A Promise, a Dream and a Plan

 

This year, while still very young, has me feeling old. I know no-one likes a Debbie Downer so I’ll keep the downing to a minimum. Essentially the hit my immunity took a couple of months ago has left my body a wreck, prone to falling ill again and also making the recovery very slow. Not one to pop pills, my new best friends are ginger, lemon, honey and hot water. Oh, let’s not forget good old black pepper. That leaves me thus: a blocked-nosed, pallid-faced, lackluster little dreamer.

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Dreaming got me here, after all!

Oh no, the dreaming must not stop. Though I read something profound on a traveller’s page the other day, about not thinking of something as a dream, but as a plan. Inspiring. That’s what it was. Why do we relegate the things we want with every atom of our being into those wispy puffs of fantasy that disappear faster than the sleep we rub from our eyes each morning? Why must it be a dream? Why not a goal, a plan? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to dream, I’d be lost without it. However, for a dream to have substance, there must be some work to propel it forward from the ether.

As you can see, in all the time that I try to force myself to nap (and fail over and over again) in a bid to regain some energy, I do some thinking. And I thought, in relation to the promise I made myself this last birthday, why was that trip so monumental? I mean, it wasn’t like I went on an ayahuasca (which I didn’t know existed until a few months ago) self-revelatory trip to some obscure town in South America. No, I did something most people would probably find tame, I went on a trip, albeit alone, spent a week there and thoroughly enjoying myself, came back a happy kitty.

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So, what changed? It was the promise. It was this: before, I’d always waited around for things to happen. Waited for someone to make me feel special on my birthday and ended up disappointed. But in all fairness I had said I didn’t want a fuss (when an over-the-top fuss was what I did want). Something about the way I was brought up to refuse offers of gifts, help or food. Don’t ask, I’m as stumped as you are! And let me tell you, refusing food when your tummy is growling like an angry Bengal tiger isn’t very convincing.

What changed was that I decided I’m not going to wait around any longer. My happiness, my responsibility. Did I have to travel to another country to figure this out? Not really. But you know what, having all those beautiful, endless views of the sea, the gorgeous food, and first-time experiences didn’t hurt! Not one bit.


How is your 2016 going so far? Any new life philosophies picked up along the journey of the last one? Also, any advice on how to shake a pesky cold & cough?

 

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Oh Fernweh’s Year In Review

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Finally caught a sunrise this year. Somewhere between Malaysia and India.

Oh Fernweh was optimistically begun in March of this year, only 9 months old and in that time much has happened. Firstly, I declared that my love for travel was no passing affair, and that I wanted to pursue it as a prominent part of my life. And I did that as best as I could.  I created a bucket list and ticked off a destination that was one it, and went to another that never featured there. As for my ambition of going to three new places this year, I’m going to cheat and allow myself some breathing room for visiting Kochi thrice and landing at Kuala Lumpur where I expected a relaxed layover that turned into a sprint with my little strolley. Thanks Air Asia! :p


Let’s take a look at where my fernweh took me, and what I did there.

  • First international trip in 15 years. Yes, 15.
  • First solo trip – and that, to the beautiful Bali. Still hungover from the beauty and a marvellous je ne sais quoi that suited me perfectly.

  • I snorkeled, again first time! And saw a bit of the amazing underwater world. Having no photographic evidence to show for it has made me determined to get an action camera for the next time. Saving up as we speak.
  • I had a variety of animal encounters. I touched a baby white tiger, an elephant (which I had actually done before), held a giant fruit bat, a rare sea turtle, an eagle, a hornbill, held a baby siamang gibbon, and had some pretty colourful birds perch on me.

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  • I swam in the sea for the first time. Sure, I’ve spent many, many days by the sea in my life and played in the waves, but swimming, na.
  • I got paid for my art and my writing, separately – ecstatic about this! I include this because it was all a result of my travelling.
  • I embraced Kozma Petrovich Prutkov’s wise words: “If you want to be happy, be so.”
  • I went on my first familiarisation trip, to Chhattisgarh.
  • I took my mum and sister on a holiday to Goa. Yep, wrote all about it back in April.
  • I travelled quite a bit within my own state.
  • I made friends with people not of my own age; an author and a chef! And others of my age, all passionate about travel. Double goodness!
  • I got to test the theory that I’d love to travel alone and happily proved myself right.
  • I had some excellent meals!
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Best meal of the year! Ayam Bakar at Man Dollow’s Café in Nusa Dua, Bali. (Sorry that the photo is blurry, it’s one of my greatest regrets!)

