Know what’s important to you

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After our road trip, we were both glad to be back in Rome.

It was a good sign, a sign that we’d made a good choice for our new home.

Back in Rome, we both found ourselves eager to settle. We’d been on the road for 10 days, and even before that we’d been on the move, so to speak. We felt like we’d gone off track a bit, galavanting around, trying food, seeing people, exploring. Even though it was a much needed and wonderful phase, now it was time to get back to business.

We were staying in the north west of Rome now, in an Airbnb apartment, and would eventually need a more permanent home. Home, Health, Work and Friends. These were a few of the basics we needed to focus on now.

It’s so important to be clear about what’s most important, to you.

What do you value and need in your life? 

More importantly, we should always have a vision, and goals that get us there. 
Whether it’s for the next couple months, or 5 years ahead. We need to have a good idea of where we’re going, and to revisit these goals and plans frequently so that we stay on track, keeping our eyes on the prize, the life we’re creating for ourselves.

In this crazy world, there is often so much to do though, so much going on. For this reason, having a priority list is essential, and can alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress. We can’t do everything at the same time, so having our priorities allows us to focus on the most important, and progress in the right direction.

A great place to get some inspiration is to listen to Stephen Covey‘s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – The 3rd habit is Put First Things First – This section on prioritising is a real inspiration. I’d highly recommend it.

When last did you stop and think about what your priorities are?

Stephen Covey

After our road trip, we were both aligned on some key things we wanted to focus on. This always helps, as you can work together and motivate each other along the way.

My priorities for this phase of our move to Rome:

Find a more permanent home
Get back to healthy Whole30-inspired eating
Refine and commit to my AM routine
Connect with friends and meet new people
Start seriously scouting for work

1. Home – Having a base

This was interesting. I’ve always said how much I like to move around, that moving around I’m at my happiest. Sure, I found things like moving continents exhilarating, going on road trips inspiring, and exploring in any form perfectly aligned to my spirit.

However, I’d found that there is just something about having a home, a base that you can move around from.

I realised that I wasn’t the backpacker-nomad I thought I was, and I wanted a base. Somewhere to unpack my giant green suitcase, a familiar space I could feel at home in. An area I could become familiar with and form a connection with. A place that welcomed me home after being out and about discovering the world around it.

Our home-hunting began, and turned out to be a lot more difficult than we’d expected.

Facing challenges

Researching for hours, finding a few, calling a few, visiting a few. There are a lot of places to look online, but after trying quite a few, we stuck to Immobiliare – We found this website to offer the best quality options, and found it to be the easiest to navigate.

However, most apartments were being rented through agencies, who expected a lot of security – Things like work contracts, 3 months rent upfront and big deposits. Most of them also expected you to sign a 3 or 4 year lease. Both being freelance and looking for a 1 year lease, we weren’t finding many options.

Also, communication wasn’t as easy as we were used to, even with Luca speaking Italian. Lots of situations where you’d call an advert, and they’d ask you to call back on a certain day and time; and when calling them at the requested time, they’d then inform you that the apartment had just been taken and wasn’t available. Weird communication, and tricky to work with.

After all sorts of efforts, we decided to try out Craigslist. Craigslist does have some scams, so you need to watch out for them – with scammers posting photos of great-looking places at great monthly rental prices, and then asking you to pay the first months rent with Moneygram before even seeing the place in person.
Apart from the scams, there were many reasons Craigslist became a better option. What was nice about Craigslist was that it was made up predominantly of private owners renting their apartments, so no rental agency to deal with, bringing the costs down. It also seemed focused on foreigners, so they weren’t expecting as much paperwork. Overall it was simpler and more direct, and amongst the scams, we’d eventually find a place.

Flat-hunting is never easy, but you’ve just got to jump right in and keep at it. Look everywhere, put in the time. I really believe that, with persistence and positivity, eventually you’ll always succeed. And, eventually we did get a place, one day before our final deadline.

Benjamin Franklin

2. Healthy Eating:

We’re originally arrived in Italy on the Whole30, and we’d maintained healthy eating pretty well, apart from a few treats here and there. On our road trip, particularly in Firenze (Florence), we’d completely let loose – Cornetti, Pizza, Pasta, Sweet Yoghurts, Wine, Chocolates, Gelato.


Above: Some of my favourite treats in Firenze (Florence).

Sugar temptation in Italy
Above: This is the sort of sugar temptation you get all over Italy – here are some of the incredible selections of pastries in a Pasticceria near where we were living; The last pic is a snap I took of my final treat before jumping back onto the Whole30 wagon – funny how the word Yoga was written on the serviette holder – a sign and motivation to get healthy again for sure!

We’d thoroughly enjoyed it all!
At the time, I’d felt like I needed to go on this taste journey with reckless abandon, especially in Italy with all the delicious food around every corner. Now that we’d had our fun-time, we were both missing our Whole30 days, and the light and slim that came with it.

