Tips to Ward Off Boredom if Your Area Locks Down (Especially those of us who live Alone)

  • While you still have your freedom, stay home an entire weekend to get a taste of what this will be like for days or weeks.
  • Plan for it – Get whatever you need to make your place an oasis. Think of exercises you can do in your space to be active. Make a meal plan with enough variation to satisfy your tastes.
  • Make different meals. Try different recipes, hence the planning mentioned above. Try baking different things, making pasta from scratch or dishes that are more intricate.
  • Read. Journal. Paint and/or draw. Blog. Vlog. Write a book. Compose songs.
  • Take dance breaks.
  • Clean from top to bottom. Organise stuff. Take naps.
  • Have spa days.
  • Have daily video chats with friends and family.
  • Immerse yourself with positive thoughts.
  • Pray.
  • Spend quality time reading the Bible.
  • Work on your budget. Learn more about personal finance and so on.
  • Knit. Crochet. Sew. Mend what needs mending.
  • Keep a gratitude list and update it weekly.
  • Do free online courses. Google and have at it.
  • If you work from home, mix it up, so it doesn’t become monotonous.
  • If you have a balcony or space indoor, plant something and nurture it.
  • Please add to the list…

Being Calm in Periods of Uncertainty

We live in uncertain times. Everywhere we turn, we hear news of the coronavirus. It feels unrelenting. If we are not careful we start living life on the edge and take on a cloak of fear. We can however, cultivate a sense of calmness even in these times. Our mental health and physical health require that we focus on this. It is a form of self-care.

I know, the word self-care is banded about and it may ironically cause people to become more stressed, if they think about the fact that they don’t have time to care for themselves. Practicing a healthy mind set costs nothing. It involves some discipline and effort to view things positively when everything in you wants to do the opposite.

I am a woman of faith. I choose to live by faith, especially in these times when it seems everything is out of control. We live on the earth, which is imperfect. Thus, trials, illnesses and hardships will come but we also know from experience that there are many great things we have, even in the midst of these negative elements. We have friends, family, sunshine, laughter, food, shelter, jobs, hospitals with medical professionals who are working for and with us, keep thinking and adding to the list.

It is important to remember that the bad times do not cause everything to be bad. It may feel like it but this doesn’t make it true.

It is important to focus on being calm among the heavy atmosphere of worry and fear, that permeates our world now. Does worrying actually help us to prepare for the worst? Does it rob us of enjoying the good things we have now? Does it help us mentally and emotionally?

How often are you following news about what is happening in China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and so on? Do you look at the maps to show how may people are infected everywhere? This is necessary but it can really rest on us if we do this over and over again each day. It is interesting that we don’t hear much about the number of people who get better. You have to dig to find this information.

Scale back on how often you read about the spread of the virus. Focus more on eating well, washing your hands and practicing good hygiene, as you do your part to care for your health. Also, focus on being calm in this storm. Make your home an oasis of peace and enjoy this often.

I know God isn’t somewhere surprised about what is happening now. I may sound naive, but I choose to believe and walk by faith, at all times. I pray everyone can find peace in these times and always. It is well.

Life in Japan in the Time of the Coronavirus

  • Those who still have masks don them religiously everyday. There are no masks in the shops so many people are ‘maskless’. I don’t wear a mask, so maybe I am living dangerously. Based on informed research, I know the run of the mill masks most people wear are not effective. I have seen where people have pulled down their masks to sneeze before, let’s hope good sense prevails.
  • Announcements have been made for people to wash their hands. Yes, you would think this is normal practice but mine eyes have seen fingers on one hand passed quickly under a pipe, after people leave a bathroom stall. Yup, even when the soap dispenser is right by the faucet. There are bottles of alcohol at the entrance to many places where we can spritz our hands to help. This is a normal thing anyway. As for me, I wash my hands well with soap and around my mouth as well, when I get to work, when I come home and before eating lunch.
  • Interestingly, I don’t hear of or read about people being reminded to amp up things that boost their immune systems: eating fruits and veggies, sleeping enough, drinking water, taking vitamins and exercising among other things. Yep, I am even more intentional about these, as I often am during winter when influenza comes yearly.
  • There is information on signs and symptoms to look out for and when to book it to the hospital. Let’s keep these medical professionals prayed up.
  • There are announcements about avoiding crowded places. Well in Tokyo, we commute by train and rush hour is always crowded (think of over 2 million or more people each day) so yeah.
  • We all read about the quarantine of those on the cruise ship and those getting off now, just like people outside the country.
  • The atmosphere is becoming tenser everyday. I read today that someone pressed the emergency stop button in the train somewhere in the country. This was because someone who wasn’t wearing a mask was coughing. People will cough, sneeze and the like a lot now. It is allergy season, it is early this year and as brutal as usual. I never experience it but this year my nose is runny.
  • Many of us are still doing the things we would normally do everyday. This is not a bad thing because being stressed isn’t good for the immune system. This too shall pass…

