Hakuna Matata

I know I usually only write when the down days come so I wanted to pen down some other thoughts too, to show the reality of my mentality and persona nowadays. I want to also remind myself how my thought process and outlook about life has changed.

It’s an early morning, i can’t sleep anymore even though we all slept pretty late last night after pizza and beers.

M and I found ourselves in a nice little community in Berat, Albania. We are part of a team that takes cares of a hostel, we run it and work in different shifts starting from 830am to 1030pm. The synergy of the group is great, we all get along well and I’m really starting to make good connections with them.

Of the 7, we are 1 aussie, me, 3 Argentinians and 2 Chileans. We start talking about how we started slow traveling, and many of them shared that they were looking for better work opportunities abroad, since their countries are so poor. At this point, I take a mental note to appreciate how lucky I am to come from Singapore, where that’s the least of my concerns. I know that at any point in time, I can go back and earn a decent living, save up some money and go traveling again.

We talk about future plans and it seems like everyone is trying to go to Croatia from here. Croatia is an entry point into the rest of the EU so naturally, our plans gravitate towards entering Croatia from Albania. We worry about quarantine, about needing negative PCR tests, about whether there are workaway jobs there…… And then we all resign to the same slogan – Hakuna Matata.

There are worries of course. Many of them. But if I’ve learnt something about slow traveling, it is to let the tides push you along, instead of trying desperately to control every aspect of life. Not trying to plan has been a difficult lesson, but I think I’m getting a hang of it. Letting go of the reins is so freeing. It is knowing that difficulties will come, even more heartbreaks will happen, but that better things will follow too.

I’ve truly learnt to listen to what I want, instead of what I think I should want. Coming to Albania was completely not anything I ever planned to do, but I’m glad I allowed spontaneity to bring me here. Here, I’ve learnt how no plan is almost always the best plan.

It’s important to be authentic. I don’t regret anything that has happened before and I’m really glad I have learnt so much about myself over the last year.

I’m now sipping a cup of hot tea, with ginger, honey and lemon. Drinking too much raki has led me to lose my voice and get a bit of a cold. Cause and effect right? 😂

Brekkie with a view

What I really do enjoy now is the freedom. The freedom to pursue my own set of perspectives, to carve out truths for myself. The freedom to go where I want, spend time with people I like, visit places I want to go to. The freedom from toxicity and negativity, from people who want to pull everyone around them into their psychotic chase of what they think will bring happiness.

Being kind is important, being compassionate is vital, and being all of that to yourself first, is life changing.

“why don’t you come home Jane? What are you looking for? Are you running away from your problems? “

At the start, staying away from Singapore was a desperate attempt to stay away from the memories. But now that I have started to move on well, pictures no longer bother me, and feelings about D are no longer jumbled up. I know very clearly how I feel about things now, and I feel good about the future. I don’t mean to say I don’t feel the sadness anymore, but as most grief exists, it never fully goes away. It remains somewhere in your life, having made a mark once. But it doesn’t hurt anymore.

I’m looking for inspiration for living. I’m looking to continue this nomad life, until one day I get sick of it. Until I want to find a permanent home for my toothbrush. I’m searching to learn even more about myself.

Of course I wanna go back to Singapore. And I probably will soon. I have to pack all my things and sell them. Catch up with old friends and say hi to family. And then ill be off again. If I meet you in Singapore, I’ll give you a hug!

I’ve had many people write to me, pouring out their hearts just as I have to you over the last 9 months. I want to embrace each and every one of you and thank you for being here with me. Your presence has been amazing for me, and I only hope I get to hear your stories one day.

Besos x

Puerto escondido

I didn’t plan on going to the beach. The beacheest piece of clothing I owned was a t shirt, red and white striped and even then it was a little hot wearing that. But I met a few friends in Oaxaca who were heading that way and because I was also pretty tired of looking at buildings, I jumped on the Puerto Escondido bandwagon.

