Creating your comfort zone

Everyday I came home full of new idea’s, new inputs and new experiences.
I had to channel all this new information into something I could work with and build on.
My room was the perfect place to unwind and to let all those new impressions sink in.

On the wall, I posted a large map of New York.
I made small arrows that I placed on the area’s, parks, restaurants, coffee bars I went to that day.
Around that, I had a blackboard where I wrote key words that mattered to me, that represented me. With every word I listed, I asked myself: What does this word mean to me? How does it affect my daily life? What do I do on a daily basis to incorporate this feeling? Why does it make me happy? What about it makes me happy?

Besides all that, I had a whole bunch of books about New York, yoga and mindfulness.
They were all displayed on my shelves.
While being home, I loved listening to some music.

Creativity and curiosity turned out to be two of my core values.
Whenever I’m around any of those, I feel safe, comfortable.
I’m able to turn idea’s into action.

What are your core values?
Have you found them yet?
Let’s go look for them!

Xo – Ann

New Life :: Keeping a journal

When I was still in boarding school, I kept a diary. Just to write down my thoughts, how I felt, what I learned and where I could improve.

Keeping a journal or diary is a great way to keep track of your personal progress.
‘You are here’ – ‘Start at the beginning.’

It can help you get rid off all the thoughts rumbling around in your head.
As I was trying to find myself and the secret of New York, I wrote letters to myself.
I tried to find my core values. What drives me to do the things I do?
What gives me energy? What will always be true about me, regardless of the days ahead or in the past?

There are plenty of books about mindfulness and topics like discovering yourself.
However, the book that stood out for me was:
Elle Luna – The crossroads of should and must.
I bought this book on my way to Brooklyn Bridge Park on a sunny afternoon.
It was a signed copy by Elle Luna herself.

On one of the first pages, she asked the question:
‘If you were to look for your dreams in real life, where would you start?’

I knew I was in the right city.
How did I know? No idea, but being in New York felt just right.
It felt like coming home.
Why? That was my quest. One that I was very excited about!

So what does your dream look like?
Have you found it yet?
If you can visualize it, you can create it!

Xo – Ann

Photo Credit – Elle Luna

New York (4) – Creating a new life …

So then here we are…
I didn’t have a plan but to make sure I could accomplish all the crazy things I had in mind, I had to create some kind of structure.

I had to design a routine for myself.
You’re more productive in the morning so waking up early was the perfect start of an active day ahead.
I downloaded the 7 minute work out app on my phone and made it a habit of doing my daily work out before breakfast.

Granola parfait with fresh fruit, blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with tomato and mushrooms. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Nowadays, I usually pick up a coffee and croissant on my way to work, however, it’s such a nice thing to do for yourself, taking the time to really start the day.

I started to read a lot as well. Mainly about the city. After a while, I changed to mindfulness and how to create a productive and happy life for yourself.
Investing in myself, away from everything else, was the best decision I made so far in my life.

I left the house around 10 am to go check out a new neighborhood, museum or park.
Always with a couple books in my bag, a cup of fresh fruit salad and a bottle of water.
Around 4pm I would either start looking for a place for dinner or heading back for a home cooked meal and some Gossip Girl. Depending on the day, I would check out a nice cocktailbar or do some more reading.

Doing things by yourself makes you more aware of your surroundings and the energy around you. It can be scary at first but once you break through that feeling, life becomes so much more exciting.
New York is a city build on ambition and opportunities.
But you’ll have to go get them for yourself…

Xo – Ann

The People :: Pieter & Charlotte

I call them my New York Parents.
They’re from Belgium and are living in New York.
Since I met them during my first week here, we’ve created plenty of memories together.

What I admire the most about them is how they build a whole life here in New York, including 2 adorable kids, Jerome and Billie.
Every once in while I would babysit these 2 kiddo’s.
I saw them grow up into those little New Yorker kids.

They taught me a lot about New York, about what it’s like to build a social network here, how to take the subway, how to raise 2 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

Charlotte is this amazingly ambitious power woman.
She came to New York for a PhD in neuro science.
Now, she’s listed as one to follow CEO’s of her own company MouSensor, a biotech company that develops a novel and potentially transformative platform to digitize the sense of smell.

Pieter is a creative mastermind with a lot of fun projects behind his name.
He turned his passion for the iconic show ‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’ into a very active online community. Last year, he turned this passion into funding 200K to make a documentary about Catherine, the Log Lady.

Living in New York is their life.
This is where they made everything happen.

Pieter and Charlotte, I’m sure we will meet again soon!
You guys are amazing!
With love – your adopted daughter

Xo – Ann

Photo credit – LifeAdvancer

New York (3) – Moving day

After 1 week together with Marjorie, I moved to an apartment in Brooklyn.
Well, a room in an apartment, in one of those very pretty brownstones.
We were living on the top floor and my room was about the size of my room in boarding school. This was New York City living in it’s purest form.

2 days after I moved in, I got sick. I had a fever.
That’s when it hit me, that I really moved abroad, by myself.
I stayed in, watched Gossip Girl, made 20 cups of tea and a large bowl of fruit salad.
After 2 days, I started to feel better again and decided to go out and explore.
Staying in wasn’t going to help me chasing my dreams.

The first days, I stayed mainly in the close area.
Where was the supermarket, laundromat, pharmacy, coffee shop and bar.
I also had to get familiar with the public transportation.
Real New Yorkers take the train. Not the subway.

Before I came to New York, my mother made an introduction with a Belgian couple that lived in Brooklyn. They had 2 kids and invited me over for dinner later that week.
Pieter and Charlotte showed me the difference between the coins, asked me if I could babysit the kiddo’s every once in a while and kind of adopted me for the time being.

