#37: Reconnecting with the self

Its been a really long time since I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with myself, reflecting. Finally got some down time when I got to Laos.

The pace at which Laos goes by at is something which I took awhile to adapt to. It was only upon realising that I started being negative and antsy at the fact that I had nothing to do that I figured I was in a highly strung state of mind, even whilst on holiday. When I stopped looking to find something, anything to do, I realised how much of the surroundings I was missing out on. I was in fact, totally disconnected from the world around me.

The last few months have been really hectic, and the bulk of it was really justu keeping up with the demands of work and society. However, ever since I made the decision to take a break from work, things have been looking up. Realising that I was attached to work, and no longer being passionate about the scope of work I do was a turning point. It was time. Time for me to move. I was getting good at what I was doing, but I was also losing touch with myself.

Meanwhile, I am really enjoying Laos, and looking forward to the upcoming trips, which I’m sure will prime me to be even more introspective!

Stay tuned for a blogpost on how I explored Laos in the last one week!

P.S The following was taken at (as of today) my no.1 waterfall which I think everyone needs to visit! 🙂

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Xoxo

#36: On to 2018!

2017, you’ve been… interesting, filled with numerous ups and downs, but the experiences and opportunities I’ve had made me grow exponentially both at a professional and personal level.

I’ve had to experience death on two occasions this year, and these serve to remind me of the inevitability aspects of life. You really never know what could or might happen, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to live life to the fullest. Got that city you haven’t visited? Go! Got that person you haven’t met in ages? Pick up the phone and reach out.

This year, I’ve traveled to new places, and had “adventures” which made me realise that there are just too many things that you cant control in life. Learning to let go and accept things for what it is would be the best thing you can do for yourself. That is also the only way that you can grow.

My favourite trip of 2017, was my trip to Eastern Europe. Really missing the me time and those introspective conversations I had with myself when I went hiking. Learning more about different people, and how they are made up by their history was definitely a very fascinating moment.

The world is too beautiful. Being obsessed with what you don’t like or hate about life would only hinder your full ability to appreciate the things around you. This is one thing I am definitely going to work on for 2018! Looking forward to 2018 and the surprises that will be coming!

 

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Destination: Mostar

Whilst in Dubrovnik, I decided to do a day trip to Mostar, which is about 2.5 hours away by car. I decided to join a tour group with Adriatic-Explore for this trip and I think the experience was absolutely great! I was in a mini bus with just 3 other people, and the guide was very knowledgeable, sharing very interesting bits of information throughout our trip. And, they do have quite a few pick-up points around the hilly city, which I thought was a great bonus! Besides Mostar, we also did short stopovers at little towns along the way, such as Pocitelj, Neum and Medugorje, which I thought was really cool.

Where is Mostar?

Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, straddling the Neretva River. To be exact, it is actually located in the Herzegovina region. To get there from Dubrovnik, the drive included driving out of Croatia to Neum, and then back into Croatia before reaching Bosnia, which means you have to clear customs for a total of 12 times to and fro! This is because Neum, a little resort town, which is Bosnia’s only access to the Adriatic Sea, cuts Croatia into 2.

What is in Mostar?

#1 : The Stari Most (Old Bridge)

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Photos of this bridge (Instagram!) got me really intrigued to visit Mostar. Mostar got its name after this Bridge, or more precisely after the bridge keepers (Mostaris) who used to guard the bridge.

The best view of this bridge is from the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque’s minaret. It costs 6 Euros to climb up the bridge and it gives you a panoramic view of the city. Definitely worth the money if you are looking into taking photos of the town and the bridge!

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#2: Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque

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This mosque was built at the beginning of the 17th century by Koski Mehmed-Pasha. From the Stari bridge, you will be able to see the reflection of the mosque in the river.

#3: Melting Pot of Cultures

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Walking along Mostar feels a little like Turkey. The architecture and souvenirs they sell are mainly Turkish in nature. There are loads of Turkish influence in the area due to the fact that the Ottoman Turks ruled the area. You will even structures in typical turkish towns dotted all around Mostar. You will also see some remnants of the Bosnian war, with some buildings outside the old town covered with bullet holes.

#4: Bosnian Coffee

In my opinion, the taste of Bosnian Coffee is similar to Turkish Coffee. It is served with a Bosnian candy which is similar to the Turkish delight. Basically what you do is to place the sugar cube on your spoon and pour the coffee over it. The coffee melts the sugar and brings a tinge of sweetness to the very acidic and thick Bosnian coffee.

