How to save some energy

I found this post on one of my secret blogs, where I have posted like five posts before I gave up (wow, this blog is doing really well in comparison!) I wrote it about a year and a half ago and I thought it was still very applicable. It is one of the rules I live my life by and I guess this was written on the moment I learned about this idea, so I wanted to share it with you here as well!


I have been reading this book, written by Stephen Covey. I started a week ago and I am almost finished, but already I have integrated some of his stuff into my life. He became very famous for these 7 habits he created, that would help transform your life. I will maybe share more of this brilliant man in the future, but for now I wanted to focus on one particular thing.

A lot of people spend a lot of energy on a lot of things. Can you hear yourself or people around you say the following?

“God, the weather is terrible today. I annoys me so much when all this rain is coming down on me and I have to redo my hair when I get to work… Life sucks!?”

“The people in our government don’t know what they are doing. They are screwing everyone by increasing the taxes.”

“I am so bugged by the way my boss talks to me. Her voice is so high-pitched and every time she speaks I get goosebumps!”

These are just a few examples of things that people could say, when they are focused on the wrong circle. What circle, you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

According to Covey, you have two circles. The circle of concern consists of things that have an effect on you, that concern you, but that you cannot influence. Examples: the weather, other people, the government, etc. The second circle is the circle of influence, which, as you may have guessed, you can influence! This can include your life, your relationships, your job, your choices. See the picture below.

So after reading this, I started thinking about it. Two circles, one I can control, one I can’t. This sounds interesting. So that means that I don’t have to worry about or stress over the things I cannot control? Immediately I felt lighter. When I cycled through the rain the next day, people around me were complaining, and I just didn’t care. I did not want to waste energy on this thing that I obviously had no control over. It gave me this new kind of peace and already I am happy I have learned this, and, more importantly, learned to apply this.

Yesterday I had some friends over and I noticed that I was applying this theory in my conversations with them. One of my friends told me she was really trying to help another friend and it bugged her that she wouldn’t listen to her. I told her: “You can let her know how you feel and what would be the consequences if she continues her behavior, but that is all you can do. The rest is up to her and is out of your hands.” Now I am already usually a great advice giver, but this was a highlight, even for me. She agreed with me and I saw her relax a little bit with this realization. It was simply not her responsibility to change her friend’s behavior.

But let’s focus on the circle of influence as well. Because if you cannot stress about your friends’ behavior, the weather or the government, what can you stress about? Well, I am inclined to say, don’t stress at all. You are in charge of your own life. So there are always options and it is up to you to pick the right one. If you encounter something displeasing, ask yourself the following: Is this something I can change, something I have control over, or is it not? If you don’t have any influence, if it is only in you circle of concern, just let it go. It won’t help to stress, so don’t. But if it is something you can change, there are still two options. Either change it, or accept it and stop stressing. It’s actually really simple!

Now I have wondered why Covey made this distinction using circles, but when I tried to put it another way, I realized why. Just saying: there are some things you can influence, and some things you cannot influence, just sounds to damn passive. You know there are things you don’t have control over, but that doesn’t mean you cannot stress about them. Well, it does. It is a choice to stress over these things. You can cycle through the pouring rain and be annoyed the whole time. You can even be annoyed when you finally arrive at your destination and even for the rest of the day. But you can also try to let it go, to not be upset by things you cannot change. Trust me, it will save you tons of energy. And you can spend that energy thinking about things you can control.

Imagine the productivity.

Imagine the happiness…

My 10 favorite French songs

Honestly, I could start with listing all of Stromae’s songs, but first of all, he’s from Belgium, and second of all, I already knew all of his songs. But since moving to France I discovered a bunch of new ones, and here are the ones I cannot stop listening to and I am learning the lyrics to.

1. Zombie – Maître Gims

Even though a few lyrics repeat a bunch, there are a few lines that I just cannot pronounce so fast. “Retire ces chaînes, qui te freinent” (Remove the chains that hold you back).

2. Berceuse – Coeur de Pirate

First of all, love the name of the band. Heart of the pirate. And I just love her voice. This song also really has a French vibe to it, so yeah… Top 10 material right here.

3. Je Vole – Louane

Very slow, very sad. I’m pretty sure it’s about a person in their last minutes before committing suicide, while fully conscious (sans fumer, sans alcool).

4. Jour 1 – Louane

Same singer, happier song. I like the rhythm of the melody, it’s very catchy. Easy to sing along to. While reading from the lyrics website, bien sur.

5. Avenir – Louane

I know, again, same artist. But they were first in the list, so I’ve heard songs by her the most. A great song for dancing (the version I have is faster than this one on YT)!

