My Bullet Journal & Creativity

My bullet journal has become one of my many sources of my creativity, one that I didn’t think existed.

I wanted to talk about the ways in which I go about filling my bullet journal, including pictures, doodling, journal entries, and spread ideas. Every person’s bullet journal is theirs; there is not right or wrong way to go about filling it. Some use it for practical reasons, some for memories, and most for letting your creativity and imagination run wild. Do not use this post as a ‘how to’, but more as a ‘here’s some inspiration’!

Getting The Stuff

The worst thing you can do when beginning to bullet journal is buying all the things. Let’s be honest, you’re gonna be overwhelmed with all the options from journals to pens to washi tape. This stuff is not cheap, and so I would recommend accumulating your utensils over time. The most expensive thing you’re going to buy could be any one of those things, depending on your budget, quality, and accessibility. For me, I wanted a journal that was easy to use. This meant finding a journal that opened easily without closing by itself, so no tight spines, and preferably not a thick journal. Hardback journals can be good, but I had my heart set on a softback with grid pages. Grid pages? I’m messy and needs a guide. Blank pages are a death sentence for my creativity.

1501774852811

In the end I chose a Moleskine Soft Large Squared Notebook. It comes with a piece of ribbon so when I open it, it falls straight onto the page I was working on, and also has thickish pages so pens and pictures don’t bleed through onto the next spread! Other journal brands I would recommend are Leuchtturm and Paipur. Of course, for someone on a budget, large supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsburys have an array of beautiful blank notebooks from as cheap as £3!

Pens? Washi tape? Accumulate. I’m left handed, and so I needed pens that dried quickly otherwise my hand would run across the page and smudge all my calligraphy that I tried really hard on. I avoid ballpoints, and enjoy Uni Pin fineliners in a range of sizes, but I use mainly 0.1 and 0.2 for most writing. I use fineliners for colouring too, which I think are all around 0.3. Washi tape has been a hit and miss for me. The cheap stuff is cute, but very bold colours and are very thick. I’m still struggling to find nice washi tape in the UK, but came across one in Waterstones for £2, but it was only one small roll. It’s slightly transparent with gold dots. Lovely.

Pens and Washi Tape are things you can make mistakes with. You can figure out which pens and tape work for you without breaking the bank. They’re also a great way to find your style!

Ideas & Style

“But Hollie? What do I put in my bullet journal??”

The answer is simple: ANYTHING YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE. Your bullet journal is yours, some like to show their pages, some don’t. Don’t feel like you have to make it look a certain way or have certain content to be deemed as a “good bullet journal”. Because here’s the thing kid, there’s no such thing as a good or bad bullet journals. Or maybe they’re all good. I don’t know, I just love bullet journals.

For me, I love monthly spreads. Pictures that represent that month for me, as well as little reminders about what I want to achieve that month. I also have specific spreads for large events in my life, including holidays, books that I especially loved, and even a spread for my dear SKAM.

IMG_20170726_190901_433

This is the spread I’m the most proud of. My June spread is good but I hadn’t really fell into my own style just yet. However this spread definitely represents my ‘inner style’ when it comes to how I want my journal to look like. It’s colourful, full of flowers, just like July. And of course, there’s a SKAM reference because I’m trash and I was thinking about it a lot while making this spread. I also love adding quotes from books, and films and music, this quote in particular is from Library Magic by The Head & The Heart (I usually listen to this kind of music when working on spreads).

Also, with thanks to Youtube videos on doodling in your bullet journal, I’ve managed to find flowers and wreaths that are easiest for me to fill into blank spaces.

1501774926615

Sometimes I colour them, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the spread or what particular theme I’m going for. I don’t like overcrowding my pages with too much colour, and rather like sticking to specific themes. July was definitely a green and and gold/yellow kinda spread.

Other ideas for spreads are reading logs. I usually create them every three months because I’m a slow reader. They’re usually bookish spreads, with a list of books I read in those three months each with a rating, coupled my bookish pictures that are usually take from my instagram. In this case, the top picture is mine (and one you might recognize from my home page!).

