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#31 I Like Being Cheap – Here’s Why

When it comes to travelling, especially. Being frugal doesn’t have to be painful – in fact if you can look waaay beyond that, it can become a true competitive sport. Not those annoying conversations in a backpacker hostel’s lounge about who-got-the-cheapest-(bedbug-ridden)-bed-in-Lima though, no.

While I haven’t been desperate enough to sleep on a park bench, or to pawn off a Swiss Army knife to subsist on some bread rolls, I relish the conscious choice of going cheap, occasionally. Rest of the time the southern route IS the only realistic choice.

So it’s fun to flip through pillow menus, peruse the never-ending aisles at a Continental breakfast buffet, to train for triathlons you’ll never qualify for in the Olympic-sized hotel lounge pool with its muscle relaxing water-jet Jacuzzi ponds. When I’m just going in to crash on a bed that is almost always too soft on my off-the-trodden-and-smashed-path body, I don’t see why I have to pay premium price just to enjoy the cheap pleasures of swiping 500 bars of soap and calling the chambermaid up to replenish the bathroom supplies. Continue reading

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#30 How Travel Opened Up My World to Live Music

Travel: Hey, meet “Music Festival”.
Me: Hello, nice to meet you.
Music Festival: Well, lucky us, because the pleasure is ours.

In these times where many people think vinyl discs are for antique collectors, where most of us hardly buy CDs anymore (if we even ever did, and what the hell are ‘singles’ anyway?), sometimes the only ways to show our love for our favourite band and music are to listen to them religiously and regularly and track their progress on their official social media page, checking out new material as they come onto the scene. And then of course, when they go on tour, we scrimp and save and buy the more-often-than-not exorbitant tickets to watch them in the flesh for a measly 2 hour gig.
While I do listen to my music with gusto and passion, I was never one to “go all out”, attend concerts and buy their t-shirts and stuff. For one, I never budgeted for that sort of thing — I was a poor student, plus I grew up as the Napster generation. My love and my support are what that really count, my cynical side thought: they can make their money from people who can actually afford. Continue reading
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#29 Thank You for Those False Expectations

I feel the most alive right before visiting a place I’ve never been in my life. I remember myself, sitting on a train heading south towards Lake Constance from Ravensburg (the town where I stayed with my host family), inhaling the familiar scent of leather upholstery mixed with black coffee, staring out at the emerald and sienna and earthy tones of the countryside, and the thing that occupies my mind the most, is imagining what the lake looks like in summertime.

Last time I was nearby, the trees were topped with snowy caps, everywhere, save for the asphalt autobahns and winding roads, was blanketed with a sea of white white white. What shade of blue would the lake be now that it’s summer? Would I still be able to see the mountains in Switzerland? Do the seagulls here squawk like their cousins in Brighton and the French Riviera?

The train slid into the station at Friedrichshafen Station, where I followed the flow of day trippers and bikers and everyone else to the other platform to catch a connecting train heading eastwards to the famed lakeside town of Lindau…

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#28 Deported, Bags Like Chekhov’s Gun

I thought about writing this for quite sometime now. I didn’t before, because I felt ridiculously sore about it  weeks after. To be a warrior at travelling, I have to accept that bad things happen, we fall, we brush ourselves off, we get up and we go again. (Plus it makes for a good 5-minute dinner party story.)

My boyfriend and I booked a trip to visit the famed Borobudur and some of the volcanoes in Java in February. I was more than psyched because it was close to the top of the to-see list for me. I sold the idea shamelessly to him, and since I did all the legwork as usual — trip planning, booking and all that jazz — he was agreeable. Sounds like another adventure waiting to happen.

A little sense of foreboding nagged at the back of my mind. My psychic mind told me it’s not going to be a volcanic eruption or anything of that sort. I prayed that the budget airlines plane will fly straight.

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#27 In Travel, We Gain Some, We Lose Some

I am the kind of person who likes to run all over the place. I don’t like to be forced to stick around too long in one place. So I wandered here and there, whenever I can.

I always thought that travel makes a person more tolerant, more easygoing, more devil-may-care. In a way, yes, you learn to accept all sorts of things, just having experienced something, you usually get a sense of “oh it could be worse” in retrospect.

Indeed, it could be worse. As I moved through places, culture and people, I slowly turned critical, and started to paint a picture of what a correct world should look like. It is ironic, for I have gone from uninitiated and inexperienced, to fairly tolerant, and then back full circle again, to being a stickler about things.

Let me explain.

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#26 Looking Back on My Year as An Au-pair

Working as an aupair, especially at a “ripe” old age of twenty-four:

Not the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you are fresh out of college.

Not your conventional resume building gig.

Not exactly the most intuitive job in the world.

Many people have their misconceptions about what working as an au pair entails, some (if not too many) assume that it is a glorified term for domestic servant, full-time nanny, home-stay programmes where one exchanges room and board for childcare. In a way, I don’t blame them for having the wrong idea, after all much of my work involves most aspects of a little bit of this and that.

Like all other jobs, you come away from it learning something.

Having being an au pair for nearly one year, I would like to think that there is something distinctly unique about this work experience that makes your person just more complete, more introspective and richer at the end of it.

Knowing that it won’t last forever, knowing that it is your own choice and not a volunteer stint, knowing that it will throw you into the deep end of the pool called life – I mean, it is a lethal cocktail and a hell of a rollercoaster ride, filled with anxiety, a huge sense of responsibility, excitement, hardship and lots of heartache thrown into the mix… not to mention the occasional stomach in the throat sensation. Continue reading

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#25 It Takes Motivation To Travel, Too

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. So says the man who came up with the ever-befuddling equation e=mc2.

I must say, I really suck at riding a bicycle. The scars and the dull throbbing pain in odd spots of my body can attest to that. Hopefully, life is not like riding a bicycle for me. And luckily for me, you don’t have to take these kind of quotes literally.

You must have seen one of these, if you’ve been crawling about cyberspace lately. This is the one of the latest posting fads — someone takes an inspirational quote by someone well-known, fancy it up with Photoshop or some image editing program, and post it on instagram/tumblr/pinterest — something that, upon reading, is at worst repetitive, and at best makes you want to go out there and do something.

I’m usually not a fan of such fads, considering I take pride in my alternative/indie-esque character. But somehow, I think we might have a winner here, something addictive and yet could be good for everyone.

I like how the combination of social media platforms and a little Photoshop magic managed to breathe new life into overused and clichéd quotes  (think: Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today…), turning them into renewed sparks of inspiration that stir the deep-seated yet hidden ambitions inside me.

These quotes are often relegated to become the cant of pseudo-overachievers, people who quote quotes, flaunt them airily and attempt to sound all self-important and intellectual. That’s when I thought, if I am going to be spending copious amounts of time reading them, I might as well enjoy it, and on top of that, spin it into something useful… How about… actually doing something about it, channeling the positivity of it into at least one aspect in my life?

Travelling may be my one true love in my life, but even the high I get from exploring new places, as with most things, can get dull and hit a plateau sometimes. And looking at famous quotes with new eyes, through the lens of someone who has been moving around quite a lot in the past months and being far away from home, I find them speaking to me directly.

I know enough about trying to keep a balance on a bicycle. It is not easy business, just like it’s hard to catch that delicate one in life. And move, I shall, after all, when it is only when you move, you find yourself again, and again. I like to think that I discover and rediscover parts of myself as I go from one place to another, and a lot of reflecting and thinking is done when I sit on a long train ride, staring out of the window at the lovely countryside trundling by.

Now excuse me while I run off and plan my next day trip. Gotta keep moving! ❤