6. Avec le temps – Isleym

I only found four songs by this artist and I really love this one. The lyrics are fast, but I can still keep up! And I like how she sounds like she’s only fourteen, which she may very well be.

7. Je t’emmenerai – Ridsa

I love his voice. And I like the lyrics. It’s never a punishment to listen to a guy singing in French.

8. Je me souviens – Ridsa

Love the feel of this song. Also, see song number 7.
“Je me dit que ça va aller” (I told myself it will be okay)

9. Pas Besoin de Toi – Joyce Jonathan

Love her voice. And the song is easy to follow.

10. Tant Pis – Joyce Jonathan

Mostly because of the title. But also because of the song.

11. Est-ce que tu m’aimes? – Maître Gims

“Do you love me? I don’t know if I love you”. Seems to sum up love pretty well.


Let me know if you found the joke.



The power of communication


There are so many. And they are the key to understanding other worlds apart from your own. I feel like I have been fluent in Dutch and English for forever, so these languages are very comforting to me. I loved learning basic Indonesian so I could get around and order food while I was there. And it felt great to understand at least a fraction of the things the locals were saying. I realized how many things you can say with just a few words. Basic words that I already knew in French, but still I didn’t feel I was capable of communicating in French at all. I’ve been in France for a few months now, and the progress is there. I remember everything I learned in high school and I understand it much better than a few months ago. And now I’m craving fluency.

I love the language so much. The melody is so nice to listen to, the words can create subtlety, they can be very specific and they can be vague. There are so many expressions and they are used to convey daily messages. So yeah, I love learning all of it.

I’ve finally reached that stage where I don’t care about the many, many, many mistakes I make when speaking French. I realize that I can say anything and the message will come across. It’s just not always grammatically correct and my pronunciation can use some (a lot of) polishing. When I just arrived in France, I was very shy about speaking French. I was ashamed of the many mistakes I made and I didn’t feel free to just speak and use the words I already knew.

And that led me to the following realization, which is how the language you are communicating in, can change your (perceived) personality.

In Dutch, I’m me. I can be quiet and just listen to everything everybody else is saying, I can be loud and make jokes, sometimes involving puns. I can speak Dutch correctly, flawlessly. I can understand everything people are saying in Dutch and it makes me perceptive to what is going on around me.

In English, I really like the me I can be. First of all, people call me Sunny in English, which is name I feel suits me better than the boring Sanne. I can understand English without any effort and I like speaking English. I’m good at English and just knowing that I can speak two languages fluently boosts my confidence. I love jokes in English, I like the day to day conversations. In English, I can be myself, with an English (well, probably more American) twist. There are the occasional difficult words that I have to look up, and doing word games in English is harder than in Dutch. But all in all, the way of communicating in English feels very familiar to me.

In French, I was a very, very shy girl. I didn’t really speak a lot in the beginning, I was just listening to the conversations around me, trying to understand it all. I wouldn’t always say it when I didn’t understand what was said. Sometimes I would think of a joke during the conversation and I wouldn’t make it, because it would take me five minutes to find the right words. And this would frustrate me to no end, because that’s not me. I like to just blurt stuff out sometimes, to be able to participate in conversation. And I’m learning to live with this frustration every day, and it’s already getting a bit better. I just have to take my time to say the stuff that would usually cost me mere seconds to communicate.

In Indonesia, speaking the language made me a bule gaul. I was already white, blond and smiling a lot. Also speaking some of the language… well it just made me marriage material. I liked my Indonesian speaking self, because I did not expect to learn anything Indonesian and by the end I actually knew quite a lot. I also really like the fact that everybody (including me) smiles in Indonesia, which made the whole experience very happy for me.

Now, when I meet somebody who speaks French and only a little bit of English, I prefer to communicate in French. That way, I have the control over the conversation. Sure, when I speak in English, I could say much more and give better and clearer insights, but the other party will probably not understand all of it. So if I do it in French, it will take me longer and it will be less specific, but at least I know that my conversational partner will understand what I’m saying.

Fluency is something that will take years, and I’m well aware. But I’ve wanted it for years, and now finally at least there is some progress.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll type a whole blog in French. That would be a real quick way to lose all my readers, I suppose…

So to end this language story, I want to share a little thing that happened to me the other day. I go to the local market near my house twice a week and I mostly buy the same things at the same vendors. At some point they will recognize the foreigner who always buys bananas and nectarines. So now I’m greeted so kindly:

‘Ah ma chérie, comment ça va?’

‘Bonjour mon coeur!’

