Roaring 20s: Things To Do When You’re A Twentysomething

I understand that we’re in the middle of February, but… HAPPY 2020, my dear readers! It’s not only a new year but a new decade, too. Definitely worth a little party popper if you’re lucky enough to have some to hand.

Living in China, I am fortunate enough to celebrate the new year twice: once on the 1st of January, and a second time during the Chinese Spring Festival twenty-five days later on the 25th of January. The party atmosphere has long-since died down, however, not because I’m perpetually late in documenting it but because of the novel coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan province.

I wouldn’t want to spend too much time on that, though, so let’s move on!

I don’t want to get into specifics, nevertheless I think it’s worth noting that I am smack-dab in the middle of my twenties. And to play into that whole ‘searching for a purpose’ stereotype, I am – quite frankly, searching for a purpose. Aside from maintaining my general wellbeing, going to work, and socialising (online, mostly) with my friends and family, I don’t really have any plans in life.

What to do? What to do?

LiberaTarts Reads a LifeHack: Things to Do in Your Twenties

Like with most things, I turned to Google for help and searched “things to do when you’re in your mid-twenties”. It’s a clunky search term, but Google does what Google does best and it spat out several interesting pages. Leaving behind the generic advice to avoid drama and invest into a 401K (whatever that is, I’m not American), I found this lovely list on LifeHack that I must, must, must dip into.

25 Things You Must Do In Your Twenties

  1. Do something scary.
  2. Learn to cook.
  3. Travel alone.
  4. Ride a plane.
  5. Party all night.
  6. Take a risk.
  7. Enlighten yourself.
  8. Play a sport.
  9. Change the script.
  10. Reunite with an old friend.
  11. Drop the “I’m busy” farce.
  12. Pay off your debt.
  13. Get to know your family.
  14. Re-read the classics.
  15. Go overseas.
  16. Volunteer for a cause.
  17. Cut the clutter.
  18. Fall in love.
  19. Write a letter.
  20. See your favorite band live.
  21. Sleep under the stars.
  22. Perform for a crowd.
  23. Take a road trip with your best friend or partner.
  24. Start a garden.
  25. Find your passion.

(Source: Daniel Wallen)

Okay, number twenty-five is very wishy-washy and already I am scoffing at the idea. But I will stick to this list (at least for the next few months, haha!) and let’s see how I get on. Given the tone of the list, I can tell it comes from a very traditional American experience – assuming you can drive or know someone who can do so for a road trip, or not having had the chance to leave the country you where you were born, etc. As the daughter of an OFW, I literally moved continents at the young age of six and have not stopped since.

Also, some of these things on the list are not very SMART worthy. What is SMART, you may ask? It’s an acronym to help answer competency-based questions during interviews: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Based. It’s also an acronym that I use to create lessons plans – yay for ESL teaching! Anyway, goals listed above like “learn to cook” and “cut the clutter” are all quite vague, but I suppose figuring out how to be specific would be part of the process.

OF COURSE I’m in no way obligated to complete this list. I do have some autonomy, after all, despite needing lists and other forms of productivity tools to somehow move my life along. Come join my quest into checking off this entire list… or not. Up to you!

Where the Pandas Are: Travelling to China for Work

This might come as a surprise to some people, but I’m an ESL teacher. It says so right there in my ‘Meet the Author’ widget on the sidebar, but I wouldn’t want to presume anything – not when it comes to the transient nature of The Internet (yes, capital letters and all).

I first caught the teaching bug when I did some Actual Classroom Work at a high school in rural Spain. Turns out I’m a natural and I’m really good at the teaching that I do, so once school ended and summer started up again, I thought to myself ‘why not’ and applied to teach in China.

The entire process leading up to my boarding a flight at Heathrow was an adventure and a half (and I’ll definitely type up a post about it soon enough), but today I’ll focus on my journey from Kent to Chengdu. It was certainly different from my previous intercontinental experiences travelling back and forth between the UK and the Philippines. But where to begin?

Let’s start with the disaster of leaving my hometown in Kent and see where that leads us.

LiberaTarts Goes to China

Leaving Kent

To quote John Denver whose song ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ somehow became the background music of my childhood years, all my bags were packed and I was ready to go. And it would have felt like Mother Nature was sending me off in good spirit, what with a rainbow showing up and all that, if not for the fact that the reason I was able to see the rainbow in the first place was because I forgot my wallet back home and didn’t realise until I was already at the train station.

a rainbow in a small town in Kent

So anyway, my plans to leave for China didn’t go off to an auspicious start. I ran back and forth between the train station and home, sweating up a storm despite my intentions of being chill and relaxed AF as I buckle myself in for a 10 hour flight east. I was wearing joggers and an oversized hoodie and everything! If I learned anything from the multiple long-haul flights in the past, it’s to forgo skinny jeans and embrace the athleisure style.

Arriving in London

Despite the rushing back and forth, I was able to make it to London with plenty of time to spare. I checked two of my large suitcases into a Left Luggage facility and spent one last dinner (in a long, long while) with my brother, who was kind and gracious and filial enough to accompany me to the airport.