This year has, as evidenced by all the great things above, been wonderful. I lost my way and found it again. I learned to persist in my dreams, to not let someone else’s (whoever they are) idea of success and a life worth living make mine feel any less worthy. The amazing experiences this year have shown me that no dream is too big or unreachable. I learned a little bit more of who I am, found that I enjoy my own company, and that it’s okay that I might never be at an all night rave.

You'd most likely find me like this, chilling all day with good food and drinks. And having an early night where I snuggle in bed reading. No shame in it at all!

You’d most likely find me like this, chilling all day with good food and drinks. And having an early night where I snuggle in bed reading. No shame in it at all!

Above all, I learned that life goes on and that when we’re given those rare second chances, we should recognise it. Never settle for anything less than you deserve BUT continue living in the meantime. There is no excuse for wasting time, none of us has a backup supply. Get the dress, book the tickets, invest in your life and savour every experience – that, my friends, is what it is about. Nothing more.


How was your year? Did you achieve all that you set out to? Are you looking forward to 2016 as much as I am?

Start 2016 The Right Way, With Giftxoxo

The mad rush of Christmas shopping and gifting is over, and now everyone looks for that perfect dress to wear to the New Year’s Eve party. Arm candy having been secured, all that’s left is to pop open the bubbly, count down the last seconds of 2015 and hope the next year will be even better than this one. Now, for someone such as myself, the perfect way to start a new year would be with a new adventure, a trip somewhere or learning something new. Begin as you mean to go, as they say.

imageThis is where Giftxoxo comes in. The brilliant people over there have compiled and curated the best form of gifting there is: the gift of experiences! 

I am someone who likes to receive and give personalized gifts, not neessarily handmade, but with enough thought in them to be meaningful to the giver and receiver. If there is someone special in your life and you want to show them how much they mean to you, look no further. Giftxoxo has eliminated the time-consuming need to browse identikit gifts on shelves, virtual or solid, trying to find some semblance of a personal touch. From the comfort of wherever you happen to be, you can choose unique gifts that will leave lasting impressions. Be it an adventure, a painting class, a very special way to propose or an unforgettably decadent meal, it’s time to gift memories.

Giftxoxo has certainly widened my options and let me tell you, they’re putting the ‘joy’ back into the joy of giving.  They have a wide range of activities, adventures, getaways and sheer joy-inducing offerings such as this wonderful chance to learn to bake with friends and family. Why not send your hardworking mum, wife or sister on a spa day, and end it with a special dinner for two at that restaurant she’s been talking about for months? Or surprise your dad with some golf lessons? A few clicks is all it takes to rekindle romance, spend some one-on-one time with busy ones, and just show that you care.

As the years go on, we all realise that the best memories are never tied to things, but to people, to places, and experiences. In our busy lives we often forget that we don’t know how long this adventure called life will last, and that we must make time to let people know how much we love and appreciate them. If that sounds anything like you, what better time to put in the effort and make fresh memories than the occassion of a new year? With options in over 20 cities, I’m sure you’ll find just the right present this season at Giftxoxo. Go on, gift someone a new you, and who knows, maybe a new them.

An Impossible Love: The Time Traveler’s Wife

 
I read a lot, and I mean a lot! The only times that I didn’t were when I felt the most disconnected from who I am. Books have been my companions through homesickness, then later through farsickness. Whether I am grounded or 30,000 feet in the air, rare is the moment when I am not accompanied by one of my trusty friends. There are many books that have touched my heart, leaving me broken at the end, sobbing like I’d lost my love, and ones that left me wistful (because it was over) but happy and glowing. I don’t usually talk too much about books I’ve read or ask for suggestions because tastes vary wildly. 

This is an exception though. Maybe because it was that much of a blind path I set down with this one, The Time Traveler’s Wife. I hadn’t heard much of this book, and didn’t personally know anyone who had read it. While flipping channels many months ago, I did feel intrigued by the title of this book (as a movie) among a string of others. I never watched the movie though, and got the book as a back-up read for my recent trip to Bali. I wanted to start December with ‘After You’, but then I knew I’d race through it and want need another one to keep the sadness of not having another Jojo Moyes offering for a while at bay. The Time Traveler’s Wife was my pick, I didn’t even glance at the author’s name, just hit ‘Buy’ on my Kindle.

