Category Archives: Living and learning

Preparing for photo-shoots: a guide for amateur modeling

“Gimme a sexy wink, like Marilyn Munroe…”


“Er… I think you need to practice your winks, Tash. You seriously wink like a Quebecois farmer! Haha!”

This moment between photographer and friend Danniel Oickle and I several years back had us rolling in stitches. We were doing a 1950s/60s period photoshoot in his retro studio basement in Ottawa Canada, and in three hours, we created around four-hundred photos. That evening, we didn’t produce a single ‘sexy wink’ shot. Some of our images were later used in Danniel’s Ottawa photography exhibit, The Corruption of Flesh and were seen by thousands of visitors at SAW Gallery, Ottawa in 2011.

Why write this article?

I have never really taken modeling seriously. Modeling has been a hobby for over ten years, and I do it because I enjoy the experience and love the results. I’m no professional model, but having worked in the fashion and beauty industry and knowing a thing or two about photography, it’s my hope that aspiring models may benefit from my experience.

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Don Macdonell photography


Meeting my first fashion photographer

I met my first photographer, Combie McNeil, while I was doing esthetics and make-up artistry courses in Ottawa Canada. While the students were introduced to working with television and photography make-up, the academy invited Crombie to discuss intricacies of photography, and he explained how make-up application affects photographs. Make-up artists and photographer usually work together for TV and photoshoot purposes to get the best possible result on camera.

After Crombie’s presentation, he took photos of the students, which gave us a chance to observe how our own make-up applications appeared on printed paper. We could see how we needed more contour here, or blend eye-shadow more there.

Crombie invited me to take more photographs with him as a model. Thereafter, we did about four photoshoots together. My first was horribly awkward and I had no idea what I was doing. He patiently told me how to position my body, where to focus my gaze and how to place my hands.



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The second shoot was much easier because I felt more comfortable and had an idea of what to expect. As a result, I could pose more naturally and even initiate poses without receiving instructions every time. Crombie and I didn’t stay in touch, but I was grateful for the experience because I developed the confidence to model in the future.


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Meeting photographers

Since that initial introduction to modeling, meeting photographers has been fairly easy. I met several amateur photographers who were building portrait portfolios who needed volunteer models. I met Dann (from Daniel Oickle photography) through my work. I met photography student Samantha (Samantha Garafalo photography) at my university. She needed a model for her final exam project. I met Aaron (Mad_Zoge photography) in a coffee shop after striking up a conversation about his camera in Itaewon Seoul, and I met Don (don.macdonell photography) through expat social networks in Korea. Photographer Izzy (easy_izzy_photography) is a friend of Don’s and so when Don organized a photoshoot, he invited Izzy to join us.

Networking and locating photographers

Although in my case I largely made personal connections with most of the photographers before working with them, actively seeking photographers is probably easiest to achieve through social networking. Portrait photographers who are building portfolios need to find photography subjects so they place adds on Facebook group pages and organize Meetup events to get photographers and models together. Often, photographers have photographer friends, so this gives models the opportunity to meet and work with more photographers with different creative styles. This was the case when I met Izzy through Don.

Figuring out the deal

Before doing a photo-shoot with Dann, he asked me to sign a contract acknowledging that any photos that he took legally belonged to him. This made our understanding very clear, and defined for me what typically tends to be the arrangement between amateur models and photographers who are not making money from a photo-shoot.

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Danniel Oickle photography


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Danniel Oickle photography

Modeling for amateur photographers usually entails an exchange of services, where the photographer retains all rights to the photographs, meaning that the photographer can sell the images for a profit. The model often receives a copy of the photographs, and if s/he wishes to share the images, the model expected to credit (identify) the photographer. A model often selects their favourite images to build a modeling portfolio.


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Shooting locations

Some photographers prefer studio photography while others like outdoor destinations. I personally prefer outdoor locations as I find that studio bright lights can tire my eyes after hours being under the spotlight. Outdoor shoots also include circulating fresh air which gives me more energy to perform for the camera. Outdoor shoots also offer variety because photographers often want to change from one location to another, looking for different backdrops, and occasionally, shelter from the rain.

But studio photography gives the photographer a lot more control over lighting settings and it can be much more convenient since both the model and photographer don’t have to contend with bad weather and models don’t have to go far to change an outfit.

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Danniel Oickle photography


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Before going on location, discuss where you and the photographer have in mind to shoot. I have done shoots on roof-top car parks, inside fancy restaurants, on castle grounds and in parks, beside interesting architectural structures and within university and home studios. I really like street art so that’s what I hope to incorporate into my next shoot.

Model preparation

I have several guidelines I loosely follow before a shoot. I often plan for a good sleep routine in the days leading up to my shoot, and prefer to schedule my shoot for later in the afternoon to ensure I get eight hours sleep. Sleeping well is a famous routine models famously stick it. You don’t have to be a genius to be aware that good sleep patterns create healthier, happier human beings and side effects are often glowing complexions.

I also avoid changing my skin care routine. Beginning an experimental skin care treatment just before my shoot risks pimples on the day of shooting. It’s simply not worth the risk. I may paint my nails the night prior, and also plan outfits beforehand, including shoes and accessories. I like to bring scarves, gloves, fans, umbrellas, hats and so on because props help me with movement and variety of poses during shooting, especially when I hit moments when I can’t think of any interesting pose to do.


On my last shoot, my hair was a disaster due to the intense humidity from Korean summers, and I was grateful for some of the black and white finishes which drew less attention to my crazy hair. Ideally, I prefer to have my hair cut about three weeks before a shoot, so that the style is refined, and I’ve learned how to manage it. Also, my hair would have had a chance to grow and doesn’t look shorter than I tend to prefer.


I happen to be a trained make-up artist, so that makes make-up preparation much easier. Although I take about seven minutes to do my daily make-up routine, I tend to take more care with things like symmetry and precision for photoshoot make-up, and as a result, I end up taking about twenty to thirty minutes. For someone who doesn’t have too much experience with make-up application, and plans to do their own make-up, I suggest the following.

Consult your photographer and decide on a particular theme (urban chic, classic, and so on) which can help you decide on how present your make-up. Consider your outfits before deciding what color lipstick and eye shadow to use. Your make-up may need to be suitable for several outfit changes. Brown tones work with almost every outfit. I sometimes consult make-up tutorials available on YouTube for new ideas. I recently bought a new palette of eye shadows, and having this available meant that I had a great deal of flexibility with choosing colors.

In the same way that actors wear plenty of make-up for the theater stage so the audience can perceive facial expressions from afar, likewise, make-up for the camera serves to enhance facial features so the camera can pick up details. With photography makeup, more is better. You need to wear more contour and blush, and need richer lipstick colors. Peach tones work really well for photography.


Bringing friends along for shoots makes the whole experience a lot more fun, and sometimes, you can even convince your friends to participate!

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Parks or gardens provide neutral backdrops that are often easy to work with, particularly for models doing a first time photo-shoot who prefer to get away from crowds and onlookers. On this occasion, we actually had a group conference of  around fifty Korean men and women suited up pile into the gardens and stare at us. They were also there to take a group photo! It was actually quite funny.

Day of shoot

I like to do an aerobics morning workout before showering and dressing for my shoot. The endorphins and energy it produces helps to put me in a good mood, feel empowered and confident.

I also like to go for a coffee with my photographer just before starting the shoot to get to know each other and enjoy a little banter first. This will give me a chance to discuss previous modeling experience and expectations of the shoot.

