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New Fitness and Weight Loss Regime

Maybe I’m a month late but now it’s February 1st and I decided in advance to change my lifestyle from today. So what, am I doing differently? Well, I tried fasting and it is not for me, not for now. I am not taking from its efficacy. I know it can work but the extreme nature of it is not suitable to my current lifestyle. I can’t work well without food as yet and I want my weekends to be as chilled as possible. Fasting does not cause me to be chilled but can raise my anxiety which is not good for me as I am already prone to stress.

So let’s look at what I am going to do now. It is in fact just a variation on what I did this time last year when I lost over 15 kilos in a few months. I am doing static bike / exercise bike hiit training for 20 minutes every day. I hope every day. Not sure how that will work out. I use one of several excellent YouTube videos and follow it. It is far easier to follow a coach for the duration of your exercise than try to do it alone. Having an exercise bike or other gear like that is so useful. You don’t need to waste time or money going to the gym. Also, you might not like being at a gym which a lot of people don’t. They feel self-conscious etc. Unfortunately gyms often attract exhibitionists. It can put us off. Anyway, 20 minutes on the bike. Hiit has proven to be highly successful in achieving and maintaining fitness as well as aiding weight loss. Remember too that the endorphins produced give you a high and combats stress.

As well as this, I would love to do my 15 minute, YouTube led again, strength training workout. I just need dumbbells and a yoga mat to do that. I have all I need here. This is great for the heart (so is the hiit cycling by the way) and seems to really help my recurring shoulder and neck issues by firming up the muscles all over the my body and strengthening my core. Not sure I can do both of these every day but I will work something out.

Finally I am back to cutting out white bread, cakes, pastries and all sugary foods and all foods with added sugar with the exception of a pizza once a week and two jars of sauce a week. You might not know that these have lots of sugar (and salt) in them. I am also obviously not drinking sugary drinks or alcohol for that matter, which I cut out a couple of months back. Portions are also going to be smaller with only brown rice and brown pasta. This method works, guys. I worked twice before and it will work again. 3 months from now I will be noticeably thinner and a lot fitter.

Just to add, I never check the scales. They are off-putting. When feeling stressed or hungry and not being able to eat chocolate or something, I just remind myself that weight loss needs to be counted in months not weeks or days. I plan to lose at least a stone. That’s about 7 Kilos. It’s not a huge amount.

So wish me luck. If you are planning the same or need help, let me know. Comments and likes always welcome.

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Where Am I Going Next?

Most digital nomads seem to flock to South East Asia. Understandable. Low cost of living and natural beauty. It also offers something quite different for them, most being from Western countries. Well, I am not heading to Asia this year. Not that I wouldn’t like to try it but it’s a bit far. My parents are getting old and I don’t want to be on the other side of the globe.

So what are my options? Since I was 16 or something, I wanted to visit or live in Spain. I was obsessed with the country. Since then I have visited it 5 times and lived in Barcelona for 3 months in 2016. I liked Barcelona but not to live. It was too noisy for me. Having said that, I was in el born, in the very centre which was packed with tourists plus I had to travel to work every day taking public transport to companies around the city to teach English. On weekend trips out of the city I found some towns that were much nicer to live in but commuting to the city every day was totally impractical not least cause I wasn’t going to one location. With online work, it is now possible for me to live in a smallish town not far from a larger city, if I want. At least somewhere quiet enough with excellent public transport connections. It’s a good option. I speak some Spanish and it is easy to get to. The only issue maybe is that it is not the cheapest country. It’s not the most expensive either but still, there are better deals. Perhaps I would return there at a later date. Also, something new would be nice.

Doing some research I have come to see that Croatia might be a very good destination. It’s sunny and cheaper. Especially in some parts away from the main tourist areas, as with most countries. I have never been there but what I read and see is good. I would have what I need. The locals seems friendly and it is a nice location in Europe. Really not far from a lot of countries I have never been to. I am planning to visit there late Spring/early summer. I will see how long I will stay.