Oh, I had my lunch at Urban Grill ( I know, it sounds totally western), and the Ćevapi and Bosnian Coffee was pretty good! Of course, the view of the bridge from this restaurant was too amazing to miss!

#5: Jumping Off the Stari Most

For 25 euros, you can either choose to jump off the bridge or get the staff to jump. My choice was to stick to being an audience this time round, as jumping off the bridge was not something I was ready to do on this trip. At the top of the bridge, tourists chip in to make the 25 euros for the staff to jump off the bridge.

#6: Bosnian War

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As a history major, I have to admit that we did not learn much about that in school. Considering how recent the event was, I am surprised that I actually have little knowledge about the war.

The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The Bosnian war was fought because Serbs and Croats living in Bosnia wanted to annex Bosnian territory for Serbia and Croatia respectively. Up until today, I think the 2 groups still do not get along that well. I remember driving past this road which divided the 2 sides during the war, and this division actually still exists even though the war has ended. Our guide was a Bosnian Croat, and he spoke fondly of Tito’s time, because what followed after the dissolution of that was essentially the Bosnian war.

My Thoughts..

I spent about 3 hours in Mostar and managed to explore most of the city. However, I kinda wish I had at least 2 more hours to explore a few more museums. I really enjoyed my time in Mostar, and the trip made me very intrigued to read up more about the history of Bosnia. With its influence from the Ottoman empire, the Austria-Hungarians empire and its time under communist rule as Yugoslavia, this little town is really a melting pot of cultures and I would definitely recommend anyone who is in the area to make a trip to the city!

 

#34-Finding Gratitude Once Again

A wise man whom I met on one of my travels once shared this with me this quote from Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

I think I definitely have an answer for the former, and am very thankful to my parents for bringing me to this beautiful world. However, for the latter, I am still trying to figure that out, every single day. We tend to cruise through life without giving it much thought, and let the practicalities of life guide us through our decision making.

Humans have a tendency to take things for granted, and that can manifest itself in many ways. The fact that one lets the practicalities of life guide you is an indication of that. I am very guilty of that. I have been keeping myself really busy the last few months, but it still doesn’t amount to much. There isn’t much self-satisfaction. Ironically, there seems to be more satisfaction when I was unemployed. There is nothing wrong with my current life on the surface, but deep down, I feel that everything about it is wrong. By not chasing my dreams, there is a part of me that is always craving for the “what-ifs”. However, I am limited by the practicalities of life for now. I see my parents growing old, and their desire to see me tread the path that everyone is on no doubt holds me back. Is it their dream or is it my dream? Or is it just what society defines as the norm? Is there really something wrong when you don’t fall into the “norm”? Every individual is different, and I believe succumbing to social norms just isn’t the right thing to do.

Happiness comes from within, and this is something I am still striving for, every single day. Starting with being grateful and appreciating the little things in life, I think my goal for the rest of 2016 is to start being thankful for the little things that make me smile, however small they might be.

Perhaps, just maybe, it is time to get back on the road, and try to find those answers.

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#33 – Solo Traveling

I think I am now officially addicted to solo traveling.

I really enjoyed the time I had alone. Seriously. I enjoyed the intellectual banter I had, with myself, inside my mind. Sounds crazy, but more often than not, for someone like me, I rarely get to talk to myself, and it actually feels nice. I really love these introspective moments, which I really rarely get back at home.

The interesting thing about traveling solo is that you are never really alone. People talk to you, people tell you stories, people feel less vulnerable and actually open up so much more when they meet a solo traveler. Its like, I feel so much more connected to the world, to other people.

People travel for all sorts of reasons, and everyone has a different goal they are trying to achieve. I’ve met American history professors in Florence who were there to study and teach Renaissance art, an elderly man who flew from Canada to Florence to visit his ailing mother in law, a Singaporean traveling solo for his grad trip, to name a few. Maybe many of us travel because you want to see the world, but what I have realized is that yeah, sure, you travel to a certain place to see what you want to see, but the journey there can be full of surprises as well!

Seriously, I cannot wait to do this again! And, among the few dreams I tried to do on this trip, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream of seeing tulip fields in Amsterdam! smile emoticon20160501-DSC_6567

#32- What does home mean?

Waiting for my next flight back to Singapore. I always feel like I have so much more I want to do whenever I am about to leave a city. Arghhhh

I visited China and Hong Kong the last few days. The time in China was mainly to visit my grandparents as they decided to move back there a couple of years ago when they decided that it made more sense for them to be back at where they truly belong when the time came for them to go.

