September 21, 2010 § 4 Comments
Since coming home from Barcelona to Oxfordshire last week I’ve been pretty exhausted; but not only exhausted, also somehow relieved, somehow compassionate for all the honest and hardworking people that have remained here the whole time; and also with somewhat of a sense of foreboding as there has been nothing concrete ahead of me. So I was Home in the shire after four-and-a-half years away, family abroad and friends mostly having flown the nest. You know how that feels? And where does one go next? Everything’s up in the air and open to adventure. Everything has to be created yourself. This is a location commonly known throughout traveling circles as Square One.
So I went to see friend and trainer Marian at Apricot Island, which is located in the south of England somewhere between Hayling Island and Wight Island. Marian ran a Personal Journey weekend, where three clients had two full days of facilitation and exercises designed to do a large piece of personal work. Now, Clean Coaching and Symbolic Modeling are Coaching tools based on the development on top of a huge history of psychological theory and practice with clients. In fact it’s one of the latest and most helpful kinds of work, but in the middle of an intensive weekend of the stuff it can all feel a bit woo-woo; a bit mumbo jumbo; with holes from your chest disappearing out of your leg, decisions around it being time to design a pot to piss in, and post-it notes and felt tip pens scattered around the room. It was nice to reconnect with Clean Language and its’ often entertaining way of procuring change in people, and by the end of Sunday I wasn’t only completely “full”, mentally, but I had completely formed a plan about a surprise journey to get me on my way out of Square One, which I’ll get to in a minute..
So, there’s been a huge shift in perspective and in total, it now feels invigorating to be home. The very damp and greenness of the atmosphere combined with the substantial-if-not-traumatic temperature drop seems to nourish the working attitude, and although wedged and working between a strewn out lifetime supply of clothes, notes and trinkets as I attempt to sling out overaged and unnecessary possessions in a break for a more minimal lifestyle (believe me, chucking is a challenge); movement’s in the making.
So I was toying on making my winter destination a surprise, especially since I’ve changed my target destination over the last few days, as well as moving from a vague dream to a plan in progress. However, given that I don’t really have the reader base to really toy with (yet) – and given the fact that I really need to lay out my plans on this website so that interested parties (here or there) can see, so as to entice their involvement – I’ll lay them out here. (They’re also laid out over at my new blog: a blog with a name, but we’re still not ready to discuss those details yet)..
So.. With all that in mind, I keenly present to you.. INDIA 2010/11 !
That’s to fly out of London on Monday, 15-November 2010, and to return in the week of 18-February 2011.
I will fly into Mumbai, travel eight hours south to world-famous Goa, explore Bangalore and the surrounding state of Karnakata, and continue deep into the south, journeying through Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and finishing my tour in Chennai…
… or something like that; remembering that by packing light, spontaneity and whimsical diversions are usually the greatest moments in foreign travel. But remembering also that this trip is being designed to fulfill certain professional and personal objectives:
Aim 1 – To take Clean Coaching to India. I’m not sure if there’s anyone doing it there already, and I’m researching people now for information, contacts and connections. I aim to share this approach to coaching, consulting and psychotherapy; to run some demonstrations and workshops in the different parts of India that I’ll visit, with a range of people from different professional areas and walks of like. I also plan to do a lot of outdoor sessions and workshops, inviting people from various communities as well as the so-called “spiritual tourists” to try out the magic of this work in Southern India’s fantastic natural settings. I could also train a couple of people to carry out this work autonomously, thereby leaving behind a legacy. Aim 1 is all about exotic work experience, and the dissemination of this marvelous work.
Aim 2 – To blog, report, and do some personal investigative journalism. Getting to the bottom of the places I visit is a huge value I have when I travel – both for personal curiosity and to present the findings to others. Mumbai is a fascinating city at an important stage of its development, and Bollywood for some bizarre reason allures me greatly. Goa, as the final destination on the old hippy trail must contain a million and one juicy legends, and is a highlight on any travelers’ map that I still haven’t visited or had any kind of experience of. But the number one thing that has piqued my curiosity is the culture of the Guru or “God-man” that hosts followers in their many ashrams in the South of the country. My aim, as someone who (is certainly not a guru or God-man but) certainly has effective help and psychological techniques to help overcome all kinds of problems and mental issues, is to understand the life and subjective experience of these people – if it’s possible to get close enough to them. Much of the guru scene is purposefully mysterious, as you’ll see by watching this perhaps overly hard-hitting documentary. It would also be entertaining to draw a parallel between the gurus I see over there in a spiritual context and the ones we find on a day-to-day basis here on the internet. What do they have in common in terms of what they give and receive, what they say and do, how they lead and how they manage and interact with their followers. Aim 2 is all about stories.
Aim 3 – To avoid a potentially miserable UK winter, enjoy the sun and the climate and bootstrap my burgeoning consulting business. Internet’s good in India, I can lifestyle design, meet others doing the same in their careers, and promote my work through this blog. India will also be an opportunity to improve my writing, and hopefully, as you would have witnessed, my paintbrush skills! Aim 3 is all to do with Lifestyle Design..
and Aim 4 – To do some tourism, tons of yoga and get some general ayurvedic massage and healing going on (my body’s taken a bit of neglection over the past few years on the road..). To enjoy the hot weather, foreign culture, beach parties, new people, and general chilling out and riding motorbikes. Aim 4 is about me :)
So what needs to happen for this trip to happen?
First of all I’m researching destinations I want to visit, but more importantly I’m looking for people to meet and connect with: people interested in Coaching, people potentially interested in Clean Coaching, and any number of open-minded people and lifestyle designers. I’m also looking for people with strong and informed opinions on various aspects of the life and culture in this part of the world, and I’m looking for people with experiences and knowledge about the whole spiritual and “guru” culture in this region. If any of these people sound like you or anyone you know, please get in touch! It would be fantastic to connect, talk, and share experiences together. The more of these people I’m able to meet, the more we’ll satisfy the above aims – Aims 1 & 2 being the most important.
