The 'My Mindful May' Challenge


Welcome to the ‘My Mindful May’ challenge - a little joyful project.

Our lives are so insanely busy that we literally forget to take a deep breathe in when we are overwhelmed! Even though we know breathing exercises, drinking water and movement are scientifically proven to be great for our mind and body, we forget to take time out to focus on ourselves. Little things like smelling scented candles or focussing on the texture of a leaf can enhance our mood - and yet we are often so focussed on the next thing, that we forget to find time to be in the present, just for a few minutes. I am guilty of this. I am guilty of drinking too much coffee and rushing through the day, so I created this challenge to focus on gratitude and self-awareness. Join me! I will post images that represent the daily joyful tasks for me and you are invited to do the same - tag #mymindfulmay so we can all share in snippets of the journey. You can skip days, be creative - feel free to make the challenge your own.

Below are the ‘mindful’ tasks:

Day 1. Wake up without hitting the snooze button, breathe in and smile at the first person you see 

Day 2. Send someone a “thank you” note 

Day 3. Go for a 10-minute walk outside 

Day 4. Light a scented candle 

Day 5. Try yoga today🧘🏻‍♀️ (at home is okay)

Day 6. Call an old friend and ask how they are

Day 7. When someone is speaking, take a full breath and then reply

Day 8. Try not to use social media after 5pm today

Day 9.  Unfollow someone who doesn’t make you feel good online, follow someone who does

Day 10. Today’s mantra is “slow down” - breathe and count to ten when you find yourself rushing

Day 11. Meditate for five minutes, just music and breathing in a quiet place 

Day 12. It’s Mother’s Day! Buy fresh flowers for your mum and/or yourself 

Day 13. Drink 8 cups of water today (and use the pee breaks as a time to reflect on your day)

Day 14. Compliment a stranger 

Day 15. Write an apology text or letter and send it

Day 16. Spend a full five minutes talking to a family member or friend without touching your phone

Day 17. Call the people that raised you and ask about their day

Day 18. Feel the texture of something outside, a rock, leaf or flower 

Day 19. Let someone cut in line

Day 20. Eat five vegetables today

Day 21 .Put a sleep reminder alarm on your phone and set up a relaxing bedtime routine 

Day 22. Say kind things to yourself (five kind internal statement), if you want to, write them down

Day 23. Say a gratitude prayer outside 

Day 24. Draw a picture of someone you love 

Day 25. Write a ta-da list (a list of your achievements) 

Day 26. Have a cup of tea alone and enjoy it, without interruption

Day 27. Read a poem that sets your heart on fire

Day 28. Avoid saying anything negative today, really breathe and focus on your words

Day 29. Book a weekend away or plan a night out

Day 30. When you’re feeling stressed today, focus on improving your posture and smile

Day 31. Celebrate finishing this challenge - celebrate you! Listen to your favourite song!in

Writing advice: So you wannabe a 'writer' but are too scared to put yourself out there?

Why is it that so many writers face self-doubt? I think it’s because writing is a solitary process that is so incredibly subjective. Writers are often too afraid to call themselves writers because they fear criticism of their work or of being bound by the antiquated definition of the term ‘writer’ reserved for those who write highbrow literary pieces - which is ridiculous. 

In today’s online world writing is all about authenticity and perspective. People are sick of hearing from celebrities or politicians, they are seeking real writers who have an interesting perspective to share, that’s why I believe everyone should be encouraged to find their own voice and those who write should feel brave enough to call themselves a ‘writer’. 

Now let’s discuss the notion of not feeling good enough, a brave and successful writer who is often slammed by critics for his work is Stephen King. I am currently re-reading Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir and I love it. King is an amazing writer, and although I don’t enjoy his books because I simply don’t like the horror genre, I think anyone who calls him a ‘bad writer’ is either an elitist or doesn’t understand the importance of considering an audience and the conventions of a genre. On that note, a thought-provoking anecdote King shares in his memoir hits the nail on the head – while discussing rejection, the bestselling author mentions a specific magazine that kept rejecting his short story and that the feedback given to him by the editor was: ‘this story is not for us.’ After King sold a few novels, he sent the same story to that same magazine and he, by his own admission, never heard those words again. I love that King shared that story and I love that he persisted despite the rejections.  

I often think about people who judge a poem, a blog post, a novel or even a Facebook status update based on what they deem as ‘good writing’ or literary perfection. But here’s the thing, I believe to completely understand the beauty of storytelling and the craft of writing one must remember the purpose of different text types, that a target audience must be compelled to read the piece or at the very least feel something. 

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Bücher 📖

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This leads me to a life-changing discussion I had with my daughter yesterday. While she was making loomband bracelets on our dining room table she turned to me and asked, ‘Mama, what do you think I should be when I grow up?’

 ‘You could always be an ice-hockey player?’ I responded absentmindedly from behind the kitchen counter. 