Also, I get a bunch of free stuff and discounts, all the time. The best was when I got two little boxes of raspberry’s for free. But then this past Wednesday my market-boyfriend topped this.

I had already paid for my vegan supplies, and had put them away. And as I was turning to walk away, he held up a bouquet of parsley in front of my face.

‘Des fleurs,’ he said, smiling.

J’adore la France.


Look at this photograph

Oh the confusion. In the title I tell you to look at a photograph and yet the post only consists of text. Guess you’ll just have to read it then. All the while having ‘Photograph’ by Nickelback playing in your mind.

I got to thinking about photographs.
Whenever I travel I take many and I love to look at them later. I like to see photographs of the travels of my friends and I like to show visuals of my travels to my friends and family.

During my time in Asia I remember somebody telling me that we are kind of weird with our picture taking. We all want to get that perfect shot of the Borobudur or a beautiful picture of a sunset. And we all think our photo is the best. We like our photos much better than those of others, even the professional photos that are circling the web. Yet if you wanted to actually show people the beauty of the sights you have been seeing, it would perhaps be better to show them the pictures that are on Google. Except maybe if you’re the one taking the pictures that appear on Google.

I keep realizing more and more that everybody has another focus in life, which also shows in their photos. Some people just take pictures of landscapes, of buildings, of inanimate objects. They like to capture the atmosphere of a place, to see it later as it was when they viewed it at that time in their life.  I like a picture of an old building as much as the next gal, but add a person to that photo and I’ll pay more attention.
I am a people photographer.

I love taking pictures of locals, living their local life, doing local things. I like to watch people (not in a creepy way) and I like to interact with people. So it makes all the sense in the world that I also like to see them in photographs. A picture of a person that is laughing can really make me happy and taking them… I simply take pride in the fact I can capture a persons happiness on camera.
And me liking photographs of people also means that I don’t mind being in the pictures, because later, I will have proof for my old forgetful self that I was there. That I lived. And that I loved it.

And yes, this also means that I like selfies.

Just a quick update on my current status, which is Sunny. Literally. I’m currently in France and it was 34 degrees with sun today. I’m getting a tan without even putting in an effort. I’m not sure if all of you knew, but I am in Lyon right now, working a summer job. Basically what I do is answer the phone when people call because they are stuck on the side of the road with car trouble. I put all their information in the computer, I call a garage to help them out and I keep them updated on the progress of their car. It’s more fun than it sounds and I like the job, although I do foresee a lot of stress when the volume of calls will be even higher in a few weeks (or even days).

I have been jogging, I have been doing yoga, I have been drinking my signature smoothies every morning, I have been going to the local market twice a week, I have been practicing my French, I have been watching reruns of Gilmore Girls (in French), I have been writing down all the crazy story ideas I have constantly flying through my mind and yet I still find time to hang out with a bunch of awesome people from Couchsurfing every week to play boardgames.

The summer will be awesome, I already know the fall is going to be awesome, and plans are always in the making to be able to keep that trend going. I have so many amazing ideas for things I can do in the future that I can hardly find the time to do them all.

But if I can even realize half of the plans that I think of, my life will still be one hell of a ride.

I will always choose happiness

Not convenience.

Not obligation.

Not expectation.

But happiness.

In my previous post (which has been one in a month and a half, I realize), I told you that I was optimistic about making the summer great at the campsite I was working at. Well, I’m a big enough person to admit that I was wrong. I am apparently not capable of doing every possible thing, and that is okay.

Because I am not capable of working 60 hours a week, I am not capable of letting other people direct my life (because I AM capable of doing this myself) and I am not capable of spending even a minimum amount of time feeling unhappy. Because feeling unhappy, made me unhappy, which made me miserable. So I got out.

I guess having long working hours is great if you love your job, if it’s your passion. I would gladly spend this amount of time writing each week. But I do not want to spend it working at a reception desk, doing the same thing day in, day out, every day (and may I add, for minimum wage).

Of course, it was not all bad. I had fun moments and I met nice people. I also had a great weekend with one of my best friends, of which pictures will be shared at some point. But I was simply not happy. And I’m not bitter about it (anymore), I’m just glad I got out. I’m proud that I took charge and made this incredibly hard decision and at the moment I’m becoming more and more myself again. Because honestly, I was lost for a second.

For those of you curious about my life (and surprisingly, I’m learning that that’s at least a few), of course, the next question is… If you’re not at the campsite anymore, where the hell are you?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Last Monday, I had a Skype conversation with a person from the ANWB (which is basically the organization you call when you have car trouble, although they do offer a lot more), to apply for a position in Lyon. Every summer they need many extra hands there, because of all the people going on holiday in France. I had looked into this job many times before, but because the work at the campsite was for a longer period of time, I chose that (not wrongly. Something about life lessons).