Also, a couple more coaching clients wouldn’t go amiss in terms of funding, so if you’re interested in Clean Coaching, over the short, medium or long-term, get in touch and we can come to some kind of agreement ;)
Secondly, you may have read of plans to work in Brazil this winter in the about me page. This trip has been postponed until April 2011 for two reasons: firstly, Christmas combined with Summer holidays combined with Carnaval makes Brazil a difficult place to seriously work in during these months; and secondly, I’m currently applying for help for this trip from a certain dead Prime Minister. I have a worthy project in the balance, and hopefully going the “official route” by soliciting both funds and moral support from the British establishment would add some stability and authority to the project, thereby improving its chances of success. Stay tuned for more on that one..
So that’s my story of Square One – didn’t spent too much time there, and I didn’t just start working on one plan, but two. There’s a lot of great stuff to do in this world, my my..
And all this begs the question: have you ever been back in Square One after a certain failed dream? How did you get out of it?
Are you in Square One now? What needs to happen for you to get out of it? Your answers and comments will be eagerly discussed in the section below..
Continuing with the theme of home, as an added bonus – since this is a new blog for both you and for me – I’d like to complete this post’s role as something of a home-page and share some resources with you. As this moment in time expresses for me both a homecoming and launchpad into another direction, I hope that the following can help you start moving out of your Square One, if you’re in one, or at least point you in the direction of some interesting and influential stuff..
The following are six books that I’ve found central for my development as a person, a traveler and a coach over the last four-and-a-half years:
(It’s important to note that none of these books comes as close to influencing me as my experiences and journeys themselves, nor the great friendships that I’ve made)
- The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey. The connection between body and mind, conscious and unconscious has been tackled from many different angles in the worlds of coaching and NLP, but it takes this allegorical account between our two “sides” that really brings home the importance and the methods we can adopt to become better performers. Gallwey was in fact a tennis coach, whose methods brought about huge and rapid improvements in his students. Between him and John Whitmore, this work and this book is the cornerstone of this translation of sports coaching into the world of executive and personal coaching. A fascinating book with wonderful secondary benefits for the passive reader.
- On The Road, by Jack Kerouac. This is a famous book that most backpackers read at some point. I read it just before leaving for the second time to South America and what got me were the emotions, the excitement and raw thrill of just being on the road. Travelers often love to talk about what they’ve done and why they’re so unique, but in On The Road, Kerouac narrates with an incredible sensory passion the highs and lows of his travels around two countries and many cultures that nowadays plainly do not exist. This for me is travel, the feelings, the moods, the nostalgia, the excitement, the sadness – not the photograph at the top of Macchu Picchu.
- The Magic of Metaphor, by Nick Owen. Throughout 2008 and 2009 I read a lot about NLP, influence and personal change. Most of what I read was at best a little freaky and at worst downright manipulative. That stuff’s good to be aware of (especially since we’re bombarded with it every day), but the one thing I did take away from that world was the idea of the story or metaphor. When in the middle of a story a person sits back and relaxes, and messages, values and beliefs are inferred by the person from the story and taken on board. Thus the story is one of the greatest transporters of education and culture, and tales and values older than Greek mythology are still around with us today. Nick Owen collects 77 different short stories in this edition, that are useful for coaches, teachers, and budding writers that may want to show, not tell.
- Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, by Rolf Potts. Rolf seems to be the de facto travel writer commonly shared around Lifestyle Design circles, usually for his generation defining first book, Vagabonding. But I haven’t read that, nor feel I need to, but this compilation of stories depicts Rolf’s style not only of searching out more “authentic” travel experiences than the hordes, but of expertly tying his experiences together with his personal philosophy, competent narratives and a sense of humour. In short, Rolf makes me want to become a better writer.
- The Power of Six, by Philip Harland. A document that teaches, tells and illustrates the workings of possibly the latest and most curious coaching/psychotherapeutic technique in the world today. Reading this book gave me the possibility to really do more profound work with my clients, and really achieve big results around sticky situations where seated conversation doesn’t quite cut it. This book has served as the base for my outdoor coaching, as well as most of the Clean Coaching that I’m using now with great success. An incredibly motivating and fascinating read.
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, by John Wood. Does what it says on the cover. NGO boss John Wood tells his story, and if you’re on the edge of what you can take in your cubicle or corporate job, Leaving Microsoft demonstrates how it might be for you to take the plunge and do something passionate. If you agree with this book and can overcome your fears, needs and ego, perhaps you won’t go back to work on Monday morning. (& the very inclusion of this book in this section of the post could indicate a future possible direction for my work..)
- Amazon, by Bruce Parry. Available in hardback or as a 6-part documentary shown on the BBC, Bruce Parry completes a mouthwatering journey through a vital area that I’ve been lucky enough to experience with a balanced and compassionate style that has helped change my view of documentary forever. Whereas many people look from afar and comment from their preexisting ideas and prejudices about a certain issue, Bruce spends six months in the Amazon, talking, working and celebrating with illegal loggers, cocaine manufacturers, ordinary jungle dwellers, transvestites and of course, local and little-exposed tribespeople and their shamans. What exudes from this fantastic piece of work is documental rigour and heaps of understanding. I have this in mind whenever I travel and whenever I seek to report.
Enjoy, and please, leave your comments below – about your Square One’s, the India Project, or your comments on the books and resources shared..
September 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
I had this huge idea for a post about being emotional and reflective on my exit from Barcelona, but two days on and with stuff to be doing much of the sadness, disappointment, nostalgia and frustration seems to have dissipated. I feel that this is going to be the most difficult post that I’ve written so far – not because the contents are particularly difficult to explain, rather that my state of mind has changed rapidly with the change of home, language, climate and general day to day needs that I now have. It’s like my head’s on overdrive with all the things I have to sort out; and the tea’s stronger than I remembered it back here. Add to that the aim of not only summing up a year of my life, but doing so in a way that communicates with and benefits you, which is after all a hidden goal of this blog..
So here goes: the decision to abandon ship was cemented a couple of months ago now in Montenegro, and ever since returning from Cazalla at the end of August, I was counting down the days until my return to Oxfordshire. It wasn’t really a difficult decision to make, given that Spain has been becoming ever more a fight to participate in since the financial crisis of September 2008. And with the local situation as difficult as it now is, and with businesses still closing down, unemployment still rising and benefits for many of the four million about to run out; Barcelona/Spain/Southern Europe in general is becoming very difficult for self-employed in shall we say extra-necessary service roles. Add to that the ability to move clients online and reach people on a global scale, that fight to participate is no longer something I need, or want, to win. And so it was that, using Barcelona as a metaphor for life, I left the same way as I came in thirteen-and-a-half months prior – not exactly kicking and screaming but sí sin dinero y sin hilachos.