My daughter chuckled. ‘Silly Mama, I already am! What do you think I do three times a week! Play ice hockey!’

So, there you have it, a seven-year-old answered the question I posed at the beginning of this blog post. Are you good enough to call yourself a ‘writer’? Well, if you write – you already are one! But I like the idea of trying to squeeze in at least three sessions of writing a week, you know, to keep up with the regime of those junior league ice hockey players.

I hope this post inspires you to write, choose your genre or platform and share your unique perspective! Start a blog, write a book, just do it! And if you do, let me know :)

Happy writing!


How moving to Switzerland changed my life

Since moving to Basel, Switzerland I have been blessed to have what Oprah considers one of the most valuable gifts a person can give themselves. No, it’s not a beautiful home organised by Marie Kondo or a Ferrari with Eckhart Tolle’s voice on the NavMan - it’s the gift of ‘time’ or as Oprah puts it ‘taking time to be more fully present’.  

In fact, experts at Rice University in Texas, believe living abroad ‘enhances self-concept clarity’ and that includes greater self-awareness and better psychological wellbeing.

My first time skiing in Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko, copyright 2019

My first time skiing in Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko, copyright 2019

Although I am missing family and friends back home in Australia tremendously, having ‘self-concept clarity’, which is just a fancy way of saying having more time alone to reflect, I have realised that my life in Sydney was too fast paced, work-centred and frankly driven by anxiety. In fact, a family member who spoke to me recently had the guts to describe me/my life before moving to Basel as a ‘hot mess’. My health was not a priority, my diet consisted of an embarrassing amount of meals from McDonald’s drive thru (to the point where the staff knew me by name, insert facepalm emoji), constant Uber Eats deliveries and way too much caffeine. I also had a stress-induced eyelid flicker that just wouldn’t go away. I saw many doctors and tried prescription medicine and herbal medicine but it did not stop flickering. I was told to take time off work which wasn’t an option at the time, and my eyelid just continued to play up until I moved to Basel. 

Now here’s the thing, I have no one to blame for my poor lifestyle choices but myself and the funny part is I truly didn’t think anything was wrong. I didn’t realise that the business led to anxiety.

Bern, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko 2019

Bern, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko 2019

But that’s how anxiety works and as an adult anxiety was something I learnt to live with, like a messy roommate who had been so comfortable living in my mind for so long that I felt it was too late to ask her to move out. 

I have never taken medicine to deal with anxious moments because I am too anxious about side effects, yep, that’s a thing only an anxious mind can understand. But I am not alone ‘the prevalence of anxiety disorders across the world varies from 2.5 to 6.5 percent by country. Globally an estimated 275 million people experienced an anxiety disorder in 2016, making it the most prevalent mental health or neurodevelopmental disorder’.

Since moving to Switzerland, a country which almost always ranks in the top 5 happiest countries in the world I have learnt to slow down, breathe and not sweat the small stuff. Although moving abroad has helped me manage my time, it is my current choices and not my location that have improved my life. I have started to treat my mind the way people treat a failed business or broken arm. I have read over fifty books about mental health, psychology and happiness. I am subscribed and actively listening to podcasts about self-improvement and I am not ashamed to say that healing your mind is just as important as healing your body. 

What I have learnt so far has been invaluable and I’d like to share some of the life lessons I have uncovered with those who are interested. Here are the top five things that are helping me live a better life:

1.   Exercise: I freaking hate exercise. It takes everything in me to show up every second day at the gym but honestly in some mysterious (or scientifically proven) way my brain has been much calmer since exercising. My gym buddy keeps me motivated and without her I would go much less, but I am so glad I joined the gym because I am no longer out of breath when I walk up a flight of stairs. 

2.   Reading: If there is one book you read this year I hope this is it “The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness” by Ichiro Kishimi Fumitake Koga (Author). I am now a massive fan of Adlerian psychology and love how this book simplifies problems. 

3.   Food: Improving my diet is still something I am struggling with but have made massive changes to make the right decisions when it comes to eating right. I don’t believe in abstaining from types of food because that just makes me want that particular food more, instead what works for me is meal prepping and food substitution, so instead of of telling myself that ‘I don’t eat potato chips’, I say ‘I eat popcorn now’ (a healthier substitute for chips). 

4.   Mindfulness, Honesty and Forgiveness: Being honest with myself about my life path and learning to forgive myself for the stupid stuff my anxious mind keeps reminding me I have done. I believe in spirituality, the power of journaling and goal setting, but taking time to focus on these things can only be done when we are honest about our capacity and where our time goes.

I am sharing this because I hope that at least one person out there can benefit from my journey, maybe it’s a busy working mum or university student who is struggling to cope and doesn’t know where to start. I hope you find your way out of it.

Finally, sure, the location change helped me reflect on my life, values and goals, but the more I look back at the healthier choices I have made in the past few months, the more I realise that I could have made all those simple changes back home…if I gave myself the time. 

