Category Archives: Life

. 2016: A Year of Adventure .

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do. With your one wild and precious time?”
– Mary Oliver

I had one goal at the start of the year, and that was not to put off living to the unforeseeable future, not next year, not next month, not next week, not tomorrow.

2015 was the year that I kinda broke free from the toxic chains of procrastination, and started converting some of my plans into actions. Setting the things in motion that ultimately culminated in 2016. It’s the best year, really… One that has exceeded my wildest dreams and any expectations. What started as a 10 weeks career break to travel a bit, eventually lead to an amazing journey of exploration and adventure that span over a period of 6 months.

It wasn’t all just about having fun though; It was a time of personal growth. Getting comfortable with uncertainty/ constant changes, adapting to less-than-ideal environments and living a more minimalistic lifestyle. I’ve said this many times, like a broken recorder, but I’m super thankful to have a very cool Mum, a supportive Dad who never fails to ensure that everything was running fine back home (all the bill payments, checking of mails, mundane but important stuff), a lil’ sis who became the default “Mum” to the 3 boys, and a loving boyfriend who encourages me to embark on this trip of a lifetime.

Life is never always smooth-sailing, and there were, of course, moments that scared the wits out of me. My broken neck became cranky and I feared that I had to undergo an invasive surgery to correct the unstable injury. Luckily, it turned out to be a false alarm but all that worrying lead to another bald spot (a result of alopecia) and more tears.  But, I’ll be strong!

The highlights of 2016:

Quit my job and traveled to 16 countries over a span of 6 months
This is probably, by far, one of the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I dare say, leaving the comfort of my relatively stable and promising e-commerce job to pursue an airy dream of “travelling around the globe”, even beats the momentary fear of sky-diving and base-jumping! Many friends prefer to leave such extravagant plans for retirement, when they have more time and money. Yet, time waits for no one, especially in a society where there is an increasing number of people getting cancer, heart attack or kidney failure at an alarming rate. I knew, deep in my heart, that I would be full of regret and resentment, if I were to give up this rare opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream (10 years in the making!) while I’m still young and able, just so that I can fit the bill of a perfect employee.

Was also pleasantly surprised when my dearest Mum offered to join me on our first backpacking trip across Europe and Asia. Many people thought she was nuts to travel “longer than the usual 2-3 weeks holidays” at her age, and assumed that she would be a “liability or burden”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s true that we had our frustrating moments, I do think that we turned out to be the best travel partners for each other (having lived together for 29 years, and supported each other through tumultuous periods of our lives). 6 months on-the-road served as a great bonding time for the both of us, and I’m truly grateful that it was with my Mum that I shared this amazing journey with, because frankly, I’m not sure when is the next time that I’ll get to travel for an extended period of time with my parents. 

✔ A train journey on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway
✔ Living with the nomads in the plains of Mongolia

✔ Learning to ride a motorbike all by myself in Pai, Thailand
✔ Watching the hot air balloons take off in the mystical land of Bagan, Myanmar

✔ Visited my sponsored kid, Pelsil, in Cambodia

Redecorated my cozy little room
Another activity that has been pending on my “To-Do” list for the longest time. I used to joke that I had to share half the room (the other half was used to house our family’s bookshelves, aka mini-library) with the boyfriend, 3 dogs and 1 fish. Now that we have finally moved the bookshelves to the storeroom, there’s ample of space for me to re-decorate my room and fill it with inspiring quotes and pictures with loved ones! ❤ A living space that I can finally call as my own. 

Pursuit of Other Interest
✔ Take up horse-riding lessons at Amigos, JB
✔ Improve my swimming skills
✔ Re-ignite my passion for reading

Volunteer & Give Back
✔ Organised several micro-volunteer activities as a Chapter Lead for Cause Corps
✔ Stop procrastinating and donated blood

Thank you for a fantastic 2016!

. 2015: Reflections .

While 2014 was a year of unexpected changes which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, 2015 has been a year of putting my plans into action. Procrastination is no longer a friend as I broke free of its toxic chains. It is definitely rewarding to be able to fulfill some of my goals that have been left on the back-burner for ages. One of my proudest achievement for the year is to finally get my driving license (at first try!), something which I have put off for close to a decade. I might have received my license 10 years later than the average SG driver but knowing that I have beat this long-held procrastination and am now a certified driver is extremely gratifying.