We went to Nando’s, as it’s our usual haunt, and afterwards we reluctantly dragged our feet towards the underground. We picked up my two suitcases from the lockers, and somehow managed to navigate through London-in-rush-hour with two frankly overweight suitcases and a small carry-on. The lifts were also out of service at the St Pancras / King’s Cross station, usually known for having step-free access, so we had to ask a very helpful station attendant to help transfer my suitcases from the train station level down to the underground level. (It was a nightmare, but lowkey fun.)

taken from the ‘Travel for London’ website

This can all have been avoided, of course, if I checked the TfL website beforehand for any issues. Silly me!

At Heathrow Airport

Once we were through the underground barriers and free to roam Heathrow, my brother and I didn’t have to walk far before we found the Air China check-in counter. I used the self-service machines to print out my boarding pass (because I’m anti-social like that), but had to talk to an Actual Human as I dropped off my luggage. They were overweight, which wasn’t a surprise. For the life of me, I can never pack light and I’m slightly proud to say that one large suitcase was filled with British snacks.

I’ve lived the expat life before, people! I know myself enough that a few months into a new country, I’d be missing my favourite snacks like a, well, a missing limb. When I was in Japan for my year abroad, I somehow convinced my family to send me three giant 200g blocks of Galaxy chocolate and a handful of Walkers Thai Sweet Chilli crisps.

I live to this day with no regrets. Regarding snacks, at least. I paid a hefty amount for my overweight luggage, but that’s a problem for past and future me to consider. Present-me is having a blast in a hotel room that her new work has paid for.

Boarding My Flight

The plane I was due to take arrived late at the airport, which meant it was late in boarding my fellow flight passengers on; it wasn’t late for long, but it was enough for me to grumble about things needing to be on time. A funny thing that happened, though: an airline employee announced that my flight was delayed, and just as as she uttered “The flight XXXXX is…” a bunch of overeager passengers jumped to their feet and began queueing. It was like watching meerkats pop out from the ground.

has anyone seen this movie? the songs are Actual Bops

The other airline staff checking passports at the waiting area exchanged looks and were like “that was funny”, but only in a more professional manner than my retelling makes them out to be.

Flying from England to China

Now this. This was s o m e t h i n g.

10 hours of recycled air, no WiFi, and oversalted food to compensate with the high altitude.

I won’t say it was fun because I actually have a semblance of sanity left, but the seat next to me wasn’t taken and I was free to stretch out my legs as I catnapped in the air.

I made the executive decision not to sleep during the flight, because I wanted to conquer jet lag as quickly as possible given how I’ll be set to work within a week and my relationship with a regular sleeping pattern is something teenagers laugh at. Anyway, I was grateful to have thought ahead and have downloaded Series 9 of ‘Doctor Who’ on my phone using BBC iPlayer – I’ve never seen it before even though it’s 2019 it was released in 2015.

I’ve also downloaded some library ebooks on my phone (can’t figure out to sending loaned books to my Kindle), and I had plenty of non-fiction reads to tide me over on said Kindle, so it wasn’t like I was bored to tears as I flew from Europe to Asia. Still, I would loved some access to the Internet. Maybe if I flew business or first class in the future…

…one can only hope.

Landing in China

My heart was racing and, for once, it wasn’t due to the pre- or post-flight jitters. There’s something about a plane revving up or preparing to land that scares me. Anyway, I was super nervous to land in China. It’s not because I’ve never been before – I’m a traveller at heart and I like experiencing new cultures – but because I know I’ll be spending at least a year in this place and I do not speak a word of Mandarin. At least with Japan, during my year abroad, I spent the previous two years studying Japanese as part of my university degree.

Working in China was a relatively spur of of the moment decision. Aside from 你好 (ni hao, hello) and 谢谢 (xie xie, thank you), I know next to nothing. Everyone, even those who have no intention of living semi-permanently in any Chinese speaking countries, know how to say hello and thank you. It’s just basic courtesy. My fears that I will somehow insult somebody or break the rules somehow is entirely founded in something real.

I gotta learn how to speak Mandarin. I will learn even if it kills me.

Anyway, I land in China and was greeted by a large placard bearing my full name, which was held by representatives from my new company. It was both mortifying (because it was bright pink) and endearing (no one has even made an airport placard for me before!). I see myself keeping that placard for the time being. I’m a huge packrat, afterall…

Settling In

Less than 24 hours later, I wake up in my hotel room and visited the Head Office to sign my contract. I leave with a welcome bag filled with well-meaning gifts and two work uniforms. But I suppose that’s a story for another time. Keep an eye out for the second part of the ‘Where the Pandas Are’ series! The plan is to document my time here in China, from the ups and downs, the enjoyable and the downright absurd.

Feel free to join me in this adventure. Let’s have some fun!

Beginner’s (Cheeky) Guide to Nando’s Dining

Have you ever gotten a “cheeky Nando’s”? Would it come as a surprise if I say that I get said “cheeky Nando’s” at least once a month – twice, even, during the summer when I had free time to spare.

Cheeky Nando’s is a meme-tastic phrase that gained popularity in late 2014, describing a visit to a Portuguese peri-peri style chicken place called Nando’s that you shouldn’t really have but somehow you’ve managed to convince yourself “why the hell not, YOLO!”

treat yo self GIF from parks and recreation
my daily mantra

I find myself dining at a local Nando’s recently when I had a startling realization. My brother and I were sitting at our table, having ordered our food with ease and were at the point waiting for our food to be served, when a family of three was seated beside us. The server gave them their menus and they spent at least fifteen minutes poring over the options before the conversation started in earnest between them.