Other options? Well, Turkey, Czech Republic and Slovakia are possible. Turkey would be new for me and Istanbul in particular fascinates me though it is I am sure really hectic. The weather, food and culture would be something really memorable though and again it can be cheap. I lived in Prague for 5 years and Trnava, Slovakia for one. I don’t want to revisit the past but I have friends in both places. It would definitely be easier to go there but easy is not always the best thing. I have a strange yen for Bratislava and Vienna is close which kind of appeals to me. Not a city to live in though. There is also the issue of cold winters. I hate them. Having said, at least with online work, I don’t have to venture out in the early morning every day to work.

If anyone has any other European country and city suggestions, please. I would be interested to know what you think. I also appreciate all the likes recently. It’s very encouraging.

 

Grand Canyon Moments

It’s important to have what I call Grand Canyon moments. Yes, some people who have seen the actual Grand Canyon for the first time thought it was just a big hole in the ground. I have heard about such reactions. I’m talking about those that were effected by it. Those that got some kind of sincere life perspective from it. Well, I have never seen it and don’t have any real ambition to see it but it still holds as a nice analogy.

I have had such moments and I find them to be highly valuable. Recently again, my finding out that I could transition to online work totally and travel, everything took on a different significance. Maybe the lights were switched on finally or the colour returned. In any case, I saw possibilities again where I didn’t think there were any before. Doors started to open. Freedom was the guest that walked in.

My advice would be to make sure you maintain perspective and if you lose it, if you find yourself in a rut, you might just need to experience something significant in order to shake yourself out of it. Not seeing the wood from the trees is a depressing place to be and can kind of hold you prisoner. It can creep up gradually and before you know it, you are half-living with blinkers on.

I am grateful for change and for those moments where greater truth is revealed.

My 3 Characteristics Of Being A Digital Nomad

OK so this is new to me. It’s the beginning of an exciting journey. I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos from various people. You learn a lot. Here are my initial thoughts. Let’s see how they change and grow over the next few months and years…

Firstly, I don’t care about ”scenes”. I am totally happy to meet up with other nomads and even share some ideas. I am not restricted to teaching. I would consider any thing that interests me. Networking is always good. Friendships can be made too. However, I won’t be seeking out a certain scene in order to fit into some social group and abide by their norms. Definitely doesn’t suit me. I know it suits others and that’s cool but it’s not for me. ”Hip” or ”cool” social scenes aint my thing.

Secondly, I am not one of those guys who is going to travel like a maniac all over the place just so I can say I was there. I am actually much more interested in staying a bit longer in a few well-chosen locations to really get a deep feel and sense of life there. Make my daily life and its ups and downs a part of where I live. To really be there and not just using the place as I pass through. It’s important to me.

Thirdly, I am absolutely not on some kind of crusade. I think many nomads are trying to show the world that this is the best way to live as well as pushing certain lifestyle choices on others. For example, you don’t have to be a vegan to be a nomad. I am not a vegan. I have considered becoming one and maybe I will in time but if I did there is no way I would push my views on anyone else. It’s important to live life according to your values. In any case, make it your own and go your own way. That is the only way to find lasting happiness.

Am I Becoming A Digital Nomad?

Over Christmas, I got a job offer to teach English online. I had done it before but was never offered a part-time job with an actual school. I had just done a few hours a week with mostly Czech students I had picked up from the time I lived there. Seeing as I was currently without work apart from those few Skype lessons and live in the Irish countryside quite far from the nearest international language school, I decided to go for it.

Around the same time, I came across a post on a Facebook group with a list of online language schools. As I was on a roll with the job offer, I decided to send my resume to about 15 of those schools. Soon the replies started to come in. After a series of interviews, I now have work with three different schools. I am currently in training with one, completed training with another and will likely do a very brief training with a third. As a freelance teacher it means I can work entirely online as many hours as I wish. Honestly, it’s like a dream come true. As long as I have a decent internet connection, I can theoretically work anywhere in the world. Not only can I live in different countries but I can also go on trips and extend them beyond the confines of a normal holiday by working on the go. It’s one hell of a start to 2018 after 2017 ended pretty badly.

