The True Meaning of Being Open-Minded

A lot of people like to think they’re open-minded. “I’m totally open-minded about cohabiting,” or “I’m totally open-minded about gay marriage.”

Open-mindedness is not about being fine with the things that you’re fine with. If you’re fine with it, then who cares how open you are about it? It’s your opinion. You own it. You agree with it. On the contrary, being open-minded is exactly what’s needed when it’s something you don’t – or even can’t – agree with.

Being open-minded is allowing yourself to be open to the possibility that there may be other ways – other than the way you think is right. It’s saying ‘No’ to narrow-mindedness – the belief that there is only a right way and a wrong way, or that there’s only one entrance and one exit to the maze that is Life.

Fact is: There are a million pathways. And sure, you might think any way but yours will lead to doom, or should not even exist in the first place; fair enough, that’s your opinion. But you have to at least acknowledge they are there, whether you like it or not. And then hopefully open yourself up to the possibility that perhaps, just perhaps, they might lead somewhere, too.

The problem is, all our lives, we are taught one way of doing things, one way that things should be, and that one way becomes the only way, built into our psyche, our entire universe. But guess what? It’s precisely the same thing for the person next to you. And that’s already two really different, diverse ways of doing things. Add more people, and you’ll discover every person might have their own set of rules and values and habits and preferences.

If we all live with the attitude that only our way is the right way, we’ll never have room for others’ opinions. We’ll shut them down before they can even start explaining. We’ll never give them a chance, never give another way an opportunity, never learn new things, never try new things. We’ll be stuck the exactly same flawed way we are, moulded by all those negative disappointments and failures and upsets in life, and never discover the possibility of a better way.

But okay, say it doesn’t lead to a better way. But ah, that’s the other great thing about being open-minded. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Understanding is not accepting. Understanding is comprehending where someone else is coming from, seeing their point of view, learning of a new path. You’re totally allowed to disagree with it. You just have to respect it. You just have to acknowledge that while it doesn’t make any frikkin’ sense to you at all, it makes sense to them. And they should be able to live by that, as much as you should be allowed to live by your own thinking.

It’s called open-mindedness because it is literally opening our mind to many, many possibilities, and understanding that our way is just as much merely a “possibility” to others as theirs is to us. It takes the ego away from the situation, and reduces our way to simply one way out of a million, thus humbling us as a person.

It reminds us that we’re just a speck in this vast ocean of people. It helps us take a step back and look at the bigger picture, that we’re all out here just trying to be good people, lead a good life, be happy. We all just have different ways of achieving that. And there are no right ways or wrong ways (except murder and hurting others and such), just my way, your way – and his way and her way and their way… and Frank’s way. But of course.


15 Reasons Why I May Not Know What Falling In Love Feels Like

I have never been in love before. So every time I get the chance to ask someone who has been in love before, I do. The answers are usually very abstract, poetic: vague. Apparently no one really can put it into words, or rather, the right words; apparently, you just feel… euphoric.

According to the Internet (where else?), scientifically explained, the initial stages of falling in love increases the level of adrenalin and cortisol in your blood, causing some very lovely indeed physical armpit-sweating, heart-racing, mouth-drying reactions. Then comes the dope, literally dopamine, which triggers an intense rush of pleasure – the same effect as doing cocaine! According to scientist Helen Fisher, you have “increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention, and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship.” And finally, to cap it off, serotonin, so they’ll always be on your mind. Okayyyy. That still doesn’t mean anything to me.

You won’t have to look far to find lists online (“on the line” – ref: The Internship) bullet-pointing what falling in love feels like. I’ve found them particularly interesting, especially since my limited experience of falling in love somehow simply does not match with these common symptoms. So do I really know what it’s like to fall in love?

They say falling in love is… Exhaustive
I think… It makes me even more aware that I need to get enough sleep in order to best share my life and schedule with someone else

They say falling love is… Having butterflies in your tummy
I think… It’s like having oompa loompas in my heart

They say falling in love… Makes you want to drop everything in your life
I think… It makes me even more excited to pursue more things in my life

They say falling in love… Makes you so obsessed, you can’t eat or sleep and want to spend every waking moment with the person
I think… I eat and sleep just fine, better if with them of course, and when we’re not together, I think about them and smile

They say falling in love… Makes you lose yourself completely, or act differently
I think… If anything, it propels me to be even more me, 100% truly myself, more me than I have ever felt before, such that I feel so free

They say falling in love is… A whole new intensity of feelings for a person
I think… It’s got nothing to do with levels; it’s maybe just a completely new feeling that cannot be compared to what you’ve ever felt for anyone else in the past or could possibly imagine feeling for anyone else in the present

They say falling in love is… Blindly thinking they’re OMG AWESOME
I think… It’s knowing their mistakes, their past, their weaknesses, their flaws, and still thinking they’re OMG AWESOME, and loving them more for who they are right now

They say falling in love is… Experiencing mood swings that go from extreme unexplainable happiness and exhilaration to anxiety and panic and fear and insecurity
I think… It makes me feel exceptionally secure, confident and happy, even more so than normal

They say falling in love… Creates an emotional dependency of possessiveness, fear of rejection, separation anxiety, jealousy, fear of losing them
I think… Knowing what we share makes me even more emotionally secure, and I can be free to feel happy without worrying about anything at all

They say falling in love… Makes you start daydreaming about having an abstract, far-off future with them
I think… It makes us talk about a real future together that we can actually see happening

They say falling in love… Makes you go at it like bunnies
I think… Sex becomes so secondary when emotions mean so much

They say falling in love… Makes you do stupid things
I think… I actually become more aware that I shouldn’t do any stupid things that might jeopardize chances of spending time with the person I love (Although, I think it’s true that I become “stupider” in the sense that suddenly I can’t think straight and all my eloquence flies out the window as I struggle to find the right words to say to truly express how I’m feeling.)