Which got me thinking, what is home? Where do I truly belong?

Many of us are global citizens today, and connectivity has revolutionized the concept of home for everyone. We are definitely way more mobile today than our grandparents and parents used to be. Inter-racial and cross-cultural marriages are so common these days.

I was born in Hong Kong. In case you are curious, my life story goes like this:

My parents were both from China. My maternal grandfather and my dad met on a boat which supposedly took them to Hong Kong back in 1980s, when my dad was barely 18. At that point, my mum was already in Hong Kong. My grandfather basically thought my dad was pretty cool and introduced him to my mum, and then of course, love blossomed, and there you go, I was born a couple of years later.

I spent my first 3 years in Hong Kong, studied in a local kindergarden, and lived at one of the poorer areas in Hong Kong, where houses were made of wood. However, during those times, the sense of community was so strong, and that is something I’d never forget even until today.

Thereafter, my dad, being the head pastry chef of a global hotel chain, got relocated to Singapore. That’s where I moved to SG for 2 years, and went to pre-school there. When I was 6, we moved back to Hong Kong again. I was enrolled into the Singapore International School. Until today, I still have fond memories of some of my classmates back then, and some interesting bits about life back then. Here they are:

#1- We used to live in Chai Wan, and I was always the last to alight from the school bus. As the school used to built atop a hill, I used to puke my way through the entire journey.

#2- I was recruited into the drama club because my cheeks had a natural blush, and I remember starring in a play where I played the role of a doll in a toy shop. I vaguely recall that the dolls come alive at night and I was one of them.

#3- My other extra-ciricular activity was the band. I used to play the xylophone, but I totally cannot recall any bit of this now.

#4- My bestie in Primary one was a Japanese girl, whose name I cannot even recall now. Maybe that explains why the fascination with Japanese culture and language?

When I was 7, we moved to Singapore again, and since then, I have never left the country for any extended period apart from my short stint in Japan when I did summer school there.

Today, I have really good friends all over the world, and I know they are more than happy to host me whenever I visit. A lot of these places feel like home to me, and I am starting to question what the notion of home entails.

Hong Kong feels familiar, Singapore is where I was brought up. I cant decide which one of them is home. Due to my amazing friends in the US, certain states like Seattle and New Jersey makes me really at home too. Is it the people who make home for what it feels like? Or is it just by virtue where you are born and raised?

Home is where the heart belongs. But, what if your heart belongs everywhere?

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On a side note, I explored a different side of HK this time round, and I think it is super super cool. I am falling in love with the city again. HK is full of surprises. 

#31- Love thy imperfections in life

Sometimes life happens. It just happens. You don’t know why, how or what, but it happens. I think everyone has been through this at some point in time. When you least expect things, it happens. If you are one of those where you are able to keep yourself on track, and keep to the path you think is best for you, then kudos to you.

Unfortunately or maybe luckily, I’m one of those who gets distracted easily, and let life happen. I love the element of surprise. That keeps me on my toes and excited. These emotions make me feel alive.

My ideal life isn’t about that high paying job, or that perfect significant other, but rather, the imperfections in life. Every family is dysfunctional in its own way or another, but I love every bit of my family. Work is tough and demanding, but the constant flow of challenges keeps me happy and mentally stimulated. Not every Friend is perfect, but there are those that love you to bits, and you just know it.

To really love life entails loving the imperfections as well. Even self love is about accepting every part of yourself, both the good and the bad. And honestly, cliche as it may sound, if someone loves you for both your good and bad, then this person is a keeper, and family definitely falls in this category. Love is unconditional, and first, start by doing that with yourself first!DSC_0503-1

Enjoy the imperfections and let life surprise you! smile emoticon

Xoxo

#30 Life goes on

Happy Lunar New Year! Finally got some time to reflect on life again.

Its been a hectic few months. Life is slowly falling into a routine, and responsibilities both at work and at home have been growing. Routine is a double-edged sword; it makes you really comfortable and provides you with stability on one hand, but makes life seem mundane on the other.

Stability makes it easier for one to make plans for the future, both financially and emotionally. However, sometimes the unknown bits of life is what makes life exciting. This is exactly why I think skydiving is one of the most exciting experience ever. That adrenaline rush from free falling, the amazing view from the top of the world, that fear when sitting at the edge of the plane, each of these remind me how amazing life is, and how I should be grateful to be alive.