So what are the pros of this job? Apart from the obvious. There is no commuting. No time or money is spent travelling to work. There is no paperwork at all including annoying photocopying I used to have to do. Yesterday I got rid of a load of paper. Mostly old copies of text books. A relief to have them gone. Sure fits with minimalism too.

Stress and anxiety related to teaching is at a minimum also. There is a big difference between teaching online in comfort and standing in a room of students at a school. You have time to think and you have everything at hand, at the touch of a button. All of the schools have material they use so preparation time is also minimal. Again consider how there is no printing or cutting out pieces of paper for the job.

What else? Well, it is not just about being able to live abroad, it is also about the fact that if I do choose to live abroad, I can live in a cheap country where my money goes much farther and live outside of major cities which are more expensive. You have to understand that I don’t teach kids so the biggest source of work for me involves travelling around a major city, going into companies to teach the clients. As a result I needed to live in large cities. That has all changed. Now I can live in a smaller, cheaper, quieter town; only going to the nearest city when and if I feel like it.

Getting to know how a school works and getting to know your new students is not nothing. I am now in a position where I am not learning anything new in relation to work at all. I can just focus on taking in the environment I have found myself in.

I think about when I moved to Barcelona in 2016. That was so hard to do. I arrived there with one job interview and had to do another 4 to secure enough hours. I then spent a month trying to get registered to work autonomo. When I finally did have a ”permit” to work, it took even more time to build up enough hours to fit my schedule which had to account for travelling across the city.  I lived in the centre to have the best access to the companies I was going to but as a result found it far too noisy and stressful. Great to visit but not live in. I had to arrive there in September when schools were taking on teachers but that was also the hardest time to find a place to rent. When you already have the job, you can arrive in a new city, any time you like.

There are even more pros I will get into in another post. I did a cost/benefit analysis of this work and the benefits totally sink the costs.

I heard about the digital nomad movement and it looks like I am becoming one of them since the little house I live in at the moment is really only good as a temporary or ”part of the year” location. So I am becoming that new breed of worker. I know there are many jobs you can do this way. I am fascinated to see how it all goes. I will use this blog as a platform for me to talk about my experiences. Your comments are always welcome too.

This is the beginning of a new chapter in my life. An adventure I am so excited to embrace.

 

 

 

Why Photography Is NOT My Hobby

So, you have a day job. Something that pays the bills. Hopefully, it’s something you love. I am lucky enough to be able to say that I do find being a teacher both suitable for me as a person and very rewarding. Communication and helping people seem to be things I am good at. Also, I wouldn’t do just any kind of teaching. I got into it in order to travel and teach abroad as well as meet people from other countries and cultures. It’s a kind of fascination with me. So that’s my main job. Photography is something you might call a part-time profession but to call it that is slightly misleading because although I make money from it, I don’t do it for the money.

So, it’s a hobby, right? Something on the side that I like to do when I am not working in my main job. Well, actually, no. It’s not a hobby and never has been. Much in the same way that music is not a hobby either and never has been. The issue is that the word ”hobby” conjures up the image of doing salsa classes every Tuesday night or collecting stamps. Something purely for fun. As fascinating as it might be to you, you have decided it has no future to ever become more than something to pass the time. You have resigned yourself to the idea that you will only go so far. It’s nothing serious. This couldn’t be farther from how I feel about photography.

Let’s go back in time. When I started it first, it was almost a hobby. I bought a little Canon bridge camera having taken pictures before that on borrowed film cameras. I always had some interest in it. With my little Canon camera, I went on photography forums and talked to others. I photographed anything and everything I saw. I learned some of the basics but it didn’t grip me at all. Put off mainly by the gear I couldn’t afford. Thinking that was what it was all about. I lost interest in it and moved on.