Introspection, 2015 has provided me with many opportunities – both professional and personal – to challenge myself, grow and develop a stronger self-identity. I’m more capable of accepting myself for who I really am and being comfortable in my own skin. No longer do I feel the pressure to constantly appear as “perfect” for others and thus, I’m less afraid to say “NO” to people or situations that do not resonate with my core values/ beliefs. They say that 30s is one of the best decades in one’s life and while I’m not hitting the big 3 (YET), I can see why life gets richer in many ways as we grow older and collect more years of meaningful life experiences under our belt.

Thank you, 2015 – You have been great to me! 

Highlights of 2015: 

  • Starting 2015 with a bang – Getting drunk and having an elderly lady flashed her boobs @ me during my 1st solo trip 
  • Leaving the comfort of my first job and taking on a much more challenging role in the highly competitive e-commerce industry
  • Passing the driving test on my first attempt, after 9 long years of procrastination
  • Conquered Macau’s highest summit at 338m tall (Macau Tower Climb)!  
  • A year of adventure: Getting my Sports Climb and Abseiling Level 1 licenses & embarking on various kayaking, trekking and water caving expeditions
  • An amateur designer in the works: Having my handmade leather wallet being displayed at the SG Design Week 
  • Being selected as an Enable-A-Family volunteer, working alongside with children under the care of MSF
  • Most importantly, receiving the love and support from a particular Mr. M

 < CAREER >

The last few months at my previous company has been nothing short of a massive Taiwanese drama. My ex-boss tendered and I was running a one-man show, handling multiple big projects, for a couple of months. Those days were definitely not easy – Tight timelines, long hours, last minute changes. And it didn’t help that I suddenly found myself embroiled in a messy situation with a particular trouble-maker who played politics and tried making life super difficult for me. Thankfully, with the support from my ex-colleagues (especially XL and Joel), I survived those challenging times and became even more resilient. Presenting my “baby project” – FairPrice’s involvement in SEA Games 2015!

In my new role in Z, I’ve learnt a great deal about the ever evolving e-commerce & start-up landscape, collaborated with partners from all industries to come up with marketing campaigns and taking on ownership of  multiple projects. In a short span of 10 months, I’ve spear-headed no less than 30 campaigns, was part of a team that created 2 gamification contests from scratch,  participated in the Singapore Fashion Week 2015, mentored 4 interns and flew to Manila for an offsite meeting. The greatest job satisfaction? Achieving 8 x  the average transactions and 73% growth for a recent campaign that I’ve worked my ass off for! 🙂 But, of course, every job does come with its downsides. For many months, I felt as if I was swimming against the currents – 12 hours work shift is a norm, my health took a beating and frustration has become my frequent companion at the workplace. Was I a happy camper? Well, the answer is obvious. Nonetheless, I have no regrets with my decision and if anything, my stint has made me realised what I truly look for in a job. 

20150530_180743

PhotoGrid_1451488046598

< FAMILY & LOVE LIFE >

I’m extremely blessed to have a loving family who stands by me, regardless of the shitty situations that I get myself into at times. Thank you Pop Daddy, Mummy, Popo, Ginette, Amanda, Ah Boh and Ah Mai for your unconditional love and support. Let’s also not forget the 3 rascals in my life – Archie, Frosty and Simba!  🙂

2015 also saw me bidding farewell to a happy singlehood as I jumped on-board the “Puma” bandwagon (a younger version of cougar) and started dating Mr. M who is 3 years younger than me. Cougar-in-training, lol. Being single had served me well – Living a commitment-free life, freedom to date guys who probably ain’t my type, rediscover my creativity and pick up new hobbies – and I’m thankful for the chance to be alone and re-connect with myself.  But being able to find someone whom you have great chemistry with is a rare find and despite the naysayers’ take on how a younger man will be too immature for the older lady, I found myself falling hard for Mr. M. Sure, we may have our differences but more importantly, we bond over our quest for adventures and meaningful life experiences, love for our family and dogs and shared moments of joy and pain. 

For the first time, I also feel a sense of belonging and connection with his close-knitted family … Something which was lacking in my previous relationships. I used to think that the significant other’s family doesn’t play a pivotal role as long as both parties love each other but now that I’m accepted as a part of his family, it’s amazing and takes our relationship to greater heights. PS: We suspect that my granny loves him more than she loves us (the grandchildren)!