They say falling in love… You’ll become overwhelmed by lust – can’t keep your hands off each other, don’t really know each other but it’s okay, you’re just seriously attracted, you focus on the good points only and not the bad
I think… Maybe kissing and other public displays of affection might get a bit excessive, but there’s always going to be one big difference – lust comes hand-in-hand with love; love doesn’t follow feelings of lust

They say falling in love… Makes you become obsessed – you want to be in a relationship, you want to be together, you want to start a life together, you want to basically be in a fantasy world together
I think… Love makes you want to enjoy every moment together. It’s that simple, really.

They say falling in love… Makes you feel good, especially if you’ve always had some insecurities about being loved, they way you look, having someone to depend on when you have problems in life etc
I think… Love is about making the person you love feel good; it’s not about you at all

So yeah, maybe I don’t really know what falling in love is like, since I have such totally different views on it. But I’d like to think that when I fall in love, I’ll just know. <3

“First best is falling in love. Second best is being in love. Least best is falling out of love. But any of it is better than never having been in love.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Falling in love is very real, but I used to shake my head when people talked about soul mates, poor deluded individuals grasping at some supernatural ideal not intended for mortals but sounded pretty in a poetry book. Then, we met, and everything changed, the cynic has become the converted, the sceptic, an ardent zealot.”
~ E. A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

“Love does not appear with any warning signs. You fall into it as if pushed from a high diving board. No time to think about what’s happening. It’s inevitable. An event you can’t control. A crazy, heart-stopping, roller-coaster ride that just has to take its course.”
~ Jackie Collins, Lucky

“When you fall in love, the natural thing to do is give yourself to it. That’s what I think. It’s just a form of sincerity.”
~ Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

And the best quote of all, from Sammy Sunshine on Yahoo answers:

When you are truly in love, you will feel it. Not just with butterflies in your tummy (although they are there too!) but with your entire heart and soul.

You will look in his eyes and see your eternity.

You will kiss his lips and feel your spirit take flight.

You will hold his hand and know that you are home.

You will know that your life will never be the same after meeting him.

You will know that you never want to live your life without him.

I Am What I Do

“If I lived my life like you, I’d be bankrupt and on my ass by now.”

I met someone last week that said that to me. Thing is, he wasn’t referring to my life of non-stop travelling; he was referring to my choice of jobs.

He asked me what I did. I said I’m a copywriter, that I do education marketing, that I work in a school, blah blah. He gave me a half-cringe. “Why would you want to market education?” he asked. “There can’t be money in that! Why don’t you work in an agency? Or a big corporation with hundreds of brands? (He works in P&G.) Now THAT’S real advertising,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “It’s just my personal philosophy with regard to work. I just can’t ever do anything I don’t personally believe in, that’s all.” I went on to explain how in my last three jobs in the past ten years (Radio, Retail Bookstore, and Education industries), I’d chosen these particular jobs because: 1) I love music; 2) I love books; and 3) I love learning.

That’s when he said it. “If I lived my life like you, I’d be bankrupt and on my ass by now.” The line was delivered with a haughty laugh of derision just before it. It was a laugh that said, no spoken words required: “You are just a silly little girl who doesn’t know what the fuck it’s like to be in the real world. You think you can live in your little bubble, your fantasy world, that you can actually be picky and choose what you do for a living based on how you feel about it! Hah! Ridiculous! What nonsense! Don’t be a fool. Grow up. Get a real job.”

“I mean, come on,” he said, that don’t-be-ridiculous tone still heavy in his voice, “People work cuz it’s a job. You go to the office, you do your job, and you leave. You don’t have to make it a part of you. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a job. That’s… what… jobs… are…” he stressed, just like he was talking to a three-year-old.

“Really?” I asked. “We spend more time at work than we do with the people we love, or even sleeping, eating, exercising – more than the time we spend taking care of ourselves. And as much as we try to, it’s not like we were built with an on/off switch that we can totally, completely drop everything work-related at the door when we come home, and not think about it anymore. It worms its way into our psyche. It might be the last thing we think about before we go to bed. It frustrates us, angers us, upsets us, it makes it hell for our spouses to be with us sometimes. A job is never just a job.”

Have you ever watched the US game show “Identity”? Contestants have to match individuals to their “identities”, usually occupation-based, going by what they look like. Host Penn Jillette then, in his usual over-the-top dramatic fashion, points at the individual and goes, “IS. THAT. YOUR. IDENTITY???”

Fact is, you are what you do.

I don’t know any individual who truly cared about something and wasn’t doing it. A person who’s passionate about helping people will not be an accountant. A lawyer, maybe, but more often than not, a doctor, nurse, fireman, social worker, counselor, physiotherapist, nutritionist… the list goes on.

Yes, they could work as an auditor and earn truckloads of money, and use that money to help others in their free time. But you know what happens then? This person will get to a point where he or she will wake up one day and go, “Wait. This isn’t enough. This is not really what I want to do with my life. This isn’t who I want to be. This isn’t right. Why am I doing this? Why am I not doing what I really want to do?”

