I got interested in minimalism again this week and this “Start Here” page is dangerously close to increasing my currently open browser tabs by a factor of 3.
Last night I finished reading book 73 of 75 for 2014! Thanks to two children’s books I had to read for my job I’m actually ahead of schedule. I am actually surprised I managed to pull it off, but so thrilled. I’ve also been adding books to my to-read list like crazy lately. I’m so excited for reading in 2015.
I’ve had a wicked cold this whole week, so I think the weekend is going to be pretty relaxed for me. Christmas totally crept up on me and it’s starting to feel strange that I’m not home for the holidays. I think the 24th and 25th will be hard, especially being in a different time zone from my loved ones, but on the 27th I fly out for my vacation so that will make things a little easier! I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your family and friends. xo.
This is my first Christmas away from home, which has helped me to get a little creative with gift-giving. I can’t just go to the mall and then wrap something up – I have to think about shipping and timing more than I’ve ever had to before. It’s a good thing though, as I’ve had to think more intentionally about what I want to give people this holiday season and what is important to me. I realized that when I am faced with getting a great gift for someone, there are two major ideas I tend to turn to:
1. Give an experience:
Happiness research backs me up on this – spending money on experiences rather than things offers the most return on your dollar investment in terms of enjoyment. These days it’s getting harder to buy someone an interesting thing, especially since most people buy themselves the things they want or are trying to get rid of their extraneous belongings. Gifting an activity is a wonderful way to sidestep all those concerns while still showing your care and thought for the person you’re giving to.
Some experiences that are fun to give (and receive!): tickets to a concert, play, or sports game, vouchers for the spa or an interesting fitness class, a gift certificate for a cooking class or workshop, or a night out at a nice restaurant. If price is a concern, look for local events happening in your community through smaller theatres, restaurants and other small businesses and you’ll be more likely to find something in your price range.
2. Give a book:
Books are the best of both worlds – they’re a physical object, yes, but they also offer the reader a whole experience, perspective, and set of new ideas. Books are my favourite type of thing to both give because you’re able to be so thoughtful and generous while spending as much or as little as you can afford. I believe that a book that meant a lot to someone is one of the more special presents you could ever receive. Plus, the gift-giver will usually write a personal message on the inside flap, and how great is it to grow a personalized library!?
Note: I have read and would personally recommend all of the above books. They are all among my favourites of the books that I read this year. You can see all my favourite books and recommendations right here.
This week on the podcast, Laura and I are discussing giving great gifts. We touch on the two themes I’ve just mentioned, but also talk a lot more about where to turn if the occasion calls for a special object (spoiler: it’s Etsy!). We also have a conversation about ways we can give back at this time of year to charities and organizations in our communities and worldwide. In my humble opinion, it’s a great episode and I’m proud to share it with you. Have a listen on our blog or by subscribing to the show on iTunes.
What are your favourite things to give as gifts? What will you be buying for those on your list this year?
I recently had the privilege of having my mother as a visitor here in Busan. It was an amazing opportunity to show someone around to all the things I love best about the city I’ve called home for the past 9 months. It was also a wonderful reminder of what makes this place so special. Until I moved here, I’d never heard of Busan – it’s not well known internationally compared to Seoul – but I completely fell in love with it once I arrived. If you ever get the chance to visit, there are so many things worth experiencing here. Here are my top recommendations for Busan, whether you have just a short time in the city or are staying for a while.
Haeundae Beach and Dongbaek Island coastal walk: The beach becomes crowded with umbrellas during the summer months but it’s beautiful at any time of year. The views from this beach are some of my favourite in Busan. The boardwalk is a lovely place for a stroll, and just past the Westin Chosun hotel it turns into a gorgeous coastal walk around Dongbaek island, where the APEC summit was held in 2005.
Gwangalli Beach: As lovely as Haeundae is, Gwangalli is my favourite of Busan’s 5 beaches. The Diamond suspension bridge is particularly beautiful at sunset. Gwangalli beach has a very vibrant beach strip of bars and restaurants running right along the beach road so it’s a fun place to spend time. Almost every café along the strip has views out onto the beach and the water.
Igidae Coastal Walk: Not far from Gwangalli is the beautiful scenic coastal hike at Igidae Park. It offers views back towards the Gwangan bridge, the shiny buildings of Marine City and Haeundae beach. It’s not a difficult hike, but the path hugs the cliffs and has wonderful vistas of the ocean all the way along to Oryukdo – two pretty islands set just offshore. You can easily take a cab back from Oryukdo once you’re finished hiking.
Shinsegae Department Store and Spaland: Busan is home to the biggest department store in the world, though it doesn’t feel like the biggest when you’re actually inside. Shinsegae is located in an expensive area of Busan, Centum City, and has a whole day’s worth of entertainment inside if you want it: countless stores, a huge international food court, a movie theatre, an ice skating rink, and of course Spaland. Spaland is a luxury version of a traditional Korean spa. On top of the classic baths area (note: this area is nude and gender-segregated), it also has a huge number of themed saunas, TV rooms, massage chairs, two restaurants and an oxygen-therapy clinic. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to feel pampered for only about $15.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: There are countless temples in Busan, most of them in the mountains, but this coastal temple is one of the best. It does get touristy, but it’s absolutely stunning and definitely worth a visit. It’s set right into the coast with views out over the water.
