He was exhausted. The rain pattered and whistled in the evening air. He could hear the tick of the clock as it moved closer to midnight. His new home held an eerie quiet to it. The floorboards creaked and the fire crackled even as the howling wind began to pick up. He heard thunder strike. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four, five…’. Another crack, one mile away. The lights flickered and then the lights were out. He made his way downstairs; with each step the floorboards creaked. Thunder and then a flash of lightning. “Was that a streak of green?’, he thought. No, it couldn’t be. Lightning flashes are white, not green. The owls were hooting tonight. On most evenings, he typically only heard one. Tonight, it sounded as though they were hundreds; every owl in the forest must have been awake, watching for some unknown presence in the dark. He heard a light tap on the window. Just a gentle, *tap, *tap*, *tap*. As he walked down the stairs, he stumbled. He caught his fall on something furry. Soft, almost like feathers. It was his trench coat, hanging neatly on his coat rack. At least he had made it downstairs. He walked by his fire, growing dimmer with each passing moment. The flames danced back and forth, illuminating the shadows on the walls. He found his way to the kitchen, where he fumbled to grab a flashlight before heading down to the basement, where the breaker was located. *creak*, *creak*, *creak* went the floorboards. *creeeeaaak* made the door handle as he opened it and peered into the darkness below. Each step was heavy and the sound of wood made the journey tense. Water splashed as he hit the ground floor. He went deeper into the basement. He heard a gentle hoot and his flashlight beam hit glowing, green eyes in the dark.
Duolingo: One Angry Owl
I have foregone many a day without practice. Late in the evenings, a chill goes down my spine. A feeling as though I’m being watched and an impending dread looms. I hear noises shuffle about in the darkness and remember that I have yet to complete my lessons. My phone buzzes but there is no response.
If you’ve been with this blog for a while, you are aware of my love for travel and languages. So it may come as a surprise that I have not been practicing. It shames me to utter such words. I have bursts of inspiration to practice and then nothing. No French, No Spanish, No German. On the flip side, I’ve been speaking Spanish at work. So there is some practice. Recently, there’s been a change in my life and with it comes new motivations and plans. With no debt, I am free to travel and explore. I am [now]
This week I’ll be turning 29 and this means the window on doing a holiday working visa is closing. If all goes well, I’ll be living in New Zealand in 2023. If things go really well, I’ll live in Ireland by the time I turn 30. The year beyond I hope to spend a year in Japan to teach English.
It’s The perfect time
I have talked very little about my current life. I have given updates here and there but for the most part have keep relatively quiet. Right now I am working four jobs (Welcome Desk Associate, Event Planning Assistant, Rock Climbing Instructor, and Child Care Specialist); over the summer, I was a Summer Day Camp Counselor. This puts me in a relatively unique position for the twilight of my twenties where I am beholden to no company and my ties to one area over another are almost nonexistent. I am also single, which bodes well for travel. It’s a now or never sort of situation, where things seem to just line up. If I work in a foreign country I am more or less in a spot where I can be highly adaptable with my work experience.
What does this Have to Do with an Angry Owl?
I’ve decided to pick up Japanese again with this 3 year plan. New Zealand and Ireland I need not worry about the language as they speak English over there. Japan I’d feel more at home knowing the language. This last month has been decent thus far with my language endeavors. Off and on as I work my way out of gold league and back to more competitive ranks in Duolingo. So now I have a less Angry, more disappointed owl.
Life Dictates Motivation
Part of the issue I have is motivation. I am a practical man and also very much a planner. I seem to have a proclivity for language and am lucky in the sense that languages fascinate me. Most would not even attempt to learn another language but I love it. My assessment this last year has been looking into proficiency. It is one thing to appreciate language, it’s another to understand and hold conversation. It wasn’t until I started speaking Spanish at work that I realized I can be quite proud of all I’ve accomplished. It is not perfect but more often than not there is recognition in the eyes of those I speak with.