That day hit me, not in bed as I slammed my snooze button at 5:45am, but in the corporate meeting room one dreary afternoon. On the agenda: How can we sell more books, make more money?

Point to note, I don’t think I was too shabby in my job, but there was always this little voice nagging me in some dusty corner of my brain, going, “Why are you selling people stuff they don’t need? Do they really need a whole set of 48 different coloured pens that glow in the dark? Really? Seriously?”

And so I focused on selling books. Books are always good. Books make you smart. Books help you grow. Books introduce new worlds, broaden perspectives. My job wasn’t just selling books. It was encouraging people to read. More nobly put, it was promoting a greater level of literacy in our nation. (Pfft.)

But that day, in that meeting, as the voices around me droned on and on about “profits” and “losses”, something snapped. “I don’t care!!” that voice inside my head screamed. “I don’t want to have anything to do with your stupid bottom line. I just want to get lost amongst these aisles and daydream about characters and their lives. You’re taking away the magic of reading,” that voice whimpered.

But still, all we can do (as slaves to the chain bookstore), is try and ignore that people up there (aka management) are trying to make money from all this. All we can do is focus on what we love about it, and keep at it. It’s what made HARRIS one of the best places I loved to go to – because the staff there really cared. They loved books, they loved reading, and it showed, oh, it showed.

And then reality got in the way. And the bookstore, as many others have, shut. Watching them close one store after another was not only heartbreaking, it was my wakeup call. I refused to do anything that had to do with a corporation trying to squeeze money out of people. No more bottom lines, I declared to myself. I WILL NOT SLOG FOR PROFIT.

And so I chose education. Because, really, how can you ever go wrong with education? At the end of the day, people are learning professional skills and personal lessons, and they will go on to become more improved versions of themselves.

So yes, it may be entirely idealistic on my part to want to work in jobs that I personally believe in. Yes, I do realize that practically speaking, I may very well find myself indeed jobless and on the streets at some point because I can’t find a suitable position that is in line with my values and thinking.

And yes, there are days I think about how, if I actually did a job selling people stuff they don’t really need, I could be a big shot manager by now, and perhaps earning much more than I am now. With that money, travelling would be so much easier, I could go back to school, and it could fund so many more charity projects I want to work on. Just think about that!

But I can’t. In my case, the end simply does not justify the means. Because a job is never just a job to me. It fills my waking moments, it’s what I wear on my sleeve, right next to my emotions. It’s my badge of honour. It’s my name tag. It’s my identity. I am what I do. And so, I have to do what I am.



[P.S. This is truly my personal perspective about my own job choices. This article does not judge anyone’s choices but mine. P.P.S. I love accountants.]

My #nomakeup Story

There’s been a whole trend of #nomakeup campaigns going on, people stripping off their external layers to reveal who they really are underneath. I really respect these people for being able to do that, for being able to present themselves, stripped bare and vulnerable to the world, opening themselves up to ridicule and hate. (It’s a bit like being a blogger, isn’t it! We write our hearts and souls out, just so people can try to tear us down with their hateful comments lol)

But honestly, we all try hard to hide who we really are every single day of our lives. And I’m not just talking about concealer for my blemishes, I’m talking putting on happy fronts to hide the fact we cry alone at night; talking big and boasting shit when we’re really insecure about where we are in our lives; and the most common of all – trying to act like we actually know what we’re doing, when, come on, you know and I know and everybody knows that nobody ever really knows what the hell they’re doing. Most of the time. Even for all their life.

So there’s been a call to share our own #nomakeup stories too – who are we underneath it all? Well, I decided to do one of my own. I’m gonna strip it all. And by all I mean EVERYTHING. I’m gonna take off every bit of my makeup, my clothes, my skin, my flesh, my bones… until all you’re left with is my heart, my mind, my psyche – what makes me ME.

I am going to reveal all the worst parts of me. Terrible, terrible things that I’ve either known about myself for a while or am reminded of when things happen, that I struggle with, in private, on my own, every single day of my life. (I’ve actually removed a whole lot more that used to be there, but these are the ones that are left, and so many are they still!)

These are things that nobody can help me with except myself. These are things that open me up to criticism and hate and anger – and trust me, this includes a whole lot of self-criticism, self-hate, and self-anger. These are the things that are the most awful about me, that I want away, that I fight myself with every day.

I’m not afraid to admit these things, because I know every single day I am working on them. There are days I fail – and those are the days that people will see and people will remember – and there are days I succeed – and those are the days that nobody sees and nobody celebrates except me. But the point is that I will never give up. And hopefully, one day, when you strip me bare, you won’t see any of these things at all. And that will be the tale of the true #nomakeup beauty. But till then, while I’m trying to become more beautiful, on the inside, where it counts, here are the ugliest parts of me:

1) I am an attention whore. I’m really not sure if this has something to do with being an extreme extrovert, but I not only thrive on attention, I seek it. I am someone who actually enjoys being in the spotlight. And when people don’t give it to me – and in the exact way that I require it – I act out.

2) Passive-aggression is my go-to weapon. I don’t know any other way. It comes on naturally and instinctively. I don’t like saying unkind things, I don’t like confronting people, and I don’t like thrashing stuff out. I avoid conflict as much as possible. BUT, I still feel I need to get my point across. So I become passive-aggressive. Sarcasm will leak out of me like a lethal gas. And yes, most times I am unaware of it. By the time I realize it, I’ve killed an entire city.