Visas, Travel Privilege and Expenses

Sometimes you want to visit a particular country so much but alas you don’t qualify for a visa. When you are from a developing country with a weak passport this happens and does so quite often for some people. The burden of proving, that you are a person of moral character, who will not become an illegal migrant, is virtually nigh on impossible for some people applying for visas in some countries.

If visa applications were free or even refunded in part this would not be so bad. Imagine spending over a US$150 to apply for a visa, paying for pictures and transport to an embassy to hear that you don’t qualify. On what basis you may ask? Well, this particular individual doesn’t qualify because she is single and works in a job that is not seen as professional. The one making this decision doesn’t even open the individual’s passport to see that she has visited other developed countries and returned home.

Many decisions for a visa seem to be made in an arbitrary manner. There are people who are unemployed, unmarried, not in school and have no so called ‘ties’ to their country who are granted visas. Then you have professionals who have served in their respective fields for over a decade, earn good salaries, have cars and houses and refused visas multiple times. These are not made up stories. These are people I know well. It is a frustrating experience I am sure.

Visas cost time and money. None of the money for the application fee is refunded. You often can’t appeal a decision. No plausible explanation is given in many cases. For many people from developing countries, applying for a visa to visit a developed country is like buying the lottery. They don’t have the freedom to go and come as they please. You may ask why not travel to other countries? Fun fact: many people need to transit through a developed country to get from destination Y TO Z in some cases. For example, if friends or relatives in Jamaica want to visit me in Japan they may need to get a transit visa for one of a few developed countries to do so. The most affordable routes are via these countries. There is the option to go through Mexico, which is visa free for us but you may be looking at an additional 500 dollars or more for airfare. How ironic, that those of us from developing countries pay more to see the world.

Is a transit visa not easy to get you may ask? The process for getting a transit visa is the same as getting a non-immigrant visa. For some countries the fee might be a little less but all the documents are the same. I have dedicated my share of time researching, planning and applying for visa for a lot of places. Don’t believe that living in a developed country, makes me a shoo in to get visas for other developed countries all the time. In some cases, even other developing countries can be a pain.

What is Involved in Applying for a Visa to the Average Developed Country

Money – Visas can range from $US50 to over $150. This is why some developing countries charge visitors from developed countries for visas as well. Visa free reciprocity is a beautiful thing and I take advantage of it as much as I can. As a Jamaican I have gone to quite a few countries in Asia, Africa and South America visa free. It really makes planning a trip so much easier. You also need pictures, so that’s money. You also may need to travel to the embassy. You also may need to have flights and hotels booked (this is no guarantee to getting the visa). Also, you often need to show a bank account with a healthy balance and a bank statement that reflects the status of your account for six months or so. Bank statements aren’t free.

Time – If you need to visit an embassy for a face to face interview, you need to take time off work. You need to take time to read the application form well and prepare all the necessary documents. Things like the size of pictures, how clear they are and how recently they were taken is very important. I have had to go to a studio to get it done to meet certain specifications. You may also have to get a job letter and that may take time as well.

Angst – It is hard to make firm plans before you get a visa. This means you may not be able to take advantage of flight deals and the like. Also, even when you get a visa it may be for a limited period, so it’s hard t plan in a concrete way. Oh yeah, having a visa is never a guarantee that you will be allowed into a country. Many visitors take this for granted. I guess this applies to all travellers.