I hope you give yourself some time.

If you have had any similar life changing moments, please share your thoughts or comment below, I’d love to hear from you. You can also follow my journey on Instagram @naomi_tsvirko or on Facebook or Twitter @naomitsvirko.


Naomi Tsvirko x

Hanging on to that Christmas Feeling

You know when you’re a child and Christmas is truly the most magical time of year? The feeling you get when you hear a Christmas carol, watch a Christmas film, give your mum a warm hug or smell freshly baked cookies. These are little joys that make the season feel special. But with age that overall magical Christmas feeling started to disappear. It is sad to say but being an adult sucked the magic out of Christmas for me.

I remember having jobs where I worked Christmas eve and rushed home to wrap gifts. I remember feeling frustrated about buying gifts and anxious about what the receiver will think. In fact, the time leading up to Christmas was not joyful, it felt like a massive never-ending errand. How pathetically sad. And the icing on the cake was always my European-born husband saying: “It’s a shame you’ve never experienced Christmas in Europe, it’s really beautiful-” Before he could go on to rave about the Christmas of his childhood I would roll my eyes and say: “Yeah, yeah, it’s not about where you are. It’s about growing up. Life and responsibility and the heavy stuff that make Christmas different.” But boy am I eating my words, because a European Christmas is truly different! For someone who has never known anything but at an Australian Christmas, I feel like I missed out celebrating an entire Christmas season. 

Although, I was taught about the advent season and preparing for Christmas in the religious sense, I had always seen Christmas as a ‘day’ to frantically prepare for. I have never experienced Christmas as a communal season until now. From the beginning of December in Basel the entire city is festive! Lights and real Christmas trees line the streets and Christmas markets pop up with stalls selling gluhwein and freshly roasted chestnuts. There are social events and Christmas craft workshops on for young and old, and the vibe is just heart warningly charming.  For the first time in a long time, I found myself really enjoying December; making handmade Christmas cards with my children and friends, building gingerbread houses and not rushing to get anywhere.  

Now, I don’t think I was entirely wrong when I said to my husband, “It’s not about where you are. It’s about growing up. Life and responsibility and the heavy stuff that make Christmas different.” I think I could have had the same Christmas magic in Australia, but the obstacle was where I was internally not physically. Having two kids and a full-time job can get the better of you, if you let it. Feeling rushed and anxious can make us forget what Christmas is really about. If we go back to Australia I hope to make Christmas an entire joyful season again. If the Swiss life has taught me anything it’s that living a slower life lets you live in the moment and prioritise what’s most important – family. The first Christmas was all about a family doing everything they can to be together, so I hope you have an amazing slow Christmas and treasure the little joys of Christmas and hold on to the feeling of ‘together’. 


To my family and friends in Australia and around the world, I really wish you were here!


Merry Christmas Nomads, 


Nomad Naomi


“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”― Maya Angelou

Parenting Gratitude Hack: What is 'The Three Things Project'?

Last week was a crazy week. My husband has been away all month and although his work schedule always includes frequent travel, last week I struggled to cope. Tuesday of last week was particularly shameful. I lost my cool. I raised my voice and complained. Sadly, the children witnessed mummy at her worst. I was complaining about everything, from missing the tram to the taste of my morning coffee and guess what happened on Wednesday? I picked up my children from school and they both complained about their day. So much for my “do as I say and not as I do” parenting mantra. 

I felt embarrassed, I have many flaws but a lack of self-awareness is not one of them. I acknowledged that my behaviour was not up to scratch and the truth is I have no one else to blame for my children’s lack of gratitude but myself. But I am not one to stand defeat. 

Parenting is a tough gig, an important job that requires constant audits and reflection. The problem is external auditors cannot be trusted (other parents and strangers can be too critical) so with this job, you must self-assess. Your KPIs and strategic household management skills can only be assessed by you, the parent, which poses another problem – being too critical of one’s self. So instead of feeling disappointed for not being the best example for my children, I did what every diligent responsible adult would do – I ate chocolate…and came up with a plan. My plan was to wake up feeling grateful and hope the children would feel the same. 

On Wednesday of last week, the day my ‘plan’ was meant to take effect, we missed the tram by literally two seconds. I was so excited! Something going wrong was a perfect real-life example of how to be grateful, so I improvised, I told my children a story about Mr. Grateful and Mr. Complain. I told them about how Mr Complain always saw the worst side of life, how he missed the tram and groaned and looked at people angrily. Then, I told them about Mr. Grateful, who missed the tram but was so happy to be outside that he smiled at strangers, he appreciated the birds chirping and the trees swaying. Mr. Grateful knew that being late was not the end of the world and that he was lucky to live in a country where another tram would be there to pick him up from the next stop. My children recognised themselves (and me) in a series of stories I told them about Mr. Grateful and Mr. Complain and then I presented them with a ‘Mummy Project’ I called 'The Three Things Project'. I told them that when I picked them up that afternoon they had to tell me about three things that they were grateful for that day and that they would be graded by me based on their thoughtfulness and it worked!