Sunset on La Punta beach

La punta beach, amongst the many beaches in Puerto Escondido, was my preferred one because it had the most relaxed vibe. The beach itself is beautiful and quite long, the waves got pretty big and probably more popular amongst surfers instead of swimmers, but it’s definitely the choice for most backpackers in terms of accommodation. There are more hostels here with very communal vibes. There are also nice places to eat at, not too expensive like on Zicatela beach. Most people walk around barefoot and gather on the beach for sunset every evening

Puerto escondido is on the coast of Oaxaca. You could either take a flight there or a sleeper bus from oaxaca. Its a 10 hour journey and you wouldn’t get much sleep because of the windy roads but i found it bearable and probably better than the day bus that’s for 6 hours but even more winding.

Playa Angel. Small and swim-friendly but not the easiest to get to by foot. Heaps on small restaurants though. Views from the cliffside hotels would be great here
Playa Carrizalillo. Probably the coziest and most swim-friendly beach amongst all of the beaches in Puerto escondido
Early morning surfers on La Punta
Sunset glow on sandy feet

8 days in Puerto Escondido felt too little! Hostel Akumal definitely made traveling solo alot easier. The crew gathers together for shared dinners, volleyball games and sunset evenings, then go out to party together at whichever bar is hosting the mega party of the night. The sunsets steal the highlights of the day because they’re so breathtaking. You start getting used to them but then leave Puerto and start missing them.

Time stops in Puerto Escondido and worries are taken away when you’re surrounded by people with good energy, fresh food to eat and the ocean’s lullabies.

The best of Scotland’s miles – NC500 route

The plan to do the 500 miles of Scotland’s Highlands started as a seed, implanted in our minds when our workaway host told us about the magnificent views we could see.

This seed took root and bloomed into a spontaneous decision once our friends living in Scotland confirmed that the drive would be one of the best in the world. We were curious, and the anticipation grew quickly as we started looking at vans to rent.

The first day of the trip, we packed our bags, threw a double mattress in the back of our rented van and off we went. Armed with 20 litres of water, ten cans of tuna and spam, a loaf of bread, some vegetables and fruit, and a downloaded map of the route, we were ready to explore the Highlands.

In the east, we saw endless fields of golden wheat and uninterrupted views of the sea constantly accompanying us as we drove along from Inverness to Dornoch beach, and all the way up towards John O’Groats.

As you drive up north and down the west, the landscape changes drastically as you see the fields roll into hills and valleys. You start feeling smaller and marvel at how insignificant we are compared to this land that’s been around for billions of years.

All along the NC500 route you’ll find castles, gorges, great hiking routes, plenty of small towns with their boutique stores and seafood restaurants. You can also opt to take ferries to the different Isles, and spend extra days just camping on Ben Nevis.

I’m already missing the adventure of exploring the Highlands. We had 8 days of very good sunny weather so the beauty of the sea, hills and fields was glorifyingly displayed to us.

I enjoyed having little plan for the day except for a rough idea of where to go to and if we should find places to refuel or get groceries. Camping around does require more effort to find public toilets so you don’t resort to leaving human waste where ever you park.

Apps that I found helpful were Park 4 night and All trails. The first helped us to find many good overnight places, with updated comments from previous campers. It tells you which are paid campsites and which are free. The second told us where good walking and hiking trails are, and gave directions on how to drive there too. Of course, downloading offline maps on Google will help too if you don’t have data. WiFi at tesco was great, also the bathrooms and cooked meals there turned out extremely helpful.

We met campers from all around Scotland as well as from England and Wales. We’ve had coffee from neighbors and in the mornings, were given tours of their van set up. Some looked shabby but cosy, some looked extravagant and well lived in. The van life definitely attracts the in-built explorer in many of us who come visit the Highlands and choose not to stay in hotels.

Van rental was about $90 sgd for the 2 of us per night, inclusive of insurance. For meals we ate ham and cheese sandwiches, sometimes canned beans and tuna or spam. Lots of raw vegetables like carrots, peppers, Zuccinis and tomatoes. If we had a cooker it would have been much better but it was a last minute plan to do this trip so food was of little priority.