My last 24 hours were a case in point: a game of eight-a-side football on a full-sized pitch left me physically exhausted yet corporally satisfied, and I was invited to stay later for a leaving beer with the team-mates and made it over to the Chilean house in time for a fantastic meal served on their terrace. We were ten or so and took it well past midnight with three courses and at least three different wines. The next morning I woke up, late, and rode on down to the beach on my bicycle, waved goodbye to a dear friend and continued along the seafront in shorts, flip-flops, 30 degree heat and cool sea breeze – don’t take it for a minute that the negative further context of this story means that this is not a city that affords a good lifestyle…
=== You know what, I can’t actually write this post, rather I can’t finish it. My head is dizzy, vacant, busy, teinated (like caffeinated) and later I’m traveling two and a half hours to the South of England to assist on a weekend Coaching course, then on Wednesday I’m back off to Spain for the last module of my masters, then on the very last day of that masters I’m traveling back to the south coast of the UK to take another 10-day training. I’m actually full, my calendar, my head, my plate. With moving, courses, projects in the future, my focus has disappeared and I’d rather make this good-humoured personal breakdown public than wait for a better post to be completed and miss schedule. I may or may not come back to round off this post, this story, what I want to express. But I will be back on Tuesday with some useful content. Rant over, take care, and speak soon. ===
September 14, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’ve spent the last 13 and a half months living and working, both online and offline, in Barcelona. I could easily be considered a “Lifestyle Designer”, and I’d like to share some cold hard facts (perhaps with a slice of subjectivity if you’re lucky) with the community. Buckle up for a 3,000-word guide (or scroll down to the section that most interests you)..
Prices – Cost of Living
So let’s get straight to the grain. Is Barcelona a lifestyle possibility for you right now? If you’re single and earning at least 1,500€ ($1,912) a month, after tax, then yes. This amount will afford you a fair standard of living, eating out a few times a week, weekends away, but renting a room in a shared apartment in a central part of town. The average wage here for an “offline” entry-level job is between 1,000-1,200€, and such people get by without too many frills. If you’re a family, then the required income is going to vary greatly depending on the size of your family and the services you need. If you’re looking to stay long term, I’d suggest you find some more relevant information elsewhere, but for a few months of Lifestyle Design, 3,500€ ($4,462) after tax per household should suffice for Mum, Dad and the 2.4 to have a great time. What can I say, this is a European tourist capital. It’s certainly livable with less income, but be prepared to go the ‘starving artist’ route.
- Beer in a city-centre bar – 2,50€ – 4€ ($3.20 – $5.20); Cocktails – 3,50€ – 8€ ($4.50 – $10.25)
- Beer in the street/beach (from Pakistani vendor) – 1€ ($1.28 – do not pay more – learn to hustle!)
- 10 x Rides in the Metro/Bus – 7,95€ (($10.20)
- Rental Car – from 60€/day ($77)
- A 3-course menu including wine and coffee – 8 – 15€ per person from 1 – 4pm only ($10 – $20 for good quality; but of course, there is no glass ceiling on what restaurants can charge).
- A bag of pasta, 3x tins of tuna, an onion and bolognese sauce – 4,65€ for three separate meals ($5.95, when income is low!)
- Rent for room in a shared apartment – 400€ in all central areas ($520). Going lower may seriously affect your quality of life/sleep/mental health.
- A 3-bedroom apartment to rent – from about 900€/month in good locations ($1,150 – links to rental websites below).
- Entrance to MACBA (top museum of contemporary art) – 7.50€ ($9.60)
- Entrance to Sagrada Familia + Gaudí’s House (Famous Cathedral & Architect’s house) – 14€ ($18)
- Private Spanish class – from 13€ ($16.65); “Intercambio” – free.
Okay, the other piece of juice for the lifestyle designer.. When renting a room in an apartment you’re 95% guaranteed to have wifi (6Mb) included in the cost, or at least for some pocket change extra every month. Always double check. If renting an entire apartment, you should be able to get a place with wifi pre-installed. If the flat you’re looking at doesn’t have it, look elsewhere – Spanish telecommunications companies are notoriously bad and you could wait at least couple of weeks without a connection. And if you thought call-centers and waiting lines back home were bad, try doing it in Spanish with even poorer customer service! On arrival, most hotels and hostels have wifi access and will often charge, and given the sheer amount of people crammed into hostels here, peace and quiet is a huge luxury. Cyber cafés are common throughout the city, but again, are often crammed and unpredictable in terms of noise and clientele. If you need to work, check out one of the many city libraries, not many cafés have wifi and are generally noisy. If you need to consult over Skype – get to your own place asap.
Airports – Flights & Getting Away
If you’re coming from outside Europe, one of the first and most obvious wonders about Barcelona is it’s access to more travel opportunities at a low cost. My parents live in Oxford, UK, and a 2-hour flight from nearby Girona to nearby Bristol can cost as little as 6€. That’s right. The bus from Barcelona to Girona to catch the plane costs 12€ and Bristol-home about the same. As you can imagine, Europe’s now a world leader in the CO2 emissions race.
Ryanair is the cheapest airline and you can get to rare and wonderful cities across Scandinavia and Eastern Europe for little more than 30€ return. You will have to be creative when you travel as flights rarely go to the exact destination you want, although through Easyjet and Berlin Air you can often get to “top-rate” tourist destinations for less than 100€ return if you book ahead. Travel within Spain is usually more expensive: Madrid is best served by the Ave – the high-speed train – and a return ticket can cost 85€ with two week’s planning. A return flight to Seville and the wonderful Andalucía will go for around 140€ return.
