Taking Time for Yourself

It’s important to, once in a while, take some time for yourself…I did just that this last weekend. After dad being away for 2 1/2 weeks last month…my anxiety picked up…it hit me out of nowhere and for those of you who also have anxiety…you know that it isn’t something that you can just stop…

Anxiety can be crippling, it can make you scared to leave your house, talk to new people, try something new…but you also know that it is a completely illogical fear. I’m known as an over thinker…I over think pretty much everything in my life and so my brain is a constant bundle of things I need to do and scenarios that would never happen. I have yet to find a permanent solution where I can battle my anxiety and overthinking. For right now though a few hobbies keep my mind distracted and this last week and weekend I really focused on myself and pressed the ‘reset’ button in my brain.

So last week, Dad and I took a trip down to Cornwall…dad had an event that he was playing the drums at and I used the time to just relax. We rented an airbnb in Porthtowan just minutes walk from the beach. Now for those of you who know me know that there is something about the ocean and the beach…I feel like I’m at home. My love for marine biology intensifies whenever I’m near the beach and I always feel like the ocean is calling me…my mood instantly changes when I see the ocean, no matter the weather…I cheer up…I relax…I breathe more deeply and think more clearly.

I had so many things planned for that weekend, however there were 2 factors that hindered those plans and could have ruined it all for me. The weather is not something you can control and bank holidays in the UK are notorious for having poor weather. Well, the weather in Cornwall lived up to that…I received pictures from several important people in my life showing the blue sky and talking about how hot it was…I looked out my window and all I had was dense fog, the sun wasn’t anywhere in sight…But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from being on the beach! Now the second factor was a little more annoying…2 weeks before I had managed to dislocate my right shoulder (yes I am right handed) and was still in significant pain and arm still in a sling. So suddenly things like picking up trash on the beach, or trying to take a picture with my camera, became a lot harder to do. Yes we had the dense fog for 2 out of the 3 days we were there, but the last day the fog finally lifted and I remembered why I love the ocean and the beach. The colours of the sand and the blue hues of the water…there is just nothing quite like it for me.

Now getting back to what I did to press the ‘reset’ button, I went for numerous walks on the beach and along the coastal path along the cliffs and spent time staring out to sea, anxiously looking to see if I could spot any wildlife (some seals but that was it), I explored some of the numerous ruins that Cornwall has to offer. Spent time reconnecting with old friends, building connections with new ones and drinking multiple iced lattes and peach green tea lemonades. Oh and who can forget the ice creams!!

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Unfortunately, time always flies and before I knew it we were home and the instant lull in my mood was noticeable. I knew I had to do something to stop myself from slipping back into my anxiety driven state. I ended up looking through my yarn stash and decided to crochet something again. Recently I had been knitting a wrap for myself but I really wanted to crochet something. So I picked a pattern and off I went…There is just something about crocheting and knitting that keeps my mind preoccupied and allows me to relax.

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Some people might say that it is selfish to take time for yourself. But if you don’t, then when do you get the time to be yourself…allow yourself to grow and to relax. Sometimes that means a mini break away to your ‘happy place’ and sometimes it means just picking up an old hobby. All I know is that since my mini break…my anxiety has lessened and my mood has improved.

What about you…what is your happy place? Do you have anxiety? What helps calm you down? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!!

Have a great weekend!

~ A cloudy day at the beach, is still a day at the beach – Unknown ~

Team Building

The last couple days have all been marked with special experiences…. I went to see the play ‘guess who’s coming to dinner’ in the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis. That play reminds me once again how prejudiced we can be to those that are different. An old movie with a very relevant theme. It’s hard to accept those that are different to us, whether it’s because of culture, beliefs or skin colour. I know I don’t see different skin tones, but I can’t say I never feel prejudiced towards others with different customs and believes!

Tonight was our work team building event. Not everyone was able to make it..but for those that could…we went axe throwing… not something I would choose to do, and of course I suck at it big time… but it taught me something… I don’t need to be good at something in order for me to enjoy it. Quite a different thought for me…as my husband reminded me, I can be rather competitive…. today I could rejoice in the fact that everyone was achieving well, except for me.. and that’s ok! The teams were fun, friendly banter…and an opportunity to see colleagues away from the seriousness and business of work.

Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and have fun with those whom we spend so much time with. Life is more than hitting deadlines and achieving at work… also this was an opportunity to let go of preconceived ideas and prejudices about colleagues… see them in a different way. As I hope they will see me in a different way also.

Team… that rocked… let’s do it again some day (when I can move my arms and shoulders again!)

My Top 10 Photos and the Stories Behind Them

In preparation for the release of the gallery part of the blog I decided to show my top 10 pictures and the stories behind them. Photography has been a huge part of my life and is one of the main ways in which I can be creative. I have been asked ‘why photography’ a lot and for me it allows me to show the world from my perspective. Something which you could walk past every day, is beautiful to the next person. So I try in my daily life to imagine what would make a good picture.

I have done some interesting things in my life and so I thought about sharing my top 10 pictures and also why I took them. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places in the world and have seen and experienced so many different cultures and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else.

  1. My First Long Exposure Shot – MadagascarIMG_8087

Back in 2012 I went for 10 weeks to Madagascar where I had an unforgettable time! It was genuinely one of the best trips of my life. Everything was super photogenic out there and one evening whilst sat watching the sunset, I just looked down and saw this log being washed ashore and saw the beautiful patterns and decided to try my first attempt at long exposure photography. This was the result. Yes the focus isn’t perfect, nor the composition, but it was my first attempt at something I had been too scared to try. The reason I chose to include this in my top 10 is not only because it was my first attempt, but I love the movement of the water and I love that it tells a story.

2. Ethiopian Man – Ethiopia

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I took this picture whilst I was there for my first time in Ethiopia. During that trip we were taken to a religious festival in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was so happy and the people of Ethiopia are all just so beautiful! Whilst having lunch I looked up from my food and noticed this old man standing in a doorway just watching the celebrations and I just thought that that would make such a beautiful picture and I just couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and taking the shot. This was the outcome…It still remains as one of my favourite pictures from my trip.

3.  Why Did the Bear Cross the Road – Yellowstone National Park, USA12698140_10153445388827613_5201671014563450931_o

A couple years ago, my parents and I decided to do a proper American road trip. Starting from Minnesota and passing through 5 states before coming back to Minnesota. One of the major stops on the road trip would be Yellowstone National Park. On our first morning in Yellowstone, we had breakfast in a diner where we spoke to a couple who had been going there for years and hadn’t seen anything other than bison and elks. Well the morning before we had already seen a baby bear, so we were having a good start. Later that day, whilst driving around we spotted a bear walking in the bushes and quickly decided to drive slowly whilst the other cars were parked. And that gamble paid off…the baby bear decided to walk next to the car and then cross the road right in front of us. What an awesome way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Yellowstone!

4.  Sisterly Love – UK17861959_10154584511697613_2200926202777938493_n

These 2 beauties are the gorgeous daughters of some family friends. They were the perfect models and behaved so well! Bare in mind that I did have a broken finger on my left hand and could barely carry my camera. So just before this moment, I had my back turned to the children whilst talking to the parents. I turned round to see the big sister tenderly touching her little sister and I caught this moment. I love taking pictures of children and babies as they are just so unpredictable. Blink and the moment is gone! Seeing the joy on the parents face when you show the final product, makes all the stress of shooting on the day, worthwhile!

5. Taking a Deep Breath – MadagascarCamera 14MP-9PC

Whilst on the trip in Madagascar, we visited one of the islands nearby to where our camp was and visited the reef there. Whilst snorkelling I suddenly spotted a turtle swimming really close to me and decided to swim alongside it for as long as it would let me (whilst keeping a respectable distance!). This moment was just so special for me as it was the first time I had seen a turtle in the wild, it also allowed me to swim with it for about 20 minutes! It was just amazing!

