Ten Reasons Everyone Needs a Digital Detox

8-Minute Read

Did you know that most young adults check their smart phone every 15 minutes? And that Instagram was rated as the worst social platform for its negative impact on our mental health? It’s a scary thought to think that we’re literally scrolling our lives and wellbeing away.

We truly believe a change is needed. People need to be more aware on how often they pick up their phone. If you wake up with Facebook and get easily distracted from all the tweets, pings and push notifications, it may be time for a digital detox.

It has been scientifically proven that refraining from using technology is extremely beneficial for your physical, emotional and mental health. Find out why we should reduce our tech-time and discover 10 reasons to have a digital detox.

TEN BENEFITS OF A DIGITAL DETOX

Reduce Stress

Tech overload causes anxiety, stress, and generally isn’t very good for your mental health. Push notifications, the need to instantly reply to messages, comparing yourself to others online, work emails after hours.. The digital world is increasing our stress levels, and chances are it’ll only get worse. Even if you don’t reply to a notification immediately, the fact that you know it’s waiting for you is a distraction on its own. Embrace a digital detox in the evening or on your weekends and allow yourself to fully unwind and reset.

Increase Productivity and Creativity

According to a study at Harvard Business School, multi-media tasking lowers our creativity and productivity. If you have less stress, you can concentrate better and your creativity will improve. Stepping away from a project you feel stuck on is the best thing you can do. Go for a walk or meditate for ten minutes. Your mind will clear itself of all the clutter and make space for new thoughts. Before you know it, a lightbulb moment presents itself.

Recharge your Brain

A digital detox allows you to slow down, unwind and fully switch off. You can’t give your brain a reboot when you are constantly distracted by email overload and feel you have to stay ‘in the loop’ all the time.

Improved Sleep Quality

Besides creating general restlessness and telling your brain to ‘stay awake’, the blue wavelengths from your screens can mess with your melatonin production (the sleep hormone), resulting in less shut-eye. Bedrooms should have a strict ‘no-phones’ policy. Try to use an actual alarm clock instead of your phone, and avoid screen time after 7pm.

Better Physical Health

We usually talk about the effects of mobile phone usage on our mental health. But what about our physical wellbeing? Hunching forward and leaning over your desk, looking down on your phone and too much screen time will have its repercussions. Nobody wants a text neck, a bad back or eye strain. A tech-free period will give your body a well-deserved break. Take it.

Improve Relationships

Let’s be honest. How often do you and your partner/parents/housemate have dinner in front of the TV? Do you sometimes feel ‘too busy’ to listen to their stories and needs? Taking a break from your digital devices will allow you to reconnect with your family and friends (in real life!). Spending more time with loved ones is important for our energy and mood levels.

Reduce Depression and Anxiety

Heavy internet usage has been linked to depression. And apparently, anxiety increases when our mobile phone usage increases. Looking at your friend’s perfect life, the constant fear you’re missing out, having less social interaction. All of this has been associated with increased restlessness, anxiety and unhappiness. There is a life to be lived in the real world. And unfortunately it’s a short one, so make every moment count.

Feel Happier

Following on from the point above, a digital detox will make you feel happier. A bold statement, we know! Spending more time online can make you feel socially isolated as you have less connection with real humans. And more interesting, a study at Nottingham Trent University in the UK discovered that one-third of the messages we receive on our phone worsens our mood.. So why are we so eager to receive them??

Mental Clarity

Taking a digital detox gives you the ability to refocus. With so many pings and notifications, your poor brain probably has 17 ‘tabs’ open at the same time. Multi-tasking is a myth. Rather than completing one task, you end up with 17 unfinished ones. A digital detox allows you to regain mental clarity so you can give each project the attention it deserves.

Free Up Time

Less time online, more time to do the things you never have ‘time’ for.. Or at least don’t feel rushed when you’re doing them!

Read a book, write a book, cuddle your pet, be creative, play a board game, talk to your partner, do yoga, meditate, play a card game, be mindful, start a business, do a study, catch up with a friend, listen to music, walk in the park, bake a cake, daydream about your next holiday, do some painting, pottery, make jewellery.. You get the idea.

By Sab at Retreat Here
Original Article Here

How To Balance a Healthy Lifestyle with Yoga and Wine


Yoga class? Oh, I thought you said, “Pour a glass.”


Considering my blog is all about yoga and wine, I cannot believe this wasn’t my first post! Nonetheless, here it is.​There is currently a trending idea of mixing wine, beer or other alcohol with yoga. You may have heard of classes like, “Glass after Class”, “Beer Yoga”, or “Downward Drinking Dog”. Besides the obviously clever names, it’s revolutionizing the way we look at a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Fifteen years ago, the general consensus of yoga was that it placed restrictions on what healthy is: no meat, no alcohol, no caffeine. I remember many years ago going to a Detox class with a highly disciplined yoga teacher who said she could “smell the meat” oozing off of the practitioners in the room. I swear she said this as she was passing by me, which totally brought heat to my cheeks.