1501775047071

The majority of my spreads are journal entries; days where there’s been something I’ve wanted to talk about. Some people like to have two pages to represent one week and have an entry for everyday, but I never want to force myself to write something, and so that’s why some days have been skipped, and some days have lengthy paragraphs of stories.

1501774596840

Here are a list of things you could include in your bullet journal, but do not feel you should be limited to. Remember, your bullet journal is yours and you should free to include whatever you want!

Reading Log
Photograpy Portfolio
Maps
Holiday Packing Lists
Books Reviews
Fitness Routine
Language Phrase Page
Constellation Chart
Comic Book Strip
Events Diary
TBR List
Birthday Diary
Work Schedule
Cleaning Schedule
Bucket Lists
Things That Make You Happy
& The List Goes On!

If you have any blog posts on your bullet journals, please link them, I would love to check them out!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

Advertisements

The Good, The Bad, & The Hilarious Parts Of YALC 2017

IT IS TIME TO TALK ABOUT YALC 2017.

This year, I made plans. Big plans. I booked a weekend ticket, I got time off work, I made plans to stay at a friend’s house during the event (she was on a Mediterranean cruise – poor her), and found online friends to spend time with. This year, I was killin’ it.

YALC 2017, despite attending for the last two years, has been a completely different experience than any other years I’ve been there. It was bigger, more crowded, and I felt so much more confident in myself where everyone I hung out with I had met over our love of books on the internet. I also happened to receive a lot of free books!

Here are the overwhelmingly good parts of YALC 2017.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

THE GOOD

The Talks

While only getting around to a few talks, the ones that I did watch were absolutely fantastic. I loved the genre-bending panel (and not just because V.E. Schwab was on it) but it really spoke to me. I often struggle with what category I want my stories to be in; I often worry about what will be marketable, what neat little boxes publishers and agents will want my idea to fit into in order to sell it. But this talk gave a bigger perspective: right what you love, change things up, don’t restrict yourself.

Another fantastic talk was In Conversation With Patrick Ness, which I had watched last year but mainly revolved around the release of the movie adaptation of A Monster Calls. This year was all about Release, Ness’ newest…release. A book I adored and read in about a day. He and Juno Dawson (who was a FANTASTIC chair and I honestly wouldn’t have minded if it was In Conversation with Juno Dawson and Patrick Ness) talked deeply about #ownvoices, about Patrick’s books, and writing from experience. It was incredible how Ness can stop for a second, think about his answer, and come up with most poetic thing I’ve ever heard. There’s a reason this guy’s a writer.

The Kindness of Strangers

I made a whole blog post about stumbling across some strangers who comforted me during my first few days at work, but YALC ended up being not only the kindness of strangers, but the generosity of strangers.

It’s news to no one that YALC 2017 was the year of rushing for arcs (which I talk about the negative side later on). People were poised at the ready, with Twitter on their phones and publishers’ accounts notifications on. It felt a little like The Hunger Games, however I had no ARC in mind that I was excited about getting. If I got some, then hey, I got some. When Story HQ dropped a three ARC giveaway, I was excited; one ARC wasn’t even professionally bound, it was that early of an ARC! I looked on the table and saw only a few left of a book called Blackbird. I wasn’t that interested, but hey ho I got one and I’ll be reading it soon enough. I looked up the other two that were being given away, and one was called City of Brass. When I read the synopsis, I was already hooked. A historical fantasy set in the Middle East. The final cover even had a silhouette of The Hagia Sophia. I got instant And I Darken/Now I Rise vibes, and needed it. While everyone at Story HQ was preoccupied with ARCs of Zenith, I thought maybe they had a few to giveaway, however, they informed me that they had 6 left.

6 LEFT.

It’s Saturday night, I’m thinking it’s worth a shot.

cityofbrass

And lo and behold, as I’m running out of options, SUNDAY MORNING SOMEBODY MESSAGES ME. This lovely person doesn’t even want to swap a book with me, she’s just going to straight up give me City of Brass.

I get to YALC, and I find her; she’s got a suitcase full of books, and just pulls out City of Brass like it’s no big deal and hands it to me. OH. MY GOD.