3) I overthink. A lot. Again, I don’t know if this has something to do with my hyperactive brain that is always, always in overdrive Sports mode and never seems to take a rest – even in the last few minutes before I fall asleep. And if you leave me alone by myself for two minutes, my mind’s at it again. That’s why I have to keep busy, otherwise I get restless, frantic to be left alone with my mind. Solitude is my worst enemy, it seems.

I need to stop overthinking. I need to stop looking deeper into things than at face value. I need to stop assuming that people mean certain things when they don’t. Why do I put meaning into things when there are none? Why do I see things in between lines where they don’t exist? Like optical illusions, my mind tricks me into thinking it’s real.

4) And then I overreact. Not a lot, I can be quite rational usually (only in recent years of course, it took years to come to this point) – but sometimes, yes, I unfortunately overreact. And then I overthink and overreact at the same time. Which is just CHAOS IN MY BRAIN. And something explodes, like a grenade, or a ticking time bomb, a disaster waiting to happen. Why is this happening? What can I do? Was it something I did? How do I make this situation better? And I freak out. When apparently, all I need to do is relax and stop thinking about it. Actually, NOT THINK AT ALL. And let whatever happens happen.

I think the only way I can do that is to stop completely. To switch off that part of the brain. Like when I feel like I’m starting to overthink, I should tell myself, “Ok, stop thinking. It’s nothing. You are assuming again. That’s bad. Think about something else. Like flying zebras.”

Maybe I should actually take a moment, a time-out to calm myself down and take deep breaths and tell myself: STOP THINKING. ENJOY THE MOMENT. STOP READING INTO IMAGINARY THINGS. It’s like a disease that infects me, and infects everything around me, everything I touch.

5) I expect too much. From everything and everyone. I’m such a perfectionist that I expect the world to be perfect – including, actually especially, myself. Well, nonsense, that’s not possible, there’s no such thing in this world. BUT I EXPECT PEOPLE TO AT LEAST TRY. And why? Because I do? But I fail to remember that as much as I am a gazillion light-years away from becoming that ideal version of myself, so are other people. So yes, I really need to expect less. Or don’t expect at all. (Extremely difficult to do, of course) Maybe I should pick up mental archery and shoot down every single expectation bubble or balloon that appears in my mind. *POP* *POP* *POP* Then at least the sky can be clear again. (Except for the flying zebras. They’re allowed.)

6) I’m arrogant. Yes, there are times I feel damn outright superior and self-righteous, usually when it’s something I’m goddamn sure of, something I strongly believe in, or something that, to me, is pretty damn obvious! But yeah well, why do I feel that people need to hear what I think, my opinion, my advice? People don’t need it. They can live their lives any damn way they please – it’s their lives. I am not better than somebody else at living their life. Why am I only humble and take advice from others when I deem them credible enough? Everyone has something to teach us. Shouldn’t I be humble with everyone?

And that is why I blog. Some people share their opinions with others – I started blogging for my own reflections and growth. I started my blog when I was depressed and needed to understand myself better and get out of that funk, and get happy. It’s always been a personal agenda, a personal mission of sorts, and I need to vow to keep it that way and never sidetrack into dishing out stuff that isn’t personal, that isn’t something I’ve personally learnt, and always keep it about me learning more things about ME.

7) I need to trust myself more. And stop seeking approval from all the people around me. It’s everything – even when I’m shopping, I can’t trust my own taste, sometimes I even ask the salesgirl which colour looks better on me! And I can never trust myself when it matters the most – perspectives, attitudes, decisions. I have zero EQ when it comes to trusting myself. I would rather ask people for their opinion and see if it’s relevant to me and whether I can apply it, than admit to myself that maybe the answers are in me all along. I would rather turn to “expert” authors and bloggers and friends than trust my own instincts. Ridiculous, I know, but I’ve never had good results from trusting myself, and so I am pretty much scarred in this area. I really need to give myself a chance.

8) I need to stop thinking that we should treat others the way we would want to be treated. Yes, I was brought up on this Golden Rule, but you know what, apparently it doesn’t actually work in real life. I always feel like I’m giving 100% to people but only getting 50% back, and it hurts to feel shortchanged. But what it is is really just a difference in love languages, so to speak. What is important to me may not be important to them. I might value something that they might consider casual or trivial. That’s where a lot of conflicts arise for me, because we are simply speaking different languages and I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s key to find out exactly what language someone else speaks – I don’t have to speak their language, but then I can’t expect them to speak mine either.

And there you go. Those are probably the Top 8 worst things about me. I know, I know, I suck. I have a lot to work on. It’s tough. I struggle. I fail. A lot. Isn’t it a wonder I can actually still remain happy every day knowing how much I fail? Ha! But there it is. Out in the open for all to see. You can point fingers and criticize me now. But know this: I am a work in progress. And one day I will be a masterpiece. Till then, this is my #nomakeup story. What’s yours?

One order of Happy Person, please!

A friend of mine asked me a simple question the other day: “What do you look for in someone?” And I smiled at her and replied with a simple answer: “A happy, positive person.”

Some time ago, I probably would have rattled off a long paragraph, a list of attributes that might sound a little like this: Someone who’s adventurous, passionate, driven, kind, humourous, intelligent, blah blah blah.

