I spend a rather large amount of my day reading. I read for an hour every evening before I go to sleep and I even wake up 30 minutes earlier to squeeze in one more chapter into my day. I carry a book around with me so that at any opportune moment I can grab it- I just looked in my bag and I have 5 of them in there. No wonder I have back pain today!
It may not surprise you that I have always wanted to join a Book Club. However, all of them that involve sitting down in a cute country pub with a glass of red wine happen on a Thursday and I work on a Thursday evenings! I have searched for hours trying to find one which fits into my very hectic schedule and also picks the type of books that I want to read- life is too short for bad books!
One evening I stumbled upon a new idea from the babe that is Brooke Saward over at World of Wanderlust– an online Book Club with a focus on travel. Could it possibly get better? I headed straight to Amazon to order the first book: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. Instead of writing a long glowing review I thought that I would instead share the 10 lessons that I took away from the book.
1. Don’t be afraid to dream…
Too often I have been told to quit the daydreams and start to get ‘real’ – whatever that means! That life is too serious and I need to keep my head out of the clouds, wishing that I was somewhere else, with somebody else, could be somebody else. I think that now I sit down and analyse what my most frequent dreams represent, it is always the idea of escape. I want to be in a different country or in a different body. What makes Paris Letters an inspiring read is that it is conjured up and fuelled by Janice’s dreams. If she hadn’t sat at her computer day after day as a copywriter dreaming of being somewhere else then her adventure, lover or book would never have existed in her future. We need to be allowed, and allow ourselves to dream more. BUT…
2. …But make a plan to turn that dream into reality
WE MUST start making plans to put these dreams into a tangible reality. We may have similar dreams to those that Janice has- escaping the job that we have worked so hard to secure, to explore the world, to become an artist, or, it could be a million and one other dreams that we attach ourselves to. The trouble comes when these dreams stay dreams. I truly believe that everybody should have the chance to fulfil their dreams and wishes. That our dream life is there waiting for us but we have to grab it with both hands and be prepared for a lot of hard work to achieve it. It is incredible rare that it happens over night and it sure isn’t going to happen that way for me. Instead we must break our dreams and goals into manageable, specific and measurable tasks. This is something that I have definitely been working on since reading this book. We many not all achieve the dream of being Queen of the World but we can all become Queen of our own lives. We just have to work hard to get there.
3. Your dreams are allowed to change
For so long I wanted to be an actress, and then I wanted to have the perfect body, then came the year of wanting to own my own bookstore (which is still a dream that is firmly etched into my heart) but right now my dream is to become happier and boy have I been working on this in 2016 and is something that you can watch the progress if in my series: The Pursuit of Happiness. Our dreams are allowed to chop and change. That is the definition of my own personal freedom. The ability to work towards one thing and then switch to another without having to explain myself to anyone else.
4. Leap, and the net will appear
This is my favourite line from the book. I sometimes feel that we plan far to much that we forget to take chance every once in a while! Some of my best decisions have not been cultivated for months on end but made without any thought whatsoever- especially when it comes to travel. If I had not of leaped every once in a while I would never have made my way to magical places such as the Indian Jungle, or hanging upside down in Zambia. I have seen and done magnificent things whilst taking a leap and do you know what? The net has always caught me. Every single time!
5. Remind yourself daily why you love silence
There is a lovely moment in the book (around page 70) where Janice visits Monet’s Waterlillies in the Musee de l’Orangerie in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. She recounts the moment that she stepped into the room that Monet designed for his paintings and how they made her feel:
‘ the air thick with calm and peace. It was as if we had left our words in the coat check…It was the moment I began to fall in love with silence.’
There is something about the phrasing and idea behind this short paragraph that I find so beautiful. It is also something that I have experienced too, not whilst looking at the Waterlilles but whilst traveling down the East Coast of America for three weeks on my first solo trip. I learnt such a lot about myself whilst exploring and being alone for nearly 28 days. I especially learnt that I love silence and in fact I don’t only love it I crave it. For a long time I have made it a priority to make time for myself and to have special experiences like Janice’s above alone. We live in a world that is so connected and this makes it so important that we take the time to disconnect and just be.