Of course, being the actually very capable person that I am, I was hired right away (hello ego-boost). I headed to Lyon on Saturday and started my fulltime training on Monday. Tomorrow is day 4 and I like it. It’s similar to the job I did at the ING, which I also enjoyed a lot. It’s a lot more… me. I have a studio in Lyon, which includes my own private bathtub (a.k.a. heaven) and my own kitchen. I had to spend quite some money to buy a bunch of stuff that I also had back in The Netherlands, but it was worth it. Because not only do I have a job that fits me, I also have control over my life, I have new energy to do fun things, I will learn more French than I will in an all-Dutch campsite, I will have more time to work on the things that are important to me (exercise, yoga, writing) and I can take all the baths I want.

So right now, things are good. And more posts are to come.

But besides talking about myself a lot (which I know I do a lot on this blog), I want to make this an inspirational post. Because if you are doing something right now that is making you unhappy, or that is making you feel like you’ve lost yourself… Quit. I don’t care how you do it, just make it happen. Unhappiness is just so… unnecessary. If I can do it, so can you. And if you feel like you cannot do it yourself, send me a message and I can try to help you think of reasons why you can, and you should.

Life is too damn short to be anything but happy.

Message from the camp grounds. 

I have been here a little over a week, but it feels like it has been much longer. Which is probably why I have been feeling bad that I haven’t written anything about it yet. It’s not that I didn’t have the time, but just that I have not yet figured out what to tell you. I don’t know how I feel about this whole experience just yet and not everything that I could tell is suitable to discuss with the world wide web. So I decided to just give you a glimpse into my day-to-day life, and we can go from there.

It’s just been a little weird. When I went to Indonesia, there was so much to tell. Everything was new. Here… it’s ‘just’ France. And I’m at a Dutch campsite, so basically it feels like I’m still in The Netherlands (except for those wonderful but rare occasions on which I can actually practice – and hopefully improve – my French). It’s a language I want to learn to speak so badly, but to get better at it I need to do it, and so far… I haven’t had to do it a lot.

This past week and a half has been a learning experience. I have gotten to know a lot about the business that is this camping site and I have learned how to operate within their procedures and rules.

My domain here is the reception area and the shop. I keep everything organized and neat, which is a task that can easily be trusted to me. I get to print a lot of things, create program booklets and menus (the layout, not the content), I make the schedules and I gained a new hobby: laminating stuff.

Besides the kitchen I help out with a lot of other different tasks, like cleaning, working in the kitchimg_0205-1en, doing a whole bunch of dishes, restocking the tea carousel, filling up cups with mayonaise. I get a bunch of fun tasks (that will probably only be fun the first time) and I enjoy doing it all.

So a bit about the living conditions. I’m staying in a trailer, where I have my own bedroom with a big bed. I share it with another girl, but we hardly see each other there because we work different hours (meaning, I get to go home at 17.30 – although I usually offer my help in the kitchen and hang out there for two hours) and she rolls in at 23.0img_02030 or 0.00.

The next morning, I probably wake her up at 6.30 when I get out of bed to do some yoga or go running, but every time I ask she says it’s okay and that I’m not bothering her.

It is freaking cold. I always sort of thought I was an outdoorsy type, but I guess I only am when the sun is shining. I hate the cold. And I’m cold all the time. Except when I work in the kitchen, so that’s… something.

The internet here is worse than in the secluded places in Asia that I have visited, so that’s too bad. But the upside is fresh mountain air every time I go outside, a great view to start and end my day with and living for free. Because that is basically what I’m doing. I get paid, but I also work for food and housing. The cook here makes great vegan meals for me every day and he really knows how to cook! I eat delicious french bread and I drink lots of water and tea. In the morning, I can even get fruit and make a smoothie. So that is arranged really well animg_0230d that is great.

My goal was, sort of, to not spend any money while I am here. And now that I have decided that I want to see a bunch around the area, I will have to spend some money on gasoline, but other than that, I will be able to live here without any costs. So I’m going to keep track and write down all the expenses I have. But it will not be much, because I really have everything I need here.

So, even though I still have my ups and downs, my certainties and my doubts and my good moments and my bad moments, I’m liking it here more and more, and by now I feel confident that I can make this a great summer.