It might seem weird to many of you, but one of the things I most like about getting a book by an author I’m not familiar with on Kindle is that I don’t check whether they’re male or female. It makes reading the story more interesting for me, guessing who penned those words. So, diligently not skipping the author’s note (no name mentioned there), I started the book. It took just a few pages to know I’d care deeply about this book, that I would be left devastated at the end. After I finished, I did find out that it was written by a woman, and I wasn’t expecting that for some reason, which made me love it even more. 

As is my usual style, I galloped through the story. And then forced myself to slow down, only taking small bites of the book at a time; a feeble attempt to eke it out for as long as possible. Then towards the last quarter, knowing the inevitability of imminent heartbreak, I tried to get it over with sooner rather than later. Like yanking off a Band-Aid.

Oh, this book touched me, it moved me. I haven’t read any others based around the theme of time travel before, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. But why should it be compared? This is only my opinion and my experience of it, after all. Relatable human emotions, flaws and stupidity woven together with the eternal feeling that haunts us all in one way or the other: love.  It made me laugh, cry, and cringe. It made me angry sometimes and it also made me believe. I’m not talking about the concept of time travel and chrono-impairement though. I will keep this book close to my heart. And when I have a house of my own that has more bookshelves than any other type of furniture, this one will be up there with the favourites. Oh, and I wish Audrey Niffeneger would finish writing Alba’s story soon!

Bali – The Wonderful Beginning

I’m back from my momentous, ice-breaker of a trip and still giddy about it all. When I started this blog, I remember dreaming of going somewhere alone, just me, my passport and a bag. I wasn’t sure how it would happen, let alone if it would happen. Now look at me, first solo trip done. And thoroughly enjoyed! I always knew I’d enjoy travelling alone, and am just so excited for all the places I have yet to see.

I chose Bali because I was enchanted by pictures I’d seen, photos by friends who had been there, and a sarong that a family friend brought back for me from the island some 18 years ago. *I am usually someone who, when left to her own devices, picks the most absolute worst item on the menu to try.* Not this time though. This time, I hit gold! All the way, baby. I am so glad that it was Bali that I went to, wide-eyed and happy, because I came back equally wide-eyed and happy.

The night before I had to come back home, I remember lamenting the unfairness of the tricks of time, slowing down and speeding up at the most inopportune moments. I wanted to make those 8 days stretch for an eternity. Then I asked myself, who is stopping me from going back? That’s right, no one! And once that realisation struck, I was back to happy.

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Nusa Dua beach – where I spent most of my first day. Blue sky, clear waters, salty air, what more could one ask for? Perfection.

In the ‘land of gods’ as Bali is affectionately known, I found my creative home. Other than the effortless beauty of this gorgeous little island, the food, and the friendly people, I was absolutely captivated by the art, carvings, handicrafts and pure talent. For someone looking at the items on display from a tourist’s point of view it might get tedious. But for me, looking at them through artist’s eyes, the aesthetic was immensely inspiring; one of the main reasons why I am boldly declaring that this is only my first trip of many to Bali.

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Batik weaving on a traditional loom.


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The application of hot beeswax by hand, one of the crucial steps of the process of Batik printing.


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Batik patterns on a finished bit of fabric.


Wood carving, so intricate, so detailed and delicate!

Wood carving, so intricate, so detailed and delicate!


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Buddha – all shapes and sizes, only my luggage limits stopped me from throwing all my money at this place.


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How graceful!


These are just glimpses that I caught on my camera. Most of the time, I even forgot to click pictures as I was gaping at everything in wonder. (Now there is a little something I’m holding back from sharing, merely because it isn’t 100% set in stone, but once it is, the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.) In the meantime, my creative juices are flowing and I have so many ideas teeming in my head, so many new dreams acquired and more castles in the sky to build. To be honest, there’s so much this trip did for me, on so many levels. Above all, I feel gratitude that it was possible. A trip hasn’t ended; in reality, what has happened is the beginning of a lifelong affair with this island.