I get why there is restriction. The concept of the 8 Limbs of Yoga leads us to ultimate Samadhi. Samadhi is considered the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached through intense meditation. Ironically, the term Samadhi also refers to a tomb, so it may be best not to take it too seriously. Nonetheless, in order to achieve Samadhi, one must experience the 8 Limbs of Yoga (Asana/Pose being one of them). And if your tummy’s acting funny from the toxins you’re putting inside of it, there sure isn’t a way to feel those higher vibes in meditation. You know what I mean?

That said, I would argue that yoga is no longer reserved only to those who have the intention of achieving Samadhi. That pretty much went out the window when western culture modernized it. Perhaps some of you are pulling your hair out at this claim but, I would sincerely ask you to take a step back and relax. There is room in this world for all of us to practice yoga in our own way; whether it be to reach Samad-hi or to reach an awesome Bo-dy (see what I did there?!). We all get to “own” yoga in our own way. Yoga can take on any meaning we want it to. You stay on your mat, and I’ll stay on mine.

With this theory in mind, let us consider the concept of combining activities that appear to be polar opposites. A wine glass on a yoga mat is going to get knocked over. It’s that simple. If you’re seeing a person on Insta posing with a beer glass in their hand while in Dancer’s Pose well, 1) to each their own but, 2) that doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience to me. Drinking makes me tipsy physically and, I have no business practicing yoga and drinking wine at the same time.

I love my yoga practice to be a sober experience. I approach my mat with respect for the body I am in, the studio I am practicing in, and the teacher that is spending their time to help me further my yoga practice.

Similarly, I approach drinking wine with respect for the body I am in, the winery that provided the bottle of wine, and the friends around me that are spending their time to help me further my drinking practice.

Sort of funny. But true!
​​
I look at these two activities as separate but equal experiences. In the right moderation (for both), these activities help ease stress, enhance social connections, and increase relaxation.

​Here are my Top 3 How-To’s on how you can find a balanced lifestyle between being active (I will call it yoga but, if it’s different for you, then edit the wording in your mind) and drinking (I will call it wine, but you know what to do).

Pairing Wine and Yoga at the Same Time is a No-No
It may be funny for a picture to appear like you are drinking wine while doing yoga but, I don’t actually recommend the act. Here’s why: (1) Drinking inhibits your inner balance. Yoga poses can be trickier while drinking, leading to injury. (2) Yoga requires a warm-up so that your body is ready to enter into advanced postures. If you’re drinking, you’re more than likely not warmed up. Your inhibitions are also lowered, and you may be willing to test advanced postures that you aren’t warmed up for or worse, haven’t tried before. Hello, injury!

First Practice Yoga, then Drink the Wine
Practicing yoga burns the calories needed in order to drink a glass of wine, free of guilt. For instance, Power yoga burns around 300 calories per hour for a 130-pound person! That’s actually two glasses of wine (shh…). Or drink one glass and use the other half to eat some chocolate! Win, win.

​Plan a Night of it!
Plan a lady’s night or a couple’s night out! Visit a local studio in your area, and then head to a nearby restaurant for some yummy food and wine. A good yoga practice relaxes you and lifts away distractions, hence actually enhancing your senses. Colors and tastes are actually thought to be more distinct after a yoga class. Cool, huh? Talk about a great date!


A balanced lifestyle of being active and drinking can actually be very healthy. Making sure to mindfully choose moderation with both activities, you truly can maintain a lifestyle that lets you have your cake. And drink it, too.  ​​

An Interview with a Nurse and Yoga Teacher Expat Living in Australia

When you move to a new home (whether it be a new country, city, zip code, neighborhood, yoga studio, fill-in-the-blank), establishing a community can be so important. It helps ease the newness when you meet people who share like-minded values. For me, moving to Australia from America, I was determined to meet a community that loves practicing yoga. I also wanted to meet friends that love to relax and drink wine on the weekends. It really was one of the main reasons I created this blog, in the hopes that it would attract to me a community with similar values.

I’ve been lucky enough to say I have already met a remarkable community of like-minded individuals, and the community just keeps expanding. One of my favorites would have to be Carly Rockwood. A Canadian-born expat residing in Sydney, Australia for the past two years, Carly and I met at a festival called Taste of Manly (think lots of food and lots of wine). The first words out of her mouth were telling our mutual friend about a gymnastics studio she’s been going to. I was immediately taken! If you don’t know this tidbit about me, I was a gymnast for the first 14 years of my life. I only quit because it got too competitive and time-consuming.

