A Tiny Island Home

It’s been a while…

….But here I am.

Life has been exciting, crazy, and so very busy. I’ve been in several countries around Southeast Asia in the past few months. I even made it back home to Canada for about ten days in April.

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What’s happened since then? I received my CELTA certification at IH Bangkok in March and started teaching English in Hanoi in May. We planned to stay there for some time, but alas plans always change. We lasted 2 months until we found ourselves packing our backpacks again and chasing after another adventure. I guess my ESL teaching career wasn’t meant to last long at all.

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At the beginning of July I made it back to Thailand, on Koh Phangan. Back to the island where we were almost a year before, where I felt a deep calm align within me. When I finally felt like a “free traveler”. This was the island where I finally felt comfortable riding behind my love on a motorbike. Where we were able to take aimless trips along roads surrounded by untouched jungle and beach-filled horizons. This is where I feel grounded, and at home. It’s been almost 2 months and I have never felt safer and more at peace with myself. I can see myself start a journey here. Perhaps even find a way to bring all my talents and qualifications into a dream come true. Somehow find a way to share and give what I can offer the world. On a tiny island home.

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Love,

Kristina

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A Love Story.

For the past several years I have been spending my summers on a tiny tropical Island off of Lombok, Indonesia – Gili Trawangan. My family first discovered this beautiful paradise in 2007 when we were invited by a family friend to spend the Christmas holiday with them at their villa. We spent our time soaking up the sun, enjoying the lavish villa, and most importantly taking our fist SCUBA lessons. It was magical. From that year on we continue to return, as we were absolutely hooked by the diving and the atmosphere of the island. A few years after that first visit my family had the greatest luck and bought a villa of our own. Years have past, and I have gone through so many dive courses, certifications, and qualifications on that island. It holds a special place in my heart. I have so many good friends and colleagues on the island, and I am comfortable and familiar with its rhythm.

 

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Sister and I playing in our pool

 

Just like anywhere it isn’t always beautiful on paradise. Life is life, no matter where you are. I believe being a part of such a small community has some down sides to it. There are so many people who have made their life and living on the island as dive instructors or hostel/bar owners, however because the island is so small there is a huge clique environment surrounding the expat/dive community and a lot of gossip. Sometimes being there, I feel like I’ve never left high school. It is also hard to be there as a young adult when my first few trips were as a teenager – and many people remember you as just that.

As a teen I was just like any other lost and -at times- not so smart girl. I was starting to get more and more attention from the boys and I had no idea how to handle it properly. I loved the attention, I am sure we all do to some extent, but it also got me into a bit of trouble. One holiday I was doing my advanced dive course and a boy one year older than me (18) was in the middle of his Dive Master Training internship and was helping out with the course. We hit it off, and it was great to meet someone on the island your own age (the island is for backpackers in their late 20s and also family holiday-makers). Before I could process what was happening, I realised this boy wanted more than to just be dive buddies! He took me out on a date and I past my curfew. Oops! Of course, the whole island knew about it the next day.

 

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Little peak of our pool area at the villa

 

I returned to the island for the first time on my own, after my first year of undergrad (I was 19 then), to carry out my Dive Master Training. This was in the year 2010. I was doing my internship at a new dive school that was opened by another family friend who lives and works on the island. I was the first DMT of that dive shop. At that time it was a lovely quiet place since it was the beginning of this dive school’s business. That year I really enjoyed myself. I made other DMT friends from other dive schools, and I went out at night with them. And I had more guy trouble. I never pursued any of them myself, during that time I had entered into a new relationship with a guy I met back in Canada at university. But, gossip prevailed. No matter, I stuck through it and I didn’t really bother about what was being said. Who cares! Things were well with my new guy and I back in Canada and we stayed together for four years after that summer – even if I went back to Gili for a few months every summer holiday.

 

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Back from a dive

 

In the summer of 2014 I was back again, working at the same dive school I did my DMT as well as my Instructor training. That year was my second year as an instructor working with students! It was really exciting. This year was the first summer holiday between my two years of grad school. I really needed my island, the beaches, and diving more than ever. I was so stressed from the work I was doing for my Masters degree. That year I wasn’t even that sad to leave my Canadian boyfriend behind. Well, anyway I knew I would return as I always did.

All was going as it always had until I was teamed up to teach a dive course with this extremely hot French instructor. We clicked immediately. We were so in-tune with each other that many of our dive students and costumers thought we were a couple! I was so confused – my feelings for him came out of nowhere! We talked about all of our dreams and woes, late into the nights behind romantic beach settings. I told him a truth I never realized myself until then: I was bored back home with my Canadian boyfriend of four years, with that way of life, and once graduating from grad school I knew I would be lost and bored and depressed. We kissed. Many times. I knew things would never be the same back home.