Now, I can’t say I have an ear for foreign languages – I barely have an ear for the English language, given the amount of variation in accents found in the UK alone – but I recognize the off French word or two. And so like Sherlock Holmes, I deduced that the family were tourists and therefore would not have been overly familiar with how Nando’s worked. Yes, it is a sit-down type of restaurant where you can enjoy a hearty meal with friends and family… however, it was run like a fast food chain, albeit a fast food chain with relatively healthy standards.

Confused? Let me explain.

How To Order Food in Nando’s in Five Easy Steps

Step One

Enter through the door and wait to be seated. There is usually a seated waiting area by the front doors – if it’s not manned by the restaurant’s front of house staff, wait patiently and someone will come over.

Step Two

Once seated, the server will tell you your table number as they hand over the menus. Then, you are free to peruse to your heart’s content, since Nando’s has plenty of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options to choose from.

NANDO’S NEWBIES, BEWARE OF THIS STEP.

The French family from above made the mistake of waiting for the server to come back and take their order. The server does not come back to the table to take your order. I repeat, the server does not come back to take your order. What you need to do is detailed in Step Three.

Step Three

Armed with your order, a volunteer from your group – the designated mom friend, or in the case of the French family, the Actual Mom™ – should go to the area of the restaurant where all the tills are located. They typically are situated behind a bar and laid out in a neat row, like this:

step three: pay at the till

Now, during the ordering process, you have to state your table number before you list off your food choices. Do not forget your table number because if you do, you’ll have to do that walk of shame back to your table to check.

Also, choose a level of spiciness if you’re ordering the per-peri chicken. You’re always asked what level of spiciness is preferred by the chicken-devourer.

If you’re ordering a drink as well, don’t be disappointed if you’re given a glass instead of the actual drink – they’re meant to be filled by the customer over at the refill station. (It’s very American, I know.)

Step Three is when you pay for what you’ve ordered.

Step Four

This is the fun part.

DO NOT GO BACK TO YOUR TABLE.

Cast your eyes around the restaurant until you find the little island containing all the sauces. This is also the drink refill station. Grab as many varieties of sauces and dips as you can carry. At this stage in the process, you are more than welcome to signal your group – either through facial gestures or hand signals, maybe even semaphore – and ask what their preferences are or for help if you wish it.

grab one of each, who cares!

Don’t forget to grab enough cutlery for the table. Or just grab a set for yourself if you’re feeling petty, and let the rest of your group grab their own, You’ve already gotten the sauces from the island, let the others earn the right to have a cheeky Nando’s.

Step Five

Is everyone settled back at the table?

Cutlery retrieved? Sauces lined up in the centre like precious treasure?

Now is time for you to begin an earnest conversation with your friends / family / date / what have you. There isn’t much of a wait for food in Nando’s unless it’s the lunch rush. When you get into a groove and somehow manage to arrive at an uncomfortable topic of conversation that really shouldn’t be happening in public, another server will come by carrying your delicious peri-peri chicken.

Bonus Step

The bonus and cheeky final step is this: pick up your knife and fork and eat your chicken (or your chosen vegetarian substitute). And with that, what else is there to say aside from “Bom apetite!”

I don’t actually watch The Simpsons.

Over to you guys: What’s the equivalent of Nando’s in your country? In the Philippines, I would say it’s this barbecue restaurant chain called ‘Mang Inasal’. Let me know in the comments below!

Rochester Castle, Kent

I love a good castle. I’ve been told that I must have been a vampire in a previous life with how obsessed I am with them. I’m also interest in all things Gothic – literature, architecture, the fashion aesthetic… you name it, I have at the very least a passing interest in it. There’s something amazing about the romanticism of it all.

I envy you your peace of mind, your clean conscience, your unpolluted memory. Little girl, a memory without blot of contamination must be an exquisite treasure-an inexhaustible source of pure refreshment: is it not?

Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’

For a book I’ve only read once as a teenager in high school, I seem to quote – or at the very least allude toJane Eyre a lot. Every time I say “Readers, I…” in a post or a tweet, my mind automatically recalls Jane confessing “Reader, I married him” because, quite frankly, how much BDE is that?! This governess turned lover turned wife married the guy and not the other way around.

Anyway, this post isn’t about Jane Eyre (though I might re-read it in the future, now that I’m reminded of how I’ve only read it once). This post is about this little historic town in the northern parts of Kent, England.

LiberaTarts Visits Rochester, Not Mr Rochester (Part 1)

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again – I have an English Heritage membership, and so it’s a personal hobby of mine to visit as many places as my budget and time allow. I’ve been to Battle Abbey in Sussex, Stonehenge in Wiltshire and a lot more places in Kent as that is where I live.

Last August, in the height of summer and during record-breaking temperature highs for England, my brother and I chose to visit Rochester on a rainy, overcast day. We had fun, don’t get me wrong, but the rain literally put a damper on our trip… I did return to Rochester two months later to meet up with a friend, and just like last time, it rained as well!

Anyway, here are three things I knew about Rochester before arriving:

  1. University of Kent students based in the Medway campus graduate in Rochester Cathedral, which is quite unfair really when you consider that students based in Canterbury get to graduate in Canterbury Cathedral. Both have Gothic style architecture, but Canterbury Cathedral has a more striking silhouette.
  2. Rochester Castle hosted open-air cinemas on the regular, though unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of experiencing it (yet!).
  3. It’s part of the Medway Towns where a few towns located relatively close to each other form a large urban area that isn’t quite a city.