But I am a gymnast at heart, and crave any opportunity to cartwheel, handstand or back walkover.

In the bout of just 15 minutes, we discovered our mutual love of yoga (both of us being yoga instructors, too!), and made plans for a yoga date that same weekend. And we’ve been hanging out ever since. Over yoga and wine, we’ve bonded and grown to be fast friends. Of course, I couldn’t resist interviewing and snapping photos of her beautiful yoga practice for my blog.

What would you say is your favorite thing about yoga?

I feel like it’s home. I get on my mat, and I feel immediate relief. Anything else is going on in the world, I can forget about it for that length of time. The good feeling that it brings to my life, and keeps me grounded.

How long have you been practicing yoga?

I went to my first class when I was 17. The studio in my hometown had yoga classes on Friday night, so sporadically my friends and I would go to Hot Yoga and sweat it all out. When I was 21 and graduated University, the same studio had a free month offering for nurses and doctors and I joined. I became completely hooked.

What do you think it was about yoga that got you hooked?

Ever since I was really young, I was a very anxious child. It got really bad when I was 10, to the point I wouldn’t hang out with anyone outside of just a couple friends. If I was in an unfamiliar situation, I would have panic attacks. In that day and age, nobody was taking those habits too seriously. My parents at the time didn’t really understand it, and didn’t know to get me help. At one point when I was in high school, it got really bad. I felt really bad for my parents. Thankfully some of my friends supported me and helped me get back on the right track. In my second year of University, I had a terrible breakdown and asked for help when I was 19. I was on medication for years, going to therapy. When I was 21, I found yoga. I realized how much it was helping me, and I actually was able to go off medication. Yoga helps you find different coping mechanisms; knowing that we are in control of our own emotions. Now whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I just turn to my mat.I would highly recommend yoga to anyone, who is feeling any sort of anxiety, depression or body issues.

What connections have you made through yoga?

It brings you a community of like-minded people all over the world. I have friends in so many countries because of yoga. And everyone is really nice.

How often do you practice yoga?

Daily. At the studio, or at home.

Where did you get your teacher training at?

I did it back home in 2014, through the Olive Tree Yoga Foundation. My good friend Paul was one of Baron Baptiste’s assistants and ran a training in my home town, London, Ontario. The Foundation was started by him and his ex-wife to bring yoga to Palestine, running teacher trainings within refugee camps. I was an ambassador for them, and when Paul started a sister foundation called True North Yoga Foundation in Canada, I did work with them in Indigenous communities in Canada assisting with teacher trainings and doing yoga with the children.

Did you choose to teach yoga after going through your yoga teacher training?

I taught the kids through the True North Yoga Foundation and taught a little bit at a yoga studio back home in Canada. I do like teaching, but at this moment I like to be a student more. I want to continue to be a student and grow and learn more before I get back into teaching. Right now, I would love to learn more about the philosophy of yoga so I can bring more philosophy to my classes.

Do you see yourself advancing your teaching through more teacher training?

I would love to do a yin yoga teacher training and learn more about that style of teaching. Also, I have a goal to go to India in 2018 for a month or two, and just live in an ashram and deepen my meditation and practice. A little bit of Eat, Pray, Love. [laughs]

How do you live a balanced lifestyle?

Well, it’s getting better [laughs]. When I lived in Canada, I was a lot more balanced. When I moved here, social life [in Manly] is so easy because you live close to your friends. You could hang out with friends every night of the week if you want. I think it’s about setting priorities. I know if I don’t practice yoga, after even just three days, I notice a difference in my mental health.

What would you say is your favorite yoga pose?

I don’t know if I have a favorite, to be honest. I like yoga poses that challenges me. Like right now, it would be forearm balance. Because I can’t really hold it for long right now but, I’m trying so hard to get it. Since starting practicing gymnastics, my shoulders have gotten stronger and I’ve been holding it longer!My go-to party trick pose would have to be King Pigeon [laughs].

So, have you ever done drunk yoga?

Uh-huh. Hasn’t everyone?! [laughs] I also have done the worm at parties [cringe face]. I guess I wouldn’t recommend drunk yoga for everyone…

Artemis, Make My Aim True

“Artemis, huntress of the moon, make my aim true. Give me goals to seek and the constant determination to achieve them. Allow me the strength and wisdom to be my own mistress; not defined by the expectations of others.”


I first heard this quote from Kathryn Budig, during her Aim True workshop about 8 years ago. I was completely mesmerized by her words. If you know anything about me, you know that I have a girl crush on Kathryn Budig. She is fabulous. Even though these past couple of years have been tumultuous for her (she went through a divorce, started focusing less on yoga and more on other things in her life), I still see everything she does as the truest testament to staying true to yourself, first.