Arrival from New York will cost around $660, the West Coast around $1,000, and anywhere in Latin America from 700€. If it’s difficult to arrive from further afield, try flying to London to cut costs and connecting with Easyjet or Ryanair. Be sure to travel light as these airlines charge extra for every piece of luggage, but you’ve read articles on flashpacking and already know that, right ;)
Surroundings – Excursions, Sea
Closer to home, the Northeastern Spanish province (most would prefer it as a country in its own right) of Catalunya boasts both wild and developed beaches, stretching two hours south to Deltebre, a wildlife reserve on an outstretched delta – and two hours north of Barcelona to Cadaqués, certainly the most beautiful part of this stretch of coast. In between you have a beach for all tastes: from gay pride carnivals at Sitges to nudist heaven at Sant Pol, to drunken Dutch and British madness at Lloret de Mar. Surf is very average all over the Mediterranean but people try, diving’s OK at Cap Begur, windsurf is good in many locations and you can learn to sail at a school at Port Olímpic, Barcelona.
Catalunya also has mountains, skiing, rock-climbing; and the small tax-free principality of Andorra, wedged high into the mountains on the French border, is just three hours away by bus or car. Tarragona, Girona and Lleida – medieval cities far less crowded than Barcelona – are all worth an excursion.
However, for those with a bit of cash to spare and in search of a party spirit, a huge bonus that Barcelona has is it’s sea connections to the French and Italian islands of Corsica and Sardinia, and to the Balearic islands of Mallorca, Menorca, world-famous Ibiza and laid-back Formentera. Round trip prices start from around 100€ depending on season, and the amount of money you’ll spend whilst there is virtually impossible to pin down!
Some of the best free or cheap things are laid out in the 6 Best Things section below..
University, Learning, Self-Development
Most lifestyle designers appear to travel in order to learn or develop themselves in some way. Being a city of 1.5 million people (and serving a community of 4 million), in Barcelona you can pretty much take up anything you’d wish. Although not the official language here, most foreigners arrive and immediately enroll for Spanish classes which is essential for day-to-day living as the standard of English here is much poorer compared with other European countries. Only real long-termers tend to take advantage of the City Hall’s free Catalan courses, which will generally help you impress the local population, even if you do only manage to grasp a handful of phrases.
There are several Universities and Business schools within city limits, but for shorter stays almost anyone can enroll for courses in yoga, music, art, dance and pretty much any type of psychological or physiological therapy. Some 50km away there is Spain’s top vipassana meditation centre where you can carry out the 10-day silence. Spanish would be pretty necessary at most of these courses, barring this last one of course, and to find events put on for English-speakers, look no further than your school’s noticeboard or in free publications such as BCNWeek and Metropolitan magazine, available all over the tourist centre. (Don’t forget TimeOut!). Thousands of people come to Barcelona from all over Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, and finding courses and contacts and information about anything in any language is possible once you get out there and get your eyes and ears open.
Sport is a real strength in Catalunya, and without even mentioning possibly the world’s best football club and their 98 or 120,000-seater stadium (depending on who you ask), there are a huge number of options for your participation. Three large and separate ports mean schools and services for sailors, 4km of sandy beaches mean daily football, volleyball, footvolley, paddle (short tennis), running, rollerblading, open-air iron-pumping and anything you can imagine. Add to that the sea and mountain options outside the city, a couple of golf courses, climbing walls and a Formula One track and you have pretty much a full sporting menu. If you fancy a five-a-side football match shortly after arrival, look no further than here.
Lifestyle Design Community:
Barcelona is certainly a top destination for established digital nomads, and by making friends and socializing often you’ll come across people with different stories almost on a daily basis. The best way to find a selection of different people at the same time would be by checking out Meetup.com, with Sun, Sand and Startups being the most outstanding networking meeting, and also Barcelona Brunch and Cinebar good places to check out for socializing. Couchsurfing is decidedly weak in Barcelona, and although on most days you can find a couple of people going out drinking, the transience of the city makes it difficult to form real friendships, and people who live in the city very rarely offer their couch to passers by. The Couchsurfing system is indeed broken in Spain, but by making the most of the friends that you do meet and following up and attending parties, you can create a good group of friends.
Going back to business, I participated in the excellent iWeekend last November, which is a celebration of internet start-ups inviting 50 people with different experience to sit in a room for 48 hours voting for ideas. The best ideas will be invited to form a team out of the programmers and marketers that remain and a company should ideally be set up by the Sunday evening. Ideas that emerged from last year’s edition seem to have disappeared from the face of the internet but some videos of us working can be found here. This event took place in Barcelona Activa, a government initiative aimed at educating the average Joe in all things entrepreneurial that supplies a whole host of services – but it has to be said now that if you don’t speak an advanced level Spanish, you will not get very far in these institutions.
In general, entrepreneurship is something on the rise in Barcelona, and events and government stimulus are becoming increasingly apparent. However, in a country where 60% of University graduates want to be civil servants, the get-up-and-go attitude is certainly not as developed here as in Northern Europe or North America: people are less willing to take risks with their money and time, and customer service is generally rather lackluster.
The 6 Best Things about Barcelona:
Beaches – 4km within city limits that take you from the bustling ex-fisherman neighbourhood up to Forum, where there is an olympic-sized seawater swimming pool sheltered from the ocean by a spectator’s area. Add to this the Bicing facility; public rental bikes that are spread all over the city for residents to use (31€ ($40)/year) then you have yourself a morning triathlon. And if you happen to get tired, during summer there’s always abundant fauna below on the beach..
Tapear – Wandering from bar to bar, trying their various tapas is a true wonder in Barcelona and in Spain in general. Hams and cheeses and fried fish are the most common choices, but in truth there is no end to the quality and creativity in these small plates of food if you want to explore. Pimientos de Padrón (Small green sometimes-spicy peppers) are my favourite to have with a glass of beer, and in places like the Xampanyeria, you can try various glasses of sparkling wine for less than a euro each. Rather than eating one meal in one place, you can stagger dinner over three hours and four different restaurants. It’s as good as it sounds.
Plazas at Night – There are loads of bars to check out in the historic centre, as well as in trendy Gràcia and further afield. In fact, it would be impossible to get to know them all even after spending five years in the city. However, especially during summer months, the real value is buying alcohol from a shop or a Pakistani vendor and sitting in one of the plazas or on the beach, watching life go by and not having to die from second-hand smoke. (No anti-smoking law in bars yet, watch out!)