A Hostel of a Time
Quite recently, I was up in Seattle for my old College Roommates wedding. While there, I realized Airbnb and Hotels were ridiculously expensive. So I opted for a hostel, which I haven’t done since Germany! It was there I met a few Danish girls and a German couple. This had been the first time I’ve spoken German with native speakers since I left 5 years ago. They were impressed so surely Duo will have mercy on my soul!
A Little help from a friend
Out of the blue, one of my old co-workers reached out to me on Duolingo! I started learning Japanese and apparently he is doing the same! It’s a new experience for me to have a language learning buddy that is in the same boat as I am! Duolingo has quite recently added missions and I’m feeling pretty motivated to complete those as a way to earn extra experience. It’s a fun time in my language journey and between Spanish, Latin, German, Japanese, and French I think I have a pretty good base.
And that’s it! I’ve been wanting to talk about travel once again for a while now! With my language habits I figured now would be as good a time as any! As I learn more Japanese I’m sure I’ll have more to say but for now it’ll be grouped in with my other languages! Cheers and I hope everyone continues to learn and grow!
30 days to rule them all
So we’re stuck inside and even the strongest among us can’t self isolate forever. I’ve been in my house for almost 60 days. I went from going out every weekend to building a Utopian society in Animal Crossing. First 30 days were fine and were treated as a much needed vacation. The last 30 days? Not terrible. 90 days? God help us (But we’re not there, yet…). I have a stockpile of books and games, so it’ll take a long while to get through those. But those are only to keep me busy should I get bored.
So thus, begins my habit forming challenges. The other day I hit my 15th day streak on Playne, a meditation video game. I have an in-game fire that will go out if I miss a day. It is now my sole mission to keep that fire alive. The game itself is fun, I’ve learned a couple different techniques outside of what I learned when I did 9 months of “freestyle” meditation. I also now meditate within a range to help with motivation. If I’m feeling like I don’t have the time (during the middle of a Pandemic) I can do 5 minutes of quick breathing exercises. If I’m extremely stressed, I can do 30 minutes of writing words on paper (or in this case, actually typing in game!). All in all, I’m excited to hit day 30 and then beyond. I’m going to hold myself to at least a year of continuous meditation. Duolingo I’ll hit a two week streak as of today (which is now yesterday, because writing can take a while); I also just started coding through Codecademy. I’ve been coding off and on throughout my life, and I’ve always regretted not hunkering down to learn and fully understand it. I loved lego robotics when I was younger but my life since then has taken a very different path. As I gear up for a Masters in Analytics, I want that to change. I’ll need to know Python and SQL, so I figured now would be the perfect time to learn. 30 days to form the habit, then I’m curious to try the 100 days of code challenge going around. It took a while to find a site that worked for me, but I really enjoy the format of Codecademy from the couple days I’ve done of the free trial.
Full disclaimer, I rounded up; “21 days to rule them all” just doesn’t have as nice a ring to it and honestly, I like giving myself a buffer since I’ve been such a failure at forming habits in the past. So really, it’s just 21 days with 9 bonus days. Now that I’m close to the 21 day mark, I can speak a little more to observations I made at the beginning of the challenge. First couple days were tough. What I decided to do was phased habit iteration. I started with meditation as a base habit I wanted to form and then after a couple days I introduced Language learning, and now coding. In addition, I have tried to make a consistent habit of working out. In fact, let’s transition over to talking about my workout routine during the Pandemic.
There are typically two approaches to working out; structured or integrated. Structured workouts are typically a routine that involve high amounts of discipline and might involve running the same route every day and going to the gym to work out. This works great if you have extraordinary willpower. For everyone else, it is the reason you stop and start working out over and over again. Over the last couple years, I have gone with an integrated approach to working out. What this means is, exercise is integrated as part of your lifestyle and is not a separate activity. My first task was to make exercise fun. This is where most people stop. What I decided to do was to start bouldering; I got a discount through work and started making an effort to go every weekend. The second aspect was making it a goal to go outside once a week, once I started taking public transit, this became much easier (also shout out to Pokemon Go). And the third was to make sure I could work out at home but in a way that didn’t feel forced. So, I bought Ring Fit Adventure. Video Games have never disappointed and ring fit has been no different; it solved the motivation aspect of working out at home. Enough of a workout to break a sweat each time, after 15 days I can say I am more motivated to workout. It also has a resistance building mode I can do while watching TV, which is helping me find new ways to exercise casually. Eventually I can add on more to my workout routine but as long as I have a foundation to come back to, I should be good to go.