My son, who is almost five, told me about how his friend asked him if he was okay when he felt sad. He told me about how helpful his teachers were when he was making a Gruffalo and about he felt happy about what he had for lunch. 

My daughter, who is seven, said she enjoyed learning about sustainability and that an excursion to a plastic-free supermarket changed the way she perceived toys. She was grateful for her friends and the fact that she had warm clothes on a cold day. 

I was so proud! I gave them both an A+. They loved ‘The Three Things Project’ so much they continued to do it on their own. 

The next morning, we caught the tram on time and back by popular demand was another story about Mr. Grateful and Mr. Complain and although I tried to keep my voice down, my children were very excited about hearing about how Mr. Complain hated working on the farm. My son laughed so loud at the antics of Mr. Complain that a woman took off her headphones and looked at me. I was worried she was going to tell my son to be more respectful in German (we are working on our inside voices) but instead the woman, who had an American accent said: “Sorry, I overheard and I love that you're teaching them to be grateful, that made my morning.” Turns out not all strangers are critical auditors and I am so grateful for strangers who share kind thoughts (and grateful for those of you who read this blog, of course). 


Later Alligators,

Nomad Naomi aka Mrs Grateful

Episode 4 of Dating Basel: Learning German as an adult

Do you have too much self-confidence? Do you need something to bring you back down to earth? If you are searching for solutions for mild to severe ego growth, you may want to consider this tried and tested self-confidence reduction process…learning the German language as an adult! 

You will be given kindergarten level worksheets (don’t worry ‘kindergarten’ is still a word of German origin) and baristas will ask you to speak in English when they hear you attempt German, but look on the bright side you will still get your coffee :)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, just when I thought I was so clever I began attending intensive German language classes. The classes taught me more than just the basics of German, they have shaped the way I see the world. Knowing other languages is really like having different personalities, it broadens your view of the world and allows you to think in different ways. On a personal note, it has reminded me of the fact l am an eternal learner with far more questions than answers.

I grew up bilingual, my mother tongue is English but I am also fluent in Arabic because of my upbringing. I thought that by knowing what is classified as 'the second most difficult language to learn' that I would somehow be better at learning German and boy was I wrong! In German, like Arabic, verbs are conjugated and there are declensions, but learning these in another language is just a mind boggle! When you learn languages as a child you pick up the rules intuitively (sometimes without being able to articulate them to others) but as an adult language learner, understanding the mechanics of a new language is more complex. In a sense you are unlearning what you already know, especially when it comes to syntax. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you live in a happy place – stay there. In a nutshell, here’s what I learned when I was supposed to be learning German:

1.    The world is a lonely and confusing place when you can’t understand those around you: There is nothing more isolating than being in a public place and hearing people connect when you cannot. There have been tram announcements that we have missed, our tram changing paths and leading us into Germany because we had no idea there was a change to the route. For our family, this meant that we were often late to work or school but these incidents made me think about migrants (my own parents) and refugees. We are fortunate to know English, arguably the international language, for others life is way more difficult and discrimination often stems from ignorance and fear. 

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Bücher 📖

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2.    Swiss German and German are totally different: Learning High German in Switzerland is another obstacle because the Swiss have their own dialect. I was told that it is recommended one learns Swiss German only after they have mastered High German, so understanding locals at my beginner level is impossible. This means my language learning journey will be a long one. 

3.    Teachers are the best: I am biased because I am a teacher, but honestly my first German teacher Sara was amazing and I did not just learn German in her classes, she really taught me how to be a better teacher. There is no way I could’ve learned what I know now from Duolingo and podcasts alone, the connection you make with teachers and the encouragement they offer is invaluable. 

4.    I need German-speaking friends (and I made one in the most random way ever!): I have made many English-speaking friends, which I love, but this has not helped my German at all. In fact, you could quite happily live in an English-speaking bubble in Switzerland, but that’s not what I want, so I joined Tandem (no this is not Tinder, I am happily married, thank you very much!). For those who don't know, Tandem is an online language exchange group where you meet up with someone weekly and you teach them a language and they teach you one. The problem, however, is that there is an oversupply of people offering English for German. Enter my second language to save the day (thanks Mum and Dad), I found a message from a German speaker asking for someone to teach her the Levantine Arabic dialect. After some googling, I realised that I am fluent in that specific dialect, so I messaged the woman who posted the request and we have been meeting up for a coffee ever since. The people at the café we meet at must think we are so strange because we switch between English, German and Arabic every time we chat but hey! I’m learning. Slowly. (Langsam;))

5.    There is a word for the day after tomorrow: A fun fact that I learned in German class is that there is a word for the day after tomorrow (which doesn’t exist in English) it’s “übermorgen”. 