 

 

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Dreamy sunsets make reality seem so far away…

 

I was so stressed about these developments. At first I pushed my feelings for him away and tried to avoid his romantic gestures and invitations to spend time away from others. I was afraid of what these people at the dive school would say. From my past experience I know how terribly they gossip and stick their nose into your personal business and, of course, they knew I had a boyfriend back home. I didn’t want to be labeled as an unfaithful person. And I definitely did not want all those other silly rumors that started while I was a silly teenager, being chased by boys, be turned into some idea of my character. But, of course, they saw something was going on and they drew their own conclusions. They didn’t know the struggle I was going through, the doubts about my relationship and my unhappy situation in Canada, and they definitely didn’t know how confused and cautious I was when dealing with my feelings for this new man. So they assumed the worst, and I was sure they had very negative thoughts about me at that moment. This made me feel really upset, because I love these people so much.

I left the island before he did, as his contract to work at the dive school was for much longer. On my last night we stayed out all night until I had to gather my things and leave in the early morning. We managed to separate from the party and shared many romantic moments until the sun started to appear in the horizon. We promised we would try to find a way to keep in touch, to find a way to see each other again soon… somewhere. We both knew that was a hard promise to keep as these romances that happen while travelling are fleeting and once back to your reality they seem like a distant dream.

I was depressed; I was slowly making my way back to Montreal more confused than ever. I stopped in Singapore for a few days before flying back to Canada. A day after I arrive he writes to me and tells me he is coming after me. He left his job on the island suddenly, booked a flight out, just to see me one more time – to see if we could find a way to make our lives connect. Those days we spent in Singapore finalized our fate. I ended things with my Canadian boyfriend even before flying back to Montreal. My French man and I promised each other we would find a way to be together. September rolled around and I had finally moved out of my now ex-bf’s place and got a place of my own, my French man bought his first ticket to Montreal to find me…

Three plane tickets between Paris and Montreal later, we are now travelling Southeast Asia together as a couple.

We have officially been together for about a year and a half… and I am so happy.

 

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Brunch in Kuala Lumpur

 

 

What Have I Learnt:

Follow your heart and your dreams. Don’t stay in a situation because it is easy. This was the biggest lesson I learnt from my experience that summer. I was scared because deciding to be with Gaspard (yes he’s the French man, I am sure some of you knew that!) meant I was throwing everything I knew that was safe and sound up into the air. But at the end I did it, and my dreams to travel and make a life that isn’t your typical “American Dream” have commenced.

 

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Gaspard and I meeting Parrots in Bangkok

 

I must say that year we spent while I finished my Masters degree and he was stuck in Paris flying to see me in Montreal were difficult. This past September we reunited back in Singapore where it all started and we are stronger than ever. It is still a tough road, we are always in need to find solutions that work for both of us so that we can continue to travel and be together. We are currently apart again sorting out our next move. I will write about that soon!

 

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A pair of Bowling Feet

In conclusion:

Follow your heart – no matter how scary it may seem. Use your brains, your skills, your creativity, and you will always find a solution to fulfil your heart’s desire as well as do what you need to do to continue moving forward with finding a career and a lifestyle that makes you happy.

All the best in life and love,

K

If My Cat Could Speak…

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I look over and down at my cat who is sitting on the floor beside my chair. He is looking back up at me. As our eyes meet I can’t help but ask, “Mr. Fish, what on earth are you thinking about? What are you really trying to tell me?” I think I know my fur-baby quite well, and I am sure every cat owner will tell you the same. I am pretty in tune with Mr. Fish’s needs, what his meows are telling me: “Feed me”, “Play with me”, “Cuddle me”, “Drop everything you are doing and pay attention to me”…

 

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What if one day I woke up and Mr. Fish could speak? What would he say? What does he truly think about me? In lieu of these questions, I decided to create a funky projective exercise. Lately my Facebook feed has been full of status updates answering a questionnaire about friends. I decided to take those questions, and adapt it.

 

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Here is what I believe my kitty Mr. Fish would answer about me:

  1. How we met: One minute I was in this glass box, and this handsome man took me (who I now know is Daddy Human), placed me into a cardboard box (which wasn’t very comfy), and took me away into the cold. Half an hour later I was placed on a soft warm surface, which I now know is called “bed”, where I broke free from my cardboard prison and first laid my eyes on Human Goddess.
  1. Who are you to me: You are my light, my love, my Human Goddess, my playmate, my food-giver…my mommy!