PhotoGrid_1446357353444
PhotoGrid_1437148476967
PhotoGrid_1443923890028


< HOBBIES & ADVENTURE >


I might have had a broken neck but that doesn’t hold me back from embarking on a series of adventures. If anything, I’m probably more active now than I ever was. Carpe Diem. Rock climb, kayak, waterfall trek,  tree-climb, abseiling … You name it, chances are I’ve probably given it a shot. Somewhere along the way, I’ve also befriended many like-minded people who share the same excitement to travel to every nook & cranny in search for a bigger adventure. Always more fun to do things we love with good company!

In spite of the busyness of life, I always try to squeeze in the time to make these matchbox cards for my Carousell giveaways. Crafting allows me to unleash my creative juices and get in touch with the inner wannabe artist in me. Plus, it’s heart-warming to receive comments from the other Carousell members on how my sharing of life stories has inspired them to a small extent.

PhotoGrid_1451488788630

PhotoGrid_1451488815671
PhotoGrid_1436104685933

< TRAVEL >

Bali: Casting my initial apprehension aside, I confronted my fears and made the decision to go on a solo New Year celebratory trip to Bali. In my own version of “Eat, Pray, Love”, I found myself getting drunk on NYE, celebrating countdown with a room of lively expats and locals and having a too-close-for-comfort goodbye hug with the local waiter. Definitely, one of my most unforgettable New Year’s Eve Countdown.

Hong Kong: 48 Hours. First couchsurf with my very cool Mum (perhaps, the 1st couchsurfing of its kind). Walk on the wild side of the Macau Tower at 233m high. Scaled the world’s highest urban climb at 338m. Mad? Maybe.

Manila: I was there for work so my trip pretty much revolve around travelling from hotel to the office. Repeat that routine for 3 full days. Nevertheless, I had a blast meeting the Partnerships teams from the other 7 countries and bonding over a competitive game of laser-tag and finger-lickin’ fried food.

Hokkaido: Many Firsts – My First White Christmas. First time on snow-mobile and feeling like a pseudo F1 driver on snow. First time dog-sledding. First time trying whale meat (also, the last time due to the effects of whaling).  Feeling like a kid again in Tokyo DisneySea. Failed attempt at skiing. Pigging out on fresh seafood, sashimi, sushi, beef and ramen. The most expensive breakfast ever – $600 on seafood and Hokkaido Snow Crab. Making more memories with my beloved family. 🙂


PhotoGrid_1451490866243
PhotoGrid_1451488738048
PhotoGrid_1451488763831
PhotoGrid_1451487516202
PhotoGrid_1450402721599
PhotoGrid_1450587991547
PhotoGrid_1450615255670PhotoGrid_1451486987229PhotoGrid_1450788024976

. We are born to live and experience life .

“I always tell myself that we are born here not to work, but to enjoy life. We are here to make things better for one another, and not to work. If you are spending your whole life working, you will certainly regret it.
 
No matter how successful you are in your career, you must always remember that we are here to live. If you keep yourself busy working, you will surely regret it.”

– Jack Ma

. A Rich Life With Less Stuff – The Minimalists .

simplify-your-life
source

So, I was catching up on my regular financial reads when I came across an insightful blog post by SG Young Investment about “Less being More”. I’m sure that many of us have came across this phrase but living in a relatively materialistic society means that it is a challenge for most of us not to get caught in the endless pursuit of money and material possessions. Very often, we are easily convinced that the answer to happiness and fulfillment can be something purchased from the retail stores. The more we earn or climb the corporate ladder, the more tempted we are to splurge on material goods. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying the latest gadgets or branded bags to make us happy (hence, the term “retail therapy”) but on the flip side, does this form of momentary happiness last for long? I’m a subscriber to retail therapy (albeit small ticket items) but in the long run, it doesn’t help solve the root of any problem. At best, you just blew money to cheer yourself up. At worst, you fall into a recurring debt to fund your luxurious lifestyle. At the end of the day, does having more money or material possessions fills the empty void that we have in our hearts?