It was great to speak Dutch again for a second. It made me feel less of a stranger.

XO – Ann

Photo credit – Pinterest

New York (2) – The Tourist

Februari 22 2015
The day I turned 25. I had dinner with my best friends in Antwerp.
Everything was packed, I was ready to go on this new adventure.
Februari 25 – all passengers proceed to gate 35 to JFK International Airport.

Marjorie, one of my friends joined me.
New York was listed high on her list and decided to tag along the first week.

It was February, cold and the city just got hit by a snowstorm.
We checked in into our hotel in Brooklyn and decided to discover the area a little bit.
The Brooklyn Bridge was a 10 minute walk away.
We were all dressed up and headed towards Manhattan.
That view of the skyline was the confirmation of the exciting time I had in front of me.

I didn’t had a plan, I only knew this was where I wanted to be.
I had 90 days in this urban jungle and wanted to make the most out of it.

My former colleagues had bought me this city guide, Be NY by Patrick van Roosendaal.
Not your usual city guide but 10 people that were telling their story about the city.
We decided to follow in their foot steps and made our way into the city.

Xo – Ann

Photo credit – Pinterest

New York – The dream …

In 2010, I came to New York together with my sister and my uncle for a city trip.
It was a trip listed very high on our to-do list and we were all super excited about it!

One night, we were walking around in West Village, we saw a town house for sale.
It was one of those brownstones.
My sister and I looked at each other and joked:
‘Let’s buy it, so we can always come back to New York!’

We didn’t end up buying it, but right there I made myself a promise.
To come to New York for 1 year, just to live here, to experience what living in New York does to you as a person.

We went back home and got back into our routines of work and life.
I had an amazing boyfriend at that time. We lived and worked together in The Netherlands and our lives were pretty stable.
My nomad soul started to rumble again after 2 years, the rest of the world was calling me. We looked into working on private yachts for the wintertime but a great opportunity for my boyfriend came up and we decided to stay in The Netherlands.

2 years later, my head started spinning around again. I was getting anxious about the future, felt like the time was going too fast and nothing was happening.
Traveling and moving to New York was still my biggest dream.
So when my boyfriend came home one night, he told me:

‘Ann, I know that we both will be very happy, but it won’t be together.
I know you have this dream of going to New York or to move abroad. 
I think it’s time for you to start chasing your dreams and don’t let anybody stop you.’ 

When he said that, I could honestly punch him really hard in the face.
Now, I’m just glad he encouraged me to do so.

Xo – Ann

The people :: Miguel Calero

In Pure C, I had the pleasure of working with Miguel Calero.
Amongst connaisseurs in the industry one of the best restaurant managers in Europe.
He worked long time along side Joachim Wissler in restaurant Vendome ***, Germany and was a hospitality professional pur sang.

Always friendly, with a smile, but most important incredibly knowledgable and professional. He taught me how to see the bigger picture more in detail.
It was several times we just ‘observed’ the service. Sitting on the side lines, watching from the outside in was inspiring and a great learning experience.
He showed me how to analyse every situation to provide the best solution possible.

Every day before lunch and dinner, he would go over the reservations, special guests and specific requests with the complete team to make sure we all knew what to expect.
He was a great communicator and leader. He knew the area’s of opportunity, was able to pinpoint the errors and provided the correct guidance and training to improve the overal operations in the restaurant.

Besides his feel for hospitality, he also knew how to take care of the team.
He encouraged us to have dinner, all together, at the communal table in the restaurant.

But the most remarkable thing about him was without a doubt the pink shirts he’d wear every single Sunday. He didn’t miss a single week.
Sunday morning, Miguel in a pink shirt.
It was his trade mark and put a smile on many of our faces.

Thanks Miguel for sharing your passion!

Xo – Ann

Pure C – Welcome!

When the busy summer was over and most of the guests went back to work, I reached out to Pure C, the more casual concept within the Sergio Herman Hospitality Group.
The position of Hostess became available and had most definitely my interest.

As the hostess, I was in charge of processing the reservations, table setting, contact person for our VIP guests and special requests.
Basically the liaison between every department. And since the restaurant was part of a hotel, I had weekly meetings with the front of house team of the hotel as well to make sure all communication was streamlined.

It was great to see several familiar faces from Oud Sluis but also to meet the group of regular guests of Pure C. I recognized most of them and welcomed them here on the sunny side of the beach!

As a hostess, I was more involved in the administrative part of the industry.
Yet I had the opportunity to help with 2 private events at the restaurant.
The 50th birthday of one of our international guests and the wedding of a lovely couple from the media industry in Belgium.

Seeing the bigger picture in restaurant operations will always help you grow to the next step!

Xo – Ann


Summer at the beach …

After 3 years doing high end, I wanted to try another aspect of the industry.
Summer was right around the corner and the beach only a 10 minute drive away.
Did I tell you that I’m secretly a beach girl?
I’m just more me when I’m around the beach or water.

That’s how I ended up at Beachhouse 25 in Breskens, The Netherlands.
The vibe was way more casual, the vision all about going back to basics.
The work environment: fast pace high volume!
I ran a couple miles a day in that place!
It was only for 1 season, till they closed for winter break in the fall.

Since I’m always looking for the system behind how things are working, I noticed a complete different set up and labor model.
As a guest, you don’t really notice the difference.
As a part of the team, it doesn’t look like making sense at all.
Knowing the business side of it now, puts everything in another perspective.

Mike, the owner once told me: ‘If you want to make big money, you need to think big.’
I never really grasped the expression to its full extent, until I had to manage my own restaurant in New York.

Odd how life has its own way of pushing you to the next level…

Xo – Ann