My Ibiza Gratitude List
So it’s Christmas, and time for goodwill and gratitude and all that. As you know, I’ve just come back from seven months spent living and working in Ibiza. When I left at the end of April, I thought I might be going for years, but I always gave myself Christmas as a ‘progress checkpoint’ (yes, you can take the girl out of project management, but you will struggle to take the project manager out of the girl).I’ll be honest and say that despite the endless sunshine, sea, sand and opportunities for dancing, I was often very unhappy in Ibiza. I felt like I didn’t fit in with the relentless drinking, drug taking and all pervasive flakiness and lack of boundaries that characterises the island. It was something I was concerned about before I left, and it turns out I right to be concerned.It would be really easy to succumb to Social Media Porn and say ‘look at my fabulous Ibiza life’ but the reality of it was that it wasn’t that great, for quite long periods of time. But amongst the very real periods of depression and loneliness, plus spending a lot of my savings, there were definitely things that I was very thankful for – and that I have brought home with me.So here are my top ten things from Ibiza that I am thankful for1) Slowing DownWe lead ridiculously busy, over programmed lives, punctuated by mindless box set and internet watching, and drinking. We’re stressed and disconnected because of this. But should someone suggest not being so busy, we take it as an affront to our sense of importance, of being needed.I was totally like this. I loved being busy and important, especially at work. And then I went to live on an island full of flaky, non-committal people who are routinely late; mixed with the Spanish culture of siestas and not being open at sensible hours, and a love of complicated and needless bureaucracy; plus the relentless heat and humidity – and the end result was I had to slow down.One friend said to me in May when I was ploughing through all the life admin of bank account, social security number etc that I wasn’t in London anymore, and that I should complete one task a day and then go swimming, or for a walk, or do yoga, or read my book. Because one task a day was all that was going to happen. This made me quite stressed because I wasn’t getting through my To Do List as quickly as anticipated – but ultimately, he was right. Everything did get done, it took a bit longer of course, but by focusing on one task each day, it meant that something was progressed. And most important of all – NOTHING BAD HAPPENED when things didn’t get done immediately!I’m thankful because this has allowed me to become a lot less stressed and controlling, and I’ve let go of a lot of ‘need to do’ feelings. I’ve also learned to trust that things will get sorted in their own time, and that maybe the plan I have in my head, is not the path that is actually the one set out for me.2) FoodI’ve been into healthy eating for a while and especially since I realised that eating well can help manage my periods of depression. In Ibiza, because I had slowed down and now had a flexible schedule, I had lots of time for cooking and making my own food everyday – plus a lot of amazing fresh produce right on my doorstep: local avocados, melons, strawberries, aubergines, tomatoes. Because I was depressed and often lonely, I spent a lot of time cooking and eating. Cooking helps me feel grounded and eating well improves my mood. I appreciated the time I had to do this, in fact at one point I considered taking a nutrition course to coach others in healthy eating, although I’m not sure I am really called to do that right now. Back in dark, grey England, eating fresh, home cooked food is even more important to manage those long winter days, the cold and the over indulgence of this festive season.3) MovementIf I was eating a lot, then it’s a good thing that I was also moving a lot! I spent 15 years at a desk in an office, usually for 10-12 hours a day. Movement was restricted to going to meetings, the water cooler, the bathroom, the (in building) café and walking up the Tube escalator. Once I reached Ibiza, I moved all the time: cycling to and from town or to teach yoga; teaching and practising yoga; swimming; walking. It wasn’t a ‘work out’ or anything, I just moved. I did sit for periods as I had a part time, home based, office job but I made sure I moved around. Now back home, I actually can’t sit for long periods anymore. It hurts my body and I feel sluggish and have low energy. Even if I ever returned to a full time office job, I know I would approach it completely differently, by making sure I moved more often. I know Ibiza has great weather which makes being outside a real pleasure, but I have been going for morning walks here in Kent, even in the grey gloom, and just 40 minutes outside makes me feel so much better.4) People (not) Like UsOne of my greatest fears of moving out of London was that I would not be surrounded by people who were like me. And by ‘like me’ I mean university educated, white, professional, middle class people. Who would I talk to?! My time in Ibiza has taught me to look way, way beyond these stupid labels and be much more open to connecting with and learning from those who might appear different – and for this experience I am truly grateful and it has been incredibly humbling to have my preconceptions knocked for six. Some of my closest friends these past seven months have been people in their mid-twenties, who left school at 16, who have never worked a corporate job, many of whom are far more mature and understanding of themselves than corporate managers I know in their mid-thirties, and some of whom are already in their second careers. I’ve spent time and connected with healers, DJs, restaurant managers, film makers, massage therapists, fitness instructors, hairdressers, boat captains, social media gurus, bar workers, hostesses, writers, retirees - all kinds of people, of all different ages and backgrounds, all of whom had something to teach me and whose company I really enjoyed. I no longer think that I can be fulfilled hanging out with people who are just like me, and that is something I am so happy about.5) Being ResponsibleI always thought I had a lot of responsibility at work, especially when I had big projects to look after, or an excom paper to write, or a team to manage. But life in Ibiza taught me just how little real responsibility I actually had until I was finally on my own. Managing my own income, my own marketing, my own pension – will I make enough this month to pay the rent? I was responsible for safety of the students in my yoga class, or of clients out on a hike. Responsible for the new online booking system we used to drive revenue – and not responsible as in its in my job title, but really I have a bunch of people in India who do the work – but actually having to set up, configure and manage the system myself, with no back up except tech support. I also house-sat, where I was responsible for someone else’s property and animals. I was so thankful for the opportunities to be responsible for myself and others as it made me realise that I don’t think I was ever that