions from being a trend to a lifestyle, CEO Michael Frattaroli and his team are dedicated to bringing a simple, minimal, and modern touch to clothing in a world of fast-fashion.

Modern Essentials combines what we need to strive for in our fashion industry today—minimal style, simple, and modern designs, and sustainability at an affordable price. Unlike the fast-fashion industry, Modern Essentials carefully curates each item of clothing and ensures that it passes an intense quality control line before it ever reaches the boutique doors. 

Times are always changing, which means that the fashion industry is constantly releasing new ideas and clothing. Modern Essentials has created their product to be timeless in a society of ephemeral joy. These essential pieces can be worn from season to season, and through every change in the fashion industry. Without being weighed down by the industry, these products allow you to be more free in thought and action as you enjoy the more important things in life: realizing the true color of the sky, hearing your partner laugh, and being in touch with reality—the life that is happening right before your eyes. 

As you continue to make room in your life for the important things, remember that less is always more. Appreciate the quality of things, not the quantity of things. If we buy fewer products but better ones, we tend to have more joy using what we already have.

July 4, 2018

Lessons in Branding at Twelve

How a spoiled twelve-year-old learned a lesson in popularity and branding.

I grew up lower-middle class. I always had more than I needed but not as much as my peers. Going through middle school with the cutting-edge technology of Myspace and MSN Messenger was tough. For the first time, what others had was not only on display during school hours, but whenever one got home and logged on.

I remember the trends when I went through school: Hollister shirts, Abercrombie jeans, Sperry shoes, and Coach purses. Imagine a twelve-year-old carrying a $300 handbag. There was a trend with these popular items—a name. No, it did not matter how beautiful the piece of clothing was, its quality, or where it came from.

I have always been a bit of an outcast—known to dance to the beat of my own drum—but while wearing the same as everyone else. I remember one day in particular, I asked for a pair of Sperry shoes and a Coach handbag for Christmas. What I received was a pair of Aloha Island’s that looked identical to Sperry’s but cost $20 at the Shoe Show and a Coach bag that was clearly not authentic.

For about a week, I was furious with my mom. How was I going to go to school wearing knock-offs when everyone else had the real deal? At the time, I wasn’t concerned with the fact that my mother couldn’t afford the real items or the thought and the time that it took her to find the best she could afford. 

However, before school went back into session, I found a philosophy that I carry with me to this day. Do my peers like the product or the name? If they truly liked what they were wearing, the price tag would not matter. Now that I have grown in my beliefs, I no longer look for names. In fact, I spend time finding items without branding on the piece. Instead, I look for quality and ethically made pieces that will last me through every trend and every season. Before indulging in the name brand piece, I ask myself: “would I buy this if it were an unknown brand?”