Buyeon pic group

On a recent shoot, I didn’t clarify what I had been looking for, and to my surprise, many of the shots turned out very artistic, moody and mostly profile and mid-body shots. I had expected lots of frontal face and full body shots, however that was something I failed to communicate. Photographers and models can’t read each other’s mind, so it’s pretty important to discuss ideas prior to the shoot.


One of the more challenging things for me has been creative posing. Figuring out what to do next, where to look, and what to do with my hands and feet.

Sometimes the photographer had something very specific in mind and gave lots of direction over body placement, facial expression and so on. But many times, I have been left to own devices and created my own movement or poses.


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Easy Izzy Photography

As the model, I cannot see through a camera lens, and thus often rely on feedback from the photographer to know what body movements to do. Models should not be shy to ask for direction. This aspect of the photo-shoot gets much easier with experience. After getting over the initial anxiety of learning how to pose, I began to actually enjoy it and this switched happened, in my case, within the first two photo-shoots.

Buyeon Kim Photography
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Don Macdonell photography

My PROS AND CONS to getting involved in modeling shoots


I enjoy the experience of going out and participating in these events. They can be a lot of fun.

Supportive friends and others will give you lots of accolades and it can be really confidence-boosting on a very superficial level.

If modeling is something you want to pursue professionally, unless you get ‘spotted’, you will have to put yourself out there and therefore need to build a portfolio showcasing different sides to your look, your creativity, and your potential to sell products.


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Photo-shoots can be tiring. They may last hours, and as center of attention, you would be expected to be professional and ‘produce the goods’, namely, be able to perform for the camera. It helps to have an exhibitionist personality type that likes to receive attention. If this is not your cup of tea, then modeling may prove uncomfortable and stressful.


I think that high expectations and self-criticism are two of the hardest things about modeling, and living in world surrounded by media that demands perfection can make marketing yourself emotionally challenging. Modeling exposes you to your own and everyone else’s critique. Sometimes, we are our own worse critiques, and photos often pick up on our insecurities and these might leave you feeling down.

Benefits to investing in modeling experiences

Oftentimes, the fun experienced during the photo-shoot itself and the accolades received from others make photo-shoots worthwhile, even for someone who is not pursuing modeling as a career. Helping amateur photographers build their portfolios can be as serious or as fun and ridiculous as you dictate.

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Buyeon Kim Photography
Buyeon pic 2
Buyeon Kim Photography
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Buyeon Kim Photography

Modeling has helped me develop in surprising ways. Organizing and performing in shoots pulls together various skills, including learning how to network, and creating grit. Learning to pose has trained me to ‘be photogenic.’ Working with photographers has also helped develop my confidence, by learning to build rapport quickly, and brought out my social skills. Overall, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to dabble in this fascinating industry.



easy_izzy portrait & fashion photography

Webpage: easy_izzy_photography

*featured photo: easy_izzy_photography


Don Macdonell photography, photo-shoots, video work, modeling

Instagram: don macdonell

Webpage: don macdonell 


Danniel Oickle photography, artist, musician, sculpture, guillotine

Facebook: Dann Oickle

Webpage: dannieloickle


Mad Zoge photography

Webpage: mad_zoge


Crombie McNeill photography

Email contact:


Do you disagree with anything mentioned here, or have tips to add? Please share in the comments below.

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Anti aging fillers and rejuvenation scar treatments: dabbling in the Korean age-defying beauty industry

Laser hair removal: my personal experience in Korea


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Anti aging fillers and rejuvenation scar treatments: dabbling in the Korean age-defying beauty industry

Most people are interested in health, beauty, or both. I’m always interested in discussing what I should eat, digestion issues and so on. But, I’m definitely set on maintaining a youthful, glowing face. It’s no secret that the two go hand in hand, and there’s no better person to discuss these topics with than a Korean traditional medicine doctor who specializes in dermatology and women’s health.

This article is a follow-up to an article I published in May 2017. I’ve always been interested in understanding how western and traditional Asian treatments differ, and I’m also very curious about traditional clinics which utilize modern skin treatments. To discover more, I revisited Dr. Yoon at his clinic located in Insa Dong, Seoul, along with my friend Lydia.

Lydia and Dr. Yoon
Dr. Yoon’s storeroom:  packed with traditional Korean medicine products


I received two treatments by Dr. Yoon free of charge. In exchange for my consultation and treatments, I would write about Dr. Yoon’s service and my treatment results. As someone who considers carefully what beauty treatments are worthwhile, I was very curious to see what Dr. Yoon deemed safe to bring into his regular practice.


Rejuvenating, Acne Scaring Treatment

A month before this visit, Dr. Yoon informed me that I had lots of tiny acne scaring. Now, I thought that I simply had large pores, but since I had gone through both teenage and adult acne, this news shouldn’t have caught me by surprise. We decided there and then that my next treatment would include some kind of acne resurfacing treatment that would diminish the scaring to give me more even, less porous looking skin.

When I asked Dr. Yoon which treatment he intended to use on my face, as a former esthetician with ongoing interest in innovative skin care treatments, I understood perfectly what he had in mind when he introduced me to the AMTS. I learned about this treatment two years earlier in Victoria Canada through a skin specialist.

The AMTS CRP – CELL machine works by injecting five pins simultaneously into the skin, puncturing the dermis (all skin layers) through to the blood supply beneath. The treatment works by creating new scars where the skin is punctured which replaces older acne scars. The result is that older, pock-marked or damaged skin tissue which may appear as “large pores,” become refined and smooth after several treatments.


First, I was asked to wash my face using a facewash provided. Next, I lay down, and a comforting warm pillow was placed on my stomach.  This may have been to help relax me. Dr. Yoon then applied a face peel gommage which removed dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and after removing the gommage, applied a think layer of anesthetic gel to numb the skin surface. He added a sheet of transparent cellophane cling film over top, presumably to enhance the potency of the numbing agent.




After fifteen minutes, the anesthetic gel was removed and Dr. Yoon began the AMTS treatment. It felt a little like a staple gun would, i’d imagine. The hand piece was pressed against my face, particularly the areas which have lots of acne scaring, which in my case was my forehead and chin. The treatment was a little painful around the cheekbones and forehead as these areas don’t have much cushioning.


As the punctures penetrated to my blood supply, blood appeared on my face. The treatment was over in probably seven minutes. Blood was left on my face to act as a serum to nourish the skin, and a mask sheet of moisturizing essence was applied over top. Then Dr. Yoon painted a cooling face mask over top of the essence sheet, and I was left to relax for about twenty minutes to absorb these topical ingredients.

Time: approximately 1.5 hours


I’d recommend this treatment for people who can tolerate a little pain.

Patients have to use sunblock for a few weeks after the treatment to ensure that fresh regrowth skin cells are not prematurely damaged by UV rays.

You will be provided with a topical cream to apply. Don’t apply too much on your forehead or too close to your eyes otherwise it may seep into your eyes and bother you. That happened to me.


My skin is sensitive, and after the treatment, some areas on my face were red and sore, and I had bruises on my skin, particularly the less fleshy areas like my forehead and cheekbones. I actually avoided putting any make-up on the day after, and just to be extra safe, avoided the sunshine hours. Two days later, my daily routine returned to normal and I was using my make-up (with SPF UV protection) along with the topical cream provided.