6. Conquering your fears – Costa Rica

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Those of you who know me, know that I am PETRIFIED of heights! Yet this opportunity in Costa Rica, was one that I could not let slip! I took this picture with my GoPro to give the widest angle of where we were. Yes I was scared, but after one bridge that fear was gone! The nature was just so beautiful that I was distracted! When you are surrounded by the beautiful scenery, you can’t help but take pictures everywhere!

7. Tree With a View – Minnesota, USADSC_0041

Whilst Canoeing down a river in Minnesota, we noticed this beautiful bird sitting in the tree. Now it isn’t crazy to see Bald Eagles in Minnesota, but there were hundreds of people below it and hadn’t spotted it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Minnesota over the last couple years and yet every single time I see them they blow my mind! I was so lucky to see such a beautiful bird so close by with such blue sky as the perfect background! I think I ended up taking about 50 pictures of this single Bald Eagle. It was clearly waiting to spot a fish!

8. Miniature World – Wisconsin, USA14525015_10154011743427613_4904568668393714772_o

A couple years ago, I treated myself to a macro lens, and this opened up a whole new world of photography for me! Whilst taking pictures in a garden in Wisconsin I suddenly spotted this tiny spider and I thought could I take a picture of it with my new lens? It was incredibly jumpy and I knew it had moved just as I took a picture. To my surprise when I looked back at it, it was staring right into the camera! It stays one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken with my macro lens as this spider was smaller than your little finger nail!

9. Curiosity Never Hurt Anyone – Madagascar544481_10150927775222613_1435884139_n

Whilst going on a walk in the forest in Madagascar, we came across this tiny chameleon! At the time it was the smallest known chameleon! This picture was taken whilst it was in my friends hand! And again just as I took the picture, it decided to move its head towards my camera to get a good look! I just loved the curious nature of this chameleon and that it really wasn’t scared!

10. Flashy Chameleon – Madagascar 529121_10150924222632613_1178186907_n

So as my last picture I couldn’t not chose this one! It has always been one of my proudest shots! The story behind this picture is that whilst we were at the camp, this panther chameleon strolled into the camp. My friend picked him up and I suddenly noticed how striking the colours were on the perfect background!! The dark background brought out his colours perfectly! A while back I actually entered this into the National Geographic photo of the year and it got into the top 10. It is one of my biggest achievements in my photography career!

So what about you? What is your favourite shot and why?

~ I love photography because I can show people the world through my lens ~

Why the Marine World?

I have had a lot of people ask me “why do you like the ocean so much?” or “why marine biology?”. So I thought, why not tell my story…

It all started when I was a young girl…since I can remember, I have always loved swimming and the ocean. Whenever we would go on holiday near the ocean I would want to go in and watch all the fish! I still remember that the majority of the time either mum or dad would have to come in to the ocean to tell me to come and have food as I would go snorkelling for hours! Something about the marine world fascinated me!

My 7th birthday came and my parents decided to buy me the video boxset of Jacques Cousteau’s discoveries (in Dutch). I started watching them and within a couple minutes, I asked my parents “what does he do?” to which they responded that he was a marine biologist. As a 7 year old I had already dreamt about being an astronaut or a wedding planner, but something in me clicked whilst watching the video. I knew I was going to become a marine biologist!

That was it for me, my obsession started! I wanted to read all the books I could find on marine biology and the marine world, wanted to watch all the videos and wanted to talk to everyone about it! I don’t think my parents were fully aware what they had done!

Fast forward 10 years and it came time to think about university options and what I wanted to study. I knew it had to be marine biology but there were so many different courses within marine biology. But only 1 really stood out! Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University in North Wales. Now I wish I could say that it was an easy path for me to get into university. However, it really wasn’t! I didn’t do well with my final exams and that meant that I had to repeat a year and redo some of my exams. However, in that year I also realised that I wasn’t quite ready to go to university. So what then…here came the trusty google search. What could I do to postpone university for another year but also be something worth while! I stumbled upon Frontier Gap Year’s website and that was it. Multiple projects jumped out at me but only 1 really caught my attention. Madagascar. Marine conservation and diving…now that was something that I thought was worth it to postpone uni for.