Parks – The parks are great here in Barcelona, offering enough green to make the city an attractive place to live. If you search hard enough you should be able to find a great place to sit and read, and for a very romantic pic-nic. The best are the central Parc de la Ciutadella; Parc Güell – Gaudí’s über.kitsch fantasyland; and Monjuïc, a huge expanse of park up a mountain, housing over a hundred museums and many key sites from Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games.
Calçotadas – A Catalan tradition, and one you want to work on getting invited to. (If you don’t you can always turn up to a restaurant like this in Valls). A calçot is a special type of onion, often growing over two feet long. A special cultivation process that takes over six months to complete stimulates a ridiculously good flavour once barbecued and dipped in a savoury sauce. Between rounds of chargrilled meat and a variety of different local wines and cavas, this winter tradition will keep your spirits (and your belly) up during the winter months.
Sports – Have pretty much been covered in the sections above. There is a lot going on here, winter and summer.
Barcelona does have a couple of disadvantages for the Lifestyle Designer. Firstly, looking for work or to grow a business offline can be very difficult indeed. Things are often slow in working themselves out here, most “serious” activity stops for two-and-a-half months over the summer, and Catalans are typically quite suspicious people and don’t open their wallets gladly. Gaining trust and becoming integrated into the local community can be a very difficult affair, and it’s not uncommon that even after marrying a local and spending fifteen years here, foreigners still feel that they don’t have any kind of secure social safety net: nowhere to find a job or clients when the chips are down, and no-one to really confide in. Also, for the offline LDer there are just too many chances to spend good money and not enough chances to earn it. And whilst approaching the last quarter of 2010 at time of writing, Spain is pretty much the only European economy still in recession. With businesses still closing down across the city, the hard times are well and truly here for many.
But if you work over the internet with a cushty income that won’t worry you. But if you have been an intrepid traveler up until now the next thing I’m going to mention possibly might. Although with it’s gothic centre, rolling hills and hours of nearby beaches, Barcelona can seem an exotic place (especially if you’re coming from the “New World”); the Catalan people are far from having an exotic, tropical outlook on life. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t fun or kind Catalan people around – there certainly are – but if you’re looking for one of these places where the locals are eager to get to know you, embrace you with open arms, introduce you freely to family and friends and invite you over for dinner: this just ain’t the place. Friendships require effort to initiate and maintain, and being a modern European “Capital of Cool”, there is a hell of a lot of ego floating around, and a hell of a lot of people desiring to live the European dream but slowly realizing just how difficult that is with so much competition.
Now if you’re very young and this is your first time away – or if you’re older and more relaxed with a family – this may not bother you. But if you’re in the middle like me and looking for a fun and lively “authentic” foreign experience, you may find Barcelona spiritually lacking.
Areas – Barrios (Where to Stay), Getting Around
Most people on arrival flock to the historic centre – comprised of the Born, the Gothic Quarters and the Raval. And it makes a lot of sense as herein lies the charm of Barcelona, seen from outside. Nightlife happens here, daylife happens also, but after a month or two you could find that the constant stream of tourists taking your picture as you pop out to by milk in your pijamas in the morning a little too much. The Born is perhaps the most beautiful and elegant of the three areas, the Gothic the most awe-inspiring in terms of history and architecture. However, many find these areas stressful to live in and all kinds of neighbour-wars occur due to noise pollution and pissing. The Raval is not much different – edgy and exciting for nightlife but also full of whores, drug-dealers and pickpockets 24 hours a day. Gràcia is a more sophisticated option, a couple of kilometres north of the chaos and 15 minutes by metro. Here the streets are much quieter, and house a huge array of bohemian and cosmopolitan people from around the world. The choice of restaurants is enormous throughout this neighbourhood, as are shops, indie cinemas and alternative therapies. Decent apartments are hard to come by though, and it’s not the most friendly of places. These are the zones where all the guiris (gringos, i.e. you) live, but If I were to stay for a second year I’d migrate to one of the following:
Poble Sec – In between the Raval and the huge mountainous park, Montjuïc, this is the neighbourhood with the highest air quality in all the city, is very central, and has a lively and welcoming mix of immigrant inhabitants from four corners of the globe.
Poble Nou – Is the most modern part of the city. Apartment blocks that look like Playstations line the huge avenues, trees abound and traffic and noise is much reduced. The recent housing crisis has left many apartments here vacant and a few hot deals on very luxurious spaces could be made. Oh yeah, you’re also going to be 5-10 minutes walk from the 11km of sandy beaches.
Sarrià – A quaint little village that’s been swallowed up by the ever-expanding business zone of the city, Sarrià is where most of the money lives in Barcelona. Quiet, leafy, and with easy escapes to more countryside settings, I would live in Sarrià for the ability to really escape the mayhem of the centre, and to find affluent local clients for my Coaching business. As a chap from suburban Oxfordshire, this is a neighbourhood that not only feels more like home, but has the potential for a higher quality of life, with better options of integration into local culture.
Just to add, there is an extensive Metro and Bus system, although it comes to a halt at midnight during the week; and the aforementioned Bicing system is fantastic (apart from when your brakes are broken or you’re in a rush and your destination station is full).
To sum up: Who is Barcelona for?
Lifestyle Designers that are well established in their respective fields with decent income who want a good standard of living somewhere somewhat exotic – but still a fairly comfortable and predictable experience.
What to do next – information, arrival
Barcelona is a very safe city, violence is almost unheard of, even in the subway at 3am on a Saturday night you can sit comfortably given that nothing is likely to happen to you, even if you are a lone woman. The big annoyance in the tourist centre is the amount of Pickpockets that are at work (chiefly in the Ramblas, Raval and in the metro). Keep your hands over your valuables and try not to look like a first-time gringo (if you can!).
Coming from the airport, you can take a direct bus to Plaza Catalunya – bang in the middle of the city. As a Lifestyle Designer, I’m sure you can follow the suggestion of using social media to get yourself a couple of friends or guides for the first few days. It’s a great way to connect with people that share your interests that already live in the area.
The following sentence offers links to up-to-date information on Health, finding a place to Rent, information on Residency and Visas, good Food, Dance Music, Tourist Information and Guides. And yes, there are places to keep up with English football, although U.S. sports will be a lot trickier. (For Aussie Rules or Ice-Hockey, don’t even ask!)