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Aftercare visit

I visited Dr. Yoon one week after the rejuvenation treatment. The aftercare treatment was to promote healthy cell production.

The procedure included applying several products to my face, including cooling creams, a gauze and then a mask. The treatment usually includes a herbal treatment, but this step was skipped in my case due to time constraints. The treatment was done by Dr. Yoon’s nurse, so unfortunately, due to communication barriers, I could not ask questions about the exact products applied to my skin.

Anti Aging Naturopathic Fillers for Frown Lines

Fillers essentially fill in creases including forehead frown as well as smile lines. Fillers are sometimes used an an alternative to botox in so much as they reduce sharp lines in the skin and plump out the skin. But botox, a paralysing agent used to prevent the muscles from contracting, is considered a toxin. As a result, some people avoid botox and similar brands because, when digested into the body, they are considered unhealthy.

The clinic I currently attend for laser hair removal treatments specializes in skin treatments, and this clinic (You&I) offers filler treatments. However, when attempting to research what exactly fillers are made from, I have found little information available in English within Korea. Thus, I really liked the idea of receiving fillers based on natural ingredients at Dr. Yoon’s clinic.

Different options were available with Dr. Yoon.  Lydia asked for a filler treatment that was essentially vegan, and contained no animal byproduct. I had the treatment that did include animal byproduct.


Dr. Yoon asked me to frown to locate exactly where the creases lie. He then injected into the appropriate areas between my brows. About five minutes and 5 injections later, the procedure was over. It was my second treatment, and the procedure went very smoothly. Lydia was more sensitive to the injection needle. She had recently undergone lots of facial acupuncture, and is prone to headaches, so Dr. Yoon abandoned treatment partway through as she found it stressful.




Rejuvenation treatment and aftercare results


My face has lost some of the more prominent pores particularly in the area around my chin where I tend to get hormonal breakouts monthly.

The tone of my skin seems to have changed a little. I tend to get red patches on my face, particularly around my nose and cheek area, but the treatment seems to have ‘evened’ my skin tone somewhat. Since my treatment, I have not felt obligated (as I usually do) to wear face foundation.


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Firstly, I only had one treatment. My results were subtle, and to be honest, to see a real difference in notable removal of acne scar tissue and evening of skin tone, you need to have several treatments. Most clients book multiple treatments which work out cheaper as a package.

Also, the treatment itself may be considered expensive, however,  Dr. Yoon explained that of all the laser skin resurfacing treatments currently available, the prices for his treatment are pretty standard. Each treatment is usually approximately 250,000 won ($250). He is currently offering this treatment at a reduced price for clientele who mention this article.

Finally, non-Koreans (or foreigners) are not as accustomed to needles as local Koreans. Acupuncture treatments are common here, but inserting something into the skin may be daunting to westerners. The rejuvenation treatment works by inserting several needles at once into the facial tissue, drawing blood. This treatment is not for the squeamish, however, Dr. Yoon knew exactly what he was doing. While it was a little painful, and my face was blotchy, bruised and sensitive for a few days afterwards, I definitely feel that the results made the treatment worthwhile.


Naturopathic Filler results


The treatment was very effective. The lines created from repeated muscle contraction between my brows are completely filled out. I’m very pleased with the overall result.

Filler treatments lasts up to a month before the body absorbs the filler ingredients.

You have the option to chose from fillers that contain animal product (deer antler) or vegan (only plant base). I used the non vegan filler which is popular among the Korean clients.

The fillers used at Dr. Yoon’s clinic give a youthful ‘glow’ to the skin as the product is absorbed into the blood stream.

Naturopathic fillers are made from natural ingredients. Unlike fillers received at western style clinics, naturopathic fillers are not dangerous once absorbed into the body.


Initially, because the lines between my brows are fairly deep, Dr. Yoon injected a substantial amount of filler, meaning that for the first few days, the injected area was raised, forming a slight bump under the skin. Several days later, as the filler began to disperse and be absorbed by my body, the bump disappeared.

The filler possibly affects the tear making glands, as I’ve noticed that my tears stung my eyes a little for a few days after the treatment.

Naturopathic fillers last up to four weeks. Fillers administered at western clinics linger in the area for three to four months. Thus, if you wish to consistently retain the effect of naturopathic fillers, you may find yourself getting retouch treatments fairly regularly. Dr. Yoon charges 55,000 won for the first treatment, and a touch up within three weeks is approximately 33,000 won for clients who mention this article. Consultations are free. 

Would I repeat these treatments?

Rejuvenation treatment

Yes, although I have grown used to having ‘porus’ looking skin, Korean obsession with flawless skin has increased my expectations for acquiring the skin I’ve always wanted. I credit Korean skincare products with eliminating the adult acne I suffered from since the age of thirteen, so I feel that Koreans are definitely doing something right.

If I continue to have more treatments, my t-zone area (forehead, nose and chin) would be considerably smoother, and my face tone would have significantly reduced red patches.


Yes, I would have this treatment again. I have already had it done twice. It essentially makes me look younger. For people worried about smile lines or vertical forehead lines, filler also works for these areas.


Dr. Yoon’s clinic

Dr. Sook-yoon Lee, Pibro Haniwon Skin Women Clinic26 Insa dong, 5 gil,                           Tel: 02-3667-1577




What treatments have you tried, and what was your experience?

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Laser hair removal: my personal experience in Korea

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Introducing K-POP’s SM Town at COEX Samsung, Seoul

I’m not a K-Pop fan. But, I have a friend that is. Riley wanted to grab a new edition of EXO‘s newest release, and so we popped into SM Town‘s multi story building to pick up her stuff. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure!

Before we could even enter the doors, Riley got distracted by a crowd of girls waiting around at an adjacent car park, and after plucking up the courage to ask fans who the hell we were ‘waiting’ for, we discovered that Red Velvet, a local girl band who were attending a signing event at SM Town, were expected to appear at any moment.

After waiting around for about fifteen minutes, Riley decided that since we didn’t know when they would appear, we could move on. We resumed our hunt for EXO’s “The War: Kokobop”.

Serious, but curious…

We took the escalator up, and here, we found a hall with posters featuring bands managed and produced by SM Entertainment.  After encountering some younger Korean ladies sprawled all over the floor in the hall, Riley explained to me that these girls had cards of pop idols that they wanted to trade. That explained why they had merchandise scattered around them. Essentially, when you buy merchandise like albums, they come with cards (like collectors baseball cards) featuring cute band members, and many girls have a favourite member. Often, girls receive cards that they’d prefer to trade for cards that feature their crush.

We stepped onto the brightly lit sales floor. The room was packed with mostly young women in their teens to mid twenties. A few boys were there too, mostly because they worked there, or were boyfriends waiting while their girls shopped.

Exo on vinyl: The War: Kokobop
Do you need my umbrella, (possibly famous) fella?

Here, we found a large open area featuring all kinds of stuff: fancy record displays, live-sized cardboard cut-out pop stars, album displays, posters, tote bags, hats and clothing merchandise. There were even traditional style Korean items usually featured in museums on the display cases.

We got into a line up, and were handed a paper so Riley could mark down what she wished to purchase. At the paying counter, Riley handed over 45,000 won, and in return, received three albums. She explained that she was getting EXO’s The War: Kokobop version a, version b, and a private version, all sung in Korean and Mandarin. Apparently EXO pride market themselves as a band that release songs sung in various languages.