Now, I was feeling bloated and tired, physically and mentally. The ripple effect is so key to understand. In our lives, making small changes is so important, as if affects all the other areas of our lives. By eating healthier, I feel lighter and more energised, I get up earlier, I do more yoga, I get more done, I feel more motivated and so it goes. I needed to start that ripple effect now, as I needed to be at my most productive now.

We had gone on this food frenzy, and now we wanted to go back to the Whole30 way, so we did.
This time, we were in the North West, in an area called Monte Mario. It was here that we discovered the most amazing fruttivendolo – a fruit and veg market, with great produce at great prices. This was the perfect discovery for the perfect time.

Above: The fruttivendolo we discovered nearby, the perfect find for the perfect time.

Off we went and bought ourselves a GEFU veggie spiral tool and some Zucchini – We’d be kicking off this health quest with a tasty and healthy replacement for pasta: Zucchini Spaghetti – Veggetti, as I call it. What a great alternative – We were inspired, making Veggetti Bolonaise, Veggetti Pesto, Veggetti Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, we were loving this!

Veggie Pasta Alternative
Above: Making Veggetti everything!
Prioritize-15Above: Fresh eating: Homemade burgers; Tuna Salad

Another wonderful discovery was finding NaturaSi, a health store chain in Italy. We’d get things like coconut milk here, allowing me to make an elevated fruit breakfast. I’m a big fan of fruit in the morning, and used to, years ago, include plain Bulgarian or Greek yoghurt in the mix. Now, after Whole30, I’d instead drizzle a little coconut milk and crushed nuts over the top – This totally transforms the dish, and tastes better than yoghurt, with a lighter fresher reward.

Above: Back onto healthy breakfasts: Scrambled eggs with chives and salmon; Mixed fresh fruit with a drizzle of coconut milk and freshly cracked and crushed mixed nuts.

At NaturaSi we could also get ingredients for some really tasty healthy dessert alternatives. Our two favourites: Date Balls and Raw Chocolate Brownies – These were a hit at home, giving us the sweet satisfaction we were craving. We’d get inspiration from a wonderful website called Yummly, and then edit the recipes a little here and there to suit our needs.

Above: Finding Chia Seeds at NaturaSi; Enjoying our Date Balls with a fresh caffè; Our Raw Chocolate Brownies.

When you go on the Whole30 and stop eating sugar completely, you go through a battle and then a transformation. By the end of my second month doing the programme in February this year, I remember buying a Snickers (a chocolate I could normally waffle down without a second thought) – I now found that I was struggling to even swallow one small bite, finding the sugar taste too much for me. I had to give the chocolate away. Once you break away from the sugar, and your tolerance is no longer so high, the taste is amplified and intense when you go back, making you realise how potent it really it. It’s the same with alcohol – I hardly drink, so when I do, I get tipsy quickly and take a few days to recover afterwards.

On our road trip, as we ate more and more sugar treats, I could feel the sugar dragon rising up inside me. More more more, never satisfied. I think that the most rewarding parts for me, when on the Whole30 are: Through hard work, you learn to tame that dragon, and you start to eat for nourishment, not out of addiction. This journey results in your really appreciating the food you put into your body.

If you feel like going on an interesting and valuable journey where you start building a healthier relationship with your food, try out the Whole30.

 3. Morning Routine:

I find that having a daily morning routine transforms the rest of my day. A ritual that you do, just for you, every morning, setting the tone for the rest of your day.

I used to be the person who’d set my alarm, giving me just enough time to jump up, shower, get dressed and race out to work. I didn’t even have a coffee, and preferred to just run out the house and have my coffee at work.

After reading The Artist’s Way (an incredible book you really should read if you haven’t), I started Morning Pages. Every day, I’d get up and write 3 pages of free-writing – whatever comes into your mind you put down. It’s a wonderful way to clear your mind, and starts to become a way to sort through ‘stuff’.

I’m a big fan of a guy called Robin Sharma, and he talks about the AM routine, the 5am club. I’d been doing my morning pages for years on and off, inspired by The Artists Way, and these had become my AM Routine. I had recently watched a Robin Sharma video ‘The Morning Routine of Legendary People‘ and this had inspired me to get back on track. He’d spoken about including three essential pockets into your routine: Movement, Reflection and Learning. This inspired me to refine my personal AM routine, bringing my much needed yoga practice into it.

I refined my AM routine to: Warm water and lemon, 30min of yoga (movement), morning pages (reflection), and then an Italian Duolingo Language Lesson or a TedX Video (learning). This transformed my day, it was unbelievable. My body was more energised and my mind was feeling clearer.

