travel

how to thrive in hustle culture

palm springs

A week ago I was sitting poolside in Palm Spring working my way through the New York Times and next-leveling my tan. I’m the sort of Times reader who’s in it for the fun stuff: the Magazine, the Travel section, Arts & Leisure. Maybe the Book Review if I’m feeling intellectual. So I had no intention of perusing the Business section.

But then, from behind my movie-star sunglasses I spied a fascinating title: “The Drudge Report: How did millennial workaholism become an aspirational lifestyle?” I’m obsessed with all psychological phenomena having to do with millennials (You’re so mysterious! Such exotic birds.) and I’m on an absolute crusade against the busy-ness epidemic that’s engulfed our era. There was no way I wasn’t going to read a paragraph or two.

Fifteen minutes later, I had devoured the whole 3-page spread with my mouth hanging wide open, huffing and harrumphing and muttering Can you believe this shit?!? under my breath like someone’s grouchy uncle Al.

This piece on the rise of Hustle Culture exposed my non-millennial brain to such pithy phrases as Rise and Grind, Hustle Harder, and (a personal favorite) Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.

Or perhaps: when you’re bleeding out of your eyeballs?

What in the actual fuck is happening here people?

If a whole (very large, very influenceable) segment of the population is buying into the #ThankGodIt’sMonday war cry of workaholism, we’ve got a problem.

palm springs

Now I’m not advocating we while away our days eating Taco Bell and watching reality TV on the couch. Or join some giant hippie commune that devotes itself to brewing organic kombucha and smoking copious quantities of pot. (Unless of course that’s your jam, in which case, turn on, tune in and carry on.)

I get it. I’ve been there. I graduated from college with a bachelor’s in Anxiety, Insecurity and Overwork. I’m no stranger to 80+ hour workweeks and an insouciant, I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead outlook on life.

But here’s the thing. If I was miraculously transported back in time (a common daydream of mine, by the way—I spend a lot of time fantasizing about how much of a badass I’d be if I went through college with the knowledge and confidence of a 40-year-old), I’d do it SO DIFFERENTLY.

Image: Olaiya Land

First of all, I wouldn’t be obsessed with graduating summa cum laude from an Ivy League institution. Back in the day, I thought this meant something. I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought it meant everything. And I sacrificed my health and happiness to make it happen. If I was an undergrad again, I’d learn for the love of learning. I’d coast in areas that didn’t matter. I’d realize that there’s no degree in the world that unlocks the secret of a good life.

Next up, I’d worship at the temple of sleep. I’d get a solid 8-9 hours every night. I often wonder how much saner and less anxious a person I’d have been 20 years ago if I’d given even half a fuck about getting enough sleep. Needing sleep is not a marker of weakness or work ethic. Despite what Elon Musk might have to say on the matter, sleep and rest are the building blocks of wellbeing and mental performance. (Also, have you seen Elon Musk lately? No offense to the guy since he does seem to be a legit genius and all, but he’s looking a bit worse for wear.)

This time-traveling message in a bottle to myself would also include the advice to pursue balance and to work smarter instead of longer, or even harder. There’s a time and a place for hard work and even long hours, but killing yourself 24/7 and venerating it as “crushing life” will catch up with you eventually. Sending work emails at 3 AM to impress your manager is not the answer. Scarfing a soggy ham sandwich hunched over your keyboard like Quasimodo does not make you a Bawse.

Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not alone on this BTW. As the author of our Times article mentions, there’s a lot of “data showing long hours improve neither productivity nor creativity.”

And still we cling to the myth that the answer is to “hustle harder”.

What if the answer was actually to “hustle smarter”? Or nuttier still, to stop “hustling” all together? What if the key to a happy, fulfilling life was to both look for work you find fulfilling in some way (let’s be real: not every individual on the planet is going to “do what they love”) and to seek the value in the work that you do? Almost all jobs can be done with dignity and pride, especially if you focus on how they help others, or make the world a little brighter.

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What if the Big Secret was not to make work the driver of your every action and the justification for living a stressed-out, social-media-scrolling existence?

I’m going to balance precariously on a fairly unpopular limb and say the answer is to create space for things like reading the New York Times poolside in Palm Springs. For charting the hidden corners of Paris with your camera at dawn. With no laptop and no phone and all your social media accounts uninstalled.