This happened multiple times throughout the weekend, where a girl had won a copy of A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris, my friend Anna’s favourite author. She had met the girl before she had won it, and had mentioned that she didn’t even know who Joanne M. Harris was, and so when we saw her later on, I beelined straight for her and was willing to swap for it. She brought it the next morning, wanting nothing in return, and I told Anna, who had a little cry of joy.

BOOKISH PEOPLE ARE GREAT.

The Queuing System

I was actually really pleased with the way in which *some* of the queues for author signings were handled this year. While last year I stood in a line for an hour to meet V.E. Schwab (which wasn’t so bad because I met one of my good friends, Kate!), this year it was first come first serve for a ticket with a specific number. When your number was called, you went in a queue of about 20 people. For Laini Taylor, I was 177. Bleh. But it meant that, when I knew they were at numbers 1-20, I could continue to wander around YALC and LFCC without worrying about losing my place. It was the same with Patrick Ness, where I grabbed a ticket despite not being sure about getting my stuff signed. My friend Anna suggested I take a ticket, because at least I have a place in the queue if I decide to get something signed. And I did! .

Granted, there were definitely some queues that were all over the place; people joining despite their number not being called, organizers not even knowing which authors would be popular (putting V.E. Schwab and Laini Taylor on at the same time…whose idea was that???), and queues snaking around publishers’ stalls and blocking them and other walkways. But overall, the queuing system has definitely improved since the last two years!

Meeting Bookish People!

Before I showed up, I knew YALC would be different. Not only was I attending with friends from Twitter, I also knew I would be meeting online people for the first time ever. Usually, I go to YALC with one friend from university, but since she was on that epic cruise, I took it into my hands to surround myself with new people.

dsc_0508
From left to right: Bex, Jess, Anna, Me, Liv, Kate

While I mostly stuck with Anna (@aliterarypotion) and Kate (@coffeeinonehandbookintheother), we ended up meeting a whole bunch of new people who I’d only known from Twitter including Katherine (@writinghideout), Bex (@MyShelfMySelf), Jess (@bookendingsendings), Liv (@Livescape), Vicky (@hunguponbooks), Christine (@weereader), and Nazy (@readinghijabsy)! It was great to be around people who were obsessed with books just as much as I am, especially ones in the same online communities as I am. It felt like we all kinda knew each other already!

THE BAD

Unfortunately, with all experiences, the bad parts can often feel like they overshadow the good and the hilarious. YALC, for the last few years, has been a major event in my calendar, and I hate to say that YALC 2017 has been the year of negative experiences and criticisms that I want to share as feedback to the organizers but also to future attendees as a warning of what to possibly expect in 2018 (if they haven’t sorted it already).

Publisher/Reader Power Imbalance

I could write a whole blog post just on this section. I have so many thoughts about the straight up lack of disrespect publishing representatives had for paying guests who were attending YALC. The event, while encompassing all the good stuff I mentioned earlier, can also be described as one big book marketing campaign. Publisher’s stands are there to promote and sell, and what better way to promote upcoming titles by creating buzz with limited advanced reading copies (ARCS) to lucky individuals who took the time to travel far and spend money to attend YALC. However, the process in which the representatives chose who got what, throughout the event, became more and more disrespectful and panic inducing.

The publishers created an environment of hostility and aggression as they tweeted out challenges or even just ‘we have five copies! first come first serve!’ which meant hoards of people stampeding into others and causing a ruckus. They made up challenges off the top of their heads, including making people run to their stall and lie on the ground for no reason, or refusing to tell people what they were giving away at what time, forcing people to constantly refresh their Twitter feeds or even just loiter around their stalls for two hours. A rep from one publisher in particular had the audacity to yell “Dance monkeys! Dance!” when they got a crowd of people to wave their hands in the air to win some books. Some publishers couldn’t even be bothered to put a proper queuing system in place and a number of people suffered panic attacks from being crushed in sudden surges of people, many of whom had no idea what was going on. Publishers didn’t tell us how many arcs they had and didn’t count people in order to send people away, instead people queued for ages only to be disappointed. All the running also meant that many attendees with physical and mobility difficulties did not have a chance at receiving any freebies.