Riley collects EXO memorabilia

Happy with her purchase, which included poster gifts and trade-able cards, our adventure continued. We meandered up to the next floor, which opened up into another hall. It had a long, central display case of clothing used by band members while shooting videos that later became famous. There were many sexy posters featuring SM’s bands dotting the walls, and plenty more girls sitting on the floor displaying their pop idol cards. The environment itself gave a feeling of close accessibility to the stars, and this presumably, is why so many fans flock to this venue.


Red Velvet video outfits

Riley explained to me that SM invites clients to experience various degrees of feeling like a star, by offering services like recording a video at their studio, for around 200,000 won (approximately $200 US).

At the end of the hall, was another large room named the SUM Cafe. It was filled with hundreds of girls sitting around tables, displaying their idol cards that they hoped to swap. There was a section dedicated to K-pop food, including tea and snacks, and there was a very long cafe counter, displaying macaroons and other delicious delights to entertain the fans that wile away their time with other like-minded girls.



My favourite feature was the ceiling lamps which had many idol cards hanging down. The arrangement reminded me of tree-like chandeliers. Everywhere I looked, fans were comparing and admiring cards. Signatures from the SM stars were applied to the backs of chairs and table surfaces. Girls played video games. Riley explained that these games were based on reactions to rhythm, and were designed by some of the pop idols themselves.

Busy space, and art-deco lamp shades
Band members’ signatures’ on the backs of cafe chairs
K-pop rhythm gaming

Leaving the room, we were about to go to the top floor, which Riley described as the best floor of the three because it contained handprints from EXO and other bands, and fans could place their hands within the handprints of their favourite stars. Unfortunately, the top floor was temporarily blocked off to the public because of the Red Velvet signing event, which presumably was taking place upstairs. I agreed to visit again with Riley as I would like to see the third floor displays.

Overall, the experience was fascinating to me. The entire building seemed like a sacred space for these fans, and I felt like an undercover alien discovering a young female ecosystem. It was fascinating, and I have every intention to return, if only to explore the treasures closest to heaven: the top floor.


Shout out to Riley Haslett, K-pop expat consultant and specialist.


What do you find interesting about the K-pop culture in Korea? Have you visited SM Town or any production studios that you would recommend experiencing?


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Standby for my follow-up blog: my SM visit to the top floor!


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A day in the life of a blogger expat, living in Korea

Saturday. July. 2017

9 am I wake up, put on Ricki Martin’s “Maria”, start dancing around my tiny apartment, and drink water while catching up on instant messages and emails.

9:30 am Yoga time. I start every morning with an Ekhart Yoga video, followed by meditation practice. During Heart Meditation, I think about my nephew Reggie, which puts a huge smile on my face. My day starts with an glowing sense of happiness.

10:00 am I look at an email response from a recent blog upload. A woman raved that I’m a home wrecker, someone akin to a woman that destroyed her marriage and family.

Backstory. I recently wrote an article detailing how one of my work colleagues used our workplace as his hunting ground to seduce and emotionally manipulate three women. Unawares, I fell prey to his charms and believed he loved me. Ultimately, I underwent indescribable emotional betrayal, had trouble sleeping, cried nightly, developed chest pains, and considered leaving my job. Today, several women at my work suspect he may be a narcissistic psychopath. Meanwhile, because I mentioned he was a married while he preyed on me, I’ve received lots of hate mail from female readers after publishing my account of what happened. This week, I’ve been called scum, lacking courage for not telling his wife, a cheater, racist, closet narcissist, and several other passionately rendered insults.

10:30 am After reflecting on the message, I wrote in my gratitude diary. I gave thanks for my health, my ability to make new friends and the useful devices that benefit my life daily. Following Tim Ferriss’ TedTalk, Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals I also wrote about two of my fears, how I can prevent them coming to fruitation, and how I could repair the situation if need be.

11:00 am Shower and breakfast. Plenty of various Korean face products, and a bowl of cereal with sliced banana and pumpkins seeds.

12:30 pm I tear out the door headed to KHAP sexual heath, a Korean service that provides STI checks based on donations to foreigners. I haven’t had an STI check in a while. Time for a visit.


1:30 pm I get to their location by Gireum station (line 4) a tad late, and expect them to turn me away. Instead, I’m handed forms to fill out, and a cup to pee in. What a relief! My blood is extracted, and a finger pricked. 45 minutes after arrival, the doctor declares no HIV. The remaining results for syphilis, gonorrhea and urethritis will be emailed to me 5 days later. Nothing goes on record. Everything is kept very confidential.

KHAP Seoul: very professional and private service
Selfie while waiting for KHAP results…

2:30 pm I’m on my way to Hongdae. I want to check out the Hongik Children’s Park to see the artsy crafts created by startups students at Hongik University. I also want to write about the market. While on the train, I feel so dizzy that just as I’m arriving at my destination, I sink down to the floor. I was on the verge of fainting. I decide to skip my afternoon in Hongdae, and head right home. The blood extraction at KHAP, the crazy July humidity, my lack of lunch, and the Seoul trains packed with commuters probably caused me to feel weak.

4:00 pm Heading up the escalator to my local exit, I’m doubling over, and feel faint again. I rest on some steps for five minutes, drink water and fan myself. I resume taking the escalator and finally exit the subway after at least 1.5 hours of traveling.

4:15 pm I head to my favourite local casual restaurant, Tomato Kimbap, where I know all the staff. I chat with them in broken English-Korean, and sit down. They bring me some Mul Nengmyun. I add vinegar and mustard, take a pic and begin slurping away.


5:00 pm I head over to see Ms Kitty. My friend and work colleague Riley is in Taiwan. She left me in charge of her cat which I’ve been visiting daily. She needs lots of attention and love, and gets very angry if I don’t visit her frequently enough.

Backstory. I walked in the other day to a creamy poo and wee on the floor, to my horror. Since I don’t own pets and have never had children, the dilemma of how to attack a cream poo situation was super perplexing, especially since I had limited scoop/spray stuff at my disposal. To relieve your suspense, I confess that a day later, after letting the poo harden and shrink and the wee evaporate, I dealt with the situation using very long gloves. Yuk.

Back to the story. I hang out with Ms Kitty for about an hour or two, pretty much having a siesta with Ms. Kitty’s head in my outstretched hand. She has grown so comfortable with me over the past week!

6:30 pm I replenish her water and food, say goodbye and wander home. I pot around, looking at social media, reading travel blogs and information about Instagram. As I do this, I enjoy a prepackaged Starbucks coffee served in a glass with a screw cap and a snack on a wafer chocolate. I write down some ideas for future blogs. I begin writing this blog.

8:45 pm I go to my local grocery store, E-Mart. The place is packed on a Saturday night at 9pm. I try samples from salesclerks all over the store. A slice of watermelon, a piece of sausage, a drink of chicken soup with actual chicken inside it, and fat free yogurt beverage. I load up on western food. Bagels, cheese, pasta, ground beef, wholemeal bread, and a twix chocolate bar. I bought all my fruit and veg at the local market the day prior. I admire the bathroom ware, and pay at the cash register. As I walk home, it rains. It’s rainy season here in Korea during July. It rains all month long, but the rain does little to relieve the god awful humidity.

9:45 pm Home, and air con immediately goes on. I put away my shopping and make a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and a fried egg. The egg goes inside the sliced bagel. I have some ripe, juicy and earthy tomatoes on the side, which I eat like apples.