The sights of Scotland are so beautiful, I only hope you will visit the Highlands yourself and come to witness it too.

Should have stayed in Ksamil

There are some places that make you regret leaving so early. Ksamil is one of mine.

30 mins South of Saranda by car, Ksamil is her younger sister with less traffic, restaurants, and hotels, but more beautiful beaches and a slightly more hippy vibe.

For 3 days, all I did was go to the beach, at Guapa loca beach club and lounge for 6 hours, intermittently tanning till it gets too warm then dipping into the refreshing ocean. Its about 5-700 lek for 2 sun beds, and prices for food are roughly the same as you would pay at a restaurant in Sarande. 4 to 10 euros for Grilled vegetables, seafood pasta, calamari or Grilled fish.

In Ksamil you can also find Butrint national park with a city that is more than 2500 years old. The city itself is pretty fascinating, and the views from it help you understand why the Romans loved it so. It would take about 3 to 4 hours to slowly roam around so pack a lunch with you. There are buses to this park from Ksamil centre, or even from right outside your accommodation so just ask. If not, hitchhiking in Albania is common too.

Read up more about the city https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/570/

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/570/

Sarande, Albania

Sarande, although full of tourists in the summer, is well worth staying for a few nights if you have at least 2 weeks in Albania. The good thing about here is the availability of good food everywhere, the walkable distance to different beaches and the lovely views from the monastery and the castle. We stayed here for 3 nights and really enjoyed going to Haxhi restaurant the most for their good food and excellent service. We also met very accommodating owners at Saranda Holiday rent a car when we wanted to rent a car. From Saranda, you can visit Ksamil, Lucove beach, Borsch and the Blue Eye.

The different beds

When we got married, D and I went shopping for a bed for our new home. For 30 minutes we were choosing between a queen sized or a king sized bed. “we should get a good bed since we’re going to be sleeping in it every night and also for at least 15 years” – our rationale for eventually splurging a good amount on a king sized bed, with an extra layer of bamboo-something, making the bed so high I often had to tip toe to climb onto it.

It was a really comfortable bed. But I probably only enjoyed good sleep on it for 6 months before I started losing sleep. It wasn’t the bed of course. It was the myriad of problems we were avoiding thinking and talking about that stole sleep from me. Very often, on the bedside table on my side of our bed, would be a glass of whiskey or gin, filled almost to the brim, just so I could drink myself to get rest, on this expensive hotel-grade bed.

I remember my childhood bed, a mattress I had slept on for at least 15 years and hugged my body just the right way. In it, I spent many nights worrying about the next day’s exam, fighting giggles while talking to friends past bedtime, crying my eyes out over puppy-love breakups. This bed was where my dog would jump up onto, to cuddle with me, where I would bend over to throw up when I got really sick, and what I eventually felt I was growing out of, once i started wanting to move out of my parents’ house. This bed was where I spent three years sleeping in the dark, after my uncle had drowned in the sea, and after I had dreamt of him sleeping beside me, cold and wet. I think and wonder how I wasn’t more afraid back then. But beds are beds, and I still needed to sleep in mine no matter.

On my brother’s bed where I woke up, the day after our marriage fell apart, I remember the pain soar up to my throat, to my head, into my fingers, my legs, but finally in my heart. My eyes burned up immediately with tears, and I stumbled into my parents’ bed, dragging myself into the space in between them. My parents, half awake, put their arms around me, like they used to when I woke up from a nightmare as a child. There, I cried a deep cry, thinking I would never recover from a pain like this. In their arms, they held me while they soothed my cries, unable to do anything else to help their darling daughter. Beyond my pain, I felt theirs. I felt their helplessness, and their hearts break ten times more than mine. There, in their bed, I was once more their little girl. I remember the pain but I no longer feel it anymore. All I want now, is for my parents to know that their little girl is doing much better now. I try to show them I’m doing well, but I fear they will take much longer to heal their own wounds.