For those who have experienced this let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Travelling to Visa Free Countries is Best but

the developed countries make themselves so attractive, how do many of us not have a desire to see all the natural and manmade wonders?

Anyway, once one passes that stage then you come to realise, if you are like me, that you can enjoy many great places in the world visa free on a Jamaican passport: Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, The Philippines, Indonesia, Seychelles, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and quite a number of other countries and territories. Thus, I have made it my business to focus on travelling to visa free countries and saving myself the angst of all I mentioned above. It is quite liberating. My advice to others from places with passports that require visas for certain countries, think about doing this too. Try visiting some visa free places and enjoying travelling this way. Alas sometimes you may need a visa to get to them but some transit visas are easily procured by airlines in certain regions.

Don’t let visa refusals from certain developed countries dampen your spirit of adventure. It can be a blessing to push you to enjoy and discover other less popular places.

The Grass isn’t Greener, Everywhere has its Quirks

How many of us choose to focus on an opportunity that seems oh so attractive, so that it clouds our view of the good things we have going right where we are now.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side though. This cliche is sometimes true.

When we focus on something negative for too long, it could just be one negative thing, it grows and grows and causes a whole world of discontentment. It can be quite overwhelming to the point where we run off to supposed greener pastures and then discover that we left something good.

Spend some time reflecting and noting the positives against the negatives of a situation before making a decision to change path. This is applicable to a whole range of situations. It should also not be done hastily or when we are feeling low.

I am learning that everywhere has its quirks and sometimes it is worth pushing through some stormy seasons. I am learning to persevere and enjoy the positives as I learn, work on myself and grow amidst the negatives. A permanent decision ought not to be taken to address a temporary situation. Everything in life will not be fine all the time. Trials and struggles really do make us strong if we look at them as learning opportunities.

Now, if we are in a situation, whatever it is and know it is toxic and ruining our minds, then it’s good to walk away. Nothing is worth us compromising our mental health. This is far from simple but the effort to do so is worth it.

I have been blessed to be able to walk away from a toxic work environment before. I remember feeling uneasy about it even though it was the right thing to do. I am happy I took the plunge at the time and it was well worth it. I was able to do this with some confidence because I had saved up some money, to allow me to take what I thought, was a job with a lower salary. In time even that was sorted.

Moving from one job to another, for example, includes dedicated research and networking in some cases. It is always good to keep an eye on what is going on in different sectors of interest and also polishing our CVs from time to time. It’s nice to be content in a job but it is also good to be aware of what is happening in the industry. This means than, we can more accurately weigh an opportunity, to see if it is greener than where we are at. Regardless of this, it is good to remember everywhere has its quirks. When the novelty wears off there will always be something that may cause us some discomfort. I think its best to learn from this, grow and keep going. It often happens that not focusing on this lessens its impact. Choose to focus on the positives and remind yourself of them often.

The grass is sometimes greener indeed but how devastating is it when we jump without proper preparation. We may find that the new grass is filled with even more weeds than where we ran from. Everywhere has it quirks, expect these and resolve to be content despite them but know when to move on to other opportunities.

Say “No” now to Enjoy the Fruits of Delayed Gratification

“You can get it if you really want,

You can get it if you really want,

You can get it if you really want,

But you must try, try and try, try and try

You’ll succeed at last.” (Jimmy Cliff)

Getting to many goals involve lots of trying, self-discipline and saying no when we are burning to say yes. Saving a few dollars here and there on a drink or a meal may not seem like much. However, it adds up over time to a nice chunk of change.

Instant gratification has taken a hold of many of us. We can get deliveries at home because it’s easier. However, the fees do add up over time. I am so frugal, I nipped that in the bud. I am saving to go off travelling and exploring new lands which is something I truly enjoy. It is also something that refreshes and rejuvenates me, so I am motivated and practice cutting off some, not all frivolous spending.

What do you spend thoughtlessly on because it’s so cheap? How much would it add up to in a year?

I use to go hard at travelling for a few years but my priorities have shifted. I have travel and other goals, so I plan, budget and execute my spending accordingly. Time is moving fast and with no plan I make wake up at 50 and have nothing to show for my years of toil. That shall not be.