We often spend our lives pleasing others, whether we recognize it or not. Do you have a hard time saying no? I know I do, and so do countless others. Even when you do say no, do you automatically have a feeling the person you said no to doesn’t like you anymore? Yeah, that is common, as well.

So, what would it be like in your life if you had the strength and wisdom to aim true to you, first? To say no when you need to, to say yes when it best for you? To achieve your goals without apologizing to the world for your light shining bright?

​Here are some suggested ideas to help you accomplish this on a daily basis.

Write Affirmations on Your Mirror Everyday

The Artemis quote above is an amazing option. I had it on my mirror for years (until we moved to Australia), and it helped remind me everyday to aim true to me, and what I need in this life.

Set an intention at the beginning of every day and follow through with it.

We simply feel better when we have a purpose or intention. In the morning, just think about your intention. This could be something as simple as, “Love my children for all their happiness and energy.” or “Appreciate my husband for the little things he does for me today.” It can also be about work, “I will complete this task before I let my e-mail Inbox distract me.” It doesn’t have to be big; it just has to mean something to you. You get the idea.

Let go of relationships/friendships that don’t suit you.

It’s OK to not like someone. You aren’t being mean by cutting them out of your life. It is more poisonous and confusing to keep them there. Focus on relationships that are reciprocal and supportive. Don’t feel like you have that in your life right now? That’s OK. Create an affirmation to turn to everyday, speaking to what you are looking for in this world. Example: “I aim to create a relationship in my life that is supportive, genuine and healthy.”

Write down a list of qualities you like about yourself.

And keep re-visiting it. You can still be humble and appreciate who you are.

Choose actions of love, not fear.

There are fewer categories of emotions than you think. In fact, it is theorized that most emotions can fit under two categories: love and fear. And this concept changed my life. ““There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.” – Elisabeth Kubler Ros

Looking for more on the subject? I highly recommend you check out Kathryn Budig’s book Aim True. Absolutely gorgeous book full of wisdom.

A New Way to Think about Being Compassionate to Others

Oh, that’s the alarm. Oh, I’m so thirsty. Did I drink enough water last night? Mmm. Water’s so tasty. Time to check my phone. Notifications. Who texted me after 10pm? Oh good, it’s not bad news. Woo hoo! 20 new friends on Instagram! I’ll check Facebook, too. Why do I always have 20 notifications in Facebook when there’s nothing actually new to see? OK, I guess it’s time to get out of bed. Am I going to the gym today or yoga class? I can’t remember. Oh right, it’s the gym today. I really don’t feel like putting on a sports bra…

Those were my thoughts this morning in the first minute I was awake. Imagine how many thoughts I’ve had since then. I’ve thought about whether or not I’m working out hard enough at the gym, I’ve gone to the grocery store and bought items to make a protein powder pancake breakfast and some homemade trail mix. I’ve thought about my business Girl Friday Studio and what new photos I want to post on my Instagram. I’ve taken a shower, I’ve thought about this post, I’ve thought about…You get the point.

So, let’s talk about you. You’ve had 50,000 thoughts today. I’m not even kidding. This is the average amount a human being thinks in just one day.

You’ve had thoughts that have turned into actions. You’ve had thoughts that have turned into emotions or were stemmed from emotions. You’ve had thoughts related to your interactions. You’ve done your part to contribute to your community, family and friends. Let’s say you have been on this Earth for exactly 30 years (happy birthday, by the way). This means you’ve been in existence and contributed to this world for 10,950 days. That is a lot of days, a lot of stories, thoughts and contributes to this world!

You have loved. You have cried and you have laughed. You have been joyful, you have been sad. You’ve had a Mother and a Father, you’ve perhaps been a sister or brother, been a mother or father, a lover or a friend, and you’ve been a teacher (whether you know it or not, it’s true). You have changed the lives of the people around you just by interacting with them.

Do you get how important you are in this world? Do you see how special your time on this Earth has been? If you haven’t thought about it, just take a moment to feel how big you are in this world. How special you are. Because why? Because you have lived. You have had 50,000 thoughts every day and every single one makes you special and have led you to who you are today

So now (yes, right now), I want you to think about the person in your life who is the most important to you (besides yourself, no cheating). For me, I immediately think of my husband (and then I see people in the background like my Mom and Dad, my brother, my friends, all waving their hands like, “Here I am, too!”). In your mind’s eye, think of that one person. And then realize that there are 50,000 thoughts going through his (I say “his” but, you insert whatever gender, if any, this person may be) mind per day. Think about the interactions this person has had just today that you probably don’t even know about. Think about the interactions this person has had in his life. It’s impossible to truly know in detail what this person experiences, but you know his life is special, right? Simply because we just did this exercise for you, and now we know how big you are in this world, and now you realize how big your person is, too.