Morning Routine
Above: My personal morning routine: A cup of warm water and fresh lemon, 20-30min of Yoga or Exercises, Morning Pages, A Duolingo Italian language lesson or a TEDx video.

Robin Sharma
Most importantly though, I’d kept my agreement with myself. This made me feel like I’d really achieved something important, something valuable to my own well being. I’d taken my personal needs for this holy hour seriously, and it set the tone for the rest of my day, resulting in heightened motivation to get things done.

We spend most of our lives pleasing others, and need to nourish ourselves with some quality time with ourselves, and for ourselves.

4. Connecting with friends and meeting new people:

I realised that I needed to connect more with friends and meet new people. I’d retreated into my own world, and needed to break out a bit and start connecting with like-minded people.

This is one of the most important things to do in life – surround ourselves with like-minded people. This is a kind of food for the soul, something that positively influences and inspires us to keep doing what we’re doing.
I started by reconnecting with a some friends, via WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype. It was so lovely chatting to familiar faces, people who already know you. You can just be you and talk spontaneously.

Above: Wearing a bangle made by a good friend, as a reminder; Seeing the names of good friends everywhere, feeling like the universe was reminding me to keep in touch 🙂

A friend, who I hadn’t seen in 10 or so years, from Johannesburg, was also visiting Rome with her boyfriend, so I met up with her for coffee. Luca and I then went to see a William Kentridge art show at the Tiber River, and met up with them there. A fantastic outdoor art show, and great to be spending time with other people.

William Kentridge
 Above: William Kentridge art show in Rome: In the newspaper in South Africa; The entrance poster at the Tiber River; The actual live art performance show in action – The performers casting huge beautiful shadows on the walls.
Above: The William Kentridge art show at the Tiber Riber. Two big groups of performers came from either side, joining up in the middle. Each carrying a cutout, casting big and beautiful shadows on the walls. The lighting and mood, done so well, creating an intense and vibrant atmosphere on the Tiber River in Rome.

I also joined Internations, and company who focuses on bringing people, particularly expats, in new cities. They host events, usually aperitivo’s (drinks and snacks), where you can join and go and meet fellow expats as well as locals. I was off to my first one, and although nervous, I knew it was going to be good for me. At this event I met two potential friends, a lovely Swiss girl living in Rome, and a male Dentist from Rome. I got on so well with both of them, chatting about all sorts of things. It was great, in terms of building some confidence, as I’d arrived alone and unsure, and left feeling inspired.

I made every effort to connect with more people, including an Italian friend I’d met briefly on my last family trip to Italy – We were now chatting again and planning to meet up for a caffè very soon.

Connecting with people is more powerful that we think and can have a positive impact on our mindset. It’s easy, in busy times, to get lost in our own worlds, and loose perspective.

Connecting with old friends can help us work through ‘stuff’ by merely being able to engage openly and freely with one another; whereas meeting new people, particularly like-minded people, can build our confidence, as well as inspire and motivate us to keep at it. All in all, these connections can pop the bubble we sometimes find ourselves in and give us some fresh perspective.

5. Career:

I’m not going to spend much time on this now, as it’s its own journey in itself. One that I’d go through intensely at a later stage.

At this point, I was deep into research, trawling through the infinite online world, looking for work opportunities. From JobsinRome, WantedinRome, TheLocal, FriendsinRome, LinkedIn, and on it went. This can get incredibly overwhelming. So many options, so many directions to explore.


I had also been in a self-discovery phase, and was working through where I actually wanted to take my career. What did I really want? What was my purpose? How could I move in a direction that would fulfill me? How could I make this possible in Italy, without being fluent in Italian?

This was last on my priority list. I needed to get back into the right headspace, before attempting one of the biggest challenges: a career in a new city. I also really wanted to feel more settled before taking on this beast. I wanted a more permanent home, to feel healthy and motivated.

It’s the ripple effect again.
When you’re eating healthy, starting off your day with a morning routine, exercising a bit, your mindset changes for the better, and you find yourself more motivated and clear-headed.

So, these were my big priorities at this stage, the things most important to me.
I’d listed them, in order of importance, and written out my weekly goals for each, and the steps I needed to take to progress.

In today’s crazy world, with so much going on, it’s easy to get lost on the plethora of other things, obligations, distractions, the many little seemingly urgent things. By spending that extra time working out what’s most important to you, and having your goals in mind and in focus, you’ll spend time on the right things and move forward quicker.

Take charge of your life.
What are your top 5 priorities in your life right now?

Are you making sure that you’re spending a good amount of quality time working on them, so that you reach your life goals?

Put those carefully selected items at the top of your list this coming month. Obviously tend to other things, but make sure you spend a good amount of time working on what’s most important, to you.

Do this, and you’ll move in the right direction and see the necessary changes happen. It’s your life, you need to take charge and make it happen, step by step.

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