 

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  1. Your favourite moments with me: When you are there helping me attack my teddy, named Mr. Fly, when we play hide-and-seek and tag, and especially when we cuddle up under the blankets together and sleep in each others’ arms.
  1. Rate from 1-10: You are beyond 10 my Human Goddess!
  1. What I like best about you: I like everything about you, you are perfect, and you are beautiful. Oh, and I am so grateful to you for feeding me and giving me treats too!

 

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  1. What I dislike about you: I only feel sad sometimes, when Human Goddess cannot play with me, or pet me, or pay attention to me – when she is busy.
  1. Favorite memory of us: All of my memories with you are amazing! But my favourite one would be when you tell me you love me and feed me treats, and pet me while I purr really loudly and then we give each other head-butts.

 

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  1. My first impression of you: Meow-wow! What a beautiful Human Goddess! She is so warm and loving to me! Must develop an attachment to her now!
  1. How close are we: We are beyond close. So close, that I feel jealous of any other human who takes my Human Goddess’ attention away from me. Yes, I am talking about you Daddy Human! She’s mine!!!!!
  1. Where do you like to spend time with me: Beside her, on her, in her lap, at her feet… as long as we are touching, I like it!

 

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This was such a fun exercise. It gave me a chance to look back at my relationship with my animal companion and appreciate the bond I have with him. Do you have an animal friend? Why don’t you try this super fun and quick exercise, and if you do, I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers!

K

I dedicate this post to my furry Siamese love, my beautiful cat. I love you Mr. Fish!

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Backpacking Through Asia: What’s In My Backpack?

In June I made a big move, leaving my home and most of my possessions in a box back in Montreal, and headed out to South East Asia. I am lucky to have a ‘home base’ in Singapore where my parents work and live. On the first of July I left Canada with one big suitcase, one small roller suitcase as carry on, a backpack, and my cat. Having said that, my packing process for my backpacking adventure through SEA started a few months in advance, and had a few steps that probably helped me make sure I didn’t end up over-packing when the time came to start my backpacking adventure.

Leaving Montreal to Singapore gave me the opportunity to go through a huge cleansing process where I challenged myself to an exercise where I really looked at all my material possessions and asked myself, “do I need this in my life”, “Is this worth keeping and storing for the future”, and “will I need this while in SEA”? I ended up packing a few medium sized boxes that fit into my friends large car, most of the items inside were books, bedding, and a few winter clothing that I still really love. The rest I gave away to friends, or charity, or sold. What remained were the items I believed I needed while in Singapore and especially while backpacking through Asia.

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I now travel with an Outgear Mortiz 65L backpack. The size is actually bigger than necessary, which means I have lots of space left over (makes packing easy!). I enjoy this style because it has a zipper opening in the center, which allows you to pack your bag as if it was a duffel bag. It also has another zipper near the bottom so I have complete access to all parts of my backpack. I never use the top-loader method. That string is always drawn and tucked away. Inside there is a pouch on the back where I store small things I don’t always need, and a zipper that allows you to separate the inside of the bag into two sections – but I don’t use that feature. Finally my backpack comes with rain cover, I always use it when moving as it tucks away all the strings and straps and helps me feel like my belongings are safely secured away. I also use a Targus backpack as a ‘carry on’ where I pack my valuables or occasionally use on day trips.

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When September rolled around, my packing process for backpacking was that much easier, as my possessions on hand were already quite minimal. Here is what I have packed for four months travelling SEA:

 

Clothing:

  • Underwear/Bralettes: I pack it into a mesh wash bag to keep them all in one easy place. I say take as many as you want, they are small enough to stuff in your bag and you never know what you’ll need and when laundry will be available!
  • 3 socks: Good for cold transportation journeys and when wearing closed shoes.
  • 3 Bikini Sets: This may be too many, but when spending time near a beach you’ll want variety… not to mention a fresh dry one while your other pair is still drying!
  • 2 Shorter Skirts: I packed one plain/one printed. Honestly, I could have done with only one. Oh well!
  • 1 Skirt Knee Length: For temples and more ‘modest’ occasions. This is one item I wear a lot!
  • 3-4 Shorts: Bring both denim and non-denim. I know many lists out there recommend only one pair of denim shorts. I wear denim almost all the time and I always have one black and one blue denim pair with me.
  • 2 Long Lightweight Pants: I have the typical pair of ‘gypsy pants’ you can find in any clothing stall or store in Asia. I also have a long black pair for travel days or days when the air is chilly.
  • 3 T-shirts: For times you must cover your shoulders or cooler days… one of these pair is cropped for ‘fun’ occasions.
  • 6-8 Tank Tops: For those hot days/at the beach… basically every single day! Bring as many as you feel you need. I bring a variety of colour and style from basic to more funky ones for special days and evenings out.
  • 2 Long-sleeved Tops: I have two basic long-sleeved shirts that are thin and easy to fold but keep me warm.
  • 1 Cardigan: I have a really old thin scraggy sort of knitted button-less cardigan that I shove in my bag and bring with me – and use all the time.
  • 1 Sarong: A multi-purpose item that you must have. These are sold everywhere in Asia so it is easy to acquire one even en-route. Use at the beach as a cover up, as a picnic blanket, as a blanket on travel rides, as a scarf when cold, as a cover up at temples etc…
  • 1 Scarf: I have a spring scarf that is the same size as a sarong but is in a thicker material. I use this as an extra cover up if my long shirts or not enough to keep me warm.
  • 1 Dress: For day or night use
  • 1 Belt
  • Sunglasses: I bring more than one pair – in case one breaks or gets lost. I also think they are small enough to have a few on hand just to keep things fun!
  • Flip Flops: I wear this almost everyday
  • Sandals: I wear these occasionally if I go somewhere where flip-flops are not respectful. It’s old and almost falling apart and perfect for travel.
  • Closed Shoes: I have a small easy to pack pair that I wear on days when walking or motor biking is abundant.