10:00 pm As I eat, I watch a British program (of terrible quality) on YouTube called Billionaire Mansions. Partway through, I recall I’ve watched this before. I continue watching it anyway. Yesterday, I watched a far better quality documentary called, Untold Wealth: the Rise of the Super Rich.

10:45 pm My friend Miranda messages from Canada. She commends me for the controversial blog I recently published. We decide to Skype later. After deliberating between Indian and Japanese incense, I chose the Japanese and light it. I really love incense. Smells really help me create an environment that feels like a temporary home here in Korea.

11:15 pm Miranda calls. She gives me a tour around her apartment in Ontario. I admire her interior decoration, particularly her taste in ancient Greek vase ware and her own  replicas of ancient ancient Greek black figure images. I want to return to Athens. We talk about my recent blog post and the reactions I’m receiving. She advises me to ignore the haters. For some readers, drawing attention to psychopathic behaviour could potentially help them. She says, focus on the good reactions I’ve received, and don’t give any energy to these haters. Writers can never please everyone. I thank her for listening to me, and for her words.


1 am Before going to bed, I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” In this post apocalyptic novel, humans have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Yesterday in the story, the father and son nearly walked into a hunter trap. They accidentally discovered a mass of humans kept like livestock in the basement of a house.  I’ve watched the movie a few years ago. The more I read this, the better this story gets. I love it.

2 am The “gift of sleep”, the ancient Greek perspective. Happy to still be alive to enjoy another night of rest.


What are some of your daily or weekend routines?


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Check out previous blog posts:

Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

Korean traditional medicine: my first experience

Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017






Manipulation, heartbreak and recovery: my story

There’s something I’ve avoided writing about for a long time, but I knew this post would come. I need to write about this. Not only because I need to understand what happened better, but also my story may resonate for other women, and I want them to realise that they are not alone. Perhaps together, we can make sense of all of this.IMG_20170709_155059

*Disclaimer: I have changed the names of all persons involved.

About a year ago, I moved to Seoul, S. Korea, and had just begun to work for a private school that seemed like the ideal English teacher’s job. I quickly began to respect and adore the directors, and the staff seemed lovely. However, most of the staff were caught up in relationships and I soon found that I was pretty lonely. I was  located fairly far away from any previous friends I had made during my last work contract in Korea. Actually, I didn’t realize just how lonely I was at the time, but looking back, I can see it plainly.

Out of no-where, Juan, my married work colleague, trusted personal friend to my two school directors, and teacher trainer/ middle manager suddenly took an interest in me about three weeks into arriving. It began like this.

In late May, 2016, Juan’s mother was visiting for his wedding. He had married his Korean wife Anita a year prior, but they were marrying again so family and friends could witness the ceremony, as I understood it.

One evening after work, we all went out for Mexican dinner. Anita joined us, and that’s when I met her for the first time. She seemed nice enough, but her English was poor so I imagined that Juan and Anita had a difficult time communicating. I got on famously with Juan’s mother, and the next evening, a Friday, we all went out again to celebrate Juan’s fabulous mother, this time without Anita. Juan’s mother brought a lot of energy to our group and it was easy to see how much Juan adored her.

After dinner, we went to Noribang, Korean Karaoke. Juan and our other colleague, Mikele, the school manager at that time, kept filling my glass with soju, a local Korean liquor. I drank much more than I would usually, and soon, the directors left. That left myself, Juan, his mum, Mikele, and colleagues, Tim and Rose.

I flicked through the Karaoke song listing when suddenly Juan bounded over to me in the far corner and buried his nose in my arm, sniffing for my perfume. He turned and said to me, “ummmmmm, you smell so good.” I was pretty inebriated by this time, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the opposite edge of the sofa, when Juan sat beside me and put his arm around my waist. I was talking across Tim to Juan’s mum at the time, and soon, Juan’s hands slipped from my waist to my bum and legs. That was the first indication I received that Juan liked me. His wedding was only two days away.

After this occasion, Juan began to enter my thoughts more and more. Ironically, I was soposed to cover his classes while he went on a honeymoon, accompanied by his mother since she was visiting from the states. I felt conflicted when Juan returned a week later because he had just renewed his wedding vows before all my work colleagues. I didn’t attend the ceremony even though I had been invited. I felt confused.

Soon thereafter, after another heavy drinking session with colleagues, and numbers dwindling to Juan and I, we slept together. He told me that he loved me, which really caught me by surprise as we hadn’t known each other long.

As time went on, he began paying me many compliments, and flirting began to occur between us. He would often pass me closely in the school hallways, or would talk to me in either my class or his, and he’d find some way to innocently caress me in the interim. But I had reservations because he was married.

I explained to him that I too had been in a similar situation to him, married but unhappy with my relationship, and that I also had cheated. But, I said to him that I really regretted staying in my marriage that long and dragging out our misery. That if he wasn’t happy, he should end their relationship. I was assuming that Juan started an affair because he wanted out of his marriage, just like I had done. He made me feel important and special to him, and I thought that he recognized my value. Meanwhile, he nodded and listened, but actually, nothing changed.

He continued to pay me lots of attention, which I began to crave, but since he was married, everything seemed to be on his terms. He decided when he wanted to have sex, and I acquiesced. I tried to initiate a kiss on one occasion, which took him by surprise and he refused, explaining that he needed ‘liquid courage’ or alcohol to be intimate. He began to be in total control of our romance, and the expectation that I’d be entirely passive and receptive to his affections began to be very taxing on my emotions.

Meanwhile, I began to ask myself questions like, what does his wife have that I don’t? Is she more attractive than me? How could he possibly not want to be with me? Soon, he was asking me whether I loved him, eliciting proclamations of love. I convinced myself that he would leave his wife for me, and it was only a matter of time.

During intimate moments, he’d tell me again that he loved me. He entrenched himself deeper into my thoughts and my expectations increased for a monogamous relationship after his ‘soon-to-be-disolved marriage.’ He was on my mind every day, and I even told my family and close friends about him.

Actually, friends and family were becoming very worried for me, telling me that Juan’s loyalty toward his wife was foremost, and that I was in grave danger of getting hurt. I retorted defensively, explaining that they didn’t understand the full situation or the complexity of the relationship, and they hadn’t met him, so how could they really understand.

In fact, I begun to tire of listening to my friends and family expressing their concern for me. But meanwhile, I was also concerned about whether Juan took my needs seriously. Everything seemed to be entirely focused on him, and what he needed, and when timing was convenient for him. His pushing me away and pulling me back wore me down, and I began having trouble sleeping.

After about six months, around November 2016, a major turning point occurred. Two teachers left my school, and two new female replacements arrived, Kelsey, and Arianne. Kelsey was in a relationship, which she often talked about, but Arianne was single. Juan took an immediate interest in her, and I began to see this quite plainly, particularly after Arianne mentioned that Juan and Mikele took her and our other colleague, Jennifer, out drinking, and I had been excluded from the event.

I began realizing that Juan was manipulating circumstances so he and Mikele could strategically be around the new staff member. I allowed myself to feel rejected, unimportant and came to the realization that the impediment to Juan and I’s not getting together was not in fact his marriage. He just wanted to play the field, using the female staff at the school as his harem. I felt sick and used. In fact, the situation was so upsetting that I began to develop chest pains. I began to worry that my lack of sleep, and the chest pains might put me at risk for panic attacks, and I was shocked that my body was responding this way just because I felt wretched and heartbroken.