The publisher stands had too much power; they exploited the excitement and passion of many teenage readers by making them literally do anything they wanted for a book, and injuring people in the process. Story HQ and Hodderscape were particularly horrific; Hodderscape making people do stupid things in the 30 seconds they’d tweeted about it, while Story HQ just refused to be organised and caused panic attacks and took no responsibility for the crowds of people blocking other stalls.

While I’m naming and shaming, I also should be naming and congratulating. Penguin Platform did their arc giveaways a little differently, and instead offered raffle tickets to win arcs, and also hid arcs in certain places without tweeting about it, meaning if you stumbled upon an arc, you got it. There were no crowds, there was no mass hysteria. BKMRK (previously Books with Bite) and Chicken House also did a good job by announcing giveaways an hour before, letting people arrive on their own time and also directing queue flow, providing enough arcs for a good portion of people (about 150 a day).

Free stuff is fun. Feeling like the ant under the boot of a publisher is not.

Seating and Layout

If you’re a YALC veteran, it’s a normal occurrence to find yourself standing around or finding decent floor space, but as the convention gets bigger, gets more popular, I am surprised by the lack of seating, especially when there was so much empty space with no signing tables or publishers stalls. Yes, there were lots of seats in the panel area, but you couldn’t have a proper chat with your mates or just a place to read because there was a talk going on right in front of you. There is a cafe, but it’s small and often crowded, and there’s a bean bag area which, if you have mobility issues, you’ll probably have trouble getting out of them once you’ve fallen in (I didn’t even try out of fear). I saw a lot of attendees this year with crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs, so a place with tables and chairs just to take a breather would have really helped many.

THE HILARIOUS

Laini Taylor Signing

This is probably a mixture of hilarious and heartbreaking. Hilarious now, but kind of heartbreaking at the time. It was no lie that Laini Taylor’s signing queue was going to be one big thing that would last for hours. I managed to snag the prized position of person 177 in queue, and was left to my own devices until my number was called. It would be a while.

Strange The Dreamer is not a small book. The whole of Saturday I had this thing in my bag, on my back, weighing me down. I loved Strange The Dreamer, so much more than I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I was thrilled that I would be meeting Laini Taylor for the first time and I could tell her how much I fell in love with Lazlo Strange (what a puppy!!). We walked, we shopped, we sat around waiting for City of Brass ARCS to drop (they didn’t…despite telling me that they would at some point. You’ve already read my annoyance with Story HQ you know what I’m on about), until eventually, my and my friends’ numbers were called.

Due to the fantastic member of staff in charge of Laini’s queue, we were only stood there for about ten minutes before finally meeting Laini. I immediately forgot about the two hours I’d had to kill before my number actually being called, and was ready to meet an author I had only just begun to appreciate.

When she opens my book…and sees her signature already there.

“Oh, I’ve already signed this.”

“….what.”

“Did you buy this from Waterstones?”

“Umm, yeah.”

“Oh I pre-signed those. Have you read the book?”

“Yes! I loved it!”

“Oh dear, maybe you forgot you bought a signed one then :). Here, I’ll personalize it.”

“Thanks.”

And that was the end of my two hour wait and a 12 hour carrying of an already signed Strange The Dreamer. What an idiot.

Non Pratt Head shave

I feel like, if you attended YALC and maybe if you didn’t, you know what I’m going to talk about. I’ve watched vlogs and read other blog posts about it and people asking each other ‘where were you during the Non-Pratt head shave?’. I was pretty damn close to Non, but on the farther side of where the ‘incident’ happened, and so saw practically nothing but people jumping out of their chairs and screaming and cheering.

benc
“what cult ritual nonsense is this??”

 

Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch walked in on us all chanting ‘SHAVE! SHAVE!’ as an author had her head shaved on stage. There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said, but it was damn hilarious.