How to Get to Rochester

It’s very easy to get to Rochester using public transportation; it has brilliant rail links from London (if you flew into any of the London airports) or Dover (if you took the ferry from France). It also has a fairly comprehensive local bus system, so you can simply hop on an Arriva bus if you’re staying in the Kent area.

There’s also the ‘driving a car’ option, but I try not to give that too much thought as I can’t drive and I have no plans to learn in the future.

Rochester Castle

The only thing left behind of this really, really old castle is its fortified tower called a keep, which was built in the early 12th century. It has survived three sieges and, as is typical with castles and modernity, it became useless and ultimately became a tourist attraction for history nerds like me.

looking down

Rochester Castle is not access friendly as it has a lot of stairs and no lift facilities, and the corridors are also very narrow; there were awkward “after you”s and “excuse me”s uttered as you wander around.

Entrance to the keep is usually 10 a.m until 4 p.m. though it varies depending on the season. Tickets also cost £6.40 for an adult and £4 for students – yay concessions pricing.

All in all, Rochester Castle was a fun little place to visit. If anything else, you can get a wonderful view of the Cathedral from level two onwards!

view of Rochester Cathedral
Rochester Cathedral in Kent

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the Rochester series! This little day trip included a visit to Temple Manor, Rochester Guildhall Museum, and the largest second-hand bookshop in England.

3-2-1 Countdown: Habits of a British-Filipino

I was born and raised in the Philippines, moved to the UK and became a British citizen, before moving back and forth between the two countries like a yo-yo. I also took a Migration and Belonging module at university, yet I still don’t understand how to categorize my situation.

Anyway, here are some habits that I personally ascribe to either identity.

3 Filipino Mannerisms I Refuse To Shake

Using the tsinelas

I can’t help it! I can’t subscribe to the idea of using shoes you wear constantly outdoors indoors. I also don’t understand the concept of walking around barefoot at home – I don’t care if the entirety of your house is carpeted and, frankly, using a fluffy slipper is weird AF when it’s not Christmastime.

Also, what do you do when you just got out of the shower? Track your wet feet along a carpet that outdoor shoes may or may not have tread across, or dare to get your fluffy slipper wet?

I say “slippers” all the time and all my non-Filipino friends get concerned.

Eating rice… all the time

It’s not a proper meal without rice.

– me to my friends, on more than one occasion

I can have rice for breakfast: egg fried rice with bacon lardons and random vegetables I feel like eating.

I can have rice for lunch: rice and oven-roasted pork with a side of green beans.

I can even have rice for dinner: rice and peppered mackerel, on its own because there’s only so much vegetable consumption I can tolerate.

Listening to OPM

Look, I like The Beatles and Adele and Andrew Lloyd Webber as much as the next person, but nothing beats the heart-wrenching soul-filled crooning belters by Regine Velasquez, Rivermaya, and Ice Seguerra (formerly known as Aiza Seguerra, just FYI).

Not gonna lie though, I might be ageing myself with the Filipino artists I’ve chosen because I have not chosen any young, popular acts from this decade.

2 British Habits I’ve Learned To Love

Drinking tea at any given opportunity

Would you believe I only started to love drinking English tea this autumn? I adore Japanese matcha, but…. black teas, green teas? Nope, not having any!

That is until I tried Earl Grey and fell in love. I have two packs of Twinings Earl Grey in the kitchen cupboard and I’m bringing them with me to China somehow. (Yes, I do understand the irony of bringing British tea to China… where tea originates from.)

Had a good day? Celebrate with tea.

A terrible day at work? Cheer yourself up with tea.

Bored at home? Make some tea.

A good queue

Bus queue. ATM queue. Netflix queue. British people like to queue and so do I.

It takes the stress out of constantly wondering “is it my turn yet?” and it provides a practical way doing things – at the very least you can easily get through a queue if you wish to cross into the other side. Not so much with a crowd of non-queuers.

1 Thing That Can Be Both

Complaining

Given the state of British politics – Brexit, anyone? – and what seems to be the inherent need to follow the norm, the act of complaining is a habit that is pervasive in both cultures. Or at the very least, it’s what I’ve noticed as I lived in both England and the Philippines: I can’t count the number of times I’ve overheard someone halfheartedly complaining about the weather or wholeheartedly expressing their frustration about a late bus. The feeling is universal, and you can fight me on this.

I complain all the time. And whether its a British thing or a Filipino thing or even just a Me Thing? Well, it’s arguable.


Chime in like Brendon Urie: Do any of these things ring true with you? Let me know in the comments!

Battle Abbey, East Sussex

If I retained anything from my English History lessons back in secondary school, it was that Henry VIII had six wives (not all at the same time, of course) and that the Normans successfully invaded England in 1066. Also involved were some really impressive weavers who created the Bayeux Tapestry, the Anglo-Saxon King at the time called Harold Godwinson (more like God-lose-son, ha!), and this really lucky person who managed to shoot him square in the eye.

Man, do I love history.

I could hardly make sense of the whos and whys, but I have to admire the sheer wonder of history’s narrative capabilities. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!

Dear readers, I must confess to a secret passion for history.

me at some point in the past

Anyway, to the point of this post: I’m starting a retrospective on the various English Heritage sites I’ve visited, and perhaps even sites I want to visit in the future. And where better to start than the lovely battle site of what must have been a very gruesome invasion.