Sometimes life leaves me completely surprised and confused, and I really have absolutely no idea what to make of it. Chance encounters, getting reacquainted with people whom you have known all the while, making spontaneous decisions, all these surprises thwart stability in your life. I am really looking forward to see what life has prepared in store for me. Cannot wait for my next journey in Spring!

Meanwhile, let me first indulge in the beautiful sunsets in SEA, before I get to see the ones in Europe in Spring! 🙂

Wishing everyone an amazing year ahead!

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xoxo

 

#29- Great Start to a New Year

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Concluding my first trip this year. I got to admit that this was a fantastic way to start off a new year. Going forward, maybe this is how each year should begin.

Nature always helps me to put things into perspective. We are only small specks in this great thing called the universe. Every encounter, whether by chance or not, happened for a reason. Whether pleasant or not, I believe that everything is causal, one thing leads to another. Everything that happens stands for every little piece of puzzle which pieces together to form the story of your life.

Life is still a big mystery to me. I have no idea how I ended up where I am today, be it the personal or professional aspect of life, but what I’m sure of is that I am definitely enjoying every single moment of this.

3 things I’m grateful for today :
-serendipitous friendships
-amazing opportunities in life
-lessons from 2015 that shaped me into who I am today

I believe in serendipity, and it has happened so many times in 2015 that I think it is an integral part of my life already. Looking forward to more serendipity for 2016!

Xoxo

#28-2015, The Most Amazing Year Ever

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Spent the entire day sorting out travel pictures and my thoughts, at the same time preparing for my next trip, which is in about 5 hours time.

2015 has been an amazing year. I have no idea where to start. The year started off with a major heartbreak. The agony and pain that I have had to deal with was way more intensive than I had imagined, but on the other hand, this also meant that I had loved. I am glad that I had the opportunity to do that. Being in love meant that I had to leave myself vulnerable, and I think I have not regretted doing that, not one bit, for I have learnt so much more and became a much better person.

Learning to deal with the pain exposed me to another form of love, i.e, self-love. To date, I am still not too sure what it really means, but by my definition it would be the state of being at ease spending time with the most awesome person on earth, me! Learning to find the path to happiness on my own was a different game altogether, and I embarked on this journey filled with doubts and uncertainties. Nonetheless, a life filled with uncertainty is one that is exciting, especially so for someone as inquisitive as I am.

Mid 2015, as I was picking myself up slowly from the heartbreak, I was dealt with another blow. Losing my job. The financial and emotional uncertainties plagued me for a couple of days, until one day, where I woke up and decided to take the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the balls to, and that is solo travel. So there I was, booking my first one way ticket to another country, without any plans or return date. Ironically, it felt amazingly therapeutic. Not having to adhere to timelines, schedules, compromising to the needs of others, getting lost, being on random ferries to random offshore islands, experiencing all the firsts in my life etc, these adventures actually made me feel really at ease with myself. Traveling on my own made me learn so much more about myself, and gave me time away from the crazy city life in Singapore to rethink so many things.

In those months, I traveled to places I’ve always wanted to go to, and revisited places which I had avoided so as not to expose myself to the memories that I was trying so hard to bury. Gathering the strength to face up to these memories, and creating new ones on my own gave me a new resolute to live my life so that I do not regret at my deathbed, so that one day, I have stories to tell my children and grandchildren, and to inspire them to live their lives for all that it is worth in the future.

Traveling made me appreciate so many things in life that I have been taking for granted, especially the people. 2015 is really the year where I learn to be thankful from the bottom of my heart.

1. My Family – Thankful for an amazing family that has accommodated my sporadic trips, been there for me all the time, made me feel so much warmth in my heart even though I took you guys for granted for so many years prior.

2. My Friends – I do not even know where to start. Some of you joined me for parts of my journey, some of you sat through my grouses, some of you were there for me whenever I was down, some of you hosted me when I traveled to your city, some of you made the effort to meet me wherever I was traveling to, some of you became friends with me during my journeys, etc.  I am really thankful for each and every one of you. Believe me, every one of you made a difference to me.

3. My Colleagues – You guys made life so much more amazing and interesting for me. All the late night drinks, dinner, partying, heart to heart chats, I am so so thankful for you guys!

2015 has been the most amazing year ever. I am actually really thankful for everything that has happened to me this year, and yes, that includes the heartbreak. Life is actually really meaningful, and it largely depends on what you make of it.

Really looking forward to 2016, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me!

Have no expectations, and let life take you to happiness and awesomeness!

P.S. One of the most amazing experiences this year (in this lifetime), was watching the northern lights in all its glory in Iceland. Hence this photo! 🙂