Benedict Cumberbatch Madness

In fact, Benny-C made so many appearances that weekend that it was getting kind of annoying. The door he would enter the floor from and the door to his green room were so far from each other that he continually had to walk the whole length of YALC with bodyguards that kept multiplying each time I saw him. I understand why his green room was upstairs at YALC; if you left YALC and went into LFCC, the place was PACKED and people were no doubt expecting Benny-C. For us, we were just happy to see him for a minute and then continued to get excited about books. Our floor was a safe floor, and the worst he got was a few of us sprinting to get good pictures of him. He even walked past people and said hello and asked how they were. What a lovely chap.

And that was my YALC 2017! I had such a fantastic time, met new people, got a shit ton of books, and even spotted a few celebrities. I’m still on a little YALC high and have been scrolling through Twitter looking for blog posts and vlogs so if you’ve posted, let me know!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

Youtube Channels I’m Loving Right Now

So Youtube takes up a lot of my time. But hey, it’s a thing you can do while multi-tasking. I write a lot of my blog posts with Youtube in the background, and these are the channels I get most excited about when they upload!

Conan Gray

Conan has one of the most beautiful channels on Youtube. There, I said it. He uses his passion for art to make meaningful and creative content that is honestly what I love about Youtube itself. Plus, this boy is cute as a button.

Billy Maier

I’ve only just found Billy recently after the heartbreak that was SKAM ending. Thankfully, I can now live vicariously through a teenage boy somewhere in the United States. Billy is uploading videos almost daily of himself reacting to each episode of SKAM. Not only are his reactions hilarious and dramatic, he also just understands very easily what this show is about, and I love how he picks up on things quickly (because I certainly didn’t!) This video is by far my favourite because it was one of the things he got hilariously wrong.

 

Cheyenne Barton

Cheyenne has definitely been my inspiration for working on my bullet journal. While I’m trying to find my own style and ways I can make my bullet journal my own, Cheyenne’s flip through videos and monthly plan with me’s are great to stick on while you’re working, even just for background noise. I especially love the attention to detail to her doodles, and even just the chatty parts when she talks of memories she’s given spreads to.

 

Jenna Marbles

I have been subscribed to Jenna Marbles for years and I have always loved her videos, but in the last few months I have begun cry laughing at the videos she has been releasing, especially the ones that include her boyfriend, Julien. While they have slightly different senses of humour, they compliment each other so well to the point where they make each other laugh, which is the best kind of comedy.

 

DarkSquidge

Dark Squidge is the second channel of popular youtuber Tomska, a comedy filmmaker who is also known for animation (but refuses to call himself an animator). While his main channel videos take a considerably longer time to make what with budgets, production crews and sponsors, his side channel weekly vlogs are videos I get excited for every Monday/Tuesday and are hilarious and sad at the same time…depending on what type of week it is. He also just got a puppy!!

 

Share in the comments what channels you’re loving at the moment! I’m always welcome to recommendations!

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

On the Kindness Of Strangers

Today, I had a bad day.

Bad days, over the last few months, have been common for me. There are bad days and there are non-days which, to me, are bad days. But recently, as I’ve gained support and understanding from friends, family, and professionals, my bad days are few. But sometimes, they still creep up on you, and they can make you feel a whole lotta things that just aren’t true.

Today it was that I wasn’t good enough.

After being unemployed for a long amount of time and working on my health, going full force back into a job was never the plan unless it was the job of a lifetime. Working in my local bakery was an idea of my dad’s to slowly get me back into working life, and they only wanted me for 2 days a week.

But by day two, I was already struggling with the pace, the pressure, and my anxiety flared and I cried in front of my boss (my 21 year old boss who has her life far more together than I ever did at 21). We had a chat and she had a smoke and we shared a lot about each other in the space of a few minutes. It was nice and strange; I tend to be an oversharer but not about things so personal to someone I barely know…let alone someone who is my employer.

But it was important. We talked about mental health, and she told me that almost everyone that passed through the bakery had some sort of struggle when it came to their mental health. And while I haven’t found stigma or prejudice of having mental health issues affect me, it was very eye-opening to see how not alone I am.

I was left to take a breather, given an orange juice, and sat outside in our British heatwave until the door to the lot next door opened. Oh God, the hairdressers next door were going to see a blubbering 24 year old sat with a sad carton of Capri Sun.