That was before I realised that yes, all those things matter, but there is one thing lying at the root of them – the ability to be happy.

A happy person usually derives his happiness from the things he chooses to do in his life, which he would usually be more passionate about, and that happiness drives him even more. A happy person is usually more open to trying new things and new experiences, and even if it wasn’t great, will still be happy that at least, he tried something new. A happy person knows how to laugh – at jokes, at life, at ridiculous situations, at himself. So on and so forth – but you’ll come to realize, as I did, that it all stems from the ability to be happy.

And yes, it is an ability. You need to learn it as a skill. Yes, some people might have a greater natural aptitude towards learning this ability, but it is an ability nonetheless.

Happiness is a choice, as they say. But it’s not delusion, nor is it escapism. It is the ability to accept external factors and situations that challenge it, and learn how best to work with them – not against them – circumvent them, or search for paths to cut right through them. It’s recognizing the triggers for unhappiness and actively avoiding them, or practicing how to deal with them.

It’s about not being swept mindlessly by every ebb and flow of emotion. It’s allowing things to roll right off your back. It’s selfishly guarding your happiness and refusing to let anyone or anything snatch it away from you. It’s admitting your faults and weaknesses and negative emotions and then choosing to focus on something positive within.

It’s noticing the small things that bring you joy and allowing yourself time to appreciate them and be grateful for them. It’s about the air you exude. It’s the last feeling that washes over you before you fall asleep at night. It’s always having something amazing to look forward to when you wake up in the morning.

And it’s the ability to do all these things on your own.

The problem with all this? It’s not something you can do for 20 minutes a day, three times a week, or achieve though pranamaya or meditation. It is a constant; it needs to course through your veins, beat as your heart does.

Yeah, it’ll take time to get there. Yeah, it might take me my whole life trying. Well, I’d be happy to do so. He should be too. :)

11 Tips to Backpacking Safely

Get not one, not two, but three bodyguards for safety.
Get not one, not two, but three bodyguards for safety.


1. Research first
If you already know your destination, do a little bit of research on it. You don’t have to find out every single detail, but at least know where you’re going and have some vague idea how you might get there. Find out if there are certain periods you should avoid – elections, strikes, national holidays are some. Talk to friends who have been to those countries or cities, or read up tips on forums and blogs.

2. Don’t remain alone
Yes, you started out the trip alone, you’ll be making up your own itinerary on the go, and you’ll head back alone. No reason why you can’t meet people, make friends and/or hang out with others while on your trip. In fact, isn’t that one of the best perks of travelling solo? Those moments spent with new friends I’ve met while travelling are actually some of my best trip memories. Where to meet people? Try hostels, cafes, restaurants, tour agencies, tourist attractions, tourist services (even a laundromat or currency exchange)… so many places! Just be open to saying hi and starting a conversation. Don’t worry about not having a common topic to talk about – for one thing, you definitely both love travelling!

3. Hostels are great
Sure, it’s great to bag a room for 2 bucks. But try and stay in top rated and popular hostels (check Hostel World, Hostel Bookers etc) nearer to the city centre or in crowded locales. Not only are they probably safer, but they are a great place for you to meet people. Make sure the hostels you pick have a communal lounge area or kitchen, or offer dorms of 4 or more, otherwise there’s a high chance you won’t see anyone there for the entire duration of your stay. There are pros and cons to being in a 12- or 16-bed dorm of course – meet more people! But also, a higher chance of ending up with a snorer in your room!

4. Be a tourist
You know what they say about trying to “blend in”? Yeah, well, if you’re a white Caucasian travelling in India, that’s gonna be just a tad tough. And especially for backpackers, with our hippie elephant print pants and hiking boots – and that enormous backpack – it’s gonna be hard to try and smoke anyone that you’re NOT a tourist. So embrace it. Stay within the tourist area, always be aware where the tourist police or embassies are, and rely on tourist booths and information counters when you have queries. And when you want to get the authentic experience, make sure you do the homestay with a buddy.

5. Have a flexible itinerary
Everyone seems to think having a flexible itinerary means NOT having one at all. Well guess what, being fixated on not having a plan isn’t being flexible at all. Some days you’ll find yourself heading off to who-knows-where with a bunch of really fun people, other days, it’s fine to sign up for a day tour or land package with a friend or on your own. What’s most important is that you’re flexible enough to stay or leave. If you like the place, hang around a couple more days. But if you think it stinks, go!

6. Share the adventure
Especially if you’re planning on some adventure, always grab someone along. When you’re out camping or trekking, I’m pretty sure it makes a big difference having someone to call for help when you fall down a ravine. And if you’re planning on doing a solo hike, getting a guide is a huge MUST – and one from a reputable travel agency, not a random local who’s the brother of the cousin of the fourth auntie of your taxi driver – don’t take risks when it comes to your life. Also, don’t take risks with your gear. If you bought your gear cheap in Asia, word is, it won’t last you more than 2 treks. I wouldn’t want to test that rumour.

7. Plan safety
A certain degree of safety can be planned in advance. Book the first night’s accommodation so you don’t get accosted when you hop off (more like stumble off groggily) an overnight train; have the name, address, telephone number and better still, map of your hostel ready for the taxi driver. The other bits of advice will sound a little like common sense: Don’t get drunk if you’re not in company you can trust; be one with your backpack at all times (practice squats with it on if you’re heading to Asia, hint: public toilets); leave the fancy stuff at home (luxury brands, jewellery); try not to get lost alone; get a local SIM card to stay contactable; and always let someone know where you are, even if it’s the teenager at your hostel’s front desk.