The eventuality of beds is such that we find rest in them no matter how the day went. I thought about this alot as I slept on a rickety rackety sofa bed for a month, back when I was in Oxford doing a workaway for a single mum. It was slanted to one side and so my body was almost always slanted through the night. I would wake up with bad neck aches and still, I was much happier than I was on my King sized luxurious bed. I was free.

In Mexico, where I made my bed changed alot. A mattress on a floor with my two friends sleeping in the same room. A bed in an attic with a huge painting of an old man staring at me. A bed in a hostel where everyone felt immediately like friends. A bed on an island where I got bitten by the most vicious bugs, but where I saw the most beautiful sunrise.

I would wake up one day, feeling sad from a nightmare, haunting me from the past, and another day, feeling refreshed and excited for the future to come.

In the last 8 days, I slept in a rental van, on a thin mattress borrowed from a dear friend. Driving around the North of Scotland, this mattress saw some great sunsets. From the side of a lake, to a cliff overlooking the sea, this bed took me all around the NC 500 route. Laying between me and the cold hard floor of the van, this bed gave me some of the best rest I’ve ever had. I’ve slept better here, than in some hotel rooms.

It’s interesting that I feel more at ease on a stranger’s bed. I feel more rested in a bed I will only spend a night in, than one I can call my own. I think it is the mornings that feel different. On the road, while traveling, the day is always full of mystery. I never know what will happen, who I will meet and what new things I will learn. It’s the adrenaline of new sights and sounds that make every bed I sleep in now, more well used, for I fall into such deep sleeps and fascinating dreams.

What is Workaway?

I was in a hostel in Prague, talking to Matías, when he shared with me about Workaway. It’s how he got this job at the hostel, bringing guests out to pub crawls, walking tours, hosting game nights and partying with guests in different clubs every night. Tough job eh? In exchange, he gets to lodge in the hostel for free and 2 meals a day taken care of. He also gets to meet hundreds of people a month, travellers from different countries, and exchange stories and experiences.

I googled workaway and signed up immediately for access to the platform. Its USD $42 for a year. If you’re curious about the kind of hosts, you can easily Google Workaway and check the hosts out now. You don’t need to sign up for it to explore. You only need an account to send hosts messages.

Workaway is basically a platform to connect travellers with hosts. A host is anyone who can offer accommodation (and most times meals) to travellers in exchange for some help. What kinda help? It depends. The description of duties would be clearly stated on the host’s listing, along with the kind of sleeping and living arrangement provided. Work is expected to be for 3 to 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

There’s an app access too once you sign up so it’ll be easy for you to track messages.

I thought it would be difficult to find a host. But I found one within a week, after sending out 5 or 6 messages to hosts in Spain. At that time, I really wanted to go to Andalucía so I searched for a workaway there.

Unfortunately, I got stuck in England even before I could get to Spain, so I had to kiss my South Spain dreams adiós

The good thing was that there were plenty of workaway hosts in UK. I’m now staying in Leicester, working alongside 2 other travellers with our host family.

Questions I can currently think of:

1. Is there a minimum stay period? I would say no but of course, most hosts would request you stay at least a week or sometimes a few weeks, depending on the skill required. This platform encourages a cultural exchange, as well as some form of mutual benefit to both parties. If the job requires teaching of skills, hosts would typically want you to stay a while longer if not it would be tiresome having to retrain people all the time. Then again, some hosts just need help with daily chores so people might come and go as they please.

2. What kind of work will it be? It depends! Could be anything from being a crew on a sailboat, to babysitting, or even just house sitting. My previous workaway required us to babysit and do some light gardening, but this current one involves more manual work like digging holes, building bonfires, sanding bricks etc. I’ve also seen hosts needing help with taking care of huskies in Iceland, horses in Scotland, teaching english in Vietnam. The type of work varies so much, everyone can find something for them.

3. Is there an age limit? Minimum to sign up is 18 but no maximum age. In fact, if you have a browse around the website’s blog you will read about 60 year old doing workaways. Some hosts even prefer taking more experienced travellers because they need their level of skill.

4. Can you travel as a couple or family? Yes to both. You can even sign up as a couple to save costs on membership fees. Just make sure hosts can take in your group size.