 

Toiletries:

  • Travel sized shampoo, conditioner, shower gel
  • Face Wash
  • Shaver
  • Toothbrush and medium tube of toothpaste
  • Travel sized hair brush/comb
  • Lip balm (with SPF)
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30)
  • Loofa: I have my travel cloth version – foldable and fast drying. This is an optional item.
  • Birth Control Pills: If you use any that is!
  • Feminine Hygiene Products: When and if necessary.
  • A Cloth Laundry Bag: Use to carry  your dirty laundry in your backpack and easily bring to laundry services.

 

Luxuries:

  • Basic Makeup: Eyeliner, mascara, lip tint.
  • Basic Jewelry (not including the jewelry I wear all the time!): Earrings and necklaces for those more fancy days.
  • Other Beauty/Hygiene Essentials: Nail clippers, tweezers, hair elastics…
  • Essential Oils: I never go anywhere without some aromatherapy. I like to use the wellness company Saje for all my natural remedies.

 My essential travel oils are:

  1. “Arrive revived” – a blend created to fight jet lag and fight fatigue.
  2. “Om” – a blend that promotes calm and grounded energies. I use this as a perfume to help stay mindful and fight anxiety during the day as well as during my yoga practice.
  3. Sandalwood – I have a 10g container of solid sandalwood perfume that I use for all occasions. Sandalwood scent is known for its calming properties and has a special respect in many eastern cultures and religions. My perfume is blended with citrus, which gives an extra energy boosting quality to the scent.

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Miscellaneous:

  • Passport: Jacket optional
  • Photocopy of Passport: You’ll never when it will come in handy.
  • Itinerary: This isn’t necessary, but if you are flying some airlines want you to have your printed e-ticket with you when you check in.
  • Wallet: Cash, bank cards, other personal ID cards etc.
  • Earphones: These are always great to have on hand if you want to listen to music or watch movies
  • IPhone: For the moment I do not own a camera that I really enjoy. I noticed my old iPhone camera is a load better than the old camera I had. For now, my iPhone is basically a glorified camera and music-playing device that accesses Internet for Facebook and Instagram, and other apps too.
  • Lock: You never know, you may need a lock to secure you backpack or use at a locker.
  • Purse: For those days/nights out when you don’t need your daypack. I also use it to pack smaller items in one place to access it easily in my backpack while travelling.
  • Extra Passport Pictures: having a few at hand can speed up visa applications!
  • Book: I still read physical books. I enjoy handling them; it’s quite an authentic experience. In many popular backpacking destinations there are second hand bookstores that allow you to trade in your book for another second-hand one for free or at a very low price. Score!
  • Laptop: I blog, Facebook, Skype, work on our travel project ilefthome.com, and – yes even Netflix – on the road.
  • Chargers: DO NOT forget your chargers for the electronics you bring! Not to mention have the proper adaptors!
  • Hardrive: This is not necessary, but as I said I work still while on the road and I like to keep my documents on my backup drive.
  • First Aid Kit: Check out my 12 First Aid Kit Travel Essentials post!
  • Notebook and a Pen: You never know when you’ll need to jot things down; even write a thought while on the go.
  • Personal Medication and Documentation: I have the added responsibility to keep up my health and monitor my PKU. PKU is a rare metabolic disorder, which I manage by taking an enzyme replacement drug. Simply put, these medications help me break down the foods I eat (especially high-protein foods) into the proper healthy chemicals that help my body thrive. I started this backpacking journey with about a 5/6-month supply! With all those pills in my bag I also have a printed copy of my prescription and a medical note from my doctor incase I have any troubles at border checks etc. Phew!!