I mean, what kind of battle wouldn’t be at the very least a little bloody? And on that note… Happy Halloween, everybody! Just in case I forget to post anything on the 31st.

LiberaTarts Goes to Battle… Abbey

I went to East Sussex with my younger brother. We took a very early train from Kent* and arrived at Battle Station only to realise that the Abbey was still half a mile away, so we took our phones out and opened the Pokemon GO app – this day trip happened during that one peaceful summer in 2016, back when everyone spent every waking moment trying to catch ’em all.

*A personal rule of mine is to always arrive at your destination before 10 am, otherwise I feel like you won’t have enough time to explore the area to your heart’s content. You can always leave early, but you can’t really overstay your welcome when it comes to day trips.

battle town centre in east sussex
it threatened to rain all day

We arrive in the town centre and honestly, you cannot miss the entrance to the Abbey. It costs about £12 for an adult ticket (or £11 for a student, which I was at a time), but I’m a history nerd and I had an English Heritage membership that gave me free, unlimited access to English Heritage sites across the country. What a time to be alive… I had free entry and Pokemon GO.

I would love to visit again, but alas it can’t be anytime soon because I’m scheduled to leave for China within the week! With any luck, I might be able to return during an anniversary of the Battle (on the 14th of October, 1066).

I’ll never forget the Battle of Hastings because of this jingle.

Over to you guys: Do you think an English Heritage membership is worth it? Let me know, drop me a line, send a carrier pigeon.

Bullet Journals for the Artistically Challenged

What do you do when you want to get your life in order but you feel too boxed in by traditional means of personal administration? You open up the old Internet search engine and start a new project, that’s what! I’m well aware that I love to start new projects but find it notoriously difficult to see them through until the end – such is my weakness – though I must say that curating a bullet journal has been a lifesaver.

Not to make this too introspective or anything, but my experience with ‘getting sh*t done’ has its wonderful highs and shameful lows. I’ve turned into a gadget-reliant cyborg during my second year of university, having bought a smartwatch for a lark and subsequently fell in love with That Wireless Life: I invested in Bluetooth headphones, a portable keyboard and mouse setup, and a USB OTG (on-the-go) that I attached to my trusty Galaxy Note smartphone. Yes, I was that geek sitting in the back of a lecture theatre pretending her phone was a laptop.

Given my addictive tendencies, however, it’s understandable that I became apprehensive of being so gadget reliant all the time. I had my entire schedule – lectures, seminars, work rota – synced to my smartwatch, and I honestly found it difficult to consider disconnecting. “My entire academic career relied on my being on point,” I kept telling myself. And it has proven useful! There’s no denying the convenience of connecting yourself to smart assistants… I just struggled to transition from a busy-bee-university-student to an I-have-free-time-now graduate.

Which leads me to the wonderful world of bullet journals.

Bullet Journal - April Spread

Bullet journals, to those who have no clue, are personal organizers/planner setup where your only limits are within your imagination. You can have a simple daily to-do list or a comprehensive diary that helps you “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” And for a scatterbrained individual like me, it’s like being offered a lifetime membership to the Greek pantheon with the sheer amount of ‘get your life together’ power it gave me.

(I’m a dramatic sod, so do excuse my occasional hyperbole.)

Regardless, I must establish this one fact: no matter how limitless my creativity can be, it never translates well to the physical world. I’m not an artist. My hand cramps easy because I hold pencils too hard, and I have no skills in space management. Erasers and corrector pens are a godsend. So I’ve decided to create a handy dandy cheat sheet for and easy bullet journal experience… here goes!

How to Keep a Bullet Journal: Five Steps for Dummies

Step One

The first step to bullet journals, before considering fancy things like Future Logs or Weekly Spreads, is to get your hands on a trusted notebook. Quite simple, right? But if you’re a commuter who passes through procrastination station on the regular, this becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

My advice is this: go to a physical store and find the best notebook that suits your needs best.

There’s nothing like physically experiencing the feel of a notebook, and keep in mind that you’ll be working said notebook often. My chosen bullet journal notebook is hardbound with small, dotted pages, a ribbon page marker and no elastic closure. It opens with a simple flick and the cloth cover attracts stains like no other… in other words, it’s perfect (for me!).

Step Two

The second step is research. There’s nothing like barging headfirst into a new project and ruining a perfectly good notebook – imagine the heartbreak! What a wasted opportunity! Don’t forget to save the rainforest, et cetera.

Here’s my advice: familiarise yourself with the bare bones of a bullet journal.

The basic sections of a bullet journal include but are not exclusive to:

  • Index Page
  • Key
  • Future Log
  • Monthlies / Monthly Spread
  • Weeklies / Weekly Spread
  • Dailies / Daily Spread
  • Collections

Don’t be afraid to try everything and change your process as you go – the core aspect of bullet journals are change and variety. You’re not restricted to the same layout every week like with most planners.

May Monthly Focus Collection
a page to list out goals for the month

Step Three

Now here comes the fun part, where we go into the nitty-gritty cheat codes and shortcuts. Things like: stencils are your friend, washi tape makes the mistakes go away, and stickers are a gift from the gods of laziness.

Keep this in mind: not everything in your bullet journal has to be handmade.

If you can create a basic weekly spread using a mix of stencils and an unholy mix of ‘Days of the Week’ stamps, then go for it. The (#bujo) world is your oyster. Your bullet journal is yours to cultivate and no Instagram influencer ought to make you feel bad about it.