How many of you fell so in love with a place that it felt like returning home? Which was that place? Let me know in the comments, and as always,

Happy and Safe Travels, my lovelies! x

Selamat Pagi from Bali

So my trip to Bali finally rolled around in the midst of a rare bout of cough and cold (I rarely fall ill), and low energy. And yes, of course the routine depression when you realise you’re turning yet another year older. The 6 hour layover at Singapore Changi airport would have been easier to bear if I’d made it in time to register for the free heritage tour they had going on. Not to mention the fiasco it took to get me to Kochi in the first place. I found myself fearing for the rest of trip, lest this was an omen for things to come.

Then this happened:


Okay, so not an omen then. Phew. I have already spent two nights and one day on this beatiful island where the people are friendly, everywhere I look are frangipani trees, the weather is balmy (not my favourite but hey, I did choose a beach destination), the food is amazing and the rates affordable.

As I turned 29 yesterday, I spent a relaxing, lazy day on the beach at Nusa Dua. I lay down, looked at the endless blue of the sea and sky, felt the breeze in my hair and watched as the dappled sun falling on my bare legs played hide and seek with the shadows. I read some pages of the much awaited After You by Jojo Moyes, contemplated life, stopped caring about most things I usually worry about and just was. A yummy lunch with a glass of white followed by a languid-paced walk and foot massage at Bali Collection saw a perfect day pretty much winding down. I came back to my hotel, swung my legs in the pool and sketched one of the water-spout holder ladies pictured above.

No birthday cake, no candles and no annoying singing of the (recently allowed for public use) ‘Happy birthday’ song. And yet, it has to be one of my favourite birthdays ever, probably my favourite actually. Now I find myself sitting by the pool with a platter of fresh fruit beside me and the sound of the water gushing from the lovely ladies’ pots into the pool and making a promise – that each year, I’ll do something like this for my birthday, for myself. And to top each year’s experience with the next. It may be a tall order but I won’t know till I try!

Ready, set, panic

pa*Let's just understand that 'panic' in the title is a verb. Okay, thanks!:p

I remember a naive me, sitting in this very same seat, tapping away at my keyboard 3 weeks ago, all calm and collected. Anyone see that person around anywhere? If you do, please let me know! I am now 5 days away from my much awaited (understatement of the decade) trip. And about as prepared as a jellyfish is for a life on land. Well, maybe just a tad bit better than that. Let’s take account.


Packing

  • Not even close. Usually I have some kind of clue as to what I want to pack. All I have swimming around in my head right now are: swimsuits, palazzo pants and shampoo.
  • Do I roll, fan and spread, or just go with traditional folding?
  • With a luggage limit of 7 kgs (yes, I picked that option), I have to pack much lighter to allow for the souvenirs I’ll pick up.

Planning

  • Zilch. Nu-uh. Nada.
  • True, I have asked some people who have been there before for help but I have to consolidate all the info into a plan.
  • I have vague images of snorkeling, the Gili Islands, cocktails and nasi goreng in my mind.

Budget

  • Again, I have a blanket sum that I can spend comfortably but that’s about it.
  • Day to day expense limits have to be calculated.
  • Occasional luxuries to be accounted for.

Keeping Calm

  • Not happening. I’m actually just penning this in a sneaky tab with work screaming to be finished in 4 others.
  • Zits. Yep, the stress ones! Nooo…. my pretty as a fairy Instagram pics seem doomed from the outset.
  • Emergency holiday diet begun in lieu of exercise, which I can’t find time for. Hate to report that cravings for the bad stuff are still in the building.

That’s all folks. Well, not really, but I must get back to work! Have a laugh at my expense and Happy Tuesday all! x

Sunday Pampering

I have so much reading to catch up on in the blog world that it is a little bit scary. How am I going to read more than 2 weeks’ worth of stories from all the wonderful people I follow? I have, sadly, been neglecting my little blog here too. Instagram and Facebook can be swiped through, a double-tap here, a like there, and an extra comment for good measure. But blogs, well, they need time and frankly, for me, a quiet space in which I can read without interruption. Which doesn’t seem likely to happen for the next few months.

I woke up today with the date flashing in my mind and my mental countdown becoming a little frantic for my upcoming trip to Bali. Yes, I want to get excited, I want to jump about and start packing. Yes, you read that right – packing. Two weeks in advance. Deep inside, that is how excited I am. Currently though, I have to mask it and carry on with mundane tasks. Another week, and I’ll let the dam burst open.