5. How do you get confirmed? After setting up an online page, start sending your hosts some messages! There are certain things you can clarify with them first before confirming the job. I usually make sure I know what the job entails, where I would be sleeping, if meals are provided, if they can pick me up from a certain location, timings and hours of the job, nearest supermarket, if I can cook for myself, if there’s fridge space, if there are laundry services, free WiFi, etc. The best way to get personal is to ask if they’re okay to do a video call. That way, you get to virtually meet them and suss their vibe out before you actually commit. Once you do commit, try not to cancel last minute as hosts would have turned down other travellers after confirming you.

6. How do you choose a reliable one? Similar to most apps, they have a feedback section. Read through the feedback section, you can find out more from past travellers. If they have no feedback it might be because they are new hosts. In that case, rely on your savyhood and suss them out during your interactions. If in any case, you get there and don’t like your host, I would usually just make sure I can find cheap stays close to their location JUST IN CASE I need to GTFO immediately.

7. Why do a workaway? It provides you to live out your dreams. If you’ve always wanted to live in a yurt on a mountain, a dog shelter, learn permaculture skills, practice the languages you’ve been learning on Duolingo, sail from Greece to Canary Islands, help restore a 500 year old castle, tend to sheep in New Zealand, learn pottery making……… And yet want to do it cheaply with little commitment time, Workaway is the best way to do it. For long term travellers like me, its a cheap way to travel, but also my preferred way because I get to experience local life and be a part of families, have a home away from home.

8. Why not do a workaway? If you only have a few days and want to have a luxurious holiday, obvi this isn’t the best option. If you don’t like living with strangers, if you’re not open minded, adaptable, friendly, sociable, and basically expect to do as little work as possible, workaway isn’t for you. The best way to enjoy a workaway experience is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone!!

Challenge yourself to go out there, and think positively of your experiences that are to come. I’m so glad I got introduced to workaway, so early on in my travels, so that I didn’t have to waste too much money on hostels and airbnb.

I never thought I could travel for more than 6 months, or even a year. Because I don’t have skills to be a digital nomad. Because of workaway, I can be just a nomad! Haha. I hope this helps all of you dream a little bigger in terms of your traveling plans. Here’s a link to some other questions via the webby. https://www.workaway.info/en/info/faq

Hasta luego, muchachos!

Live and let live

I’m so out of my comfort zone, I think to myself.

I’ve been sanding down bricks for the last 3 hours, and praying for the “dinner” call. Here in this family, they term lunch as dinner and dinner as lunch.

I look over at the fifteen bricks I’ve sanded down in the last 90 minutes and feel a pride surge up. My arms are aching so bad, my nails are non existent, and my work clothes are covered in clay dust. I’ve never done such a job before and I wondered if there was any scenario back in Singapore that would have given me the opportunity to do something like that.

View of storm in his play pen while I sand down bricks

I’m the only girl living here as a workawayer, together with two other guys my age. One is Lee, Brazilian, previously in the military. He’s introverted, loves animals and spends most of his alone time playing computer games. There’s Matias, from Chile, who has a masters in neuroscience and likes to read up on philosophy in his free time.

Then there’s the family. Mark and Caroline, together with their 2 sons, Lance and Miles, and one more Foster son who’s not living in the house at the moment.

After work, I plop down in the big couch and whip out my phone. A Facebook reminder reminds me that our boat wedding was 2 years ago. Memories come flooding by and I can still hear the music ringing in my ears. I can still see the smiles on my friends and family’s faces. Who was that Jane, living that life? I don’t recognise her. And yet, it definitely was me. The me who believed I knew what I wanted life to be like.

I haven’t got a damn clue. But I’m soaking it all in. All these unique experiences I wouldn’t get if I had stayed in my comfortable Singapore.

Mark hands us cans of shandy and we sit together, the 4 of us. He starts telling us the story of how he got to own the estate. The house itself is big, 2 floors, many rooms, and the land is about 4 acres big. He tells us how he used to come by the place on his paper runs, and started helping John, the owner, do odd jobs around the house. Eventually, he moved in to help do more restoration work because the house was in a bad condition. Years pass and John, who never got married, gave the estate to Mark, if only he and his family would look after him in his old age.