Washi tape is a requirement for those artistically challenged like I am. They’re essentially fancy masking tape – easy to tear off, relatively cheap, and patterned to your magpie heart’s content. They can be used to highlight a page corner, frame a header, divide a page, cover up a mistake, add a pop of colour to a spread… the possibilities are endless!

Bullet Journal Week 15 Layout
the wonders of washi tape

As for stickers, there’s a wide variety that can be found in any old stationery store, but my favourite or favourites are those I bought from Etsy. They are an unwarranted splurge, but with the amount of joy they’ve given me (oh look, a Marie Kondo reference!), they are well worth the money spent. Stickers, like washi tape, can over up mistakes and liven up a page. Practical ones like a stack of ‘Monday’s or ‘January’s are super useful if you can’t get our head around the calligraphy that goes hand-in-hand with bullet journals.

Step Four

There’s nothing new under the sun, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a well-loved design and adding your twist to it. A bullet journal, at its core, is for personal use. So what if your daily schedule uses an unoriginal layout… who’s going to arrest you, the bujo police?

A useful reminder: social media is a wonderful crutch to have, so don’t hesitate to follow as many #bujo #bulletjournalinspo tag variations as you want.

Personally, I have a virtual pinboard of inspiration on Pinterest that I constantly update whenever I’m on public transport. I have an Instagram album because my social life revolves around that app and I might as well use it for something beneficial. I also, on occasion, interrupt meme-filled chats with online friends with beautiful bullet journal spreads and vice versa.

Step Five

Finally, have the means to remain accountable. As scatterbrained as I am, it helps a lot if there’s someone (or something) to remind me to update my messy, stain-covered bullet journal. It is also a weight of one’s anxiety-laden shoulders to have one less incomplete project to worry about.

Every month, I try to post an update to my Instagram story – it’s a guilty pleasure that doubles as an illusion of productivity. My friends ask about my journal whenever conversation steers in that direction, and there’s nothing like spending money on art supplies and pretty washi tapes to inspire you to put pen to paper. Or sticker to an empty page, whatever floats your boat.

spooky season is upon us!

Not advice but a helpful nudge: don’t just rely on yourself and your own self-interest in keeping up with your bullet journal. That is to say, extrinsic goals are just as valid as intrinsic ones.



These five steps are hardly the be all end all of keeping a bullet journal, but I hope they’re useful enough tips to keep those artistically disinclined to plodding along. The bottom line of That Bujo Life are these three things:

  1. do what works best with your organizational style
  2. don’t compare yourself to social media influencers, and
  3. washi tape makes the bujo world go ’round

Over to you guys: Do you keep a bullet journal? If so, what other advice can you share and if not, please share your reasons! It’s not for everybody but I would love to hear your alternatives.

Until the next post (whenever that is!).

Saitama 2019 | Worlds Figure Skating Championship

First and foremost, I know next to nothing when it comes to figure skating as a sport. I don’t know the technical rules, the difference between a salchow or a lutz, but I do know what a Biellmann spin is and that Yuzuru Hanyu has a really, really good version and I die every time I see it.

Yuzuru Hanyu Biellmann spin
just look at that slope!

While my history with figure skating begins at watching Ice Princess back in my childhood, it kind of gets kick-started into another life during my year abroad in Japan; their love for Yuzuru Hanyu and their pride for him as a national athlete was clear to me, even as a clueless gaijin. And so three years later, I find myself keeping an eye on the figure skating world like an amateur fan.

LiberaTarts Live-Tweets #Saitama2019

My day began when I woke up in a panic at 8:05am Spanish time, thinking that I might miss the start of the Men’s Singles events in the Worlds Figure Skating Championship, hosted in Saitama, Japan this 2019. With the way that timezones work and my confusion still in realizing that I am an hour ahead of London’s time zone, my body – without my outright thinking about it – went jerked upright like a newly alive Frankenstein’s monster.

I spent a good chunk of an hour looking for a way to watch BBC iPlayer’s live stream of the event, but ended up finding this extremely useful post instead. I somehow ended up watching an unblocked Russian Eurosport stream (whatever that means!) and thoroughly enjoying myself for up until the early afternoon.

In all honesty, I wanted to catch the finals mainly because of Japanese skaters Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, but Korea’s Junhwan Cha caught my eye! He was just so graceful on the ice, and I would like to see more of him in future competitions.

And let’s not forget the other skaters! The music choices that the others had had me giggling from sheer joy. From musical soundtracks from Grease to Queen classics and AC/DC… Obviously, these people love what they do and while they’re not technically the best they certainly have fun doing what they love best – it is something everyone should strive to do in life, to be honest.

When the anticipated event happened, however, my joy in watching these skaters have fun on the ice retreated and was taken over by my fear. I hold Yuzuru’s skating close to my heart and it physically hurt to hear that he popped his quadruple salchow during his short program last Thursday. A quick online search told me that Yuzuru Hanyu had the tendency to make up lost points in the free skate, which was why I was so eager to catch everything live.

But as it turns out, his admirable efforts was not enough to beat Nathan Chen’s combined score. Not that second place is a bad place to be! You go, Glen Coco!! Four for you!