The answer is to make time for escaping to places that fill you with wonder and delight. Whether that means wandering the world for a year or taking a sunny afternoon off for a backyard picnic with your kids. It doesn’t have to be fancy. And it doesn’t have to be far. The road to greater productivity and creativity is paved with Out of Office notifications. Because the key to doing great things, in life and at work, is to create the space to actually have great ideas.

Image: Olaiya Land

how to pack like a pro

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello lovelies!

If you're following me over on Instagram, you know that I'm in Lisbon recuperating from a nasty bout of food poisoning. (In case any of you were wondering, food poisoning is THE WORST. I can't recommend it at all.) So I'm not exactly feeling up to adventuring all over town. Which is great news for you, because it means I finally have time to get this post up!

Whether or not I am actually a travel "pro" is up for debate. I'm not a flight attendant or anything hardcore like that. But I do spend 3-4 months a year living out of a suitcase in some near- or far-flung location on the globe. 

In my opinion, the tricky thing about packing is finding the right balance between economy of things (I mean, you're going to be the one lugging that overstuffed suitcase around) and comfort. I always aim to bring the minimum amount of stuff that will allow me to function relatively well and keep me from feeling too homesick/out of sorts on my travels. It also helps to remind myself that most things can be purchased wherever I'm going, so it's not the end of the world if I don't get it exactly right.

I hope this list of my favorite packing tricks and gear will make your next trip a bit more stress-free. Let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful. And if you've got any brilliant packing tips of your own, please share!

XO,

Olaiya


Image: Olaiya Land

LUGGAGE

I am a BIG fans of packing light. One carry-on rolling bag and one tote can be totally sufficient if your trip isn't too long. And it makes you a lot more mobile, especially if you want to use public transportation. (Also, it's a real bummer if your checked bags get lost.) I have The Away Bigger Cary-On and I love it! I sometimes use this smaller carry-on when I know I'm going to be on a European airline. (Use this link for $20 off your Away purchase.) I use this larger bag for longer trips and this case when I need to bring a lot of camera gear. I always toss this ultra-light collapsible duffle in my suitcase to allow for the inevitable purchase (or ten) I might make while traveling.

 

CLOTHING

- Layers are your friend! Since you won't have your full wardrobe at your disposal, choose lighter weight items that you can layer in case it gets cold. Bulky sweaters are the ultimate space stealer.

- Remember that in most parts of the world, it is completely acceptable to wear the same clothes two or more days in a row. Let your comfort level be your guide. I usually never bring more than 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of jeans, a skirt and a dress. 

- If you're having trouble fitting your clothes into your suitcase, I highly recommend these Travel Space Bags. They are basically a large, very sturdy Ziploc bag with a one-way valve at one end. You put your clothes in, seal, and then press out all the excess air. Your clothes magically take up half the space! (Be sure to order the medium size if you're getting them for your carry-on.)

Woolite packets and a sink stopper (many foreign sinks don't have stoppers) are great to have for emergency laundry and washing personal items. Adding a travel clothesline ensures you'll have somewhere to hang your laundry up.

- I try to bring mostly items that don't wrinkle. But for pieces that need to be freshened up, this wrinkle spray is AMAZING (no joke--it has changed my life travel-wise) and the bottle is small enough to put in your carry-on luggage.

- I always tell people coming on my workshops and retreats to please, please, please bring comfortable shoes and to BREAK THEM IN before they come. I can't stress this enough. You will inevitably walk a ton on your travels and blisters can ruin a trip. I pack plenty of these extra-sticky Band-Aids for emergencies.

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Image: Olaiya Land

TOILETRIES

- I use Nalgene and GoToob containers because they are leak-proof, super sturdy and stand up to cabin pressure.

- I discovered Au de Raisin from Caudalie on a recent trip to France. Now I never travel without it. I use it as part of my daily beauty routine and spritz it on my face during long flights to improve hydration.

- I always toss a couple of these Koruna masks in my bag to use while I'm traveling. They're loaded with hyaluronic acid and other skin-plumping goodness that help offset the stress of travel and keep my skin looking bright and fresh. 

- Lip Medex Balm always and forever. 

- In my book, La Roche-Posay makes the best sunscreen. Bonus points for the TSA-approved 1.7 oz bottle.