After spending an incredible 3 months in Madagascar, my love for marine biology grew so much and I was ready to go to uni! My experience at university was a mix of amazing memories and times I wish I didn’t have to go through (check out my post about living with a hidden…not so hidden illness to learn more!). But 3 years later and I had completed my BSc and was applying for a masters degree! Who would have thought! But every time I finish something, my love for marine biology grows!

I speak with so many people who have no idea what to do with their lives and I know I am incredibly lucky to have figured out what I wanted to do at such a young age! You just never know how your actions affect the other person. You might just inspire someone and help them find their ideal career! I’d like to think that even if my parents hadn’t bought me that video boxset, I would have still ended up in marine biology.

I’ve done multiple presentations about my field and people always tell me that I glow when I talk about it and I know they’re right! When I talk about marine biology, something in me changes and I become more animated and can’t stop talking! Even just writing this I have a huge smile on my face…

I am now 26 years old, I have just completed my research masters and currently looking for PhDs…my journey is far from over but I know that I am in the right field!

What inspired you to get into your career? What do you love? Let me know in the comments or message us privately!

~  When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself – Jacques Yves Cousteau ~

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Everything Doesn’t Always Go to Plan

Everyone plans…for their future, for their day out, for their holidays. You can plan everything down to the second, but life has taught me over the last month that no matter how much you plan, things can fall apart.

A couple days before Christmas my relationship of 4 years fell apart and all the planning I had done just disappeared. Do I regret anything? No. Would I change things if I could? No. Life throws these curveballs, there is no way around that. But how we grow from them is up to us. I could have chosen to be a wreck and cry the entire time we were on holiday in Scotland. Instead, I dusted the dirt off my shoulders and picked myself up and had a great holiday!

So no matter how much you plan, you also have to give space for the what ifs in life. This year definitely didn’t start the way I thought it would…But this is the year that I take things under control. My health for one…and take time to be me and grow even more as a person. Whether that is going out more and taking pictures and growing as a photographer, to trying those Pinterest recipes that I have wanted to try for a while now.

When you are going through a tough time in life, what do you do to pick yourself back up? For me, it’s surrounding myself with friends and family, laughing and remembering all the awesome things that have happened! And of course, comfort food such as chocolate and pizza was consumed! And a whole lot of shortbread and mulled wine instant tea (Whittard) in Scotland too!

So instead of Italy, this year I’m going to explore other countries, work on my photography and finally dye my hair! What’s something that you planned that fell through? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments or email me!

~ My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned, and that’s ok – Anonymous ~

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Friendship

Friends come in different shapes and seizes… some friends have been in my life for 30 years, others walked into my life just almost a year ago… some are older, some are younger….

‘If you have crazy friends, you have everything you need’ is a quote I read somewhere….

The definition of friendship for me is being with someone whom I can trust and can be myself with…

We need friends. We need people around us that guide us, mold us, shape us and protect us. And it’s a 2-way street ofcourse!!!

Today was spent in the company of friends. A leisurely lunch and wonderful conversation.

Below a collection of my friends…. if you are not there in the picture, it does not mean you are not my friend… but it means I have no pictures to share…. and we certainly should remedy that!!!! Looking through these pictures I can truly say… I am blessed!

10 Days, 11 States

Doing a road trip in America is a strange experience for a European. You can drive for days and not leave the country! Quite different from where I come from… a state is like a country.

In some states more time was spent than in others: Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and back in the Home state Minnesota.

What was the highlight of my trip? Spending time with family, especially those not often seen. It makes you realize how important connections are, and how special family time is!

The holiday is over, life returns to a sense of normality… the next event to look forward to is Thanksgiving. A moment of reflection on all the things and moments of the past year we can be thankful for. And after that Christmas, thanking God that He came to this world to show us how much He wants us to be with Him. And I get to spend the holiday with my own little family in England. Yay!

Family

This has been some rollercoaster week. The road trip did not end in Memphis (previous post) but went on to Chattanooga.