Now think of your neighbor. I know very little about mine. I know he’s in his mid-40s. I know he has a girlfriend who has a cute dog. I know they like takeaway coffee on Saturday mornings. But that is pretty much all. But then I think about the 50,000 thoughts per day rule and suddenly I’m in awe. He has a life. A gorgeous, amazing life that is full of thoughts and stories. And he is just as big as me, and just as big as my husband.

Now think of a stranger living in the city or town next to you. Same thought process. You don’t even know what this person looks like. But you know they have stories; full of love, laughter, tears and emotion. And they matter. They matter as much as you do.

If you continue down this path of recognition, there is suddenly empathy for the entirety of the human race. Each and every single person is big and has so many stories to tell. So many stories. Each person you pass in the street is living a full and complete life. You may not know their stories (how could you, truly) but you know they have them.

A lot of times this thought process leads many people to feel small. But, this is exactly the opposite of what I want you to think. You are not small in this world. You are big. You have 50,000 thoughts in a day, you have interactions with your community that shift it (whether you recognize it or not), and you matter to this world. You matter to me, you matter to your family, your loved ones, your friends, your community, your work, and your world.

With this new thought process in mind, can you go into your daily life with empathy? Can you love your fellow humans in the recognition that they also have stories behind their eyes? That they are just as big as you (not smaller, not bigger) in this world?

When we as humans recognize that separately we are big, but together we are massive, this world shines with the most compassionate love this Universe has to offer.

How to Not Let Others Control Your Self-Worth

It’s time to shine, you legends. How many times in your life have you thought you’re too…something?

  • Too loud.
  • Too strong.
  • Not feminine enough.
  • Not masculine enough.
  • Too quiet.
  • Too successful.
  • Too smart.
  • Too dumb.
  • The list goes on…

There is something going on here that is so much deeper. Here’s how: From a young age, we oftentimes equate our self-worth to how others see us, rather than how we see our own self. Ironically, the way you see others is always through your own lens; a reaction from your own life experiences, emotions and cognition. It’s truly never about the other person; it’s how you react to their action that makes it so.

So, jump back to how we let our self-worth be affected by how we assume others see us. You are actually projecting your own lens onto them. Hence, your self-worth is something that is always and fully controlled by you. No other person in this world has the power to make you feel less then. There are people that will try. There are people that have self-worth issues and want you to get on their level of self-doubt. But you don’t have to let them. Your lens (think of it as a camera) in which you see the world is your ability to control what you see: when to let the light in, when to shade it out, when to point your lens at something else, and when to zoom.

What if you were to take one moment today to just be unapologetically YOU. In your mind’s eye, picture that face, or that sea of faces that you always have thought were the culprits. See them? Him? Her? Now re-evaluate if it was ever about them, or if perhaps it is where your lens is currently aiming. Then say to them through your lens, “I am unapologetically ME.” And then turn on the rose-colored filter because life is prettier that way, anyway. ​

Weight Gain and Road Rage: This is Real Life Yogi Confessions

Confession time.

For years, I was nervous to call myself a “true yogi”. I was afraid if I proclaimed it loudly enough, that the real yogi’s would hear me and the worst thing would happen to me (not that I even fully asked myself what that would entail?). After all, I ate meat, and (gasp) I drank wine, and participated in so many other things that this modern society offers to us that just doesn’t feel “yogi” enough.

And yet, I showed up on my mat almost daily, I practiced mindfulness and kindness, and I studied and spent the time to become a yoga teacher. I started to question why I was so afraid to be me, exactly as I was. That I could practice yoga and still enjoy other activities that make me just as happy, and balanced. So guess what? I started calling myself a yogi. And I started working on being unapologetic for also calling myself a wino. And a Netflix binge-watcher. And a music lover. And a frozen yogurt feen. Because perhaps then, I could start finding my peeps. You know, like those people who love to be healthy and active but also can stuff 4 cookies in their mouth at once? Yeah, those are my people.

Here’s a compilation of 5 yogis who weren’t afraid to share their confessions, either. Each of them sways a little from the yogi tracks and I love them all the more for it. I hope you do, too.

The witty author of this post made me giggle and nod emphatically at the similarities that we so closely share. Like yelling at drivers, and not always listening to her body. I bet you’ll find similarities, as well!

Confessions of a (Temporarily Fat) Yogi

about Trina Hall
Really interesting read (and video!) about this yogi who purposely gained weight after talking with another yoga instructor friend about weight issues. She learns some amazing lessons along the way.