Now I’ve come to the end of this post I’ve realized I’ve written more than I expected, and feel as if I’ve done a pretty thorough job. If there’s anything else you feel is important or would like to know from this post – please let me know in the comments below, that way I can keep updating the information to make as good a guide for you as possible.
September 10, 2010 § 2 Comments
Last night I met up with Àngels in front of Café Zurich, which if you’re ever in Barcelona is the de facto meet-up place in the centre of the city centre. And being de facto we instead didn’t go inside Zurich but went in search of a quieter place a few blocks into the atmospheric Raval; grimy neighbourhood of artists, drug-dealers and pickpockets. 8pm is a tricky time in Spain to meet someone for a drink: some people are finishing work and others could be at any interval between breakfast and slumber. Coffee or beer is thus a difficult decision to make at 8 o’clock, and we somewhat suitably went for claras and brave potatoes. (That’s orangeade shandies and stale day-old potatoes in mayonnaise and spicy sauce).
Àngels was my coursemate and partner for one of the most important exercises from the Summer Courses in Cazalla. We shared a rather sobering experience just two weeks before this evening drink and it was time to catch up before I left the city. As conversations can go after a couple of drinks, this one went pretty esoteric, as we discussed those strange synchronicities we experience from time to time in our relationships – you know, like when you have a strange dream about that person you haven’t seen in eight months and they send you a message the next day. It could be the case, we pondered, that the 10% of our minds of which we are conscious are our own. And it could be the case that the other 90%: that spooky unconscious part, is actually collective throughout the entire species.
Now I’m not going to deny that dreams and messages and surprising synchronicities actually happen, but I am from Oxford; and if something is not proven and confirmed by the scientific method and readily repeatable under the explanation laid out in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, my culture impels me to cry “charlatan!” But in these moments I remain with the first lecture I had at University, which laid out the rules and model of the intellectual, who constantly seeks to question that which is readily accepted by the crowd, and constantly seeks to search credence in that which is readily dismissed. In other words, give mumbo jumbo a chance, my son.
I’m also reminded of that great quote by Nietzsche who claimed that “Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity.” Uhm but now it seems we’re getting off-topic. Back to the mumbo jumbo..
Now Àngels and I worked together in Cazalla on an exercise named “The Scenario”. We were both drawn to different places around the monastery in which to do the exercise – her in an exhibition room that was like a long corridor with a cold ceramic floor and porcelain and artwork straddling the walls. I was drawn to, very strangely, the altar of the church – ready to act out my Scenario on stage to a capacity of some 500 people in a cold, dark and echoey chapel in the middle of the day. Rays of light found their way in from time to time, and both luke warm and chilly sensations wrapped our bodies at unpredictable time intervals. Of course we had a cup of warm tea to sip from at all times, and upon choosing subject matter for this exercise, Àngels selected a professional relationship to work on; me, another long-term flirt that seemed dead in the water and mired by a series of delays and mental games.
Again, what’s necessary to carry out this exercise is space in which to do it, and various pieces of paper to spread out around that space. The Scenario also benefits from having a partner present. So, first of all you represent yourself on a piece of paper, and place that where it needs to be. Then, you represent the other person – the person whose relationship with you you want to improve or learn more about – on another piece of paper. This could be a simple drawing, the writing of their name or even just their initials. Place the other where they need to be, in relation to you. Then, write context 1, context 2 and context 3 on three more pieces of paper and place those in spaces, or vantage points, around the relationship of you and the other. More or less in places that feel about right. The Scenario should now be set up.
So mysteriously enough, I’m at the centre of the altar, facing the other, who for all intended purposes we can mysteriously call A, who is looking back towards me. If this were a wedding we’re bride and groom. Cue unconscious groan, cue shared face of spooked realization between Àngels and I. This was not manipulated, I only put the papers down in places that seemed “right”. Three vantage points of context became situated as 1) someone like the best man, diagonally situated behind me and seeing the relationship from my side and up-close; 2) random ceremony attendee seated on the bride’s side of the church fairly distant from the action; and 3) the priest himself, unbiasedly placed between the two of us as if to form some kind of triangle.
I’m asked by Àngels, playing coach during this part of the exercise, to step into my own shoes, onto my piece of paper, in the middle of the Scenario. I’m asked about what I think from there, what I feel from there, and what I know from there. I’m asked to reflect on what’s going on between me and A, how this relationship is taking shape, and why it’s like it is. I leave the Scenario and am asked what the relationship gives me, and what I give to the relationship. I’m then asked to make some general comments about the experience of “playing” myself in the Scenario and give some feedback. I don’t really know anything I didn’t know before, but I certainly feel more connected to the relationship in terms of how those old feelings and ideas have been brought back to the fore, rather than scattered and half-forgotten as they were before the exercise. Okay… Now I’m asked something about football and I get excited because my team is in the Champions League for the first time in our history and we’re playing the European Champions next month and it’s all rather exciting and … my state of self-association and self-indulgence is completely broken and I’m in a clearer frame of mind to play A.
So I’m invited to step into A‘s shoes. It’s seemingly difficult to really put yourself in the position of the other, but by standing over her representation on that little piece of paper on the floor and looking towards where I was standing just moments before help me to get some perspective. I imagine her physiology and her tone of voice and the kind of things that she says. I try to turn off my damned analytic Oxfordshire science-brain for a few moments and permit the – dare I say it – collective unconscious to infiltrate my body and work it’s magic. I look back over at me and feel smaller, more feminine, more fragile; actually more like A.
And you know the next sensation that arrived? A strong tingling in my crotch, quickly followed by some kind of energetic current running around my knees and up my legs, and also in my hands and lower arms. I’m in the shoes of this girl, looking and thinking about me, and feeling totally and utterly turned on. I obviously start to doubt the whole Scenario but also marvel at the size of my own ego being able to produce so much certainty that I can turn a girl on so much by just standing in front of her. I feel as if I want to quit the Scenario as the whole arrangement just feels so stupid but Àngels starts to batter me with questions, the same ones as before but picking up on every possibility and semi-answer and grilling me for more and more information.