To summarise:

World Figure Skating Championships: Men’s Singles Free Skate | March 23, 2019


  1. I panic-searched for a livestream first thing after I woke up
  2. I realised I needed to learn more Russian than привет and спасибо if I want to continue being a fan of figure skating – all the good streams had Russian commentary and no English subtitles!
  3. I used my relatively dead Twitter account to live-tweet #Saitama2019, and
  4. Yuzuru Hanyu is still Number 1 in my heart (。♥‿♥。)

Over to you guys: Is anyone a fan of competitive figure skating? I would love to know more about it, so do feel free to comment and share your information! But please be nice about it – I don’t like it when people bash other competitors for the benefit of their favourites. That’s just bad sportsmanship.

Digital Detox for the Smartphone Obsessed

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten a cramp because you’ve been holding your smartphone for too long. Keep raising your hand if you’ve gotten headaches from eye-strain, having spent the majority of your day looking at the Big Internet on your computer and the Small Internet in your smartphone.

If you didn’t raise your hand at all, I call thee a liar.

If you raised your hand, congratulations/commiserations because you’re just like me.

This 2019, as each month plods along and threatens the passage of time, I have decided to stagger a New Year’s Resolution checklist. I know myself enough to acknowledge that anything I list down on January 1st will hold no meaning for me six months down the line… and so, the 2019 Monthly Challenge began.

The LiberaTarts 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Irresolute People

I spent January being annoyingly precocious by becoming teetotal. Despite the party atmosphere of December 31st and January 1st, I did not drink a single drop of alcohol.

75 days later and well into March, I have yet to have a sip of the nectar of the gods. I can’t count the number of times I had to explain in social situations that yes, I am of legal drinking age, I just choose not to drink. It makes for a tedious experience, I have to admit, but it’s the hill I choose to die on.

my new home address

February was my self-appointed digital detox month, simply because it had the shortest number of days in the month and I knew myself enough that I cannot abstain from social media longer than 30 days. The very idea felt like complete torture. But 28 days? That, I can do.

Of course, in this day and age, I couldn’t walk around without a device for communication, and so I downgraded my Galaxy Note 8 to a cringe-worthy blue flip phone. It didn’t even have any games installed like the classic snake game by Nokia!


The votes from my friends on social media were an even split of 50/50

Doing a digital detox for four whole weeks was a challenge, certainly, but I reached the end of that month feeling accomplished and more relaxed than I have ever been.

6 Positive Outcomes of a Month-Long Digital Detox

I felt better physically

Headaches from eye-strain were a thing of the past. My neck and back muscles got a welcomed break since I no longer had to hunch down to look at my smartphone all the time. Whenever I texted my friends, I could look away as I typed because touch-typing skills you learn in the early 2000s are a lifelong skill, apparently.

I had a better sleep schedule

I’ve always been conscious of my terrible sleep schedule. I’ve tried going to the gym before bed to tire myself out, but the cold winter walk from the gym to my home just made me more alert. My smartphone turns on the blue light filter every 8pm, but I have this habit of disabling it whenever I want to post a new picture on Facebook or Instagram.

With my smartphone metaphorically thrown into Mount Doom and locked away until March, I had no choice but to rethink my nighttime routine. I won’t lie and say that I read more books, but I worked more on my bullet journal (yes, I started a bullet journal!) and that’s something I’m really proud about.

I spent more time with my family

Without being constantly connected to social media, I noticed that I spent more and more time with my mother and my brother. We ate meals together most of the time, but usually we would be on our phones and we left the dinner table immediately once we finish our food. This February, it was a little different: I encouraged more conversation during mealtimes, and every so often we as a family would migrate over to the living room to continue the conversation and to update each other on what we did throughout the day.

We also watched more TV together, which was both a good and bad thing, but the sense of belonging and family I felt in my home was a privilege I never really appreciated until this whole digital detox thing happened.

I experienced less anxiety

When they say social media encouraged depression, anxiety, and all other kinds of mental health issues, I kind of processed that information like a little factoid rather than the Truth Bomb that it was. Imagine my surprise when I became less worried about people’s opinions when I wasn’t broadcasting every little thing I did on social media!

That latent fear of missing out? That strangely self-destructive notion of you only live once? Ain’t nobody got time for that during a digital detox.

I practiced healthy boundaries

With the onslaught of push notifications every time a friend posted something on Instagram or messaged me on WhatsApp, more often than not I find myself commenting or responding to something in the late hours of the night. When your mobile phone happens to be a lowly flip phone, however, push notifications were some futuristic nightmare that I was blissfully free from.

I turned my phone off during the night and only responded to texts during daylight hours. I had to keep my email inbox alive for business reasons, but I limited myself to only using my laptop for emails and important searches during the afternoons. Setting up these boundaries for myself in February helped shape my digital detox experience into a greatly efficient one.

Lastly, ending phone calls made me feel like a boss

I’d hate to make assumptions about the younger generation, but I doubt teenagers and those younger would have experienced ending a phone call by flipping their phone closed. There’s no fumbling for the red end-call button, no messy goodbyes as you try and fail to slide that voice-call to finish. Just a simple, sharp smack! and you can move on with your life.

A movie cult classic that I’ve never seen

3 Negative Results of a Digital Detox

Now, it’s not all fun and games! The nostalgia of owning a flip phone for 28 days was not enough for me to ignore the fact that a smartphone is really a convenient and useful tool. Navigating the world, both physically and metaphorically, was very difficult without the help of a mini hand-held computer.