I was bullied for exactly one week at school, and then sporadically when I found myself alone without a fight in me. But I remember the people that did it, I remembered what they looked like and how they acted and it contributed to I feel what a lot of girls experience during that difficult time in life; internal misogyny. While I’ve definitely unlearned so many drilled in prejudice and discrimination even of my own gender, all I could think of when I saw these hairdressers, caked in fake tan and lashes on their fag break was shit, they’re going to make me feel pathetic.

It started with them all subtly trying to get a glance at me while trying to make it look like they were just making sure not to blow smoke into each other’s faces, swapping seats occasionally so they all had a turn at sitting where they could get a good look at me and my blotchy red face. I’ve never stared at a Capri Sun so intently. Every time their laughs got loud, I shrivelled into myself. Not only had I fucked up at work, I was also getting judged for it. I didn’t need this.

“Ummm, are you ok?”

I didn’t even see which girl said it, only that a few had left and all that remained were two. I glanced over and smiled and waved them off.

“Yeah, just first day at work stuff.”

And instead of anything shitty, they moved their chairs so they could talk to me. They spoke of their experiences of anxiety and stories of their first days, cut throat practicals while studying for a qualification in hair and beauty, and how sometimes you just gotta cry and that’s OK. They told me they knew my new colleagues very well and that they were lovely and understanding, and so I had nothing to worry about. They made me laugh, and offered space in their air conditioned salon whenever it got a bit too much in the stifling bakery.

And I just got this overwhelming feeling of aren’t girls just great? It’s not a new concept that girls are always there for each other. I’ve experienced it in so many other places; nightclub toilets, queues, on the bus, but there was something so incredible about female solidarity in a non drunk, non forced situation. These girls could have ignored me, mocked me, but instead they just did so something simple that perked me up for the rest of the day. I felt shit for assuming they would be awful based on what they looked like, it’s still something I have to unlearn and not flinch at. I always try and make space for women, always assume they’re good (whereas I always *eye emoji* at men I don’t know) but even now I’ll have subconscious feelings of unease and pre-judge people.

It’s become very important to me to try and be there for strangers, to not judge and just give a little support when someone’s in need. I’ve always been that way, but when it happens to you it you make sure you are aware of it.

The kindness of strangers is mighty, and I aspire to be like the hairdressers on their cigarette break.

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr

An Amateur’s Guide To Copenhagen

Hello, and welcome to the first in a travel series called An Amateur’s Guide, where I, an amateur traveler, will give you a guide to all the places I’ve been and hopefully share with you some tips and tricks into getting the best out of your trips.

While I may be an amateur (and very poor), I’m determined to visit as many places as possible, meeting new people, and exploring beautiful countries and cities that may not be as far from you as you think. I’m going to be splitting these posts into sections; In & Around, Doing Stuff, Good Views, and Sleeps, but also just talking about how beautiful and amazing each place is.

Let’s begin with Copenhagen, Denmark!

Continue reading “An Amateur’s Guide To Copenhagen”

The Joys Of Learning A Language (And How You Can Do It Too)

I really love languages.

Vague, I know. But I end up saying it to myself and to other people a lot. I just really like languages. My own language, languages I’m learning, languages that I’m not, dead languages, languages that hardly anyone speaks anymore. I just…*clenches fist*.

While I know I’m not the only one (obviously), I still often feel like the only person who wants to at least try another language. Usually, people just find it to hard. Ok, I get that. Language is woven into every single part of your life and so, to understand a whole other language is to understand a whole other life, a society, a history and culture. But, usually, the rejection of other languages comes from ignorance and the desire for there to only be one language; English.

Yeah, we won’t get into that.

I wanted to talk a bit about my language learning experiences and how you, if you’re interested, can get into the wonderful world of language and how it’s not as hard as you think!

First, take it out of your mind that you have to be ‘gifted’ or have to be talented from a young age at language learning. Yes, there are going to be people who find it easier than you because they were brought up in a bilingual household or moved to another country and was forced to learn the language etc. If you want to learn, are ready to learn, and love the language you’re going to learn then you too can do it!