Nampodong neighbourhood and Jagalchi Fish Market: This is such a fun neighbourhood. It’s chock-full of things to do with everything from vintage clothing stores, food from all over the world, international markets and a book alley. Not to mention the Jagalchi fish market, one of Busan’s biggest claims to fame. The market is crowded and very alive with every kind of seafood you can imagine. It’s such an interesting place to walk through. Nampo is also a great place to get hotteok ssiat, see below!
Lotte Giants baseball game: One of the most fun activities in Busan is a weekend late-afternoon baseball game at Sajik stadium. The open-air stadium is surrounded by mountains and is actually quite picturesque at sunset in the summertime! Add to that the fact that you can bring as much food and booze in from outside the game (and the prices for alcohol are identical to those outside the stadium anyways), and the hilarious cheers and dances of the fans and you can see why it’s a total blast.
Dalmaji hill and Vesta Spa: The second most famous spa in Busan lives on Dalmaji hill. One of the reasons it’s so popular is the views it offers of Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches from its rooftop. Dalmaji road is also a lovely place to walk or have a coffee, especially at cherry blossom season when the trees are in bloom.
Hike Mount Jangsan or Mount Geumyeonsan: Busan should really be famous for its abundance of nature alone. It has been so lovely to be so close to both the mountains and the sea for the first time in my life. Both of these mountains have beautiful hikes and are so close to and accessible from the heart of the city.
Dolsot bibimbap from any kimbap cheonguk: Bibimbap is a very traditional Korean dish of rice, vegetables and gochujang, a spicy paste. Dolsot means served in a hot stone bowl, so the rice on the bottom gets a bit crispy. A kimbap cheonguk is a bit like a Korean diner – they have bright orange signs and are everywhere. Look for “돌솥 비빔밥” on the menu.
Cheesy Kimchijeon from Tony’s: You can kimchijeon, a kind of savoury pancake, at a lot of Korean restaurants, but my favourite is from a little hole in the wall in the Kyungsung University area in Busan. It’s cheap and comes served with melted mozzarella on top. Plus Tony, the owner, is hilarious and so welcoming.
Dak galbi: A really delicious dish cooked right on your table by the waiters. It’s a type of stir fry, usually made with chicken or seafood, a really delicious sauce and plenty of vegetables. We always order cheese-filled tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes), cheese, and rice to go with it. This a type of restaurant, labelled with “닭 갈비”.
Shabu Maxim Gwangan: Shabu shabu is a really fun type of meal where you cook your food yourself in pots of hot broth on the table and then make spring rolls using rice papers, fresh veggies and plenty of different sauces. Shabu Maxim is my favourite because it looks out over Gwangalli beach and you get your own individual hot pot to cook everything yourself as opposed to cooking everything in one in the centre of the table.
Hotteok ssiat: Hotteok are a type of Korean street food – deep-fried pastries stuffed with cinnamon sugar. Hotteok ssiat is the typical Busan version which comes stuffed with cinnamon, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and peanuts. The best to be had are in Nampodong.
Busan is really a wonderful city. It’s considered a “second city” compared to the larger and more famous Seoul, but it’s beautiful and fascinating.
Have you ever wanted to visit South Korea? If you’ve been to Busan before, are there any other places you’d add to this list?
I am always very inspired by creative Austin Kleon. This week it was his (older) posts on keeping a logbook and getting a calendar to stay motivated. I reappropriated the logbook idea and am now keeping a tiny daily gratitude journal which I love. Also, his post about how all questions can be boiled down to just two is brilliant.
This holiday season let’s practice JOMO, not FOMO. “It is about giving yourself the space to think and experience things without freaking out about what you ‘should’ be doing instead. You’re enjoying what you’re doing in the here and now and not on social media broadcasting or seeing what everybody else is doing.” Yes!
This week I had more than one battle with future-tripping, or worrying about things that haven’t happened yet (and may never happen!). Things that helped a lot: this video from Marie Forleo and this article from Jess Lively.
Last week I decided I might move to Spain next year (my plans shift all the time) which spurred a re-opening of my Spanish programs! I use Duolingo and I’m taking this course on Memrise which I like a lot.
I re-read Steven Pressfield’s amazing book The War of Art for the third? fourth? time this week because I needed to hear it. It never ceases to both comfort and inspire me. I really believe everyone could benefit from reading these ideas about creativity and resistance.
I loved this perspective on travel. “If you want to travel in a way that is good and fast, then it won’t be cheap. If you want it cheap and fast, then it won’t be good. Or you can have it good and cheap, but you sacrifice speed.”
It’s the weekend! And life is very, very good. I’m looking forward to so many things: Christmas, my vacation in the Philippines, my travels after my contract is finished, my yoga teacher training. I feel really blessed. What are you thankful for today? I hope you have a truly excellent and inspiring weekend.