The amazing view


Extra anecdotes from the retreat

During the chanting class, the woman was guiding us again. But I really started to appreciate her ways and she also tried to give us some insights into Buddhist teachings. Such as with the following example:

‘It is breakfast time and you are standing in line with maybe ten people in front of you. And you notice… there are bananas today! And you love bananas (her story was very applicable to me so far). So you crave the fruit. But you are afraid that by the time you will arrive at the front of the queue, they will be finished. So you keep looking and watching if people take bananas and you make yourself crazy. Maybe you annoy people behind you because you keep moving around. You are suffering. And you can’t just tell your friend in the front to take a banana for you. Because you may not speak. You are already in line and cannot do anything. Maybe you will get a banana. Maybe not. And that is not a big deal. But you think it is, because nowadays every wish we have has to be fulfilled. Dukkha.’

Do you guys also have a lot of random possible scenarios passing through your thoughts? How things could go if you meet someone (again or for the first time), how things will turn out when you start a new job, see a friend, do something new, something old, anything? I’m constantly imagining, which I guess really helps my writing, but right now, it feels quite useless.

Sometimes I think of a perfect sentence, and then I forget. Hello frustration, my old friend.

I hate walking on sand. I just don’t get the excitement. It makes you slip and you constantly have to stabilize yourself, which is not fun for someone with lower back trouble. During the running course I did they also made us run on a small sandy road sometimes. Supposedly it’s easier to walk on? For whom? Not me. I hate it. Why anyone would ever go running on the beach is beyond me.

To make things more bearable for myself I have decided to skip one of the sitting meditation sessions, to copy the chants from the chanting book. It will be nice to take these words home. Some of them have real insights in them. I will do this at the end of the afternoon, at the apex of my boredom. I still don’t know why I’m staying. Well, yes, I do, but when is it going to be day 11 already?!

During one of the talks, this is where my mind went:
“So, we have to find the middle…-“
I’m caught up in the middle, jumping through the riddle…
“Not caught…-”
“ – in extremes”.

The line in front of the place to do dishes is progressing slower every day. I guess people are now mindfully washing their dishes, which means they are super slow. I’m still more of a fast-and-efficient kind of girl myself.

During the chanting practice, the monk kept trying to trick us into sitting in a lotus position (which is really hard. You need to be very flexible. I am not).
‘Just close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out. Stretch your legs in front of you. Put one foot against your stomach. Now, just place the other on top of your lap and flip the first one, whoppa, like this’. Everybody laughs, because it is not as easy as he makes it sound. And then he reasons, that there is no I, no me, no self, no ego (which is a principle in Buddhism). It’s just a body, and there is a mind. So who feels pain?
Also: ‘When you feel pain, you are not sleepy.’

I feel like my mind is out of control. Even now, the pen is moving over the paper so fast, because my thoughts are going a million miles a minute. I’ve never noticed before how extremely quickly my thoughts go from one place to another, in the matter of seconds. And it is all so random. Also, I have a lot of repetitive thoughts (which is why I always need to write stuff down). The good thing is: I can entertain myself with my mind really well. The bad thing is: It is really, really hard to turn off.
Which is exactly what I should be doing.

I’ve noticed now that I have started writing, I cannot seem to stop. I guess the rules are there for a reason then. Oh, bells… Gotta go sit still and pretend to meditate! Bye!

Random things that didn’t fit into one specific blog

  • Sometimes, when I was on the motorbike, it could happen that the drivetumblr_nmvck83Hn41tlakrlo1_1280r was hitting the brakes rather suddenly, which caused me to jolt forward and hit my helmet against their helmet. This made me feel immensely stupid and a little bit like I was in a cartoon.
  • You get really good at rejecting people. I have been proposed to a lot, have gotten a lot of offers from guys who offered to be my boyfriend within the first five minutes of meeting me. You learn to say no.
  • You also learn to say yes. You need to, in order to get friends, join activities and do things that you maybe wouldn’t do otherwise.
  • During my time in Jakarta, I went to see the Star Wars movie in the cinema. It was a very interesting film to see in an Asian country. In the end of the movie, a lightsaber is being offered with a left hand, and the whole scene is supposed to be very respectful. But in Indonesia, it is very disrespectful to hand somebody something with your left hand, because it is seen as unclean. It was interesting to see the movie from their perspective like that.
  • There are a lot of unwritten rules in Indonesia, which is why you should totally connect to the locals to find out where things are and how you should behave in certain situations (buying a bus ticket is not the easy process it once was when you were in a western country)
  • Musicians in Indonesia don’t get paid for their musical talents. They get paid to leave. After giving them money they move on, which is what most people want. It is really a different world out there.
  • Smiling is like second nature to the Indonesian people and after a while it will become yours too.