Next, choose your language! There are so many reasons why someone embarks on this journey; maybe your job needs a multi-lingual person? Maybe you’ve got plans to travel to multiple places and want to at least try when speaking to locals? Maybe you’re packing up and moving to a whole new country (lucky you)? Maybe there is a new part of the family who you want to get to know but they don’t know English? Or, like me, you’re a bit of a language nerd. Most of the time you won’t have a reason, and that means the pick of the litter. What language appeals to you the most? The easiest? The most challenging?

While I’m always trying to learn French and Spanish for practical reasons, the language I’m focusing on and having the most progress I’ve ever had with a language is Norwegian (Bokmal). The reasons why are actually quite simple, and I hope you can implement them into your language learning too!

memrise-appRookie mistake? Using Duolingo. I hear you all shouting ‘WHAT?’ at me while you have Duolingo open and ready. For many it is a treasure trove of language tips and tricks, but for me it’s just trying to remember weirdly worded sentences that you’ll never use. Multiple times I’ve had to translate ‘The dog is in the house’ or ‘I read while I cut oranges’ while I haven’t grasped how to ask for directions or introduce myself yet. If you’re going to use a language learning app, I’d recommend Memrise which was recommended to me by my travel buddy Anna whose Swedish is already coming along very well with the help of this app. Now, I know there’s a Duolingo app for your phone, but I always found it worked better on desktop which, to be honest, isn’t ideal. Memrise not only teaches you relevant things, it tests you over and over so that the translation comes naturally. You can use it anywhere too (hence the purpose of apps), meaning if you’ve got a few spare minutes on the bus or in the dentist waiting room, you can brush up on your vocab. There’s also an option to watch little videos of actual native speakers saying phrases normally, so you can get used to the speed and pronunciation of the sentences you’re learning.

Consuming the entertainment of another culture is also a fantastic and vital way to learn a language. The easiest way to learn a language is to surround yourself with it, and if literally moving to that country isn’t an option, the best way is to watch, listen, and read the language. For Norwegian, I’ve been soaking up the culture through television and music. Watching SKAM has opened me up to slang and with matching it with language apps and standard language learning, I’ve started to understand bits here and there without subtitles (it’s honestly a magical feeling when that happens). I’ve listened to popular radio channels too just to hear speed. I know that dialect changes depending on where you are in Norway which is normal in most languages (English in Newcastle and English in Somerset aren’t the same, for example), but I believe in Norway it’s even more so, and so I’m trying to just conquer the dialects in Oslo and the dialects used predominantly in the media. Music is great too; trying to decipher what the lyrics are is actually just as fun as singing along (and getting it royally wrong). Hearing the language constantly makes my accent and pronunciation more confident, and so I urge you to look for films in the language you’re learning, shows, youtubers from that country, podcasts, anything where you can hear and take it all in.

Learning a language by yourself begins to suck when you have no one to practice on. My dad, a language lover too, has no problems having small chats with me in French and Spanish, but completely shuts down when I talk in Norwegian. So what’s a girl to do?

Pets.

(If you don’t have a pet, skip this paragraph)

I talk to my dog, Barney, a lot. I didn’t realise how much I did until I said “Er du en godt gutte?” and he wagged his tail happily because yes, he is a good boy. I know dogs don’t respond to actual language; I know my dog doesn’t understand Norwegian, but to have someone actually reply to me in their own way that isn’t blank stares is actually really useful. So now, I just chat with him, make sure he’s good and happy, ask him if he wants a treat, and I try to make sure to do it all in Norwegian. So, if you chat to your pet (which I know you all do), see how comfortable you feel talking to them in the language you’re learning until you’re having full blown conversations about politics and the economy with them. Me and Barney haven’t got there yet, but I know he’s interested.

I never realised how much language learning had always been a large factor in why I love education in general. Maybe not the education system, but learning that through a language is a whole new world, culture, and people, living on the same polluted spec of a planet that we live on.

Let me know what languages you’re learning and how you do it if I’ve missed anything!