I have a complicated love-hate relationship with money, the epitome of a “Relationship paradox”. One one hand, I enjoy making money because it gives me the power to spend on things I want and reassures me of a financial safety net. Yet, I must confess that I’m equally guilty of being a slave to money because it is one of my greatest fear to live a life of a pauper. Fortunately, thanks to my grandma’s constant preaching about the importance of saving, I must say that I don’t splurge unnecessarily these days other than on travel (can’t help it), skincare (vain pot) and recently, cab transportation! Nonetheless, like most impressionable young adults, I had my fair share of  extravagant days where I splurged on the latest fashion trends and brands to boost my ego and impress others. Those were the days where I would buy loads of items, only to throw them aside once they have outlived their function/ novelty, sometimes even in a matter of days! Did my purchases result in an immediate spike in happiness within me? Yes. Did it add any measurable value to my life? No.

Nowadays, I’m no longer in awe when friends or colleagues talk about the latest brands or tech devices. I take public transport almost 85% of the time (partly also because I don’t have a driving license, haha), buy second-hand clothes from Carousell, re-wear my 4-5 pairs of shoes to the extent that they become too tattered to be worn and spend the weekends exploring Singapore or going on free heritage tours instead of hitting the malls. Truth to be told, I’m quite contented with this lifestyle. No need for keeping up with the Joneses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating you to live life to the extreme and forgo the occasional indulgence. No. More than anything, I would like this inspiring video to be a reminder to you that we do not need to measure the things we have to our self-worth or what defines a successful life.

My own experiences and discussion with older folks has made me realised that a happy life is beyond wealth and superfluous comforts. Essentially, it is really the meaningful relationships that we have with people and valuable life experiences that form the foundation of happiness.

The Minimalists.

. Explore: Campuhan Ridge, Ubud .

 One of my favourite thing to do during a vacation is to sneak in some sort of adrenaline-pumping activity as I’m addicted to the thrill of an adrenaline rush. There were originally plans for me to embark on a white water rafting adventure down the mighty Telaga Waja River; however, at the last minute, I decided to eschew any forms of adventure and simply enjoy Bali in peace and solitude. A quick search on the internet brought my attention to the breath-taking Campuhan Ridge, which takes one into the beautiful and unspoiled rice fields of Ubud. I was sold. There is no better way to enjoy Ubud other than to take in the idyllic sights of its countryside that is still relatively undisturbed by tourism.

***

The hike to Campuhan Ridge begins at the entrance of the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa, where you should spot a sign stating that it takes 2km to trek up to the famous Karsa Kafe (a restaurant that overlooks a beautiful rice field, also known as the pitstop for most hikers).
PhotoGrid_1424570034617

The trail will also take you past the historical Gunung Lebah Temple, which was constructed in the 8th century by Danghyang Markandya, the man who was believed to have introduced Hinduism to the island of Bali. PhotoGrid_1424570121758

The spectacular view that greets me on New Year’s Day 🙂 The hike was pretty easy and leisure (not much of a challenge for those who are looking for a workout), and I would highly recommend anyone to do it early morning before the afternoon sun comes out. Plus, if you are lucky, you might just get parts of the trail all to yourself! 
PhotoGrid_1424570204942

PhotoGrid_1424572638636
PhotoGrid_1424573324574
PhotoGrid_1424587641370
artist at workAlong the way, I also met a female painter, Wayan, who brought me on a mini tour to her family’s art studio and introduced me to the miniature painting techniques that are required for egg painting. I might be no professional painter but I do enjoy dabbling in arts & craft during my leisure time, so it was such a privilege for me to be able to observe an artist at work. In fact, I have crazy dreams of taking a mini sabbatical to head to Bali and pick up a painting/ art course. Just for the fun of it. Call me a professional dreamer!

PhotoGrid_1424571380750

PhotoGrid_1424571867984

PhotoGrid_1424571991611

magical tree house
Haven’t your parents often tell you not to enter into a stranger’s house? Well, I guess I broke the rule. It was along the rocky path beyond Karsa Kafe that I suddenly caught a glimpse of a “hanging” wooden bridge in the midst of the green foliage. Curious, I decided to peep around when an elderly man shouted to invite me to his humble abode. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to venture beyond the bridge and was surprised to be greeted by the sight of a wooden tree-house! I ❤ tree-houses!

Despite the language barrier, the elderly man tried his best in making me feel at home by sharing with me pictures of his family and playing musical tunes on the traditional Balinese instrument (I think it was the gamelan). The house was built single-handedly by him and it provides a great respite for anyone who wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of main street Ubud.