I know I started this post flippantly but on a serious note, if you want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new I recommend learning a new language as an adult. Sure, your confidence might suffer for a bit but you will feel on top of the world when you string a few words together (that people actually understand).


Frau Nomad Naomi

Episode 3 of Dating Basel: The one where I continue to personify a city

Coffee in a teacup - this is my kind of place! ☕️ 💕💕💕💕💕💕. . . .

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Things with Basel are starting to get serious. Basel has met my mum and will soon meet the in-laws - brace yourself, Basel (joke!). Basel and I have leapt into the commitment phase. I have the key to a city apartment, I’ve made an amazing ‘mum’ friend at my daughter’s school and am slowly settling in by creating a social network. 

It’s been a few months and well it’s one of those relationships that gets you all reflective about life and how we live it. For instance, coffee is a staple in my life, who am I kidding? It’s the sole reason for my existence and I often observe how others order their coffee. Back home in Sydney, the coffee ritual begins with the quick: “Cap with one”. People rush and walk around the streets with takeaway coffee cups, the idea of being ‘busy’ is glorified by paper coffee cups that are floating about the city. Here, takeaway coffee cups are not so common, in fact they are rare. When I first arrived here and ordered a coffee, a barista told me he had to go down to the cellar to find takeaway cups for my coffee. I waited fifteen minutes until he arrived empty handed, his apron dusty with a look of defeat on his face. He wiped his forehead before saying, "Sorry Madame. Vee do not have dis cups,” clearly feeling embarrassed. But I was embarrassed when I realised I could have sat down and enjoyed the coffee like others in the city. This experience made more conscious of how fast paced my life used to be, working five days and never really being in the moment. I am becoming more mindful and am savouring everyday moments; enjoying slow dinners by the river and nonsensical conversations with my children. I am starting to treasure the slower paced life, appreciating that not only is sitting down and enjoying a coffee great for my mental health, it’s also great for the environment which brings me to my next point – rubbish and recycling!

When we left Sydney some people were up in arms about the fact that plastic bags were no longer being provided by supermarket chains. One man protested by putting his entire shopping trolley in his car boot. I would be amused if that man came to live in Basel. Here, not only are plastic bags not distributed at the supermarkets, but people have to pay for household rubbish bags, we don’t have a bin to place plastic rubbish bags in, instead we pay for the bags we use (these are specially marked bags you buy at the tobacco counter of the supermarket). The situation gets is even more epic when one decides to recycle. Sydneysiders have it so good (well, we did). They place paper, plastic and glass in one bin for collection – what a dream. In Basel, we have to recycle ourselves. We have to separate glass (depending on its colour - brown, white and green) by taking it to a recycling station, then we recycle PET bottles at the supermarket and paper is collected once a month. However, for those who can’t wait or would rather do it in one go, there is a canton run recycling park to take all these unwanted items. 

In a nutshell, these small inconveniences have made me see Basel differently. At first, I thought Basel was a bit uptight, but now I get it. Basel wants me to slow down and smell the proverbial coffee. Basel wants me to consider the environment and make an effort to value the earth we live in. When someone asks you to change you have every opportunity to resist, but when it’s the city you live in, you have no choice. I’m just lucky I found a good one. 

Stay tuned for episode two, it's all about learning German (insert facepalm emoji times a million!).

Thanks for being here for the ride nomads, I hope you take time to slow down and smell the coffee, the sweet scent of coffee!


Nomad Naomi


Episode Two of Dating a City: Seeing the flaws, venting and book escapes 

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There is no doubt Basel is beautiful. In fact when I first saw the city I turned to my husband and said: “Did they make this place specifically for Instagram?” The River Rhine sparkles and the trees, the trees are the lushest shade of green and the tap water here seriously tastes like Evian. It’s cliché to say but Switzerland really is picturesque. However, a few things have started to bug me. Let me tell you about three things that annoy me about Basel and how I am dealing with them with my positive mantra, which is simply “be positive” (I’m working on it):

Annoyance number one : There’s no self-raising flour! Yep, searched high and low and thought I was typing things wrong into Google Translate as I was rummaging through the shelves of the supermarkets and pestering staff, until a British lady confirmed what I suspected was true. She saw my head shoved into a shelf of bags of flour at the Coop, cocked her head and raised her eyebrows before saying: “You’re not going to find self raising flour here. I have to get mine from the UK, they don’t have it”. I was shocked, a clairvoyant, I thought. Until I saw her staring at my phone screen which was on the shelf next to me. Now, you probably think this is a massive first world problem and it is, but venting still helps. 

Solution: I learnt how to use baking powder, two teaspoons baking powder for every spoon of flour. Yippee! If you follow me on Instagram (@gingerandbasel) you would’ve seen my jam drops. Super proud. 

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Annoyance number two: I can’t access online banking or pay my phone bill on the company's app. It’s so weird how much it feels like 1999 here sometimes. When I asked about paying my phone bill online or using an app, locals stared at me blankly. Turns out it’s either direct debit or wait for it… going to the post office. Young people pay their bills like my grandma and the Swiss grandmas can out run me in a marathon (okay, anyone can out run me in a marathon).