GoodreadsInstagram | Twitter | Tumblr

On Feeling Successful (As Told Through A Trip To Copenhagen)

Two middle aged men sit across from me on the train home from Gatwick Airport.

“So what’s your youngest doing now?”
“He’s just been signed to a modelling agency! He’s only eighteen! What about your Sarah? She still at uni?”
“She graduated with a 1st, and now she’s a top marketing executive in London!”

It’s strange that this story starts at the end, when I’m tired and greasy and starving. The flight from Copenhagen to Gatwick was only 1 hour 40 minutes but adding on the waiting and the queuing and the scanning of tickets and passports I’d say it feels like an all day shindig. I rarely eavesdrop on people’s conversations, even if they’re sat so close on an empty train in the middle of the night, but the conversation between the two proud dads got to me.

As a young person who can find fault in everything I do, I find it difficult to feel like I’ve achieved something. I’m unemployed, living at home, with dreams and ambitions that can often seem out of reach. While these things aren’t things to be ashamed of, they certainly pale in comparison to others.

The feeling of success is subjective and ever changing. It can be measured in so many ways, so many little intricate threads that make you proud of the person you are. Success moves with time, and changes depending on the decades, years, months, minutes. I haven’t felt successful in a long time, but on the late night train journey back home from a few days in Copenhagen, overhearing a conversation about the large successes of others in my generation and younger did not stoke the fires of my insecurities, but allowed me to process what I had just been through, or for a better term, what I had achieved.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Copenhagen was spontaneous. I’d been cooped up in my house, in the little bubble of my life for far too long. I wanted to leave, even just for a long weekend, to experience something else. My friends made excuses (but also valid reasons) as to why they could not come with me. While going to another country on my own is always an option, to me, that was a step too far. But Twitter wasn’t. I tweeted indirectly that I wanted to go somewhere but just had no-one to go with, and hoped someone, if anyone, would take the bait (preferably mutuals of course).

And it worked!

I’d found friends online who wanted to join me and even an old work colleague who heard about my trip. The dates were set, deposits were paid, the flights booked. And then, the anxiety kicked in. Having a ton of responsibility suddenly be hitched onto your shoulders takes a lot of getting used to, and as an impatient worrier such as myself, I found the only thing to calm myself down was to research city maps, how to get from one terminal to the next, what trains to take, where to visit and how long it will take to get there, and to research more into the hostel we were staying in (and try not to let my friend’s exclaims of ‘hostels are dangerous you’re gonna die!’ get to me).

When the morning of the flight came I was a wreck. However, when I’m that nervous, I sort of turn into a shouty army officer who wants things to be done quickly and efficiently without any mucking about. It was that morning that I realised I wouldn’t just be responsible for myself, but also for my work colleague who is younger, less experienced in travel, and just all around a bit dopey with no sense of urgency. Don’t worry, she agrees with all these things.

The feeling of pride and achievement didn’t really set in until we’d checked into our hostel and I lay on my bunk bed and took in a deep breath. I’d done it. I’d gone through the awful experience of airport security unscathed and I’d traveled to another country without any adults whilst also looking after another human. I’d gone on the metro, found the way to the hostel and walked through a city with luggage (a big fear of mine is getting mugged).

And then beyond that; I was able to find my way around a whole new city which was in a different language, tried new foods, met new people, slept in a room with strangers, made decisions for where to eat (because my friends can’t make decisions), and made sure my friend didn’t walk into the many bicycles around the city. I also counted her money for her, made sure she didn’t accidentally shop lift, checked her bag was closed, and got her to stop asking me permission to do something/go somewhere. I was an independent traveler and also a mum.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I visited a beautiful city in a beautiful country, experienced something new, and looked after myself in a way I haven’t in a really long time. I felt strong, I felt independent, I felt capable. And that to me, is a success. So, while I may not have a top job in London, a fancy apartment, or a million followers on Instagram, I was able to sit on the night train back home and feel just as proud as the dads sat opposite me.

And don’t worry, there’ll be a guide to Copenhagen coming soon!

GoodreadsInstagram | Twitter | Tumblr