Quirky new Instagram account takes yoga off the mat and into the real world
about Jordan Berger

This guy is actually one of my favorite yoga instructors at my home yoga studio, Power Living! He teaches yoga and also works for an alcohol company; doesn’t get more “balanced” than that! Check out his crazy awesome photos on Instagram of yogis in the real world, doing their thang.

Confessions from a Stiff Yogi

by Ricardia Bramley
What immediately drew me to this article was that she was a gymnast growing up (like myself). Being inflexible is something that deters so many people from trying yoga. But let me ask you this: would you not go to school because you can’t read? Go to yoga and practice your flexibility. Or, just show up to yoga and do what you can, flexibility shmexibility! You’ll be the same as 96% of the people in your class.

5 of the Most Creative and Unusual Yoga Trends
by Elise Moreau

I had to throw this one in here, because I am a huge fan of people who push the boundaries and create something new from an old(er) idea. Like Doga. Yep, Doga!

The Inside Scoop on what it’s like as an American Expat Living in Australia

Three months ago, my husband and I got rid of most of our belongings, packed  our suitcases and moved across the world to Australia. I must have scoured hundreds of websites to figure out what to expect. What should I bring? What should I leave behind?

To preface this, my husband and I are both pretty tech savvy (he’s worked in the tech industry for the past 10 years, and I make a living via an online business). We live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. We both stay active regularly, enjoy eating nutritious food, and love binge-watching Netflix in the evening over a glass of wine. So umm…pretty normal.

If you’re anything like us, this is perhaps what you can expect as an American with plans to move to Australia, or vice versa as an Australian moving to America. This blog post also applies if you are already an American expat living in Australia because frankly, this is a moment where we can bond over our frustrations and excitement living in this beautiful country. Last but not least, you may also love this blog post if you’re just darn curious what the heck it’s like for some person to pack up all of their belongings and move to another country!

THINGS I MISS BEING AN AMERICAN IN AUSTRALIA

The other biscuit

Much to an American’s surprise, a biscuit here is actually a cookie. Think sugar and flour and yumminess. Yep! Much to my dismay, you won’t find (American) biscuits anywhere. What you may find are scones, which are similar to (American) biscuits. However, you will not find biscuits and gravy.

Driving (and walking) on the left side

I was nervous about moving here and having to drive on the left side of the road. But I figured I wouldn’t be driving, so it wouldn’t be too bad. What I didn’t realize is that people also walk on the left side of the sidewalk. Back home, you might not even realize it but, we totally favor the right side of the sidewalk. Therefore, it only makes sense that Australians favor the left side of the sidewalk. And let me tell you, walking in the Sydney CBD (that’s “downtown”) at 5PM on a Friday will make you get it right quick.​ I mean, left quick. 😉

Amazon

Oh, Amazon. How I miss you. It’s not that you can’t get items shipped to you here. But, there is no Prime 1-day or 2-day shipping here. Sometimes you do get lucky and get your package delivered in 1 or 2 days, and it’s always really exciting when that happens.

Starbucks

Guess what? Australians are addicted to coffee. And it’s not Starbucks. When I first moved, I was looking for familiarity (and free wi-fi) and I was shocked that there wasn’t a Starbucks on every corner. Apparently, Starbucks tried to make it happen but, haven’t had much success yet. And on the note of free wi-fi, Starbucks here also have free wi-fi, but you have to type in a PW they give you at the counter and, you are limited on the Gigs you can use before they cut you off, circa 2008.

High-Speed Wifi

Speaking of wi-fi… The Airbnb we stayed in when we first moved to Sydney told us we had 1GB of data we could use per day. Hello, I use that much before my morning tea! And it was so incredibly slow; I couldn’t download a photo while I was streaming a show. It was connected to a phone line; They call it ADSL. When we moved to our new home in Manly Beach, I thought, “No matter what, we are getting high-speed unlimited wi-fi; I don’t care how much it costs.” Well, it turns out it is expensive and actually really hard to obtain. Everyone, and I mean (mostly) everyone, just accepts that ADSL is standard. Circa 2008. But we put our foot down and found the one company that offered cable internet (Telstra), paid an arm and a leg to get it installed, and now I’m thinking about running a side hustle where I offer high-speed wi-fi to anyone who is interested (or desperate) to have legit wi-fi.

Expensive Beer and Liquor

Beer and liquor is so expensive. I am talking about imported and local. If you go out to drink, you will more than likely pay $18-$30 AUD for a cocktail (that’s about $13-$22 USD). There are good deals during the week, so don’t you worry! As for beer, you can’t easily find a decent 6-pack of beer for under $18 AUD (that’s about $13 USD). Luckily, you can usually find deals for beers when you go out to bars and restaurants. And the best news? There is so much good local wine, and totally reasonable.