Solution: I had to pay my first bill at the post office, where I had to hand write things (throwback to Year 6) and then I set up direct debit (had to fill out a paper form, of course).

Annoyance number three: I have no mum friends at my children’s school. Yep. I said it, making friends in your thirties is hard! The mums at the school are lovely but they have their cliques. On top of that my children started school at the end of the year which makes it difficult to properly connect with other mums. Sometimes I wish I was kid so I can be like, “hey nice fidget spinner, wanna hang?”. Alas, I am a big person, and I know in time friendships will develop organically. Special shout out to my high school friend Celine, an experienced expat who gave me advice about how these things take time. 

Solution: I talk to my BFF (aka my sister every day), friends from Sydney, do yoga and read! All this time alone has given me time to read, which is nice.

Below is a list of books I have read or reread and recommend, especially if you’re into personal growth (the first two fall into that category). For all my busy friends, most of these are also available on audible. 

1.     Braving the Wilderness by Dr. Brene Brown. This book includes a series of anecdotes about belonging (very fitting for this post, I know). Dr. Brown is an expert in this field and her authentic voice makes it a great read. She doesn’t pretend to know all the answers, but makes you realise that there is power in vulnerability and that being authentic and kind should always be our primary goal. I love personal growth and am constantly reading books in this genre, many of them are patronising or too clinical. Brene hits the mark. She shares her academic research in a relatable way and although it took me three chapters to get into it, I am glad I kept reading.

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2.     Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Unlike Dr. Brown, Hollis is not an expert in the field of personal growth but she’s fresh. She is a mum in her thirties who has four kids and built a media platform. Hollis’ book is now a New York Times bestseller and the book is split up into sections about the lies many women believe about their worth, family and work. She debunks each lie through personal anecdotes. This book was recommended to me by a friend and I really enjoyed the take away messages, something her therapist told her: “what other people think of you is none of your business” and "nobody will ever care about your dreams as much as you do". 

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3.     Paris in Love by Eloise James. A friend of mine who is an author recommended this travel memoir. It is a series of vignettes about a family’s year in Paris. James’ posts are funny and uplifting and transport readers to Paris through vivid description. Although she is frustrated by the language barrier, the American author looks at her time away nostalgically and is grateful for how It transformed her family. Alone in a new city, but always together.

Love libraries! #reading #supportyourlibrary

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4. Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. Author Laditon takes a humorous and often sarcastic approach to motherhood and pokes fun at the ‘Pinterest’ mums. As the title suggests, the debut novel is about drowning in motherhood but realising that everyone else is too. They just have better filters to cover it up.

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On that note, inspired by my reading list, this was my no filter, authentic post. Yes, Switzerland is beautiful but missing family can be lonely - but I'm not giving up, in the spirit of my mantra, I am working on it. I’ll get there. Slowly but surely. Until then, there’s chocolate, coffee and books.


Later alligators, 

Nomad Naomi

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Episode One of Dating Basel: The Awkward Stage

The school drop. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko 

The school drop. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko 

There is this scene in Gilmore Girls where Rory goes to a restaurant on a first date and her date sits next to her, not across to her, but next to her! Awk-ward! So Rory calls her mum, Lorelai, and asks for advice on how to deal with the date and her mum tells her to move seats and blame it on an air vent. Why am I telling you this story? Because if you’ve been reading my blog (hi Mum) you will remember I had this plan to date a city. I mentioned romantic strolls by the Rhine and candlelit dinners. Well let’s just say, I’m Rory and Basel is sitting next to me, not across to me (okay, maybe Basel is Rory and I'm the awkward one). So anyway, here’s how the first date went down:

It was a Tuesday and I dropped the children off at school and thought ‘freeedooom and must have coffeeeee!’ But nothing was open. At 8.35am. Nothing. I could not find anywhere to have a coffee near their school (nothing like Stanmore school drop offs). I took a tram into the middle of the city and strolled for ten minutes. Still nothing. Eventually I found this cute little café that looked open but actually didn’t open until 9am. By that stage, that would've been a 15 minute wait for coffee. Way too long for someone who gets those awful coffee withdrawal headaches, so I decided to go back home and then, bam! Right there in front of Marktplatz tram stop I found a bakery! I rejoiced, my first date with Basel was saved, and the sweets looked a-may-zing! In my coffee deprived brain I even heard that ‘Halleluiah, Halleluiah!’ song when I saw the window display, and i'm sure a glistening ray of light shone on a croissant. 