And that’s it! This Mental Health Awareness month I wanted to try a slightly different approach As I’ve already gone with the dark and gritty (but beautifully vulnerable). I have a couple more articles planned for the month but those need to go through the editing process (which goes a lot faster when I’m not trying to readjust my sleep schedule). So far the blog has been doing extremely well this year and I’m looking to make this the best year yet! Last year was slow but my goal for this year will be a post every two weeks. It’s what I’ve found to be manageable and I don’t want to get burnt out doing too much at once. As a reminder, if you like my content, please consider leaving a like, follow, and sharing the article among your friends! I also love responding to comments! So far, the response this year has been stellar and the blog is growing, which makes me very excited. If you want to support me as a creator, feel free to donate via Ko-fi or my Patreon. Every dollar helps, especially since I currently don’t have a 9 to 5 job right now!
Also, feel free to reach out if you’re interested in doing a collaboration! Thanks again for reading and feel free to comment!
4 Things I’m doing to stay sane during the apocalypse
So the world has ended and you don’t know what to do. Social norms have disintegrated overnight and you’re left to your own thoughts. You slowly feel the insanity creep as you lose track of days and time starts to become irrelevant. While we’re not quite at the point where I can make use of my horseback riding and archery skills, I thought it might be fun to cover some tips and tricks I’m doing to keep sane. Remember when I used to do bullet point articles? Yes, it’s that time again! Without further ado, let us jump into number one:
1) Meditation –
My go to recommendation, especially now. Where our world was once filled with noise, we now have upon us a forced quiet. There is no more go, there is only being in the moment. Like any skill, meditation is something you teach yourself. We are wired for connection, so being able to disconnect yourself from the world is invaluable for a pandemic. The hardest part is simply the act of starting. I love meditation and I still find it hard to simply sit down and start the meditation. I meditated for 9 months straight the last time I was unemployed and the health benefits were immediately noticed. Back then I did 5 minutes a day and eventually 10. I wore a sleeping mask and typically had my window open to feel a breeze and listen to the leaves rustle. Eventually I stopped when I started working but have once again been meditating off and on. If your chest is tight, just take a little time to breathe deeply. My meditation is quite enjoyable right now and I went ahead and bought a game called “Playne” to help. 9 months of blind folding myself was great but that can be taxing. With Playne, I simply start the game and I can choose different ambient sounds like a creek, wind, or rain to listen to while I meditate. It also has a visual world and a story (as well as guided meditations) so it’s been well worth the $15 I paid. I’ve been doing 20 minutes a day and for me, it completely rids me of anxiety for the rest of the day.
2) Exercise –
My love, hate activity. Another show stopper that reminds me how poorly designed we as humans are. There are only benefits to exercise so you’d think the brain would prioritize it over all else. Yet it doesn’t, so you have to trick the brain. It might be easy to justify not exercising right now since all the gyms are closed but you can indeed, exercise at home. This article may foreshadow some topics to come but for now I just want to introduce you to some ideas you might not have considered before. Before the pandemic, I rode public transit and spent about 40 minutes of my commute walking. On weekends, I made it a habit to go to the bouldering gym. If it sounds sad that I built a bouldering gym in Animal Crossing, you’d be right. If you don’t know what Animal Crossing is, shame on you. What’s not said is an idea I had to turn exercise into a game. If I could make it fun, then my brain would want to do it in the future. As a planner, I like to have versatility in my approach. Bouldering was fantastic and is missed dearly but I also set up my home for exercise. 10 years ago I bought the iron gym and that was not so fun; this year I bought “Ring Fit Adventure” for the Switch, which is very fun. The game works as follows; you have a ring that you use to work out. You push and pull the ring to build resistance in your muscles. There’s a variety of activities to choose from ranging anywhere from upper body workouts to yoga. The second brilliant aspect is the joycon leg strap, which you strap to your leg and you can jog within the virtual game world! The game itself is an RPG (role playing game) that has enemies to defeat, clothing to unlock, and a world to save. If you hate exercise, learning to turn it into a game (or better yet, buy a game) is the way to go. I also just downloaded Pokemon Go and bought the Pokemon Go Plus accessory, which allows me to play the game while keeping my phone in my pocket. While I’m avoiding the outdoors as much as possible right now, I take comfort in knowing that should I get too agitated, I can go for a walk and train Pokemon, because lets face it, it’s extremely hard to stay inside 24/7.