8. Money, money, money
You’ve heard this one tons of times before: Don’t carry all your money on you. This is where people start getting creative with hiding their money – in their socks, shoes, hidden pockets, bra… (Just a note, money pouches worn under your clothes only work in cold seasons, when you can actually hide it under layers; try “hiding” a money pouch under a tank top in summer.) But also, don’t carry so much money to begin with. Especially if you’re doing a long trip, sometimes it’s worth paying the extra admin fees to withdraw from an ATM when you need it instead of travelling with thousands of dollars and stressing over where to hide it.

9. Important stuff
Make sure you have both hard photocopies – and soft copies, whether in your email, cloud or dropbox – of all your important docs: Passport, ID, driver’s license, visas, travel insurance, credit cards etc. If you get a new visa or trekking permit along the way, take a photo of it. I try to remember to snap every train ticket as well, just in case I lose it. Also, pack all your medications you currently or usually require (especially if you have certain allergies or conditions), as well as any you might need for your trip i.e. Diamox for altitudes.

10. Lonely Planet
Yeah, this is a whole breed of traveller, and it’s somewhat of a tender, bonding moment when you bump into another traveller with guidebook in hand. I’m all for doing Lonely Planet trips, as long as you don’t turn into one of those people who think the best experience is only the one as exactly stated in the guidebook and who aren’t open to local tour guides, exploring, and creating their own paths. But having said that, as a solo traveller, you can pretty much trust that going with whatever’s listed in the Lonely Planet puts you well within the confines of safe travel. One thing to note though, if you’re taking advice with regard to how much things should cost from the guidebook, check that it’s a recent edition; always leave a little buffer for this thing called inflation.

11. Women travelling solo
A lot of feminists will tell you that it’s just as safe for women to travel solo as it is for a man. I think that’s bullshit. We’re the weaker sex. It’s much easier for men to overcome us by sheer force. And especially for Asian women travelling alone in Asia – it’s easier for people to get away with kidnapping you just because it doesn’t appear as out of the ordinary for you to be in the company of locals as it would for a white female because you (unfortunately, in this case) look local.

So admit your weakness and put in the extra effort to stay safe: Don’t walk around alone at night (actually, after dark), don’t put yourself in situations where you’re alone with a man, always act like you know what you’re doing (confident women appear more in control), dress appropriately and modestly, and try and travel in groups or with other male travellers as much as possible.

Never admit you’re travelling alone when asked, especially by over-inquisitive locals (say you’re with friends), lie about having a boyfriend or husband, heck, even wear a fake wedding ring if you need to. Make up an alias (that’s believable, don’t call yourself Britney Spears) that you can give when fishy people ask for your name, and ask for people’s emails and numbers instead of giving out your information (better still, add them on Facebook, you can always unfriend them later). And if you ever find yourself somewhere that you feel unsafe, immediately head towards families, tourist spots, or religious buildings.

Better yet, try and befriend cute, handsome and/or gorgeous male travellers to be your bodyguards on your trip. ;)

Are You There, Love? It’s Me.


Hey? Are you there, love? It’s me. Yeah, I knew I’d get your voicemail. Sorry for all those drunk messages I left you late at night desperately questioning where you are all the time. I was lonely. That’s no excuse, I know, but loneliness sometimes does strange things to me, makes me a little crazy. I just wanted you to know that I’ve gotten help with that. I forced myself to be alone with myself, and guess what, I’m absolutely fine with that now. I can totally be by myself and enjoy my own company. Turns out, it’s not so difficult to make yourself laugh. I laugh all the time now.

I’m sorry there was a period where I was a bit obsessed about you and calling you all the time and thinking about you 24/7. Things have changed. Right now, I’m super dedicated to myself. I’m focused on pursuing my passions and interests and growing as a person. And I hope that you are too, because if I ever met you again, I’d love it if you were the best version of yourself, the way that I’m the best version of myself now, only because us being the best versions of ourselves would just be completely awesome. And we could push each other to become even better versions of ourselves – imagine all that potential for growth! Wow!

I know once upon a time I told you that I would want you only if you fulfilled a list of conditions. I know, I know, I had a grocery list of must-haves and dealbreakers. Okay, fine, some of them weren’t even very rational. But you know what? I don’t feel that way anymore. You’re welcome to come however you wish. I don’t have a type, you know that. Well, scratch that, I’ll always have a type. But it’s got nothing to do with how you look – it’s more of how you… make me feel, I guess? When I’m with you, you should make me feel… alive. Actually, since I’m already living my life in the most amazing way I know how, and already feel alive every single day, being with you should make me feel ALIVER, if there ever was such a thing. (I don’t care, I’m coining that word now.)

I don’t know how exactly it should feel, but I think it should be easy, natural, free? No pressure, no stress, no mind-boggling games, no doubts, no funny feelings something’s not right. And I promise that I’m gonna be completely 100% open to you. Yeah, you’ve hurt me before in the past, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna lock up my heart in a chest and have it guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Next time, we’ll start afresh, okay? You don’t deserve to be penalised for all the mistakes you made as a different person. You deserve my heart, my soul. Yeah, it’s a huge emotional risk to take, but I’m willing to take it. Sometimes you just gotta take some risks in life, isn’t it? Not immediately, of course. But when it feels right, I will. I’ll give you all of me.