Quite a few years later, while living in Prague, I found myself looking for something that would get me out of the house to meet new people and form new relationships and even more importantly, would be a way I could express myself. This is no minor thing. Neither of them are, but the need to be creative is absolutely necessary for my well-being. I can’t actually live without it. I had been a composer and music was a way for me to do this but having done it academically for so long, having ruminated endlessly over style and influence, it all became stale. It also involved spending hours alone composing. A rather lonely thankless occupation. I haven’t given up on music. I play piano in my own way, my own stuff, but it is spontaneous and deeply personal. I play to myself and for myself. It is a therapy. It is quiet time. Someday I will play in front of people again I am sure but it won’t be for money or fame and it is not a great work in progress. Not some major project with clear goals. It is essentially an extension of listening and listening to music is what it is all about for me. Music is refuge. Photography, well, that’s the world.

So, photography has become my voice. It holds the key to a meaningful life. My ambition in it is greater than any ambition I have ever had. My motivation in it is stronger than any motivation I have ever had too. I am not able to give it up. It’s under my skin. If I take a break from it, it just finds its way back in and takes me over. It’s like a drug without the side effects. Or, if there are side effects, then they are the best kind.

When I rediscovered photography in Prague, I decided from the very beginning, from the first tutorial, before I had saved for my first DSLR, that I wasn’t going to do this as a hobby. I was going to take this to the highest level. Being an artistic person, coming from an artistic background, this then obviously had little or nothing to do with money and everything to do with self-realisation. The desire to better oneself through their art. To make something in the most significant sense.

It’s hard not to sound pretentious saying this but it seems the generation after me have no problem saying these kind of things so maybe I ought to join them. I kind of envy that generation for the ability to hold firmly to beliefs in their destiny and follow dreams. Not always be stifled by notions of what it means to live a ”normal life”. I am an artist. This is part of what makes me who I am. I treat photography as an art form above everything else. The love of the process and of the result. This means learning all I can about the art my own experience and the work of others, finding my voice and refining my own style, doing new and exciting creative projects, exhibitions of my work, workshops to teach others and collaborations of any kind that interest me. From the thrill of shoots to the meditation of street photography all coming together to one end.

There is nothing worse than being old and having regrets about what you didn’t do. Especially something you wanted to do, had some talent in and were so passionate about. Looking back and realising you didn’t follow your heart and the only reason was fear.

So, let me say that your company on this journey, as I continue down this magical road, is most welcome.

Where Next In Photography?

I recently came to some very important decisions regarding the future of my photographic work.

I have tried many different cameras and a few different systems. Analogue and digital. Over the course of this summer I have thought long and hard about what best suits me and my creative vision. This has also entailed a shift away from regarding photography as a way to make money. I am now more interested in advancing as an artist. If money follows then that’s great but I am not going to compromise my intentions in order to make my work more profitable.

 Choosing a path that would involve doing paid gigs like event photography would have had a big impact on the gear choices. Nonetheless I had started to think differently about it already. For example, only shooting primes and working with a simple two camera, two prime set up. I also learned the vital importance of consistency of look.

As I’ve explored the history of photography more and more I have come to see what I like. What really moves me and what doesn’t. I have also explored in depth the effects of certain focal lengths, using digital versus analogue and to find the best tool for the job in every way from size to colour rendition. I have also looked back at my minor achievements in photography and have been examining what made them work when they did. This has also involved looking again at what brought me to photography in the first place and whether I feel like my original expectations have been met even as far as reconnecting with the guy who took pictures when I knew nothing about the technique or history of the medium.

All this has led to some clear arrival points best shown in the choice of gear. I am the first to argue for photography not being all about gear but nonetheless the medium effects the outcome so for simplicity sake I think it is useful to connect my set up with my artistic intentions. Even if you are not into gear I think there isn’t much problem at least following my line of thought.

 My main camera is now a Fuji X-T1. I am going to put a 50mm equivalent lens on it and use this simple set up for almost all my portrait and documentary photography. I am not yet sure what kind of documentary photography I am going to do but I do know that in my portraits I am seeking something more personal, natural and intimate with elements of environment or context in order to tell a story. Not just pretty pictures, you might say. I dabbled in fashion photography and I am not abandoning this completing but rather if fashion elements creep into my approach then so be it. Labels mean very little anyway. I am eager to find someone to collaborate with rather than photographing many different people since I do that in my street photography. The search for what might be called ”a muse” is not easy but I’m hopeful I’ll find one or more suitable people.