And as my mind, now firmly in the shoes of A, starts to recollect the specific whys and wherefores of the relationship, I start to feel static. My whole body freezes, arms outstretched and at 45 degrees from my sides; feet unable to move, internal feelings and tinglings one by one starting to turn themselves off and I feel utterly frozen. Some kind of sensation is present as a kind of wave covering my whole body and I hear from my timid and tepid voice at responding to Àngels’s questions that I’m totally associated in the role of A; or what I believe could be the role of A or whatever. I’m grilled and grilled and I stand still for what seems like fifteen minutes – completely disabled from moving my body the whole time. When I leave the Scenario I’m completely short of breath and in disbelief at what had just occurred.
I’m asked about what I’ve experienced that A gives and receives from the relationship and it dawns on me for the first time, that cruel and difficult as this person can be, they are actually frozen solid from fear. They may have had at some point some kind of romantic or physical experience that has caused them to shut themselves off from their body for some kind of self-preserving purpose or self control. Now this is hypothesizing, totally, but the big breakthrough for me was that this relationship is not about me and how well or badly I was trying to seduce this woman, but that this woman has a history and an extremely complex set of psychological and physiological behaviours – possibly outside of her conscious recognition – that completely determine her responses to my advances. And that if I want to recreate some kind of relationship with this person I would have to radically change my advance so as to continue with the presence that attracts her to me – and she certainly seemed attracted – while at the same time respecting the fact that she could be very afraid of any kind of strong proposition. And then I seemed to recollect at the very same moment every story and every piece of information that A had given me about her past and her past relationships; and once compared to this realization of how she might feel, her entire story suddenly aligned and started to make sense.
I was then invited to step into the context: as best man, as observer and as priest. I felt the relationship unfold from three different perspectives and saw how possible it looked and what could be built long-term between us. I realized that I was in control of the destiny of this relationship – well, not in complete dominant control – but I had an awareness that could help me out massively in terms of how to treat A, how to make her feel safer and more comfortable with me, and how I could – with this new knowledge in mind – really go about approaching her in a drastically different way. Of course, that’s if I’m motivated to, and I’m not at all sure if I am.
The big learning here had more to do with compassion, and how it’s easy to turn yourself against the opposite sex when you see their behaviour as something that again and again hurts or disappoints you. If you can successfully put yourself into their shoes and look back at yourself; if you can see the relationship as a whole from a variety of different perspectives, you can learn much more about what’s really going on there. And bearing in mind that both women and men produce patterns of behaviour based on often unconscious manifestations of past experiences, you begin to see that someone’s difficulty, indecisiveness, slipperiness or cruelty towards you isn’t necessarily their fault, and isn’t necessarily under their control. And this new insight breeds compassion, tenderness and love: real values from which to build a future relationship with that person, or with another.
But come on, compassion, tenderness and love are nothing new.. Jesus had that one figured out and he lived two thousand years ago, even before personal development blogs.
Later on, Àngels had a go at the exercise. I’ll spare you most of the details because they’re hers, and you’ve already experienced how the exercise does and can work. The main thing she took away was an incredibly sobering experience upon realizing exactly the stress and pain her boss was going through, and exactly why she had to maintain a certain distance from Àngels at work. So many things, until now difficult and confusing, suddenly became clear and logical, and when I invited Àngels to really take on the role of her boss and wear her shoes, put on her clothes and do her hair, she had a huge emotional swelling in her body and burst into tears at the recognition of the grief of her boss’s situation. When she stepped aside into the vantage point of the context moments after, she saw everything with a cold objectivity that didn’t at all reflect the severe emotion expressed just a few minutes earlier. Spooky indeed.
And you want to know what is spooky, and why this post began by talking about synchronicities? Mmmmm….! Because things have happened. Things have happened in the “real” world. We’re not sure if we’ve created these changes by giving off subtle signals in our body language and tone of voice that tell our respective others that we now completely understand them and have some extra kind of compassion for them – or if they realize on an unconscious level, given that this level is of course completely collective (!), that something out there in the universe has been hugely altered.
Now what things have changed? Well it’s only been two weeks, so we’re still in the early stages here, but Àngels’s boss opened herself up on a hugely personal level, talking about a difficult personal event with incredible frankness within the workplace – something seemingly impossible in their particular professional context of one month prior. And with A? Well we messaged each other for the first time in over six months this week, and she’s encountered a huge and important personal change: something that completely changes the dynamic if there were ever to be an us. In fact, a dynamic that could very strangely work out, if things should go ahead as planned. (If we ever get married be certain that I’ll let you know..)
Now in conclusion to all of that, this rational mind of scientific method is inching ever closer to the wonders of the intangible, the unmeasurable, the witchlike, and the kind of stuff we can’t put in a wheelbarrow. Am I correct in doing so? Who knows. Is the information that Àngels and I received whilst in the shoes of the other 100% correct and verifiable? Who knows. In fact, it’s probably not even that important. And I’m certainly not about to ask A if she suffers from an abnormally stunted connection with her body due to extreme waves of paralyzing fear that manifest at romantic propositions. So in this case, what are these two-and-a-half-thousand words of random story all about? Well, based on what we got out of the Scenario that very day in Cazalla, we’ve both understood our relationships in a completely different way. We’ve already noticed changes and we’ve found more options on how to act with our respective others in different circumstances. Put short, we have more awareness, more perspective and more autonomy and strength in building these relationships into something caring and mutually beneficial. And that my friends, is the wonder of Personal Coaching.
What next? For some real freaky synchronicity shit I’m gonna head on over to youtube to check out some family constellations.. And later tonight I’m gonna put myself in the shoes of Lula to see if the Brazilian government can give me a grant to carry out my project there next year. I mean, I’ll be helping out, why not. Gotta try and harness the power of the collective unconscious, right? Muuuaaaahahahahahaaaa…
Quick question for you: have you ever experienced any weird kind of synchronicities? Any dreams that later came true or brought about strange coincidences?
Do you have any opinions on any of the themes discussed above? Your comments will be extremely welcomed!
And as a bonus and as an incentive, if five people in the comments section ask me to write out clear and specific instructions for carrying out this exercise at home, I’ll update this post and put them in this space here..