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Ready to go!

This seems like a long list. I am not the lightest packer – I still enjoy having some luxury items with me and a few extra wardrobe choices – however my backpack is still less than 10 kilos and I am able to easily carry it on my own. You can pack whatever you want/need as long as you are able to carry your backpack on your own and travel comfortably with it! As long as you follow that rule you are golden!

Happy packing!

K

To the Roles I play: Emerging into my Self

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Dear Self…

There have been a few occasions where I have spoken to someone about my educational background and achievements, and they have expressed surprise and have been impressed. “Wow, already a Master’s Degree and only 25!?!?” I am aware that there are many young 20-somethings who have achieved as much as I have academically; I am not claiming I am some sort of unique case.

What I would like to express is my reflection upon my journey as an academic – dare I say an intellectual – and what I feel it means to my self-identity and general overall being.

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I guess the proper place to start is late high school: The typical lost and somewhat unhappy teenager, who doesn’t seem to feel like she fits in with most of her classmates. One thing she knows is that she has a strong passion for a few things and she focuses on these. She has loved the theatre and the performing arts since she was much younger and is always involved in some production or other. She even studies it as one of her subjects. She really enjoys studying psychology and was thrilled to learn she could take it as one of her subjects of study in her last two years of high school. She is an MVP in the varsity volleyball team. She seems quite well rounded, and indeed she is. She knows what she wants and where she wants to go… academically that is.

I believe since the age of 17 I knew I would go to university and study psychology and drama. Somewhere along the way that turned into finding that it was possible to combine these two in a field called Drama Therapy. I vaguely remember finding the Creative Arts Therapies program that was offered in Concordia University in the city of Montreal, Quebec while I was still in my undergrad at Mount Allison University located in the lovely small town of Sackville, New Brunswick. It seemed like this program was designed just for me.

I recall telling myself during my undergraduate days, “The goal is to get my Masters in Drama Therapy”. I had a clear path and I was working towards it quite successfully. I double majored in Theatre and Psychology and was accepted into the Creative Arts Therapies program starting the following semester after my graduation. It was a straight line towards my goal. There were moments before my graduation day at Mount Allison where little swells of anxiety would peak through and bring me thoughts such as, “What about after?”

What ABOUT after?

At that point I ignored the voice, I had two years in the Drama Therapy program to look forward to, and things still felt safe. I had a path… two years is a long time, so I thought!

I had the plan: Achieve master’s degree.

Well here I am. MA in Creative Arts Therapies specialty in Drama Therapy.

“Goal achieved.”

“What about after?”

“Now what?”

Master’s degree … does not equal to ‘Master plan’.

I had a goal, a goal I was very happy with and worked hard to achieve. One flaw I see now in hindsight is that I had not seen past it. “The goal is to get my Masters in Drama Therapy”. The problem was, that is where it ended. I had no idea what to do next. Get a job? Hard and scary. Am I even ready to work in my professional field? I am 25, with heaps of experience… as a good student.

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So, I am now at a transitional stage. Transitions can be uncomfortable and difficult. I believe a transition is when you are given the gift of time to reflect upon yourself. This task can come with anxiety, feelings of being lost, and perhaps even utter confusion about what you are and what you are meant to be and do. I have accepted that all of these thoughts and emotions will come to me at one point during this stage of transition (and so it has!) and I need to continue to embrace it and learn to explore the themes it has brought me to see. I am also learning to enjoy this time I have been given: to enjoy that I have made the decision to allow myself this time to reflect. To not feel guilty about leaving the one-way track that many follow: School – Job – Work – Settle down…

No one is getting hurt from me making this decision. My family supports me and I must learn to stop feeling like I have disappointed them.

This is the first time I have not been in school during a school year and it has given me space to reflect upon certain aspects that make up my whole. The dominant role I have been playing and have been concentrating my energies on has been the role of Student. I now understand that because I have been working hard on this one role, other roles I play (the ones that also contribute to making me “me”) have been put aside and have not grown as equally. I aim to find a way to compress my Student role into a size that is easy for me to still carry in my pocket, but will allow my other roles to breathe and shine just as bright. I hope to allow this time of transition to be a time where I can nurture and grow my other roles – to find a balance between all the roles I play.

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So, I am using this transitional chapter to do things I was unable to do while playing Student. I am travelling and exploring South East Asia, re-learning self-care, reflecting on the past two years of hard work and training I underwent during my drama therapy program, and simply enjoying time.