 The Fuji X-T1 camera replaces the full frame DSLR camera and an 85mm lens combo I had. I have come to realise that this set up is too obtrusive, intrusive and impersonal both in terms of the size of the kit and the distance from the subject imposed by that lens. The Fuji is less ”in your face” and 50mm (equiv) will result in closer working distance leading itself to an intimacy and naturalness of look. I will shoot in colour and black and white. I will decide on a single look for both. For example, always employing a yellow filter on the black and white.

 My back up camera does not really need to exist. The truth is that I could sell it and buy a 35mm (equiv) lens for the X-T1. However, having a separate camera which is smaller has the advantage of being portable and at least if anything happens to it, it is not the main camera. I am referring to my Fuji X100. This is a camera that I am eager to put to full use in street photography. Over the last year I have gained confidence as a street photographer and I believe it will only improve. The 35mm field of view is perfect. Not only for street but also for documentary, travel and environmental portraits.  I have tried a few focal lengths for the environmental portraits and feel most comfortable with 35mm.  It can thus serve more than one purpose. I plan to shoot everything on this camera in black and white. If the workflow of using two cameras at a shoot becomes a hindrance, I will invest in a 35mm equiv lens for the X-T1. My particular style or approach to street photography is something I am working on. Time will give me a clearer voice.

 So, as you can see, all my digital pictures will either be at 35 or 50. At 35 I will shoot stopped down so the whole scene is in focus. At 50, I will alternate between shooting wide open and stopped down.

 There is a third camera in this set up. A very inexpensive analogue camera. Right now it is the Olympus Trip 35 but can perhaps easily be replaced by another small point and shoot. Having used a number of SLRs for all kinds of photography including portrait shoots, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to do my ”heavy work” in this format. There are a number of reasons for this that I won’t get into here that relate to time, convenience and motivation. Instead, I now want to use a little point and shoot to simply document my life. Almost like I am taking pictures for a family album but making use of those techniques I have learned in order to hopefully produce pictures of some lasting merit. At best, they will be little works of art in themselves or when taken as a whole. At the least, they will simply be a visual diary of my life which is just fine with me. I am not yet sure what precise details I will photograph. I guess I will know when the moment comes. The Trip has a 40mm lens which is very close to 35 and even closer to what the human eye sees so it is ideal for this purpose. Why analogue for this? Couldn’t you use your mobile phone? Well, the look and feel of film offers a kind of distancing from the experience, a kind of timelessness as well as a link to my own past experiences that make it really attractive to me. I plan to shoot with only one film to maintain consistency and have decided it will be colour.

 As well as not doing any conventional portraits or events for money. I am also not going to take any landscape pictures. They have sort of become a pet hate of mine. For me, not being a landscape photographer, I find it all too easy to take a lazy landscape. This does not mean I would never explore the idea of spaces outside or inside. That’s different. I would also consider using a mobile phone for a specific photographic project. I think it is important to have projects. This is where the documentary photography would emerge from. If someone also asks me to photograph them. If I get some request, I will always consider doing it but this work will not feature on my website or pages.

This website is going to change quite dramatically over the coming months and years. Many pictures will disappear and be replaced by new ones. Most of my pictures will never be seen again under my name on the internet.

 All this might sound a bit contrived. This level of limitation. Well, limitation has always helped me with creativity. The choices are also very well worked out. If you narrow down the parameters and become very skilled in them, I believe you can  do a lot more. Not only that but it really helps to create a consistent voice and style.

 Of course there are many elements not mentioned here regarding my style. From specific subjects in street photography to favored angles in portraiture. I do already have a style in some ways too, which can’t all be reduced to words, which will hopefully continue to come through in my work.

I am very much looking forward to the challenges of this transition and hope some really good pictures emerge from this. I also want to thank everyone for their support of what I do and have been doing in photography.