Procrastinating? Pick up your Free Workbook and overcome that habit, today.
September 7, 2010 § Leave a comment
Here’s a rather strange but scarily effective exercise for knowing whether or not your lover – or the person who could be – is a good match for you long term.
Ok. Think of that person.
How are they? What are they wearing? What kind of expression do they have? What kind of a mood are they in? What are they saying? How do they make you feel?
Good. Just to let you know, those questions were total misnomers; but it’s good to get you limbered up anyhow. Here comes the real work: grab some pieces of paper, around 6 will probably suffice.
Now thinking of your loved one again, what are the main areas of importance in their life?
To give you an example, I did this exercise about a certain girl I spent a long time flirting with. Now I travel a lot and am therefore chronically single and don’t have a loved one, but that’s a story we’ll not delve into here. Things had died down between us and I kind of wondered what ifs and buts, but for the sake of learning this exercise I had to use some example – life or death romance case or not. So I identified her main life areas as: family, friends, the city where she lived, the city where she was born and xyzxyzzzz – which sadly enough was both her work, study, interest and hobby ;). I also put down fun, or leisure choices. I’m sure you can think of the most suitable options with your loved one in mind.
Now, write or draw or express in some way each of the life areas onto separate pieces of paper, so that there is one area per piece. Find a floor space that’s clean enough and large enough for you to wander around in for a few minutes and place those pieces of paper across the floor where they need to be. Just put them down in various places that feel right. I had my six pieces of paper, or areas, in front of me pretty much in a straight line, running from left to right.
Now, standing to one side of the pieces of paper, spend a couple of moments and reflect: how’s the relationship going? What kind of future do you think is possible? What kind of future do you want? What kind of future does he or she want?
Now, when you’re ready, take a step so that you’re standing in one of their six areas. Take a moment to imagine and feel what it’s like to be there. Notice what attracts you about this area – if anything. Notice what separates you from this area, if anything. Could you be here, long term? Or could you not? By the way – how certain are you of the information or feelings that you’re getting from that space there? Do you lack information about that area of your lover’s life? If you lack information, would you find it useful to find out more?
Repeat this short exercise, standing in each of your lover’s areas, one by one. Notice what attracts you, notice what repels you. Notice if you could remain there, notice if you couldn’t. Again, what do you know? How do you know what you know? Is there any information missing?
When you’ve finished in each of the areas, step outside the areas, and if you can, take another step further back. From there take in everything you’ve seen, thought and felt..
And from that space there, check what you know about the history of your lover. How was their past? What were they like? How does their past influence each of their areas today? Is there any information about your lover that’s missing? Speak to yourself out loud if you need to, or take notes.
Now, look over at their areas and contrast them with your areas. Are you interested in the same things? To what extent? How much of a match do you seem from there? Could you compromise in any of the areas?
And finally from that vantage point where you now find yourself, ask yourself: where is this person heading to? What is their future going to be like? Hypothesize.
Just as a little test, ask yourself: if I changed the context of the relationship, what would I then perceive? By context I mean to say, what if that person were a friend? A sibling? A mere acquaintance? A client?
In conclusion, what is that person’s process in life? What are they becoming??
I’d love to hear your comments about your experiences with this exercise – what you thought, what you felt, and if you had any changes in perspective. Remember, reading and imagining will NOT do the exercise justice! The information is what you feel whilst stood in each of the areas, so get up off your computer.
Also, if you find the explication unclear, or a bit difficult to understand in places, please let me know so that I can improve the text. These exercises are always much easier for me working person to person. Writing them down for me is still an experiment.
Comment box is below ;)
This is the third of four things I learnt this summer in La Cazalla de la Sierra, Seville, Southern Spain. We chose an aleatory wing of a dilapidated monastery from where to carry out the above exercise, whose red tint glass ceiling panels cast a stark bloodshot shadow across the whole event. If you can find a more dramatic place to carry out this exercise or any other of my coaching exercises, I suggest you to do it.
By the way, you know what ended up seeming a better fit for certain long time flirting girl?
Bratty little sister.
Procrastinating? Pick up your Free Workbook and overcome that habit, today.
September 3, 2010 § Leave a comment
A good way of evaluating the impact your project, artwork or business will have in its community is by measuring it against the following model:
Where and how do you and your work fit into these distinctions?
Let me explain. A first step for any child at school or any beginner in the workplace would be to begin producing work that’s standard, i.e. producing something that is as good as the general norm for their marketplace. This means that a person would have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to produce acceptable work. At school they would pass their exams without afan and win the choice to go to an okay University. Later, they would probably work full-time to just about make a living, being unrecognizable from the general masses. But nobody would be able to criticize their honest and effective work.
Excelling is a step beyond. An excellent student wows teachers and fights for a place at Oxbridge or in the Ivy League. An excellent musician is recruited by promotors to tour out of town and to sign for record labels. Actresses go to hollywood and web start-ups gain huge volumes of traffic, making 8-figure exits to the likes of Yahoo and Google. To excel is to become the undoubted best in your field.
And innovation? Perhaps the trickiest of the lot. Here we’re one step beyond excelling, we’re finding shortcuts, new connections, new ways of interacting and new ways of carrying out our work. An innovative student may come top of his class because he learned how to speed read, or perhaps he garnered a copy of the answer key from the teacher’s cupboard. An innovative rugby player was the first in his generation to use the gym on a daily basis, but his weightlifting counterpart secretly munched in the locker-room twilight on steroids. An innovative business cuts out the middleman, linking buyers and sellers together through a simple search engine facility. Get Rich Quick schemers are often the most nimble innovators of the lot.
Innovation is key to progress, is both positive and negative, and posits a new anti-hero to the Exceller. But once you begin innovating you’re now on your own in a newly defined field – starting from scratch you first have to make your new work an industry standard, and then consider excelling.
What would you rather be doing.. Excelling or Innovating?
Let me just suggest, that if you’re just starting out, and dreaming of one, the other, or both for your career – you may just want to start out standardizing – otherwise you may never take those tricky first steps forward.
Real excellers and innovators will always shine through, once they have the platform from which to do it.
Procrastinating? Pick up your Free Workbook and overcome that habit, today.