But Juan was still interested in me. He continued visiting me in my class room and visiting Arianne in her one. He appeared to have his two favourite toys at his disposal every day between the hours of 2 to 9pm. He’d come in early to visit Arianne to ‘train’ her on how to perform her duties well as a new teacher. Then, he’d wonder into my classroom. Since my class is on the mezzanine level, he’d pass my class to visit her on the top level, and of course, I’d hear him walk upstairs.

Arianne mentioned that Juan told her that she looks like his ex girlfriend. She was beaming, and so was he, just like new lovers. I could see the whole pattern that had happened six months earlier between Juan and I, like deja vu, but Juan wasn’t hiding it from me. He would roar with laughter as he flirted with Arianne from the top floor.

The situation began to eat me up inside because I felt betrayed. The irony was that he continued to flirt with me at the same time, and even tried to ‘train’ us both together during a science afterschool training session, perhaps to see how we would react. I began to wonder if seducing the newest teachers, the vulnerable ones arriving into Korea with little to no friends, was a pattern for him. I began to feel a mixture of emotions, including deep sadness and intense anger.

He popped into my room on one occasion, presumably to see if I was still sweet with him after returning from Arianne’s room, and I spared no thoughts. I told him that I thought he abused his position of trust as the right-hand man of the directors, and used his unofficial status as middle manager as leverage to impress the new employees and that he had manipulated me. He listened, but refused to discuss the matter.

At the time, I felt as though Juan was driving me crazy. Later, I realized that he was playing mind games. Friends have termed this unhealthy type of relationship behaviour as “gas lighting“, a term that I only learned last week.

After about a month, I decided to tell Arianne everything. I knew that since I still cared for and even loved Juan, this behaviour was torturing me daily, and also, she needed to know that Juan was far from sincere. She couldn’t allow herself to be taken in by him, as I had done. I now distrusted him.

Arianne and I sat in Daechi Dong cafe, and there, I explained how the romance began, his control over all aspects of our romance, my increasingly deep feelings for him, and my frustration.

With tears in my eyes, I explained how his sudden interest in her was heart breaking to witness, and that I could see a repeating pattern in his behaviour, namely, the targeting of vulnerable, new, single teachers at the school who would look up to him. I asked her to avoid developing any feelings for him, that we were puppets in his game to be used at his beckoning. She hugged me, and promised to stay well clear. She was incredibly supportive.

The following week, we tried to stop his behaviour. At that time, he was running between our classrooms, flirting and whispering sweet words to both of us while my face got sterner and sterner. He continued to smile. I was flabbergasted that he could think that we wouldn’t notice, or that our self esteem was so low that we wouldn’t mind casanova Juan doing his thing daily.

So, when he once again targeted Arianne to ‘train’ her, I joined them in her room, and brought some papers to mark, on the guise of just hanging out. I noticed he seemed on edge having me in the room, especially since he did not invite me, but nonetheless, teachers often join each other casually in their respective classrooms, and this usually poses no problem whatsoever.

After nipping back to my classroom and returning, Juan directly asked me to leave. I was taken aback, and when I seemed reluctant to leave Arianne alone with him, he raised his voice and commanded me to leave, shouting at me. Both Arianne and I were startled because neither of us had seen Jose angry or aggressive before, and we were astonished at how quickly his ire escalated. In fact, we were both a little scared. I felt that if I didn’t obey him, he’d become nasty, and at the same time, I was worried about leaving Arianne alone with him, especially with him in that state of mind.

Later, Arianne told me that Juan had asked her while I nipped down to my classroom why I was in her classroom, and she had replied to him that she simply wanted me in there. That December was probably the most agonizing month for me.

In January, Arianne, Kelsey and I went to Kyoto, Japan together. While there, I began to recover. I realized that space and distance can be such a healer, especially as I was not seeing Juan every day anymore. I badly needed to be away from him. I had considered leaving the school several times by now. In Japan, I realized that my self esteem could actually recover very quickly, as indeed it did.

With supportive friends in Kyoto


At a restaurant near Shichijo station, I also confided in Kelsey, telling her about what was happening back at the school between Juan, Arianne and me. She was very surprised as she was very fond of Juan at the time. Later, when returning to this topic, she explained that Juan’s devious actions, his controlling nature and need for significance through simultaneously using multiple women suggest he has psychopathic tendencies, and if not, he is an outright psychopath. This hadn’t occurred to me before, but his emotionless reaction when I had told him my guttural hurt feelings back in December suggested to me that his brain was not wired for empathy the same way mine is, or most of the other humans I’ve met.

With my new, supportive friends, January 2017
Journaling in Kyoto: steps to recovering self esteem

As February and March passed, his behaviour calmed down, and still, I continued to care for him. Despite everything, my heart was still entangled and my brain, confused. We continued as friends. But in mid March, Juan attended our colleague’s birthday party and he brought his wife, Anita with him.

I found the situation of hanging out together extremely uncomfortable, and encountering Juan at the doorway as we entered, I said to him, how could you put me in this position! My directors were there, and I didn’t know how to excuse myself from the event as I had only just arrived.

I distracted myself by talking to my director, showing him photos on my tablet of my family back in England, and he kindly looked at everything I showed him. But a few drinks later, after my directors had left, I was in the host’s bedroom, and suddenly, the door slammed shut. Someone had just walked out, and I found myself alone with Juan. He wanted to kiss me, and I replied, no, you’re married. Meanwhile, our colleague Tim, who had been sitting on the other side of the bedroom door, slammed it open with the same energy that Juan had closed it moments earlier. We sheepishly walked out, while Juan’s wife, who had been sitting only about five feet away, watched on.

Later, I began to wonder whether Juan has a need for danger, and that despite recently returning from a honeymoon at the Maldives, he had no loyalty toward his wife.  I began to realize that I had been comparing myself to Anita and Arianne, asking myself, what do they have that I don’t? But indeed, none of that really mattered. Juan didn’t actually seem to care about any of us.

I’m now writing in mid July, and I’ve come a very long way from all of these events. I no longer love Juan. I began learning how to regain self confidence, despite continuing to work in the same school as Juan. I sought out mentors like Tony Robbins who discusses managing our emotions that control our actions. I also began actively following entrepreneurs, Clark Kegley, and Evan Carmichael, who review influential books and successful people in order to understand and try strategies to develop my strengths. I began changing my morning routine (Hal Elron), and most recently, began to focus on eating more healthily.

I additionally threw myself into writing blogs regularly, and I even wrote about the strategies I was using to recover (see “Learning to invest in myself,” parts one, two, and three). I also started keeping a gratitude diary, and begun to journal (Clark Kegley on journaling) to identify monthly goals toward self improvement, as well as asking myself important questions to identify what makes me happy, and how I can continually challenge myself to become the person I want to be. I was enthralled to discover Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and learn which type of love expression is foremost to me. I also was fascinated with Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs, and discovered that ‘significance’ had long played a very important part of my basic needs, but that learning and teaching have recently stepped into my primary focus.

Today, I continue to seek out advice daily, listening to recordings, particularly by Tony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, about taking responsibility for my mental state and happiness, and learning how to genuinely give others the appreciation that each of us crave.

My experience with Juan forced me to learn about myself, begin changing my habits and routines. This experience helped me identify an incredible sense of significance derived through my writing, sharing both my travel experiences and my personal struggles. I’ve also learned how important it is to surround myself with caring, loyal friends, and to develop the strength to walk away from people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Finally, I’m grateful that today, I am more self aware, and am in a position to help others who have experienced some form of psychological abuse.