In the meantime, while I am firmly grounded and just waiting to catch my next flight, let me talk about other things. It’s Sunday today where I live and traditionally, Sundays have been for pampering and relaxing. Since I was around 14, this day of the week has been the one where I spend a bit of extra time on myself. At boarding school, we’d oil our hair the night before and wash it off in the morning, all shiny and ready for the week ahead. That practice has been let go of lately, simply because I shower after my workout and I refuse to jump about and lie on my yoga mat with oil in my hair.

I have been blessed with thick, healthy hair. Yes, I do complain about it sometimes, but I love it at the end of the day. Isn’t it amazing what a haircut and blow dry can do for a woman’s confidence? Same goes for when you can run your fingers through healthy, smooth hair. I do not believe in infusing my hair with chemicals, I did it once and swore: never again. There are alternatives, fret not. Today I’d like to share two hair masks that have done wonders for me.

1) Egg yolk and oil hair mask

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This is pretty simple if you’ve ever made mayonnaise. All you do is take a dry bowl, add in one egg yolk and whisk. Dribble in a tiny bit of oil and whisk well to incorporate. Continue to alternate with a tiny bit of oil and thorough whisking until the mixture is pale (around 30 seconds). After this, you can add in a bigger splash of oil and whisk, alternating until you have a thick mayonnaise. Apply liberally to hair, from root to tip. Leave on for 30 – 45 mins and wash off. Shampoo and condition as usual.

2) Avocado hair mask

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Another simple one, folks. Scoop out the flesh of an avocado, and mash it up in a bowl (I like to use a whisk. You can pop it in your blender if you prefer). Next, add in some olive oil and honey and mix well. I use sesame oil because I find it nourishes my hair very well, you can use an oil of your choice. Again, apply liberally, all over hair, but not too much on the roots if you have thin hair. Wash off after 30 – 45 minutes. Shampoo and condition as usual.


So how are you pampering yourselves today? Try these out and let me know if you like them. Happy Sunday, all! x

The Countdown Begins

Pixabay Image Courtesy: keulefm

Pixabay Image Courtesy: keulefm

Okay, so technically it may be a bit early, but who are we kidding, the countdown must begin! A month from now, somewhere around this time, I will land in beautiful Bali, Indonesia. To say I am looking forward to this trip is an understatement. To be honest, as with most things I look forward to, I’m afraid to jinx it. This time though, I’m letting all those doubts and unnecessary inside-head dialogues go. Go. Go, be free and don’t bother me.

I made a public announcement to break up with my favourite shopping site, Jabong, a few weeks ago. I am a little bit embarrassed to announce that I haven’t been able to keep myself away; man, J tempts me with these amazing deals and offers, and even makes me feel special by saying, “Psst, items in your wishlist are on sale.” I’m no weakling, but a girl can only hold herself back so much. I have been getting items with a view into the future (I’m being cryptic for now, deal with it), and I know that isn’t what one is ‘supposed’ to do, but I can’t remember the last time I gave a flip about what I was supposed to do. I have no intention of breaking that streak now that the going’s good. So yes, I have many nice new summery dresses, swimsuits, a spankin’ new carry on case, a handbag, a sling bag, new sandals, and assorted. I will follow the philosophy that has got me this far: Thou shalt not regret a purchase. Ever.

Where was I? Oh yes, the classic, wandering off despite having a map in hand that is my USP. Bali. That picture up there makes my mouth water, as do the innumerable Google searches that lead me to Bali’s precious ‘secrets’, what I must eat, what I must see, where I must go. I might be being a little over-optimistic (that’s a thing, right?) with all the things I want to actually eat, I mean I have a tiny appetite and a long list in my head, but I’m going to try dammit. And can I also say, I am so looking forward to Instagram-ing the beep out of my trip! Oh, yes!

The actual list making will be done in the last week before the trip, because I don’t want to be jumping around like the Energizer bunny for a month. This is my way of being Zen, or pretend Zen. Turning 29 in Bali, I can think of worse things I can do on my penultimate birthday before the big 3-0. Ha! If you hadn’t guessed, this post has no real purpose than to release some of the energy that surged through me upon waking up and looking at the date. So, my fellow travellers, help this girl narrow down the “must” lists with your valuable suggestions and experience. Oh, and I’ll make sure to tag you in the photo on the iconic swing in Gili Trawangan as a thank you! 😀


 

As always, Happy and Safe Travels all!