- These are hands-down the best nail polish remover pads on earth. They somehow magically thoroughly remove polish and moisturize your nails at the same time. And the container they come in is tiny. 

- I light an incense match or two when I arrive at my AirBnB or hotel room to make it feel a little bit homier. Goddess of Egypt and Patchouli are my favorite.

- Don't forget the hand sanitizer.

 

Image: Olaiya Land

COMFORT

- I use this Mighty Bright book light for reading on the plane or when I'm up in the middle of the night with jet lag. It's super bright, has a dimmer switch and holds its charge for a long time. 

- A travel umbrella is a great thing to have; I have this one and it's small, light and super tough.

- Sleeping: It's never a bad idea to have an eye mask and some earplugs. Lewis & Clark masks are the only ones that I've found that truly block out all light without cutting off circulation to your brain. And I swear by these Hearos earplugs for their ability to block sound and still be comfortable. If you are in need of a neck pillow for the plane, I recommend this one and this one. I have both and they are firm enough to actually hold up your head but you can roll them down pretty small in their travel cases.

- For special occasions, I bring one of these Carry-On Cocktail Kits to kick off my trip in style!

- Speaking of beverages, my friend Megan over at Cream & Honey turned me on to her super-effective sleepy tea blend and now I can't be without it. For any other tea lovers out there, check out the brilliant Gourmia collapsible travel kettle! It folds down super-small and has dual voltage. Now you can always have your morning cup of joe or your nighttime herbal tea no matter where you are. (Well, almost no matter where. If you're trekking in the Outback, that's another story.) I also love this Simple Modern insulated water bottle/thermos and this awesome tea strainer.

- When I'm checking a bag, I also pack a pocket knife and a small cutting board for impromptu picnics or dinners of cheese, bread and wine.

- This is my favorite travel-size notebook for journaling and recording details of my trip I don't want to forget.

- I also HIGHLY recommend a power bank for your phone. Using online maps and taking tons of photos drains your phone’s battery pretty quickly. I use the one that came with my Away suitcase, but this one is small, light and has great reviews.

Image: Olaiya Land

 

SAFETY, MONEY, ETC.

- I like to bring one larger tote and something smaller and only take the large tote when I have my camera. You'll want your bag to have a zip or other secure closure if possible--just an extra bit of security. I don't recommend backpacks as they are a target for pickpockets. I also use this leather key strap and wallet combo from Madewell to make sure my cash and cards are attached to my bag and not easy to snatch.

- Should your passport be lost or stolen, it's much easier to replace if you have a copy. I recommend emailing yourself a copy, making a photocopy to carry with you, and leaving the original at the hotel. Ditto for your driver's license.

- Money: There are lots of approaches to this, but I recommend bringing around $300 dollars (or equivalent local currency) in cash in case of emergencies and leaving it somewhere secure in your hotel room or AirBnB. Money belts are just too awkward for me, but I've used this Bra Stash for large amounts of cash and cards.

- In the unlikely event anything should go wrong (natural disaster, lost luggage, theft, etc.), you will be very happy to have travel insurance. I never used to purchase travel insurance, but now that I travel a lot, I find it a small price to pay for piece of mind. I use AIG Travel Guard, but there are many reputable companies offering travel insurance.

 

BONUS

- Here is a link to my personal packing spreadsheet that I customize to each trip. Please feel free to copy and adapt to your own needs! 😘


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Image: Olaiya Land

on gratitude

image: Olaiya Land
On Gratitude Post_Nov 2017-11.jpg

I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately. I’ve been feeling a need to stop and take stock of the many things I have to be grateful for--in more than a perfunctory, 30-second, Instagram sort of way.

Of course, the Thanksgiving holiday has had something to do with this. The whole holiday season, with its unique blend of stress and joy and complicated family dynamics, puts me in an introspective mood. There’s something about the year drawing to a close, too, that compels me to look back and assess how the whole affair of my life is coming along. (And my Christmas birthday throws an extra layer of self-examination and existential angst in the mix!)

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

Talking about gratitude can feel a little corny though. The “Attitude of Gratitude” has been pretty much trampled to death in the popular media. But there remains something very real about the power of gratitude to improve our lives.

In an attempt to stave off a Seattle funk, for example, Beau and I started calling out our “gratefuls” every evening before bed: A great meal. An exciting work project. A glorious sunset. A roof over our heads and food on our table. 