Practice Delayed Gratification and Save for Retirement

Today I was chatting with someone about early retirement. It’s not something I will do but it would be nice to have that option. If I prepare for that then I will be ready for retirement. As we know, public pensions in most countries are on the wane or insufficient to live a satisfying life.

Are you putting away money for retirement?

Do you think you are too young to save for retirement?

We are never too young to start preparing for our golden retirement years. If we want them to be golden, we have to practice a bit of delayed gratification and put money into that pot.

Practice Delayed Gratification to Create Generational Wealth or Financial Health

Parents want the best for their children. For many, this means going to university to prepare for their future. Saving to help children with this sets them up to be more financially secure adults. If they don’t have to take student loans or take less loans then this is a good start. Those cheap tops on sale in our favourite fast fashion shop add up over time. Do we need them or should we save those seemingly small amounts so they can add up?

People who are serious about their financial well being focus on their goals and practice delayed gratification. It is a habit for them. This is a habit many of us could benefit from.

Karl Marx wrote about Commodity fetishism in his Communist Manifesto. It is worth reading about. In our Capitalist world, many people invest in commodities that add no value to their lives and robs them of their money again and again. I am breaking that cycle. How much stuff do I need really?

Build up an Emergency Fund as a First Step

Dave Ramsey, who teaches people how to get out of debt and build wealth, advances the necessity of having an emergency fund. It is basically a sum of money that is enough to cover all expenses for four to six months or more. This is to give you some peace if there is a sudden job loss. For some people with good incomes it may be easy to save this in a short time. For others, we may need to say no to some of our treats and build it up over some time. “Try and try, try and try…”

Can you imagine the peace of mind that comes with having a fully funded emergency fund. Phew!

This isn’t a goal or resolution for 2020. This is a change of mindset, to practice habits that lead to financial health through delayed gratification.

Cultivating a Healthy Money Mindset is Hot in 2020

Tips for staying on top of our money is trending on YouTube. This is really exciting. Probably it is just what I watch, so such videos are being suggested to me. I am here for it. I watched a YouTuber empty two gallon jugs of US $10 bills that she had saved up over the year. Wonder of wonders, she has saved over $3,000 buy doing this. I love how excited she was and inspired to keep going and challenging herself.

Every small bit adds up. With discipline and saying no to certain wants, we can all save something. I also enjoy the no spend videos and low spend videos on YouTube. If your goal is to do better with your money, get on YouTube and learn from all these people sharing different ways of budgeting that works for them. Much of it is delayed gratification at its best.

I am one who follows different budgeting channels because I like to see people getting out of debt, saving, enjoying life and just being financially independent.

This is a positive thing and I like that this is trending on Youtube and there is so much information out there. Knowledge surely is power.

I hope everyone who has the goal of having a healthy money mindset find success, this year and beyond.

Minding Your Business Contributes to Your Contentment

We don’t need to know everything that is happening in the world at all times. We as people are naturally nosy, I think. Maybe it’s just me.

I know the importance of minding my own business and not prying beyond what others feel like sharing. Respect people’s privacy. Carry each other’s burdens, yes but wait for people to unload when they are ready and in their own way.

I mean minding our own business on a small or large scale really build contentment. Imagine following all the news in the world and taking all the different pathos knowingly and unknowingly. This kind of thing can really weigh on you without you even being aware of it. Sometimes it is necessary to bury your head in the sand.

Focus on your goals and don’t share or over share them with any and everybody. Pour your time and energy into doing things that develop you as a person. Mind your business and be intentional about this. It can be as simple as turning off your phone for a night, reading a book, listening to some good music and eating some scrumptious food.

I know minding my own business is one of the many things that help me to be content. Instead of focusing on what other people think of me and the like, I keep it moving. Everyone has his or own life to live. Don’t let the opinions of others about you and your life cause you to lose your focus.

What is your business? Knowing this in every detail is vital and worth pursuing. If you don’t know your own goals and dreams then how can you mind them?

When tempted to step into other people’s business, remind yourself it doesn’t concern you.

Yes, there are occasions where you may need to help others, use good judgement. This is different from unknowingly being pulled into all kinds of matter because of social media and the like.