Just to make it clear, I’m not waiting for you to come rescue me or make me feel whole or make me happier or anything. I’m not empty. I’m not broken. I don’t need fixing. I’m not miserable. I’m actually… pretty good! I like the way things are now in my life. I know what I want, I know what I’m worth, and I won’t settle for less. Hmm, come to think of it, I don’t really need anything. I’ve got everything I need, I’m living the life that I want… I guess whether you come my way or not isn’t that important right now, but well, I still have to say, it’d be nice. It’d be nice to have someone complement – not complete – me. Kinda like, my life’s like a gigantic sundae of ice cream topped with hot fudge topped with whipped cream… and you can kinda be the cherry on top. What say you?

But, but! Only if you’re happy too. I choose to be happy everyday, so I hope you do too, because then we can choose to be happy together. Only if you are also in a good place in your life, and crave adventure and peace and music, can take a few minutes everyday to appreciate the beauty of a sunset or a rainbow, and are willing to enjoy little moments and create sweet memories with me. I don’t want you so I can have you and hold on to you. I want to share myself with you, the bits of me that I know you’ll appreciate. I want to inspire you, as much as you inspire me. I want to be able to share you with the world because you’ll bring joy to people as much as you’ll bring joy to me.

So yeah, I think I’ve said all I needed to say. Thanks for listening to me. I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t think I was ready for you before, but I am now. Just so you know, I’m not going to look for you anymore. Because I know that one day, while I’m just minding my own business being awesome, you’ll turn up. Somewhere. In a cosy cafe, on a hiking trail, walking along the river… I don’t know where exactly, but you’ll be there, and I’ll be there, and we’ll just bump into each other, and you’ll smile, and I’ll smile. And we’ll just know. And I’ll say, “Why, hello love. It’s been a while.”


How The Hell I Do It


I’ve been travelling for about eight months now (only!), and needless to say, it’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to more. One of the questions I get asked the most, after “Where have you been?” and “Where are you going next?” is: HOW?? Or to quote some, “How the hell do you do it?!” It is a question that stumbles me, because I’ve never thought of a real answer. (At some point, I’m sure Nike will take me to court for always replying, “Just do it lor” despite my local spin on it.)

Anyway, to clarify, apparently this question questions the financial aspect of my travels. Most people actually know how to travel (duh), it’s basically a question of how I manage to travel and not work, i.e. not have any income whatsoever. (Yes, this was a choice. I don’t want to travel and work freelance. It’s distracting.) My usual answer is I’m looking for a sugar daddy – but then, since I haven’t yet found one, they again question my current source of “riches”. And for the hundredth time: No, I didn’t “strike lottery”. So I thought about it carefully, and here’s my answer, in 9+1 parts.


1. Save money
Old school way, no quick fix about it, I’m afraid. I don’t earn that much, but for six months I put about 70% of my monthly income into savings. Yeah, that means I can’t buy a lot of stuff, but really, what’s there to buy in Singapore? I sometimes shop like hell when I’m overseas though – like a monk gone rogue – (and my travelling companions can attest to this) but I try not to spend too much here.

2. Be debt-free
I’m lucky in that I am 100% debt-free. No mortgage, no car payments, no education loan, nada. The only installment package I had was for Brazilian wax but that’s paid off now and I still have a good year’s worth! I am kinda defaulting on my rent and utilities, but I’ve worked out an agreeable plan with my landlord (aka Mum).

3. Travel alone
Going solo, I can choose exactly when I travel. I can just check out Skyscanner and scan the entire month and pick the date with the lowest fare. Whereas, I’ve found that my more expensive trips have all been with friends – because they can only travel during weekends, public holidays or peak periods – but of course, the extra that I pay, I pay for the wonderful companionship that can’t really be measured in dollars and sense. I mean cents, ahem.

4. Travel with someone
If the dates match up, I’ve found it otherwise better to travel with a buddy because it works out to better savings. For example, I get to pay half the price of a private room, or get a discounted fee for a day tour if booked in a pair. Some tour operators even charge a premium for single bookings. Taxis are cheaper when divided by four, stuff like that. Also, I get to try more food while paying half the cost if there’s someone/other people to pinch from. Heh heh heh.

5. Shack up
There’s a totally cool way in which you can enjoy a comfortable stay and not pay any money (and not have to sleep with anyone), but that’s not the essence of Couchsurfing. It’s about meeting people from all over and the exchange of cultures and knowledge that comes with it. I can’t do it very often because you need to invest time and energy and effort and sometimes I’m just too drained from travelling and just want a quiet place to rest by myself. But when I can, it’s been an absolutely awesome option.

6. Travel easy
I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to a lot of things travel-related. I can fly budget, I can sleep in 136-pax capsule dorms, and I can survive on a loaf of bread. I’ll shell out 500 bucks in one second on a skydive, but I can take a little so-called ‘hardship’ here and there when I need to. It helps if my travelling buddies are similarly aligned too; otherwise I find I usually end up paying a little more for hotel rooms and restaurants, which I suppose is a nice change every now and then.

7. Make friends
Sometimes I hang around a common area in a hostel and kinda scout for anyone who wants to be roomies with me so we can share a nice room. Also, there have been times when I’ve met amazing fellow travellers on the road who’ve had an extra bed or couch in their room (or some space on their extra big bed) and have let me crash at theirs for free (I mean, in exchange for my awesome company).