Just like that, Mark came to own quite a piece of property! He tells us how he worked for many years to build this place up and that one day, his sons won’t have to do all this work, but that they will reap the benefits.

I like Mark because he’s kind to people. He has a “live and let live” motto and that was probably what earned him this piece of property. Thing is, he never did the work with the intention of owning the house. He just went about his life, doing the work, and being kind to people. His job didn’t define who he is, the way he treats people does.

I realize that we often put a value to people in our lives. Why do we do that? I’m reminded by Mark, it really doesn’t matter how much people earn, what they own, and what they do for a living. It matters how we choose to treat them.

I’m embarrassed by an incident that happened recently. One of the neighbors was watching us work, and staring at us intensely. I smiled and said hi but she only opened her mouth to say “you can’t be piling up dirt here. The council won’t allow it!” I ignore her and keep at my work. The next time I looked up, I saw her taking photos of us work. I couldn’t believe her audacity. An anger washed over me and I snapped at her. “You can’t do that. Take a photo of us. That’s rude! We’re not doing anything wrong. Delete it.” she shook her head and walked away.

We told Mark about this incident and he had a word with her. “hi Margaret, we’re just about done with this pile, and we will be done. I just wanted you to know these lads are with me and they’ll be no trouble at all” she started off complaining again but then mellowed down once Mark kept his cool and friendly demeanor.

The following day, while we were working, Margaret comes over to us, holding a box of freshly baked scones. We figured it was her way of a peace offering and I thanked her.

“live and let live” – mark’s simple and plain motto.

In the day, this motto seems really easy to uphold because I’m having so much fun, and being so free, free from…. Everything back home in Singapore. But sometimes, the dreams come again. And they stand to remind me how much baggage I have yet to overcome. I wish I had stood up better for myself sometimes, but I’m also proud that i stood my ground in being kind to D and his fiance. Is being kind being weak? I don’t know really. I don’t feel weak though, I feel strong.

The days here fly by fast. I’ve been cooking lots of Asian dishes for them. On free days, we open up the summer house, spread out blankets on the grass and bathe in the sun.

Sun bathing

I’m thankful for this time in my life, to explore the world and absorb everything it is trying to teach me. I may be confused all the time just about everything, but I know that in time to come, it’s just about making decisions. Sometimes, it’s also just about enjoying life the way it already is. Salud everyone. Enjoy the sun!

What are you doing now, Jane?

It has been 5 months since I left Singapore, and i thought I would miss it more. But frankly, I’m really glad I didn’t rush to go back during the covid call backs because this physical and mental space that I have from loved ones and familiar faces is exactly what I need.

So, even though I think about family everyday, especially my aging grandparents, and I miss them dearly, I’m sticking it out and traveling around the world for as long as I can. Until.

Until what? Until I suddenly have a lightbulb moment and think “okay that’s my life’s purpose”? Until I run out of money? Until I find a new place I wanna live and settle down in?

Who. Knows. The answer is “I don’t know.” but this is also why I’m writing my thoughts down. Because I’m painfully aware that even if you have a job, or you already have kids, or you are about to get married…. Many people still have no clue as to what they want in life. Or what they’re doing, really.

At least for me, I feel as though this question became a default search in my search engine. “what can I use my life for?”

When I left Singapore, it was meant to be for 6 or 7 weeks. I was going through a weird phase in my life involving an ex husband and his current fiancee. Sounds messy? It was 10 times messier than you can imagine. But also quite funny how everything panned out considering everything. Maybe I’ll open up about it in time to come, not the deets but more on divorcing and how people don’t talk enough about it but long story short…..

I left Singapore furiously trying to numb the pain from a pending divorce and found myself in Mexico.

My first week in Mexico, I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings. My good friend Tim, had to drag me out on my first night, tell me to my face “it’s going to get better, Mexico is going to heal you” and you know what! He was so right and more. Him and Carlo shared their room with me in Mexico City, fed me, drank with me, danced with me, and showed me around the city for a few days until I was ready to leave on my own.