Opposite Seasons

Although there is something pretty neat about experiencing a warm North-facing view and seeing the water spin counter-clockwise, I have to say watching friends from back home in the States bathing in sunlight on a boat while we deal with our second winter in a row, is sort of well, miserable. Granted, Sydney winter is a ton more mellow than a Seattle winter, but there’s something to be said about enjoying four seasons in a row…Having two winters in a row was just tough. That said, the build-up for summer is AMAZING. I am so friggin’ excited for a Sydney summer at the beach!

Mexican Food

This is a cuisine that is almost unheard of here. Luckily, Mexican restaurants have been popping up slowly (we have a Mexican restaurant within walking distance called Chica Bonita). However, I would say that it just hasn’t tasted the same. Also, you can’t purchase fresh pico de gallo at the grocery store. Argh.

Hot Sauce

Did you know that Sriracha only showed up in Australia a couple years ago? My expat Canadian friend told me this, and I was so thankful we showed up after it arrived! In general, the flavor “spicy” is not a thing here (unless you’re talking Thai food).. You ask for hot sauce at pretty much any restaurant, and they give you a blank stare or a really old questionable bottle of some no-name sauce you’re not sure of. Australians just don’t know spicy like Americans do.

Alaska Air, Southwest, and Virgin America

What I’m getting at is, if you fly domestic in Australia, you have very limited choices. You either have Qantas or Virgin Australia, which are exceptionally expensive. Or, you have a plethora of extremely cheap airlines, such as Jet Star and Tiger Air. Your flight price will look reasonable, but then they charge you for everything. To assign yourself a seat, you have to pay $15. To bring two carry-ons over 7kg (about 15lbs), you also have to pay. To drink their water on board, you have to pay. It’s ridiculous! Alaska Air, where are you? I miss you!

THINGS I LOVE AS AN AMERICAN LIVING IN AUSTRALIA

Tim Tams and Tea

Australians may not have good Mexican food but, they have Tim Tams and Tea (The Tim Tam Slam) and it’s about the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It sounds like Target in the States now has Tim Tams! I’m sure you can also find them at World Market. Make sure you follow the tutorial. The first time I tried it, I had been instructed by an Australian but, she wasn’t with me when I actually did it. I totally bombed the experience. The second time I did it? Nailed it, and Oh. My. God.

Australian Accent

Because I am totally in love with the way Australians talk! You know what’s funny? The American accent stands out to me now. I smile really big when I hear the American accent somewhere around me, because it feels a bit more like home. We also hang out with some British expats and it’s safe to say I love the way they talk just as much as I love the way Australians talk. One funny note is that many Australians have said that when they were younger, they wished they could talk like “the people in the movies and TV shows” talked. But it seems that as they’ve gotten older, they’ve lost interest in having the American accent. Don’t know what that’s about, sheesh.

Free Range Eggs

You know when you pay $12 at a farmer’s market in America so you can get truly free-range eggs that have really fluorescent yellow yolks so you know they’re good and delicious? Yeah, that’s all eggs here. You go to your local grocery store, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an egg short of brilliant yellow.

Biscuits

Because yes, biscuits are cookies here, and I love cookies.

Koalas, Kangaroos and Penguins

There’s something so special about finally for the first time in a lifetime meeting these “exotic” animals I never thought I’d meet outside of the zoo.

BYO (Bring Your Own)

OK, this one is sort of funny because it does technically exist in the States. As in, you go to a restaurant and bring a bottle of wine and pay a corkage fee. However, the first time we went to a restaurant here that served BYO, there was something so novelty about it. Most places charge less than $3 PP to bring your own bottle. Our new favorite thing to do is pick up our favorite bottle of $8 McGuigan‘s Red and go out for Thai food.

Public Toilets

You know how in the States, you rarely use a public bathroom? Here it is totally normal and there are actually a ton of them. The ones in the CBD are a bit sketch (after you use them, you close the door, and then it sprays the entire inside with some antibacterial mist) but, if you’re in a pinch, there’s actually options here.

Wine Bottle Screw Tops

Pretty much every (good) bottle of wine in the States has a cork, not a screw. And in fact, I would argue that the belief is that screw top wines aren’t as good. Here in Australia, it’s the exact opposite. We have seen exactly one wine bottle with a cork, and perhaps hundreds (ahem) of wine bottles with a screw top. And I haven’t missed the act of trying to track down a wine opener one bit.

Free Coin Exchange

In the States, you have to use Coinstar to get rid of coins, unless you want to spend hours stacking coins into those round wrappers. Am I right?! Here in Australia, banks have coin counting machines and they are free. This is probably because Australians have a $2 coin, which really adds to how many coins you get when you spend cash. Oh and speaking cash, there are still a ton of places that are Cash Only. WTF.