Caring friendships


I want to thank my sister Vivien and my friend Riley who both listened to me without judgement at my deepest moments of despair, as well as my friends Beth, Sue, Buyeon, CeCe, and Miranda who tried to stir me in a healthier direction. I also thank God for guiding and supporting me at my worst moments, and for my later recovery.

Lastly, I want to thank myself, for finally deciding to stand up to Juan by reporting his misconduct to my school director, and seeking out healthy support that I needed in order to once again be my gregarious, fun-loving self, but this time, a Natasha with a lot more self awareness, kindness, and readiness to help others.

In a much happier space: hiking, nature and restarting my experience in Korea
We all deserve caring, loving friendships. Let’s believe that we will accept nothing less. This T-shirt reminded me of Evan Carmichael’s one word.



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Learning to “invest in myself” – Part Three

This is the third blog in a three part series where I discuss concepts which have pulled me out of a near depressive state. In Part One (, I discussed which sources I turned to for help. In Part Two (, I address Robbins’ “Six basic human needs” which help us understand why we do what we do (human behaviour patterns). I note loving yourself, human need for friendship and the 33% rule as integral patterns needed for basic happiness and fulfillment.

In Part Three, I will conclude by discussing my most recent steps to find happiness and fulfillment: cultivating good routines and habits. Routines and habits are the key to investing in yourself. Tony Robbins (“Hour of Power”) and Hal Elron (“The Miracle Morning”) are huge fans of starting your day off with habits that produce focus and energy. Most “successful” people begin their day with meaningful habits. Let me explain how I have begun to change my habits, and some of the positive effects I have already noticed!

My diary is almost full, and it’s only February. Here’s why. I began following Clark Kegley’s advice about the benefits of journaling. He raves about benefits including creating heightened awareness of your goals and monitoring your progress. Following his advice, I began to journal about things like, what are my short and long term goals, what do I want from my work, rest and play times, what are the things I learned this year, and so on.

I also began to take notes on some of the vlogs Kegley released ( that summed up the main ideas from influential books like, Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill), How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), and others. I became curious about all this potential knowledge out there and wanted to become more informed. I also began writing “gratefulness” diary entries to begin to recognise that, despite the challenges I have been facing, there are so many other positive things in my life. Recognizing my blessings have helped me to put my challenges into perspective.

I also stumbled across Hal Elron’s The Miracle Morning ( I watched a video where he describes going through two seemingly insurmountable challenges. He later explains that he noticed that the major reoccurring pattern for successful people was their morning routine. Thereafter, he presents six steps that he began implementing immediately.

I have been doing Elron’s Miracle Morning for the last nine days. I used to awake every day around 11:30am, and head to bed around 1am. I now awake at 8:30am, and head to bed around midnight. My productivity has gone through the roof. I began working through all the Miracle Morning steps.img_20170209_104406

I begin my day by doing yoga ( or following an aerobic dance video ( (“Exercise”) on Youtube to create energy. These vary between 10 minutes to half hour. Motivation to work hard and do a lot with your day comes, in part, from physical stimulation. I have done yoga on and off for over fifteen years. When I don’t do yoga or some form of exercise daily, I begin to feel depressed. Numerous studies advocate the importance of physical exercise to feel happy. Once again, the importance of physiology, mentioned in Part Two, is incredibly important to our mental state. I’ve finally decided that I just have to look after me every day by working out. I see exercise time as “me time.”

I follow this up with meditation (silence). This usually comprises of either prayer, following a yoga meditation practice with Ekhart Yoga (, or practicing yoga breathing. I’m really just starting to figure out what meditation actually is, so I’ve largely been following Ekhart meditation variations to figure out what to do, and why it is supposed to be so useful. So far, I’ve discovered that I feel really calm after meditation practice.

Then, I visualize what steps I need to take to reach my goals and what my life will be like once I’ve reached them. This step is super useful because I can think clearly about the challenges to get to my goal, and strategize about what resources I can use to get to my next step toward reaching my goal. I’ve found that visualization has been one of the most surprisingly effective steps because I get most of my ideas during visualization. For example, my short term plan for now is to build a blog that caters to expat female teachers, however, I’ve not worked hard on finding ways to reach my readers. I’ve focused on writing itself. Yesterday, during visualization, I suddenly decided that I needed to research how to market my blog better. Sometimes, the epiphanies may be simple, but with so many distractions, sometimes even the simple steps can be sidestepped.img_20170217_134015

I also write in my journal (scribing). I update goals and steps required to reach them, and always write down one thing that I am grateful for. I’ve included simple things, like being grateful for my tablet, my make-up artistry and aesthetician skills, and the convenient location of my little bachelor apartment. I additionally write about my progress so far so I can reflect on the usefulness of what I’m doing. It’s very interesting reading diary entries from only six months ago, and noting how much I’ve developed.

Thereafter, I read or watch something inspiring ( that may give me an idea for the day. These might be lifestyle guidance or something related to my goal. This is where I seek out my mentors. I subscribe to, among others, Richard Branson (Virgin group), Clark Kegley (Journaling) and Evan Carmichael (“Believe”), and love to read or watch something from one of them daily. I have begun actively posting replies to their blogs and vlogs to engage with my mentors, show gratitude for their efforts, and connect on a deeper level with the content they write about. Today, I read and excellent article about marketing my blog which has given me lots of ideas to consider.

Finally, I read affirmations, namely, notes that I have written which boost my self confidence. In last year’s diary, I wrote down a list of my accomplishments (see my blog post:, and I review these accomplishments to help me feel as empowered as possible at the start of my day. As mentioned earlier, while scribing, I also began monitoring the improvement I’m making toward my goals. Additionally, I’ve begun making goals for my month, and usually do this within the first few days. After the month is over, I review how successful I was with these goals. I then add successfully accomplished goals to my list of accomplishments so far for this year and this practice is very encouraging for me.img_20170217_134048

I also started adding a goal to help with my personal development. This month, I wrote down that I want to be more patient and kind, especially when I’m under pressure as this is when I find it most challenging to be empathetic toward others.  I want this characteristic to be part of my character for the long haul, and so I make a mental note daily to try to bring this to my awareness repeatedly throughout my day. It’s been quite hard to recall my monthly “character” goal, especially when I’m at work, however, practice is making it easier, and I’ve already begun seeing differences in my behaviour.

I’ve put up coloured posters as daily reminders to remember various things. I’ve posted my goals, skills, the steps to my Miracle Morning, and also some of my favourite quotes which are just by my door. I like to read one or two randomly during my day.img_20170217_130135

As I mentioned in my previous blog (Part Two), my need to keep learning is paramount to my need for fulfillment. My research and efforts to improve myself continue daily on my quest for happiness and fulfillment. There are many resources out there, and it is my hope that, if nothing else, my blog will help you to be aware of just how much help there is available, if only you take the time to look.

I expect to follow up this series up in a few months, updating it with new strategies to aid me on my quest to feeling fulfilled.

Thank you for reading! Keep learning!

Comment below. Please share what you do to energize, stay motivated and enrich your lives daily.

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Learning to “invest in myself” – Part Two

The first seven months adjusting to life in Seoul, S. Korea were among the hardest I’ve experienced to date. Intense loneliness and emotional pain from a romance which left craters in my self-esteem drove me to seek help. Initially, I wallowed in my near-depressive state, but a catalyst (revelations by a friend) helped me to see the situation for what it was. Suddenly, I resolved to become ‘normal’ again.