I hope to slowly learn to enjoy moments again, really work on practicing mindfulness and being in the present – all things I have learnt to encourage my clients to do when practicing drama therapy. I am doing all this while enjoying myself, my boyfriend, and the pleasure in not needing to follow a rigid goal or plan that my Student role has always pressured me into following.

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I have been on the road with my boyfriend for over two months now. As we travel Asia we are enjoying our time together as well as enjoying the experiences and cultural lessons we have the privilege of being a part of. On our journey we have created a personal project (ilefthome.com) that allows us to show and reflect on the kinds of people we meet on the road. We meet other travellers and ask them to share their experiences and topics that they are passionate about. Every person we have met along the way has contributed to my personal self-reflection as well as helped me continue to expand my worldview.

I am looking forward to a lifetime of travelling and meeting diverse peoples. I want to continue to learn and grow as an individual from these experiences for as long as I can. From what I can see – from merely the two months on the road – I have learnt that travelling and being immersed in diverse cultures and languages is an essential part of what allows me to thrive. I have learnt that a part of self-care for me is giving myself the opportunity to travel. The freedoms travel allows me to have such as a guilt-free time to enjoy life’s natural beauty and pleasures (such as food, nature, a good book), space to self-reflect, and taking time for moments of grace, are all essential parts of the self-care I need. I experience less anxiety (I’m still not completely anxiety free) and as a result less psychosomatic symptoms such as back pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms like negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and so on. I am still working on myself, and working on finding coping skills and tricks to help me through the cloudy days, but travelling has definitely been a natural therapy for me.

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So, going back to the point: Yes, I have earned a Master’s degree and have taken many steps towards building the skills I need for work in my professional field; the helping field. As a helper, I understand I need to know how to help myself before having the energy to be a good therapist to my clients. This transitional time has given me the space to learn just that. So, no, I have no idea what my future holds despite achieving my grand plan of acquiring a Master’s degree. Do I regret getting it at such an early age? No, even though going through a Master’s program later would have made the experience different, I don’t regret it. I still believe I am not fully prepared to enter into the professional world as a drama therapist though – I have lots more work to do on myself; more life experience, perhaps more training in the future, more self-reflection and digesting of knowledge. But without my training I would have had a different worldview, and travelling would have taken a different light. I am embracing myself as an emerging drama therapist as well as a young adult still not fully grown into the fully bloomed flower I am to be.

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In the near future I hope to find balance between all the roles I play, and find a healthy routine that will incorporate self-care. I want to find a balance between doing things for my well being such as travelling and being with nature, as well as building my career in drama therapy. I don’t know where I will live and how I will live… but I know I want a peaceful disposition no matter where and what the outcome.

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Cheers,

K

 

 

12 First Aid Kit Travel Essentials

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1.Stomachaches… And all that jazz: Imodium, anti-nausea, charcoal, and tums – the lot! You know what your digestive system may need at a sensitive time, so make sure you have that on hand!

I am sure all travellers understand the importance of having all sorts of pills and potions at hand for the very possible moment when you may get some sort of tummy trouble. You don’t want to be unprepared in a situation like this!

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2.Anti-bacterial/Pain Relief Ointments: I like to keep polysporin and iodine on hand. Anything that will clean out cuts, dull the pain, and help heal a wound.

Travelling around South East Asia, I am often barefoot or in flop-flops so my feet are exposed and therefore at risk of being cut or banged up more often. I am a clumsy sort, so I tend to get cuts and scrapes almost anywhere… even find the odd mosquito bite that needs a little disinfecting.

Polysporin, Iodine, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

3.Insect Repellant: On that note, I am loved by mosquitos – not to mention slightly allergic – and will be covered by puffy bites in seconds. I always carry a spray with me.

Insect Repellant, Mosquito Repellant, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

4.Hand-Sanitizer: For those times when you travel and there is no other way to clean your hands before dinner!

Hand-sanitiser, Dettol, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

5.Ear Plugs: There may be a time where you find yourself on a crowded and noisy overnight public transport or even in a hostel/hotel that is near a party street, and you will be grateful you have these on hand! If you never use them (I haven’t as of yet), it’s no problem they don’t take up space!

6.Band-aids: For the scratches and cuts that you may want to protect during the day. I always carry a few on my person. There is no harm in doing so! What is also really handy to have is a blister plaster such as Compeed. Not only does it give you a protective smooth layer to cover blisters, it heals the skin.

Band-aid, Plasters, Compeed, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

7.Pain Killers: Aspirin, Panadol, whatever it is you like to use. Have some always. I get headaches for many reasons, from hangovers to dehydration. I get sore necks and backaches too – especially after several hours on a stiff bus. Sometimes an aspirin is that extra help you need to recover.