My wider family is spread across the world. My grandpa used to say that the sun was never setting over the Knopper family. One uncle with all kids in Australia and one uncle with both kids in America. The result of that was that our own family never really saw or had much physical contact with this part of the family. After all, letter writing was never our strong side and phone calls and visits were very sporadic.

Being in America does give the opportunity to reconnect with family here. Not so easy, as I am in Minnesota and the family is now also spread over America. However this road trip was all about connecting with my uncle, who lives near Chattanooga. And that is where my story started…

Unfortunately my uncle is not well, and his son (my oldest cousin) was planning to visit, which happened to coincide with us being there also. I picked him up from the airport, after he graciously sent me a picture of what a grown up cousin looks like… after all, it was more than 40 years ago and I was only a 3 year old when I saw him last…I have some vague memories, but mostly fed by the pictures I stil have from that time. However, it felt like I had just seen him last week! I certainly felt I could talk for hours more, trying to catch up on so many years of life history. I certainly feel sorry for his ears!

The week has flown by, seeing all the places my uncle works at, or spends time at. Tennessee truly is a beautiful area, and seeing Southern University was an experience.

It was also very moving to see the Desmond Doss grave site once more, and be reminded of what it means to stand up for your believes, no matter the cost. At the memorial side is a slogan ‘freedom is not free’ which is so true. There is a cost to everything.

Spending time with family is very special. Treasure it. Time given to us can be very short. Choose wisely, and don’t thread carelessly.

It’s Friday evening, time to sleep and relive some of this weeks memories.

Life…

Sometimes life does not go the way you want it to… this last month has been a prime example of that. Starting it off by breaking my finger 2 days before flying home and topping it off with visa being denied twice and now not being able to fly back and be with my mum and relatives who are flying out there. So yes, this chapter of my year in America came to a close a lot sooner than I thought, but who knows whats in store for me next.

Instead of being easy and straight forward, life served me some serious curve balls. What I have realised though, is that no matter what, we can get through it. No matter how life twists and turns and at that time you can’t see a way out, God is always there with his plan…Do I know that plan yet? No. But what I do know is that I will use these next couple of months spending quality time with friends and seeing more of Europe…Where to first…

On to the next unplanned adventure…

History

History is a funny thing. Each story has 2 sides, and depending on whose side you hear, it’s the perspective you get….

Let me start at the beginning…..

After having spend last week in Taiwan for work, this week Melody and I were looking forward to a trip we have been planning for months (close to a year). Yes, the timing was off, with work very busy, but plane tickets were booked, hotel and car arranged. Friends connected with….we were going to Boston! 

So Tuesday evening Mel and I drove to Chicago to catch a plane from there to Boston – saved a lot of money, even if we lost a night of sleep… I am still jet lagged anyways! This morning we set off for Boston. So excited! Our friends Kim and Marty met us at the airport, and then it was full steam ahead! A full intinery planned around…. yep… historical sides! One of my favourite activities, learning about how the American nation was established, build up, and the impacts on the original population.

Driving into Boston is like being back home in England… which I miss. It’s strange to see all these English place names, sometimes pronounced a little different than back home. Woburn, Worcester, Gloucester, Essex, Cambridge etc. We were off to the presidential library of JFK. Learning about his political rise and his election to president. He had made various trips to Europe, his father was at one time the US ambassador to Great Britain. However, some of the statements he made I could not recognise from the history taught to me in school or university. “Japan has surrendered, the end of the Second World War”…. wait… what happened to the European countries and the part of the war there? It was interesting to hear the lead up to the first bill of equality signed in 1963/4, were all people should be treated equal. Maybe that’s something to go back to when we discriminate each other due to differences in thinking, sexual orientation, religion etc! It was awesome to see and hear the inauguration speech, with the famous line ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. It reminds me a little of church…. don’t ask what the church can do for you, but what you can do for other people… don’t go to church, but be the church.

Tomorrow we will visit the spot where the English tea was thrown overboard, as the American colony no longer wanted to pay taxes to the English without getting any benefits in return. Another side of history, the American side, will be revealed these next coming days. Am looking forward to it already!