Strolls across the bridge, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

Strolls across the bridge, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

.Confiserie Schiesser, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

.Confiserie Schiesser, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

Annoyingly, there wasn’t anywhere to sit outside, but I took that as a good sign, a sign that the coffee would be great. I walked/skipped in and asked to sit down but the woman at the counter couldn’t speak English. She looked right through me. I looked around and there was an empty table facing the counter, I shifted sideways to that seat, maintaining eye contact with the woman to ensure it was okay to sit there. I must have looked like Mr. Bean as I sat down staring at her silently because she looked puzzled.

I sat there in silence for five minutes before a waiter walked out of the kitchen and looked startled when he saw me sitting at the table. “Grüezi,” he said politely but didn’t take my order, he just disappeared upstairs. I pulled out my notebook and tried to act ‘local’. Two Swiss men walked in to pay the woman at the counter. I watched on, envious at how swift and easy the transaction was. Finally, the woman took my order which was relatively painless, ‘a cappuccino and a croissant please’. She nodded, a win.

I devoured the crispiest, freshest croissant and best coffee I'd had since Sydney, and as I was finishing the last bite another waiter walked out of the kitchen and stepped back when he saw me, he too went upstairs. That’s when I realised the locals go upstairs! Turns out I was sitting awkwardly alone in front of the lady at the counter when I could have been upstairs where everyone else was being served. Arghhh. If you’re ever in Basel and want great coffee, the café is Confiserie Schiesser Basel and if there aren’t any seats outside, go upstairs. You’re welcome. (scroll down to read more)

Marktplatz, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

Marktplatz, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

Following this awkward alone date, I went to the Migros supermarket to get groceries because when you drop kids off at school it feels like you get ten minutes alone before having to pick them up (and when you pick them up they’re always hungry). I caught the tram to Claraplatz and asked three employees where I could find honey. Not one of them could speak English. I resorted to wiggling my index finger in a zig zag motion and began to buzz like a bee and repeated the word ‘ho-ney’ loudly. I soon had an audience of two staff members and one shopper staring at me as if we were playing charades. I continued to say the word ‘hon-eey’ as if the woman would understand if I buzzed or raised my voice. She looked beyond confused, possibly scared and kept her eyes on me as she called a colleague who could speak English. I was sent to level two, where I found honey and two security guards.

That night, I called my mother to tell her about the coffee date, she told me I should have gone upstairs and blamed it on an air vent, nope, that's a lie and what my fictional mother Lorelai would say. My actual mother told me to toughen up and learn German.

Date one. Awks. But I still like Basel.

Later Nomads,

Nomad Naomi 

.The view of the counter - Confiserie Schiesser, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

.The view of the counter - Confiserie Schiesser, Basel. Photo: Naomi Tsvirko

The First Day of School in Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko

Basel, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko

“A boy called me a, a, a boobie!” my four-year-old son announced in disbelief. “How rude, mama," he complained after a momentary pause to adjust his enormous schoolbag onto his shoulders. "And the class sings the happy birthday song in German! German, mama! And another thing, one girl told me a country called Deutschland is the best in the world. Don’t they know Australia is the best?” he continued to ramble on the way to the tram after his first day of school in Basel.

My six-year-old daughter on the other hand had a great day. She loves school, always has. She only had one complaint, and that is that her German language teacher yelled at her for touching the art and craft equipment before it was time.

“I didn’t understand when she told us not to touch it in German and-” she paused to glare at her brother who interrupted her with another complaint about the birthday song in German. 

“It sounds funny, like a minion song!” he noted, still shocked.

And that pretty much sums up my children’s first day of school in Switzerland. But what my children didn’t know is that although I was keeping my cool on the exterior, I too was nervous, unsure and afraid. My internal monologue went a bit like this: What were we thinking pulling our children out of good schools back home and moving them to an entirely different country!? There were blatantly obvious differences from the get go. Firstly, in Switzerland, independence is encouraged, students as young as five are often seen on the tram alone, making their way to school in the morning. I tend to hover and worry, I'm a worrier. Secondly, children don’t wear school uniforms. I have to iron, my least favourite pass time, and wash more clothes. Thirdly, I can’t help with homework. Well, I can but it’s a long arduous process which involves me getting mad at Google Translate as I try to work out how to find a German letter that looks like the letter 'B' and a musical note combined.

And then I stop.

I breathe.

I remember that different is not wrong.

I channel the 'namaste' type being that I promised myself I will one day become and think about the positives. I like that my children's teachers force them to make eye contact as they bid them farewell at the end of the day, giving them a sense of confidence and empowerment. I like that my children spent the entire night sharing war stories about the language difficulties that each encountered in German class. I like that they will forever share this experience together, even if they are called a ‘boobie’, which we convinced our son is actually the German word for 'buddy'. 

Until next time boobies,

Nomad Naomi

My children's first day of school. My son is too angry to be photographed after the traumatic experience of being called a 'boobie'.

My children's first day of school. My son is too angry to be photographed after the traumatic experience of being called a 'boobie'.

A Swiss Affair: Making the First Move

Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

The first spark: 

Sitting in a bustling Sydney café by the ocean, I sigh.