responsible before, but now I’ve experienced a real increase in my sense of aliveness and personal power that comes with being truly responsible.6) QuietIbiza is a party island and I was told so many times by many different people ‘Oh, you’re so quiet!’, like it was a bad thing. Often I was quiet because I loathe socialising in large groups where I don’t know anyone, or where I struggle to find common ground with others. I did once say to a guy that I was quiet because I had nothing to contribute to his conversation about binge drinking and objectifying women, which had the fortunate result that he didn’t speak to me again. I like clubbing because I am not expected to talk; I can dance for several hours, lose myself in the music, then drive home and have a herbal tea.I think being on an island of partying extroverts where I often felt like odd man out, and very lonely, was good for me. I realised that despite all this I was actually OK with being quiet, and not having a second drink, and not doing ‘banter’ (ick). I much prefer smaller groups, where I know some of the people, where there is an activity involved, and where I can have a real conversation with someone. And now finally I am OK with all of this, and I don’t have to pretend to be cool anymore.7) WonderIn early November, I took my bike on the ferry to Formentera, the island off the coast of Ibiza. I cycled along the northern section towards the salt flats, just me, my bike, the sunshine. I came around the corner and was greeted with this stunning sight that took my breath away: the turquoise sea, blue sky, white sand, Es Vedra in the background – and completely deserted apart from me.Being in Ibiza gave me back my sense of wonder and amazement, especially about the outdoors. I guess it’s easy when you’re in a magical place, but it reminded me of the time I walked over London Bridge one autumn evening, and the sky over Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge in the east was this pale pink and purple, with a bright white moon smack in the middle. You don’t have to live on a Mediterranean island to experience wonder – and experience it often. Even the other day, I was out walking in the fields near my home, and it was grey and wet – but it was also just so still – so still that all the drops hung on the hedgerows and spider webs and twigs.One Ibiza friend was describing to me the time he took acid in Thailand, how all the colours were magnified. I realised that not only do I have no desire to take acid (yuk) but that for me the colours are already magnified – I don’t need a chemical stimulant to appreciate the full wonder of nature.I’m glad I’ve brought that sense of wonder home with me. I’m happy I stop in the middle of the street to gaze at something. And I thank Ibiza for kick starting my wonder-ness8) Energy and BoundariesMany people talk about the energy of Ibiza and how it draws people to it, kicks people out (like me!), and clearly makes a lot of people go a bit nuts every summer. So clearly it was a great place for me to grow my understanding of energy and how it affects me. There have been several times now where I have had to actually physically step back from someone, or from a group, because their energy is so bad; there is also the fact that occasionally when I go clubbing, if the vibe is wrong or the people I’m with are taking drugs or are drunk, it will leave me feeling energetically poisoned for days – and this can make me physically ill if I don’t ‘clean’ myself. Likewise, I find myself drawn to certain things, even researching companies on the internet, I get a ‘feeling’ about them. If it all sounds weird to you, then hear me out. We all get to experience this energy from others and from things. The vast majority of us have not yet learned to listen to it, let alone allow it to be a factor in our decision making. Living in Ibiza has woken me up to this.If being more sensitive to energy increased then so did my boundary setting. You cannot experience and use energy and then not use good boundaries to protect yourself – and also ensure others are not subject to your own energy. I have been re-setting many boundaries around activities I like to do, and won’t do. Work I will or won’t do. Relationships that I want to continue – and those that I don’t. In Ibiza, the energy is very strong, but I’ve realised that many, many people who live there have not yet learned to put in place the parameters needed to manage it. I’m just thankful that my experience reinforced my boundaries.9) Just Do ItI’ve been involved with Escape the City for a while and attended several of their events – I’ve even signed up for their Start Up Tribe for entrepreneurs in January. I’ve met many people who want to do something different, leave their corporate job, or start up their own business. There is a lot of talk of blockers, and inspiration, and tool kits, all of which are absolutely essential in helping people make the move. But one the biggest things they ask people to do is to ‘Learn by Doing’.Ibiza is just like this – you learn through doing. People arrive on the island like I did – and they just get on with it. Whether it’s getting a job as a hostess at Ocean Beach, or ticket selling, or setting up a retreat, or yoga classes, or freelance massage – every spring thousands of people arrive on the island and just start working. Others have stayed and gone on to open restaurants, fitness businesses, bars, concerige companies. No soul searching. No coaching. No accountability group. Just a desire to stay in Ibiza as long as possible, pay the rent, have fun and maybe get some experience.In just doing it, I've actually learned what it is I want to do more of, and also what doesn't work for me. For example, the day I was contemplating cleaning villas for extra cash, was the day I realised I would rather live elsewhere and do work that means something to me. Whereas when I delivered a workshop on mindfulness for a walking group, I realised not only was I really enjoying myself, but that I also seemed to be good at it!I’m so thankful that I was one of them – that I got in my car, with half my life in the back, drove to Ibiza and just got on with teaching yoga, being open to opportunities that came my way, finding a job, paying my rent. I proved I could do it, and it has given me the courage to do the same now I’m back home.10) From Banking to ‘BeefaThe night before I set off to Ibiza, my mum said to me – “ you don’t really want to go do you?” and I had to confess that quite a large part of me didn’t. I liked being home. “But you have to go”, she continued, “you have to do something”. And she was right. Moving back to my hometown and struggling to set up my own business was never going to be tempting enough to give up my monstrous income, nice flat and comfortable life in London and banking. I needed something exciting, slightly dangerous, inspiring – and also the complete opposite of what I was doing – to give me the motivation to get out of there.So getting out of my old life, which had become very comfortable really, is what I am most thankful to Ibiza for. For the kick start it gave to my new life – and what a place to start it in!