The first city I went to sólo, was Guanajuato. I planned to stay 3 nights, and booked a quaint room in an airbnb. It was quiet, peaceful, about 25 mins walking distance from town centre, and everything I needed. I allowed myself time to mope around and cry, call my friends and family for comfort. But when it was time to go out and explore, I put on some music, sang along to the songs, put on some make up and off I went. I walked down the streets and alley ways, got lost and found great eateries and bakeries. I took a funicular to the highest viewpoint and sat for 4 hours just reading, writing, smiling to tourists and letting my mind sit.

Guanajuato was a great start to the trip and it showed me how my mornings could start out horribly wrong. But also how in just a few hours and a good walk later, my afternoons would turn out to be amazing and drastically different. That’s how I went through the first few weeks of my pain. I pushed through it. It was so much easier to stay in Singapore, hide in bed and watch soppy movies all day. But I took a flight to Mexico instead, stared the pain in its face, and said “Im not afraid of you”. The one thing I was determined to do was NOT go around the pain but THROUGH it. And I’m so, proud of myself for that. I’m sorry it took 5 months for me to realise I shouldn’t be shy about this fact. I’m so proud of myself for dragging my ass to Mexico.

It was also in this time, that my friends and family really stood by me to give me the mental and emotional support I needed. I never knew how a call could sound so warm, that I could feel a hug through their voice and in those moments, feel comforted. While i was transiting alone in airports and feeling like “wtf am I doing i can’t do this maybe I should cut the trip short” my friends and family stayed up late on their phones for 2 hours giving me pep talks. “Jane I’m telling you, you’re so strong, you can DO THIS. U GO OUT THERE AND SMASH THIS TRIP” “Jane I promise you, in just a week you’re going to feel better, just breathe”. I’m also absolutely thankful to have parents like my mum and dad. Most parents would have lost their minds with a kid like me. But my parents instead, said “if we could fly out to find you, we would be on this adventure with you 100%”. Without my troop, I would have already lost the first battle.

Later on while I moved around in Mexico, I met so many amazing travellers and got thrown into a fast track management program but one that was for the job of Life. I met an a Australian who has been traveling around the world for 12 years , and finally found home in Mexico where she runs a cafe in a hostel and cuts hair for people just for fun. I met countless of others who decided that their home countries just wasn’t exciting and liberating enough for them to explore their talents. For some, it was also because their home countries weren’t safe and stable like Singapore. To them, the world provided opportunities for business, an endless source of inspiration, people to connect with, and THAT idea connected with me.

So I told my mum that I was delaying my return to Singapore, and booked flights to Berlin, Paris and the UK. My plan was… No plan really. I had a few friends in these places I knew I could stay with. And my search was and is really, just for inspiration and new experiences.

Covid later on, took the decision making burden out of my hands. Instead of going to Spain for a workaway, I ended up finding one in the UK. Workaway is a platform where travellers can stay with hosts (for free) for short or long periods of time depending on the job. We do 5 hours of work a day for 5 days a week in exchange for that accommodation (and most times at least 1 meal a day) and get 2 days off. The idea is that a cultural exchange takes place while both parties benefit mutually. The type of hosts varies from farm owners, to hostels, and can also be people building their own houses or running their own resorts.

Anyway, the idea of doing a workaway wasn’t really daunting at all. But I guess I want to start sharing my travel experiences since my friends and family have been telling me to. Ive also realized that it’s absurb to some singaporeans that I’m doing this.

The idea of an NUS graduate, with a good head on her shoulders, choosing not to get a job or an advancement in a career… But instead, traipse around the world with little to no plan of how to “save for a future” is absolutely ridiculous. Rebonkulous. Strange. Bewildering. Confusing.

Well, this is me now, inviting you into my world of strangeness. So that anyone who’s interest I’ve piqued can either live vicariously through me, want to show their kids how not to be me, or be inspired to start their own journeys, however small or big they are.