6. Happiness is possible
I think that what this book gave me above everything else is hope. I identify with the Janice at the beginning of the book and whilst working through the pages that led to her happy ending I realised that this was possible for me too. It reminded me that happiness is possible and it reminded me to work towards it with all that I have. I am a happy person for the majority of the day but can be crippled by stress and self-doubt. This book gave me the hope that these negative feelings can be worked upon. I am able to make changes to ensure that I have fewer bad days and that I live an authentic and the happiest life that I possibly can. Your wildest dreams can be achieved. You just need to begin!
7. Always make the time to visit Paris and do it frequently
The main ‘character’ in this book is Janice. Paris plays a close second! The way that Janice describes her new home is glorious and reminded me why I like to visit this city so often. I may have even looked up Eurostar prices for a sneaky 5th visit!
8. Love will come
I think that us single gals and guys can spend too much time on the importance of finding love. It can quickly become all consuming and before we know it we have signed up to 20 online dating sites. I think that when we stop searching for love it will enter our lives and knock us sideways. Many may not agree with this but I truly think that happy and positive people attract happy and positive people and things. If we spend more time working on ourselves then love will come. I know plenty of people who have had success with online dating. It is something that I have tried and hated- it just seems super forced to me. I prefer something more natural and organic. I want to find love like I buy my vegetables! When it comes to love I am still an old romantic at heart.
9. Let go of the clutter and build memories instead
One of the biggest lessons that I learnt from this book is that I have far too much stuff! I live alone and there is no need for me to be living with so much. I have clothes in my closet that have been on their hangers for years without me even contemplating wearing them. I have 25 plates. Why does a single person who lives in a flat hat can only cater for 4 people at the most need 25 bloody plates? As soon as I read the first few chapters in which Janice decluters her life I threw the book down and started doing the same. It feels good but I won’t lie, it has been incredibly tough as I am a sentimental person. I attach memories to everything that I touch but I think that it is important that I restart to build new memories instead of attaching old ones to the 25 plates that are gathering dust in my kitchen cupboards!
10. Fall out of loving being loved
I would do and be whatever they loved because what I loved was being loved.
Man do I identify with this line from page 107 in the book and if we are all honest I think that most of us would. Since I can remember I have changed myself to fit in with my friends or to attract people who I was desperate to become friends with. My name is Sophie and I hate confrontation and I love being loved. But I think a lot of the self-doubt and self-criticism that has been swamping my mind for a lot of the past year has come from this need to be wanted, needed and to be liked. This constant morphing myself into who other people wanted me to be has been tiring.
There is a lot of humour in the next couple of lines below but also a lot of me in them too:
If a guy was a granola-eating hippe, so was I. If he was a hipster beach bum, I had a beach cruiser at the ready. Just let me lace up my converse. If he was a runner, I was a runner. If he was a hiker, I’d buy books on local hiking tails and suggest a few. I’d stash oranges and chocolate in my back pack to surprise him with a treat at the top of the hill. Look at how amazing I am at hiking. I was so agonizingly relatable…I was convincing people to like me. I would do and be whatever they loved because what I loved was being loved.
I don’t think that I necessarily do this with men but I do it with my friends. It is something that I have stopped doing over the past few months. I have realised that those people I don’t have to change myself around I had pushed away and instead became obsessed with these friendships based solely on them and not based on me at all! I have slowly started to strip myself of these and what I am building is friendships based on the both of us and these mean so much more.
I could not recommend this book more. The above points are what I took from it, pick it up for yourself and let me know if it Taught you anything. If you haven’t already come join in with The World of Wanderlust book club. I promise you won’t regret it!
I think it is safe to say that I thought that this book was pretty darn wonderful. It was warm, inspiring and as if you were reading your best friends diary and now it’s time to shove my hand into the gaps between sofas so that I can start saving for an adventure of my very own!
What is the best thing that you have ever learnt from a book?