I realized that in thirty-six years, I had never take the time to focus on my self-development. You see, I’ve always been distracted by some project or another, and didn’t make the time to discover what makes me feel fulfilled and happy.

My years as a university student are some of the fondest I remember. I had no time or spare cash, but learning made me feel alive! I later discovered from Tony Robbins’ “Six Basic Human Needs” that growth is one of my personal, primary requirements to feel happy. But, I’m no longer a student. What else can I do to be on the right track to learning about my fulfillment and happiness?

In Part One (, I discuss the process of recognizing when I need motivation, and seeking out help. In Part Two, I will discuss steps I took to regain my self esteem. These include basic human needs, loving yourself, and the importance of friendships. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned and how I applied it, you too can extract something useful to apply in your current situation.


Humans are complicated. According to Robbins, we have six basic needs. These are the need for,

  • Certainty
  • Uncertainty
  • Significance
  • Connection or love
  • Growth
  • Contribution (the need to give back to others)

Robbins ( encourages his listeners to identify their top two needs. I thought my top two were significance and love, but upon further reflection, I realized that significance was no longer my major need. Growth and love currently are my top needs, while contribution, or the opportunity to teach others, has become increasingly important to me. This breakdown of six needs began helping me to access what is really important to me. To learn more about these terms and categories , I recommend that you watch the Robbins link above where he discusses these in greater depth.


Self love is a hard topic for me. I suspect it is hard for many other people too. Robbins presented the expectation of self love something like this, “When God said, ‘love your neighbour like yourself,’ it pre-supposes that you indeed love yourself.” So, we are in fact expected to love ourselves.  Oprah Winfrey ( explains that she works on herself, “fills her cup” or nourishes her soul which in turn enables her to help others.

We have the responsibility to look after ourselves emotionally. Giving myself love includes standing up for myself and recognizing me as someone who deserves self respect and the respect of others. To paraphrase, Robbins explained, I am my own best friend. If I don’t stand up for me, who will? These words affected me powerfully, and motivated me recently to call out someone who would have continued to think it was okay to treat me poorly if I did not address his behaviour. I felt so proud of myself after telling him that his behaviour was  not acceptable, and regained a piece of self-esteem right then and there.

Loving myself also means listening to and acting on the emotional messages that I receive, rather than suppressing or ignoring them. Robbins explains that feelings of anger, fear, hurt, and so on, are our minds giving us messages or “calls to action.” They mean, “I must change something!” Listen to the advice that your brain is trying to tell you. I learned this lesson after the fact, recognizing that all the signals were there but I repressed them. I now intend to be more aware of and trust my emotional messages in the future.

Robbins shows how you can love yourself by recognizing that you are capable of dealing with difficult situations. He suggests recalling a past experience where you had to deal with a similar emotion. On reflection, you will realize that you were able to successfully handle that emotion and situation. You will immediately regain control as well as your self-esteem. Taking Robbins’ advice, I recalled a similar situation (the break-up of a past relationship), and remembered that I could, in fact, survive it. Past experiences proved me capable and recognising my past strength empowered me to survive this disappointment.

Loving myself also requires controlling how I feel throughout the day. Robbins ( explains that focus, namely, the questions you chose to ask about a situation, affect our emotions. When I lose control of or suppress my emotions, I’m not showing love or respect to myself. Instead, I’m allowing my focus to interpret a situation negatively, developing pain as a result, and reacting using my usual reaction routines. I personally developed feelings of hurt which led to pains in my chest. My focus had begun to adversely affect my health.

Additionally, Robbins  stresses the importance of being aware of our physiology, or how we use our body, to change how we approach or react to a situation. These include using movement, dance, smiles and so on, to change and manage our mood. I highly recommend that you watch Robbins’ videos directly ( to understand better how focus and physiology affect our state of mind. Using his recommended techniques to change my physiology  was incredibly empowering, and catapulted me out of my near-depression stage. I particularly began using singing, dancing and yoga to lift my body and mind of out my emotional slump. Managing my physiology is one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learned.


My parents had three children together. I was the oldest, and grew up in a social environment where I always had another sibling to play with. But, as an adult currently living alone, I’ve actually grown somewhat accustomed to enjoying my own company and just seeking out companionship when I need it. I’ve become self-reliant, and working as part of a team became challenging for me. A Linguistics program recently demanded that I work as part of a four-person team to research and write and present one paper, and this terrified me. As an adult, I’ve largely grown accustomed to being an independent player.

A few months ago, I came across a talk on YouTube where Robbins stressed being a team player, and suddenly, I realized, in part, why I had been feeling so isolated since moving to S. Korea. You see, I’ve been quite skillful at putting up an invisible wall that puts distance between me and anyone I’m not ready to befriend. It’s hard to explain. Perhaps it’s British ‘attitude’, whatever that might be. I’ve always liked to engage with others on my terms, and I don’t like others to be overly familiar toward me when I have not invited it.

But Robbins presented the idea of a team player as advantageous, one which will provide challenges that will help me grow, but perhaps more importantly, a base that will provide genuine support when I really need it. In response to learning about this, I decided to invest time in getting to know my current co-workers and adding them to my circle of closer friends, with the result that our relationships have been greatly enhanced. I’m slowing gravitating toward valuing new friendships and becoming a team player.

I have also sought out a handful of new friends outside of work and regularly invite them to hang out. I rarely get invites from them, but I continue to invite them out because I know that I need their friendship, even if they don’t need mine. I also occasionally meet new friends through Meetup groups. Through Meetups, I met people with similar interests, hikers, Spanish-language speakers, and people interested in culture and history.


Tai Lopez ( mentions a 33% rule and breaks it down something like this. We need to spend 33% of our time with three categories of friends, people that we help, peers that are at the same level as us, and mentors who can direct us  to reach our goals. Please see the link above for details.

Additionally, we are the average of people that we spend most of our time with ( If our friends are consistently negative, or insecure, make excuses for why they haven’t achieved their goals, or don’t have high expectations of themselves, we too will measure ourselves by similar standards. We will rationalize our lack of drive or failures because we compare ourselves to our friends’ mediocre situations. Therefore, because our friends are very influential, who we chose to spend time with is especially critical.

I’ve been aware of these ideas for a while and regularly make a conscious effort to be around positive people who build me up. Also, I have found it fairly easy to find people to help and peers on the same level as me, however finding mentors requires that you have an idea of your goals before you seek someone who can guide you. I’m currently figuring out my goals, who my mentors are, and how to engage with them.

My favourite online lifestyle mentors include Tony Robbins, Clark  Kegley, Evan Carmichael, Hal Elron, Tai Lopez and Richard Branson. I suscribe to their YouTube channels and blogs, and have recently began leaving feedback on some message forums to engage with them and their readers. As a travel and lifestyle blogger, I have recently begun to read blogs by Nomadic Matt (, Don’t Forget to Move (, and watch Hey Nadine ( to find driven, travel blog mentors.

In Part Three, I’ll finish up the series by discussing how I use routine and habits to produce an extraordinarily productive day. I have recently changed my morning routine. I detail what I’m doing and how these habits are helping me to stay focused.

Thank you for reading! Please comment below. Share what are your top two basic humans needs, what is your routine to “love yourself” and what friendship lessons are important to you?

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