The Weather

We live in Sydney, so we can really only speak to here. But let me just tell you, Sydney is amazing. We literally live on a whitewashed beach (I believe San Diego would be the closest example in the States, or perhaps Key West), and my husband Jason takes a ferry to the CBD everyday. We have only experienced the Sydney winter and it’s been between 17-25 degrees Celsius everyday (that’s 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit). There have been rainstorms and they only last for minutes at a time. The summer is supposed to be amazing with 25 degrees or higher everyday.

Coffee

I had to include this one as an ode to my husband Jason and pretty much every Australian. I don’t drink caffeine (health reasons), so I’m the odd woman out. Australians love their coffee and are actually very picky about it. You don’t find much automatic coffee machines over here; they love drip. Jason is an avid coffee drinker and his drink of choice is a Long Black.

Here’s some other interesting facts that didn’t make the top 10, but still you might now know about Australia. I only found these out when I moved here!

  • At a restaurant, an appetizer is actually called an “entrée”. You call your entrée a “main” here.
  • Screens on windows and doors are very uncommon here. So are double-paned windows. Ironic for a place full of insects and critters, isn’t it?
  • To convert to Fahrenheit, you multiply the Celsius by two, and then add 30 (ex: 20 degrees Celcius x 2 = 40 + 30 = 70 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s not exact but, it’s close enough.
  • There are wild cockatoos here. They look exactly like your neighbor’s exotic cockatoo. But they’re wild and hang out on your balcony.
  • Cilantro is called Coriander here, and Bell Pepper is called Capsicum here.
  • At a restaurant, you say “Take away” instead of “To go”. They actually look at your funny if you say the latter.
  • Clothes dryers are really uncommon! Clotheslines are like, normal here.

What are some things you have discovered as an expat? Or were surprised by in this post? Comment below and help me expand the Balance + Vine community!

How to experience freedom in your own life

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”  – Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, Yoga mantra

It is Independence Day in America, and it was Independence Day for Canada just this past weekend. As a recent expat from America now residing in Australia, this is the first time I am deeply aware of my roots. Call it homesickness, I am reflecting upon what it means to be celebrating this day of Independence from literally the other side of the world. And what it means to celebrate freedom.

What does it mean to be free? And how do we ourselves enjoy the same freedom as America (and other countries) celebrate? Because I don’t know about you, but I often feel chained. Do you feel chained to a job, to a home, or to a lifestyle or habit perhaps? Sometimes I very much feel held back by limitations in this world.Although being held back may feel external, I know that the shackles holding me are actually very much internal. Because what is actually holding us back from our freedom, from our power, from our celebration is what binds us inside. And it’s not the job, it’s not the home, or the lifestyle or habit; what binds us is not necessarily the external factor, but really is our reaction to it.

So how we do rise above the shackles? Dig deep. We first must figure out what we are bound to. Because it more than likely is not the job, the home or the lifestyle or habit. It’s usually something deeper. Ask yourself, are you bound to fear? Are you bound to not feeling good enough? Do you feel shackled to feeling unloved?

Therein lies our freedom. To discover what binds us, become aware of how it plays into our world, and moment by moment, thought by thought, think of ways to overcome it.

One way to overcome it is by projecting into the world what you feels binds you. For instance, in my own life, I feel shackled by never feeling good enough. I fear putting myself out there in a big way, because I greatly fear that I will be criticized and told I’m not good enough to shine. This is a huge realization for me. Perhaps this may awaken a realization in you or, perhaps what binds you (if at all) is something different. But what I recognize is that because I feel not good enough, I’m going to do everything in my power to help others recognize they are good enough. To shine a spotlight on them and let them know how important they are in this world, how good they are in this world. Because perhaps if I see it in others, then I can start to see it in myself.

This works with anything, truly. “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

​Are you chained to the fear of not having enough money? Perhaps turn it around, and ask yourself, how can I help others feel secure financially? Donate or volunteer your time.

Are you chained to feeling unloved? Ask yourself, how can I love more? How can I project my own love into this world? Call someone up and tell them how much they mean to you. Write a love letter a day for a full year, to every person you know. Even celebrities, family members, friends, even enemies (a-ha!).

Are you scared of being lonely? Then help others feel less alone. Adopt a pet, call a friend you haven’t talked to in some time, or chat it up with a person sitting alone during your lunch break.

Above all else, remember that you internally choose your freedom. Freedom doesn’t choose us. We as individuals have the power to be free within our own minds. We just have to become aware of what truly binds us, and from there we can choose to free ourselves of it.

Shine bright.