My sister glances up at me. “Don’t worry,” she says smiling soothingly. “See the move as a new baby. You’ve had two and you know it takes at least six months to get used to the transition,” heavily pregnant, she lifts her arm from stroking her cumbersome belly and sips her tea. 

I sip my coffee and take in the view of the ocean, contemplating what she just said. Then, I object: “No! A new baby means stretchmarks and sleepless nights. I’m not sure I can see it that way right now,” I say half-jokingly. “I want to date Basel. I want to explore the city and get to know it. Learn the language and embrace the culture, understand its intricacies and quirks.”

She smiles and nods.

“I understand having a side fling or love affair is stereotypically more French, but Switzerland is close enough,” I laugh. 

She half laughs, obligingly.

My beautiful sister. Photo Credit: Me scrolling through her social media account's what younger sisters do ;)

My beautiful sister. Photo Credit: Me scrolling through her social media account's what younger sisters do ;)

So, that’s how I really started to accept the transition. This Type-A personality had a plan, a plan to date a city, an image of candlelit dinners and strolls by the Rhine. I don’t have the luxury of an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey, my marriage is too solid and I have two little ones in tow, so here I am taking this on as an exciting affair. 

The Honeymoon period:

I first visited Switzerland in the winter of 2018, I was on holiday and I vividly remember the train trip from Zurich airport to Basel. I had never seen snow so beautiful, the crystal white flakes embellished Christmas trees and dripped off pine cones. It was picturesque.

When I finally arrived in the city I remember thinking that it had all the European charm you see in the postcards and so much character. I fell in love with the architecture, the efficiency of the public transport system and the water; drinking fountains around the city constantly sprout fresh spring water. My daughter became a fan of Swiss cheese fondue, me, not so much. I did however love the Octopus salad at an Asian inspired restaurant chain called Nooch, go figure! 

A drinking fountain in Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

A drinking fountain in Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Romantic strangers in Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Romantic strangers in Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

My beach loving children were not impressed with the cold, but a ski trip, hot chocolate and chestnuts helped the entire family climatize. After a week in Basel, I was both sad and happy to go home. The city left a lasting impression. I was happy to return to warm Sydney, to return to work and see my family but in my mind, Basel became my happy place. Memories of strolling along the Rhine, making snow angels (I can’t ski…yet) and daytrips to France and Germany meant I saw Basel as a pleasant place, both quaint and nostalgic. 

Fast forward four months and my husband declares he has been offered a job in Basel. I feel perplexed, living in a ‘happy place’ defeats the purpose of its existence, because once you live in the ‘happy place’ it becomes a reality, a place of routine and responsibility. I was worried I would start to see the cracks…

Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Back to the ‘happy place’:

We arrived in Basel on May 17 and so here I am starting a relationship with a city and sharing it with you, because as every avid literature lover knows, a place is a character too. I will share the good, the bad and the awkward. It will be raw, honest and a bit romantic, ‘cause hey! I’m in Europe now. 

Apart from a few sharp dagger-like death stares aimed at me for eating pizza with my hands and one night of deep sobbing on a pile of towels in the laundry, I have enjoyed the move so far. 

Stay tuned nomads…

Nomad Naomi

The Rhine. Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

The Rhine. Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

My children in France. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

My children in France. Photo: Stan Tsvirko

Leaving it all behind

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It's a strange feeling. Knowing that I will leave the place that I have lived most of my life in less than a month. It's a strange feeling. I see things differently because of this fact.

The annoying kookaburras that disturb my weekend sleep-ins have suddenly become majestic native creatures, with glorious voices that remind me to wake up and get the most out of the day. The eucalyptus tree that almost collapsed on my house, another distinctly Australian gem that I now treasure. The kookaburras, the gum tree, even sweaty Februarys will keep my mind warm in the cold Swiss winter and I will remember home. I will yearn for the grand Australian ocean and the tinge of orange that decorates the landscape. 

I once thought a new adventure, somewhere more central to the rest of the world would be a dream come true, but now I am not so sure. 

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I will miss my mother's hugs and being so close to her 'mumsy' scent and how I will miss the sight of her genuine heartwarming smile. I will also strangely miss my big sister's commanding voice and her annoyingly always-right intuition. I will actually miss my dad's 'dad' jokes and my older brother's insanely amazing coffee (I will never admit that he can cook better than I can).

It's a strange feeling leaving it all behind, but it's reassuring to know that I will return from time to time and maybe one day be back for good. I take solace in knowing that the warmth of Australia will always be in my heart and something tells me there will be something magical about a new adventure. After all Roald Dahl once said: "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it". So this is me closing my eyes so tight and believing (even if I do feel like a goose).


Armed with this positive belief, I will call myself "Nomad Naomi" - Adventurer of the Universe (who even as an adult, still misses her mum's hugs and hummous). I hope you will come on the adventure with me...and my beautiful family. 

Take care fellow nomads,