3) Cardboard –
No, I did not make a typo; since this is my list, these are my rules. Ok, so this is more about DIY projects but I’m still going to talk about cardboard. It started after I bought a switch and was unhappy with my job. I did a little soul searching and my goal for the last year was to recapture my long lost childhood magic. I used to build when I was younger. I would take apart mechanisms and turn them into art. My favorite was the fencer I made from a mini radio. There was an antennae I used as a sword and the speaker covers made a great mask. The fencer has been lost to the ages, but the memory has not. And then there was cardboard. Large boxes made forts and smaller boxes were broken down and repurposed. I once made a house for Mario and Luigi from boxes, complete with stairs and a chimney. While I don’t remember much from my cardboard days, I do remember the long forgotten love of crafting. So when Nintendo came out with Nintendo labo, I said, “why not”? I’ve built a piano, a fishing rod, and even a steering wheel (and motorcycle wheel) for Mario Kart and I was able to recapture a little of my long lost childhood magic. I’ve also built a fully functional virtual reality headset out of cardboard, so thanks Nintendo for making me smile in a way I haven’t smiled in a very long time. So moral of the story, do DIY projects. This covers a wide range, from sitting down and assembling your electric bike to fermenting hard cider and kombucha. I’m talking about projects you can sink hours into.
4) Play Video Games –
So this is a habit I never really considered having a huge impact on my behavior and overall welfare. Typically, video games have been historically frowned upon as a hobby. Fun but ultimately a waste of time. When I did the math, however, this was far from the case. Take TV for example. You are simply sitting, you are not engaged. As far as brain development, there is none. You enjoy a story and that’s it. The Office might get a laugh and Jersey Shores might make you cringe, but the highs are lows. The best you can truly achieve with a show is a documentary. Netflix has been on point for content and the documentaries have been reminiscent of what the Discovery channel and History channel used to offer; a thirst for knowledge, quenched. But even with the best documentary, I would feel like shit if I spent the entire day sitting around watching it. Every once in a while, fine. But every day? Unfathomable. Video games I can play every day and I never feel my time is wasted. My brain is actively working when I fire up a game. If you want to learn from a game, you can. The stories are typically beautifully written and you are playing through the game, living the experience. The closest I’ve gotten with TV is choosing whether to take the grappling hook or the slingshot with Bear Grylls in “You vs. Wild”. Fun, but not on the level of a game. Want to learn a foreign language? Download Duolingo. Gaming is fun and there’s no better time to jump in than the apocalypse.
And that’s it! 4 things that I’ve been doing to keep sane in the apocalypse. Hope you enjoyed the article! As mentioned, I have an article planned for each of the topics covered today but it’ll take time as I need to play the games consistently before I publish. The “Cardboard Mechanic” article is ready though, I just need to put thought to paper and take a couple photos! And if you like my content, don’t forget; like the post, follow, and share with your friends! The traffic will help the blog grow and will help bring in revenue as more ads are views; I’m a one man army, so the money does help! Last week, I received my first patron over on patreon, so huge shoutout to Tara for the support! If you feel inclined to donate, below is the link to my Ko-Fi and Patreon pages:
Thanks for reading and all the support over the last 5 years! I’d like to ask the question back to you; what are you doing to keep sane on day 40 (I think, oh my) of quarantine. What are some of your personal tips and tricks for staying sane and positive?