I’m currently in Leicester, living in a house that’s 150 years old. There are altogether 9 of us humans, 3 dogs, 3 puppies, 4 fowls, 100 odd pigeons, 2 pigs, 1 horse and wild foxes and badgers that come and go. With quite a bit of land to take care of, and some restoration work to do in the house, I’ll be here for a few months, and will share whatever I think of that might be interesting or cool.

I’m 28, coming out of a marriage, haven’t got alot of savings. Before I left Singapore, all I had on my CV was 3 years of working in an insurance company, 2 years of doing various part time jobs such as teaching kids how to swim, bartending, giving tuition, and working in a hostel. Am I making a mistake by abandoning prospects of finding a good and “stable” job? Who knows. Will I heed the advice of my relatives and stick to a 9 to 5 even though I wouldn’t like it, just so I can build up my CPF? Absolutely not.

People ask if I know what I want to do in life. Yes…. I have an idea of what would be a dream goal. I don’t know the steps to it, and also, if I ever will get there. But I do know that for now, my path lies outside of Singapore.

So there……as my JC friends nicely put it, I guess for the foreseeable future, Jane will be a Jypsy. A wandering traveller, in search of something. Come along on the journey if you’d like a bit of story telling. I’ll be as authentic as I can, and share with you the good and the bad. Adiós for now. Stay strange in these strange times.

It’s not the art of doing nothing, it’s the art of doing only one thing

I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of meditating and I’m pinching myself for not having started earlier. My mind is used to taking new concepts and thinking “okay now I have to make this a routine so I can get good at it” but in the process of reinventing myself, I’m allowing genuine interest to take control of when I do or not do something. Naturally, my focus goes to things I’m good at – Spanish class, sketching followed by meditation.

But I’d like to expand on what learning about meditation has taught me. The meditation technique I use is not the kind that teaches you to empty your mind, it also isn’t transcendental meditation (TM) because I couldn’t be bothered to find a certified mentor to help me. My friend introduced me to a form of meditation that basically just focuses on using breath to feed the “monkey mind” while training your mind to be aware of thoughts, not resist them.

https://youtu.be/lt9OcLynjwE

The link above would help with information on the technique.

While meditating, a thought came to my mind. That this could apply to alot of things that we do in our daily lives too. It also reminded me of a book I once read that talked about putting down our utensils after each mouthful of food, so that we can savour what we’re eating, and taste the different textures and flavours of the ingredients.

Just like we would give our 100% to a concert we’re watching, or a movie, something as simple as eating also requires our 100% focus and attention, so we don’t lose an opportunity to take joy in something as privileged as a well balanced meal. It’s ironic that we would pay $300 for our senses to be overwhelmed in a concert, when we can pay $3 and equally indulge in the senses we arouse while enjoying a meal.

I remember how I used to multitask all the time. Texting while walking, eating while reading, constantly finding ways to save time and make my life more “efficient”. But I never learnt the art of savouring time. What was I saving all the time for, when I wasn’t using it on improving myself or expanding my knowledge on things? The minutes I saved, I didn’t spend on sleeping more, or reading more.

The next time we eat, we shouldn’t pair it with a Netflix movie, or be checking on social media. Maybe for just one meal a day, we can start by just taking a bite, putting down our utensils instead of prepping for the next, and then just….. Eat.

My uncle used to sit my cousins and I down and make us chew 30 times before we swallowed our food. His point was to get us to digest our food better but I think he was on to something! Something as simple as taking time to chew, something everyone can do, would benefit us in the same way as meditation does.

When we focus on things we are currently doing, on one singular event, perhaps we will then allow other thoughts to come to us freely. If we are eating, we eat. If we are walking to somewhere, we focus on walking and maybe enjoying the view around us while we do it. And just like when we meditate, we focus on our breathing and let thoughts freely come and go, so we create space to allow inspiration to flow through our minds.

I like this life I’m living now. I can feel my thoughts expanding in range and in perspective. I think differently, more acutely and more freely. I’m excited for the days to come.