8. Make real friends
Not just the kind you use and abuse (wait, whut?!). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting really, really wonderful people on my travels and I’m excited that I’ll be able to visit them soon when I head to Europe! Yes, I’m not only grateful to them that this will help with my expenses, but it’s also what will make the trip so much more meaningful and fulfilling, because otherwise, every city is a just a bunch of buildings, really.

9. “Live now, worry later”
It’s a terrible motto to have in life (please stop spending your income on $20 cocktails and start saving for your retirement, yes, even now!), but it’s my mantra for this year of travel that I’ve embarked on. Ever hear that complaint “Got money, no time; got time, no money”? I figured I’m never gonna have both time and money to spend this way again at the same time, so I’m gonna go all the way. Spend now, recoup later. Risky, but you gotta take some risks in life, right?

BONUS: 10. Just do it. Seriously.
Then, there’s always that one part of the question that usually goes along the lines of: “How the hell do you just drop everything and travel?” Simple. You just do. A year ago I read this quote somewhere, and it changed my life completely:

“Do it. Don’t wait for the right time, the right person, enough money, enough time. Do it now, or it’ll never happen.”

I will never forget the day I made up my mind to do this. It was 12 noon. I made the decision, felt good about it, then went for lunch. When I came back to my desk, I received an email telling me I was getting a pay increment. How great! If I just worked another few more months, I’d be able to save $X more, which means I could travel X more months… Then I remembered the quote. There’s never going to be “enough money”. Do it now, or it’ll never happen.

I typed up my letter.

Car Crashes

Thing about living just by a bend on an expressway is, ever so often I just stop whatever I’m doing when I hear a loud screeching and I wait for the inevitable bang that follows.

My parents will immediately run to the window and try and make out where the car is, and what happened, and proceed to curse all the trees that might block their view.

I always find myself sitting down and thinking to myself, “I hope they’re alright. I don’t want them to be not alright. I wonder what they were thinking as the car was crashing. Did their life flash before their eyes? I don’t ever want to be in an accident. And I don’t ever want to lose anyone I love in an accident.” And I’ll start to whimper a little and then feel a lump in my throat. And then I’m fine after a while.

Thing about growing up listening to this is, by right, I should be used to it by now. But a car just crashed two minutes ago, and I find I’m still just as affected as when I was six. And I hope I never lose this fear.

Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t drive.

Don’t Date A Girl Who Travels

This article has been making its rounds;
naturally, I had to give my two cents’.


Don’t date a girl who travels. She’s the one that turns up at a friend’s birthday party in hippie pants, dirty Timberlands and dragging a backpack because she only just came back.

And perhaps she might have the potential to look more beautiful, but she’s not going to shell out big bucks on a nice wardrobe and skincare when nobody’s going to notice how she looks when she’s ziplining across a gorge or jumping out of a plane.

Don’t date a girl who travels because she has no clue where the best sales are in town, or which new DJ is playing at which new club, or what gigs are happening this weekend. Instead, she’ll know useless information like when Rang De Holi is taking place in India, or Songkran in Thailand, or which months are best to view the aurora borealis.

Don’t date a girl who travels. She won’t have a steady income, and she’ll be a scrooge about spending, especially on herself. Worse still, she’ll be impractically generous with spending on experiences and family and friends.

And yes, she will even make ridiculously stupid decisions like turning down a job that offers her twice the amount of pay, just because it isn’t something she’s passionate about and/or doesn’t allow her enough time to explore.

Don’t date a girl who travels if you can’t stand being surrounded by her contagious zest for life and infectious spirit of positivity. You’ll never understand why she’s happy all the time despite having so little in life.

Don’t date her and talk about dreams that you aren’t even making a real effort to fulfill, because she’s been there, done that; she knows exactly what it’s like to have a dream and then drop everything in crazy pursuit of it.

Don’t date a girl who travels if you can’t deal with the way she’s so fickle minded about everything, sometimes needing to plan things in advance, and yet other times so spontaneous. She will never have a pattern that you can predict, and you’ll never really “get” her.

Don’t date a girl who travels if you can’t face the fact that she’s always going to crave the mountains more than she craves you, that she would rather spend the weekend hiking than staying in watching television with you.

Don’t date someone like that if you have a hero complex and need to boost your ego through saving the needy damsel in distress, because she’s way too independent and capable of solving her own problems to ever really need your help.

Don’t date a girl who travels because you’re probably not going to see much of her. She won’t drop all her plans for you. She won’t arrange her flight schedules around dates. She won’t sit by the phone waiting for you to ask her out. She’s got a life of her own.

Don’t date a girl like that because when she is around, when she is with you, when she gets the opportunity to do so, she will love you 100%. She will shower you with kisses and affection. She will embrace and cherish every moment with you. She will let herself feel without fear of being hurt, she will invest her all, and she will throw herself into loving you, because she knows that life is too short to play games or hold herself back or have regrets.

Don’t date a girl who travels, because gawd, she’ll want to share all of life’s beauty and wonders and adventure with you.

And if you do fall in love with one, god bless your soul, because your life is never going to be the same again. Bless your body, that it may be able to keep up with that level of excitement and adventure. Bless your mind, that it can continue soaking in all the wonder that you’ll share together. But most of all, bless your heart, that it doesn’t burst with all that love you’ll naturally feel for someone so amazing as the girl who travels.