Through our days, then weeks, of paying attention to them, these “gratefuls” have knitted themselves into a sort of forcefield that helps keep self-pity and bleak moods at bay. They remind us that no matter how shitty the day seemed, we have an embarrassment of riches in the gratitude department.  

image: Olaiya Land

So as we head into the festive chaos of the holiday season, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been especially grateful for this year and that have had a big impact on my life:

1) All the talented, interesting, creative people surrounding me. I’ve written before about being an introverted hermit who could happily spend hour after hour at home cooking, reading and watching BBC period dramas. But, from my incredible husband to the gifted chefs, makers, and artists I got to work with this year to those of you who joined my retreats and workshops--you are my number one source of inspiration and energy. I’m so grateful for that.

image: Olaiya Land

2) Travel. I’m going to get a little vulnerable here and tell you that, as someone who spent a chunk of her childhood living in a trailer park and knows what government cheese tastes like, I often feel twinges of guilt that my life now includes multiple trips to Paris and other amazing places each year. There’s a piece of me that feels like I don’t deserve it. I obsess about whether I’m going to come off as some sort of snobby, jet-setting, champagne-swilling person who takes for granted all these special experiences when I post about them on the blog.

But then I remember something: I believe travel is one of the most soul-satisfying things we can do. A trip--to the next town or the other side of the planet--opens our minds to new ideas and exposes us to people we’d never meet in the comfort of our daily routines. It shifts our perspectives and connects us to other human beings like nothing else. If I can encourage others to experience that connection and openness, I feel like I’m doing something necessary and important. When I think about it all, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to have such a rewarding job, discover new places and meet cool, creative people all over the world. 

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

3) Photography. I kicked off 2017 by taking a life-changing photography workshop in Oaxaca. I’m wrapping up the year landing exciting commercial photography gigs, which leaves me feeling like a competent professional instead of an impostor. It has been a huge confidence boost. If you are contemplating getting serious about your side-hustle or creative hobby, I say do it, do it, DO IT. It is so rewarding to invest in a creative pursuit and feel yourself growing and making work you are proud of. I’m overflowing with gratitude for this one! 

image: Olaiya Land

4) Taking it easier on myself. I’ve written a lot about this over the past year. (You can read more about it here, here and here.) So I’ll simply say I’m learning to tame my inner dictator and extend a little more kindness to myself. Sometimes I forget and get caught up in over-working and self-criticism. But I’m finding it easier to step off the perfectionist treadmill. The result is less anxiety, more happiness and more time for things that actually matter (see items 1, 2, and 3). So that is without a doubt something to be grateful for.

5) This blog. I don’t want to get all meta on you, but I’m super grateful to have this space to share favorite recipes, my photography, my travels and my thoughts with you! Sharing these things makes them feel more alive and real somehow. This blog has also been the source of many IRL connections and friendships, which makes me think this whole internet thing is pretty awesome after all. 

image: Olaiya Land

This seems like a good time to let you know that starting around the beginning of the year, I’ll be taking this blog in a new direction. I can’t imagine a world where sharing food won’t be important to me, so there will still be recipes I love. But there will be other stuff, too. My interests and creative energies have shifted a lot in the past year and I want this journal to reflect that.

I’m still exploring what exactly the “other stuff” will be, but I know there will be more photography, more Small is Beautiful features on local businesses I love, more travel guides. Basically, I plan to share whatever I find compelling: An art exhibit in Paris. A new restaurant in Seattle. Travel tips. Fashion and design trends I’m feeling. My thoughts on how to live a more beautiful and artful life. 

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

I understand that the new format won’t be for everyone. If you’re a diehard recipes fan and decide to unsubscribe, there will be zero hard feelings. For the rest of you, I’d love to hear in the comments below what sort of content you’d be especially into.

I can’t wait to head off on this new adventure. And I’m ever grateful to all of you for being a part of it.


image: Olaiya Land

P.S. Big news! I’m teaming up with the super talented Yossy Arefi to bring you another Paris food photography workshop! We're finalizing the dates and details this weekend. But I can tell you that it will be in the second half of May and that in addition to cooking, styling and shooting, there will be all sorts of Paris deliciousness. Stay tuned for details and click here to sign up for the First To Know list and get early access to registration!