Pain Killers, Aspirin, Panadol, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

8.Anti-fungal: This may be one that some may take or leave when preparing a first aid kit. It all depends on the individual and perhaps where you are travelling. If you are in humid and hot areas where your skin can sweat and contract whatever is floating about, it may be something you want to consider having. Some people are more prone to these sorts of skin infections than others… girls we also have another delicate matter to consider! You know yourself best.

9.Motion Sickness Pills: Gravol or something similar works. This is one of my newest additions to my staple first aid collection. Taking long bus rides, boat rides, or overnight trips have become much bearable with having these pills handy. You don’t want to be surprised by sudden seasickness and not be prepared. It also helps you sleep during an overnight travel.

Motion Sickness, Seasick Pills, Gravol, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

10.Tiger Balm: I never go anywhere without my tiger balm. It soothes muscle aches, helps with congestion, digestion, headaches, bug bites… it is THE magical ointment!

Tiger Balm, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

11.Vaseline: This is something I like to bring for multi-purpose use. I have a tiny bit with me for chapped lips, for chaffed skin, and other quick and easy beauty hacks.

Vaseline, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

12.Super Glue: This may seem like an odd item to have in a first aid kit! I like to carry it around in there where it is safely stored and easy to access when you need to do some quick repairs. I like to travel light and with items that I don’t mind getting a little wear and tear. Having said that, bringing super glue allows you to make quick fixes whenever your well-loved items show some distress. I have glued back the soles of my sandals, my ring that almost split in half and various other items that have seen the rough side of the backpacker life.

Super Glue, Travel, First Aid, First Aid Kit, Essentials, Health

~

Hopefully this gives you some ideas, and a little help in starting your first aid travel pack. This list is by no means exhaustive, however I do believe it is a good starting point in creating your individualized pack of personals.

Happy and safe travels!

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Southern Thai Islands

The Southern Islands

Finally, a tan: Beaches, salty water, waves, sand. We stopped on a few island before making our way back up north. Four in total…

1. Phuket

Our first stop was Phuket. We took the night train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then waited for a bus to come pick us up to take us to Phuket. The total journey time was about 24 hours. Arriving in the Patong Beach area, I was excited to finally be in the south of Thailand and looking forward to the adventures it had in store. No swimming was done here however as the beaches are full of tourists; crowded with sunbathers and locals selling parasailing rides, massages, hair braiding… you name it. Not to mention the water wasn’t so fresh and clear as it may have been once upon a time. The whole area was definitely made for tourists, which made it quite difficult for us to find much variety to explore. No matter it was definitely worth seeing for a few days, just observing the contrast to a place like Phuket and other places in Thailand that are less “high-class” resort and family friendly destinations and more for the young and adventurous backpacker. This meant even something like getting a cheap local meal was difficult! Most local places were so-called “seafood” restaurants that were over-priced… definitely a tourist trap.

Parasailing, Patong, Beach, Phuket

Patong, Beach, Parasailing, Phuket

All in all, Phuket seems to be targeted towards a certain kind of tourist looking for a short holiday getaway to paradise for a reasonable and affordable price. Resorts scatter the beach, restaurants and souvenir shops spread across the streets. Another tourist can be found here – perhaps the one Phuket is more known for? The tourist looking for a lady friend and a good time. The brilliant and overwhelming Bangla walking street.

Patong, Beach, Phuket, View

Beach, Phuket, Sunset, Patong Beach, Sand, View

2. Koh Phangan

Arriving by slow boat onto Koh Phangan, I finally felt like I was on a ‘paradise’ island. The journey itself creates the feel that you are going to a place where most of modern day’s grip has still not fully taken hold. We were so lucky to stay at a lovely resort that we got on discount. We had the pool, the beach, and a lovely hut for ourselves. It was also the first time we rented a motorbike in order to explore the island. What a thrill! I admit I was nervous at first, but trusting my partner I knew I was in good hands. We rode through the jungle, down to the beach, and simply explored. This island is definitely more ‘backpacker’ vibe…. And of course it is known for its epic parties such as the crazy Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach as well as others that have come along over the years like the Half Moon Festival, Black Moon Party…. And so on.

Resorts, First Villa, Koh Phayam, Pool

Full Moon Party, Beach, Haad Rin, Koh Phayam

I fell in love with the island. It is big enough to not feel so claustrophobic but still provides the paradise island essentials such as beautiful beach, jungle, adventurous activities such as the trek up to the hilltop viewpoint, elephants, temples, and good local food. I have a feeling something shifted within me when we stayed on this island… Something that allowed me to open up to a process of self-healing.