Chase contentment and keep your eyes on your goals and your own life.

Try Doing a ‘No Buy’ Month to Save Money

Imagine buying nothing for a full month, that’s crazy right?

A ‘no buy month’ isn’t one where you neglect your bills and other necessities. A ‘no buy month’ is where a person intentionally chooses not to spend money on his or her wants so that he or she can save of save more. These would include the following: eating out, going to the movie, shopping for clothes that isn’t necessary, splurging on snacks, buying coffee or drinks and things of this nature.

Why do a ‘no buy month’?

I think this is a great thing to do in January after spending a lot in December. This will provide a psychological boost that can take one throughout the year. This means that you can put extra money towards different savings goals. Everyone has different wants and needs but withholding one want for a month can add up, so it’s worth trying and making it a challenge of sorts.

Do a ‘no buy month’ to develop fiscal discipline and start saving if you find yourself with no money after being paid. What fat can you trim? it may be as simple as taking a water bottle with you every day and not buying bottled water. It might involve cooking at home more and refusing to eat out at all or 50% less than is your normal habit.

A ‘no buy month’ is useful for everyone

Even if you are not hurting financially, you can choose to do one or more ‘no buy months’. Think about how often you buy a piece of clothing because it’s cheap or on sale. We can all be a bit more intentional about things we consume and the waste we create. Less is often more. We could donate what we save to those in need. There are always people around who we can bless from our abundance.

Try doing a ‘no buy month’ this year and it may just draw you into doing more. All the best with balancing what you earn with what you save. Always prepare for the rainy days.

Preparing for Very Long Flights

Flying from Japan to Jamaica and vice versa is a marathon. This involves flying 12 – 14 hrs to somewhere in America, then around 4 hours from America to Jamaica.

Though I have taken my share of transatlantic flights to the different continents once or twice a year, I am not excited about the long flights. For me, I have to mentally prepare for the journey. I really wish we could beam from place to place like in Star Trek.

Here are some of the things I do to prepare for very long flights:

  1. I have my own entertainment sorted.Yes, on these long flights you have your own screen with movies, music and the like to choose from and binge on. However, technology fails sometimes. I remember returning to Japan on a flight, a few years ago and the entertainment system was down. I was happy I had my kindle with books and my ipod with music. Thankfully, many airlines have charging ports at your seat so your device will stay charged and ready.
  2. I pack snacks, suff that are comforting. Yes, you get two meals and snacks on these flights but it’s nice to have these. Not everyone enjoys plane food. Munch and enjoy the entertainment.
  3. I choose comfy clothes that are breathable and carry some kind of covering because the air in planes can often be frigid. The blankets you get may not be warm enough. You want to be comfortable enough to lounge as much as you can in the narrow seats to get some sleep. Since, I fly economy, my advice is mostly for those who do the same.
  4. I wear comfy shoes and/or bring slippers to change into on the flight.
  5. I take headphones/earphones, these are necessary to hear what I want to listen to well. The ones provided by airlines are not great quality.
  6. I take some chewing gum, it is supposed to help with clearing my ears of the pesky air pockets.
  7. In the nice little transparent baggy for liquids in my carry-on, I pack lip gloss, hand sanitiser, lotion and eye drops (This is essential if you wear contacts). I use these multiple times on the long flights.
  8. I wrap my hair in a scarf for the duration of the flight. My hair is prone to dryness and the air in the plane is oh so dry.
  9. I have pocket tissues ready because I may need them for whatever reason.
  10. I pack my patience and anxiety because time seems to crawl.
  11. I take some water on the flight ( 2 500 ml bottles). Of course, I buy them after going through security. The small amounts they serve on the flights just don’t suffice.
  12. If you need something to calm you down, see your doctor before. I don’t, I pray and learn to leave I all to God.

I am oh so thankful to be able to leave Japan on a Thursday and get to Jamaica on the same Thursday, all because Japan is 14 hours ahead. I do not like losing a day coming back though.

Regardless of the long flights, it is nice to know that I can go from one place so far away to another place a great distance away in a day. Imagine travelling by ship for many months back in the day.

How do you prepare for very long flights?

View from Cusco Airport after a short scenic flight from Lima