I got lost… all – the – time

Most if not all smartphone these days come equipped with GPS and some form of interactive Maps application. I went to Manchester in February to attend a Train to Teach conference and the number of times I got lost because I had no Google Maps to help me! I would need to borrow another set of hands…

Yes, I did follow the street signs. Yes, I had to ask people for help. Yes, I did feel “more one with the Earth” when walking around with my head held high instead of looking down at a blinking blue dot, but I still wished I could get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient way possible.

I bantered less with my friends

One of the down sides of making friends in school, college, and university is that eventually, people will get jobs and move away to other sides of the country. Now, my close friends all still lived in the same county as myself, but none of us could drive and relying on public transport all the time was tedious! We like to communicate via WhatsApp or Facebook messenger, as well as various other social media. But with my self-chosen exile from all things Internet?

Goodbye social life.

I never realised how much time I spent tagging my friends on memes and vice versa. The majority of my humour was based on memes at least three levels deep. Whenever I encountered something funny in real life, I would not hesitate to take a picture and send it to my friends. With the digital detox, however, that weird funny pigeon I saw that one time is now a mere anecdote instead of a vivid image that my friends could appreciate.

Travelling to a different country was a nightmare

I got accepted for a job in Spain halfway through February, and the cheapest flight I could find left from an airport I have never been to. Can you imagine navigating through London City Airport for the first time in your life, juggling your suitcases and your printed flight information, and then landing in a country where you barely speak the language?

It was a nightmare and then some.

I had to travel without using Google Maps, Google Translate, or mobile boarding passes. The entire journey was not only unnecessarily stressful without a smartphone, but having all that paper with me felt like such a waste. At the very least I was able to recycle once I was safely settled in my new hometown.

bullet journal travel entry
bullet journal travel entry

Concluding Remarks

Doing this digital detox was a personal challenge; it’s not for everyone, and while I would like nothing more to say “oh my god, you guys, detoxing from your smartphone and basically living like an old person is like, really fun and amazing!”

HOWEVER!!

I know that’s a really annoying thing to hear, so instead I will say this:

Do what you want. Take care of yourself, and do things that make you happy.

Taking a month off from my smartphone and social media did wonders for my mental health, my view of myself, and my daily habits. It also was completely irritating because I got lost so many times and that’s something I can never forgive myself for. Nevertheless, I would totally do another digital detox next year!


Over to you guys: have you ever done a digital detox? What was your experience like? If not, would you ever consider doing a digital detox?

Until next time!

New Year, Not-So-New… Anything

I’m not saying I forgot about this blog as it’s been a constant niggle at the back of my mind whenever anything remotely interesting happened in my life. It’s just that I’m a perennial procrastinator and this could hardly be news to anyone at this point.

The last six months have been a rollercoaster ride, from family madness to random job interviews and my own personal issues manifesting somehow only during the wintertime, but let’s not think about that right now! Let’s talk about fun, enjoyable things. Like food, and travel, and useless but cool-looking gadgets.

So without further ado, let’s get started on my first blog post this year… also known as:

LiberaTarts Gets Her Groove Back

December was a fun month, full of family-fun and Christmas cheer. It was a vast improvement to 2017’s Christmas, which I admittedly spent alone because my university term dates – when coupled with the extortionate flight prices in December – decided to fight with my bank account balance.

Christmas 2018 was spent with my immediate family, and honestly? I can’t remember the last time it was just the three of us, so the few weeks leading up to the 25th were one of the nicest weeks I’ve ever experienced. The gifts I got my mother and my brother were both thoughtful and practical, and I had a blast preparing for noche buena – the food planning, grocery shopping, the works!

The most iconic highlight of the month, however (aside from the Christmas spirit, family, yadda yadda yadda), was watching this Academy Award winning movie:

gif of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse spotify video
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

The movie’s hilarious Christmas playlist were in all the background noche buena pictures; it was the not-so-silent fourth member of our little family, and it brings me joy just thinking about the memories.

January brought misery during the first half, when my mother admitted to feeling homesick and – since she had the time, means, and opportunity to do so – I encouraged her to go home to the Philippines and visit the good ol’ grandparents. Who are her parents, but there are only so many parental figures I can introduce in this narrative without confusing myself.

Not all hope was lost, though! After months of whiling away my time, taking a break from ‘Adulting’, I managed to land a Skype interview with a company that didn’t make my soul shrivel up and die at the prospect of working for them.

Aaaand this leads very nicely to the lovely month of February, where I ended up pretty much hauling my life to a different country to teach English for a bunch of high school kids. I’ve never really given it much thought when people say the situation snowballed, but my goodness that’s what happened to me: I did the Skype interview, got told I was pretty much a shoo-in as long as I ace the (very easy, super simple) grammar exam, and then two weeks later I was packing my bags and buying a very expensive plane ticket to Spain!

(Note to everybody: buying plane tickets two weeks before you fly? DO NOT DO UNLESS THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE. This will bankrupt not just your wallet, but also your soul.)

bullet journal travel entry
bullet journal entry: travelling to Spain

On the plus side, I managed to create something cheerful for my bullet journal. One of these days, I will create a post about bullet journaling for the non-artistic person and it will be full of hints and tips on how to cheat that bujo inspo hashtag.


Over to you guys: I know it’s March already but how did you spend your winter holidays? Tell me in the comments below! And if you’re a Spiderverse fan, by any chance, please say hi and I would love to hear your thoughts about the soundtrack.

See you next time!