This serendipitous encounter is just one of the many that I had during my first solo trip in Bali and I know that such personal experiences would not have been possible, had I been travelling with others (especially with cautious friends)! I guess that’s the reason why so many people have opted to travel solo once they caught the bug … You end up making more friends and creating authentic experiences! 🙂 

PhotoGrid_1424573763204
PhotoGrid_1424573899213

PhotoGrid_1424573621904
PhotoGrid_1424573998997
PhotoGrid_1424574323927
PhotoGrid_1424573491074

 This is the time in your life where you have the least amount to lose by taking some long-shot risks, so you should take them. Because its the disastrous failures of these years — that crazy love affair with the Taiwanese dancer that made your mother lose her hair, or the entrepreneurial joint venture some guy in Starbucks talked you into that turned out to be an elaborate pyramid scheme — it’s these failures that will set you up for your life successes down the line. They are the best lessons of your life. Get learning.

. the independent traveler: flying solo for the first time .

WOW. Where do I even begin?

As everyone would have known by now, 2014 has been an extremely dramatic and life-changing year  for me. The perfect life? It was far from it. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to celebrate the end of the year by doing something courageous that I have always wanted to do for the longest time. Yet, fear has been the one main factor that prevented me from accomplishing that goal.

With a new-found sense of courage, I decided to embark on my first ever solo trip and usher into the new year alone. Like most people, I was afraid of taking that step out of the well-trodden path but once I did, there was no turning back. It is often said that solo travel allows one to enjoy a country on his or her own terms and through that exhilarating journey, they might learn to re-discover parts of themselves that they never knew existed. For me, I went for this solo trip, expecting to spend the bulk of my time alone. Frankly, I was perfectly fine with doing most things alone because I have always had that independent streak in me and my personal belief is that life waits for no one. Waiting might simply translate to missed opportunities. What I found out, at the end of the trip, was that travelling solo brings forth way more interaction and socializing than one could get, if they were to travel with their family or friends.

During my 4 days stay in Bali, I had serendipitous encounters with people from all walks of life – Locals from the tourism industry, artists, medicine woman, primary school kids, and travelers from other parts of the world. Surprisingly, not only did I managed to gain cultural insights from my conversations with them, but I was also very lucky to foster deep and meaningful connections with some of these people. In fact, 2 months down the road, I am still in touch with some of the people whom I have met during my trip.

My first trip might be short but it wasn’t one without an adventure of a lifetime. On the eve of New Year, I drank a little too much (and that’s because I’m a terrible drinker), got drunk and my vision literally went blank while I was dining alone. Horrors of horrors. Had I been in a shady area, I could have been robbed, raped or kidnapped. Lady luck must have been on my side because the drunk episode turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I ended up meeting the Prince of Ubud, spending the rest of the night with the lovely marketing manager (who is now, a friend of mine) before celebrating the NYE countdown in style with the restaurant crew! Serendipity? You bet. Along the way, I also cooked a Balinese meal with a local family in their home compound, met my own version of Ketut Liyer (for those of you who read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, you would know what I’m talking about) – an old lady who flashed her boobs at me, had an unexpected lunch with an American who turned out to be working in Singapore,  and played ‘Santa’ to a group of kids in a local primary school.

My decision to start 2015 with a solo trip was one of the best choices of my life. All it takes is 1 moment of insane courage. But a lifetime of unforgettable memories and experiences. And trust me, once you start travelling alone, chances are that you will become addicted to it because it is so much more rewarding and enriching. Now, just remember that life waits for no one … So, take that leap of faith and give solo travel a try! 🙂 

***
title for solo trip 1 PhotoGrid_1423391017138
title for solo trip 2 PhotoGrid_1423391417737
title for solo trip 7PhotoGrid_1423392036846
title for solo trip 3PhotoGrid_1423392589865
title for solo trip 4 PhotoGrid_1423392772152
title for solo trip 5PhotoGrid_1423393232018
title for solo trip 6 PhotoGrid_1423393494594
What does solo travel means to me? 

Freedom. Fulfillment. Self-confidence. Excitement. Being in control – not needing to be accountable to others. Spontaneity. Serendipitous experiences. And more important, a journey to explore more about myself and grow in ways that I can never learn from my school or workplace.

20150102_135140