Long tail boat, Full Moon Party, Beach, Haad Rin, Koh Phayam

View, Full Moon Party, Beach, Haad Rin, Koh Phayam

3. Koh Tao

We didn’t stay to long on this island, however from what I experienced I immediately felt the vibe the community of SCUBA divers created on this island. Koh Tao is known for the diving, and the island is dedicated to the sport. It is a popular destination for holidaymakers and divers becoming professionals hoping to make a life on the island. I couldn’t help but compare it to the Gili Trawangan, an island in the south of Indonesia. I made this comparison naturally, as that is where I created my diving identity and have a community of diver friends. It is no question why this place is so popular, not only to travellers but to divers as well: The beach is gorgeous, the water is crystal clear, and the scenery is breath taking. There is a good nightlife, and life on the island is pretty easy-going!

The rock, Koh Tao, Beach, Sand, Ocean, Island

The rock, Koh Tao, Beach, Sand, Ocean, Island, Sunset

4. ‘Secret Island’

No, it is not really called Secret Island. That is what I call it. It is an untouched gem in the south of Thailand that we discovered after leaving Koh Tao. There are very few foreigners on the island, and I don’t believe it was only because it was low season. There are few places to stay, only a few local homes and tiny businesses. ‘Downtown’ is by the pier and has two coffee shops, a few motorbike shops, and a convenience store that doubles as the ticket office for the ferryboat. Internet is barely present, however jungle and jungle-like things are in abundance. You will definitely meet many stray dogs on this island too. This place is so remote – it is not for everyone. If you enjoy empty beaches, simply exploring your surroundings on foot or bike, and reading in your little bamboo hut that has electricity for about 12 hours a day and no air-conditioning then it’s the place for you. I know we definitely fell in love, completely and fully. It was heaven. A place made for healing, to allow you to abandon the modern day technologies and distractions.

Jungle, Island, Thailand

Island, Beach, Thailand, remote

Thailand, island, dog, stray

One of many dogs that adopted us. We named him Mr Tiny.

~

There was little time to explore the south of Thailand and the beauty it holds. The islands we did get to visit were very diverse; each had a unique flare and identity. It goes to show how much this country has to offer. Now moving to the north I know that it will be yet another very special atmosphere.

Cheers,

K

Café Adventures: Thailand’s 7/11

Stir and Enjoy? 7/11 Coffees

 

Ever since arriving into Bangkok mid-September, and travelling around Thailand, I have started to try and save my budget and be a little more responsible with it… especially when it comes to my crazy coffee addiction. Coffee costs can really add up – especially while travelling and you cannot make your own brew. It was apparent ever since leaving Penang and starting the “Café Adventures: Penang Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4” series that it would be a lot harder and a bit more expensive to do it in every city I visit, and do it as regularly. Having said that of course I will be indulging myself with a lovely cappuccino every once in a while, but on a daily basis I have found an alternative that will save my wallet.

Thailand = 7/11. Basically that pretty much says it all. There is a 7/11 on every street corner and then some. They love their 7/11 and this country has the 3rd largest number of stores in the world (after the States and Japan).

7/11 is your typical convenient store. And that means you can find pretty much anything under the sun: toiletries, drugs, microwavable meals… and coffee! There are a variety of coffees to choose from. There is the 14 Baht cup you can take and fill with a small 3-in-1 packet or the pre-packaged range that costs between 22 and 23 Baht. This is what I have been enjoying recently.

Below I will be sharing with you the varieties that has helped me turn into a human being every morning:

 

Cappuccino

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I chose this one to try first. I was curious to see what a 7/11 instant cappuccino was like, and at the time I was really loving my somewhat expensive cappuccinos at hipster cafes (as you may have guessed from previous Penang entries). When I say “expensive” I mean 80 Baht… I know, insane. The cup comes wrapped in plastic, which, once purchased you remove to open the cup and find some other smaller packets inside. In the cappuccino cup you will find two packets: the ‘milk’ packet and the ‘coffee’ packet. The coffee is a fine grind that comes in something that looks like a big tea bag. After placing the bag into the cup the 7/11 coffee-corner provides a hot water dispenser where you can fill your cup. I like to steep my coffee bag for 4 minutes just like I would my black tea, and then add the ‘milk’ contents. I do not enjoy my coffee to be too milky, so I never add the whole pack. From what I understand, the milk content in this pack imitates the frothy taste of the milk in a cappuccino.



 

Espresso

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The next one I chose to try was the “Espresso Italiano”. Opening this one up I found inside the coffee bag, two sugar packs, and two creamer packs. I liked this option because it allowed me to steep the coffee as strong as I like, as well as control how much creamer and sugar I want to put into it. Because of this the taste resembles more like the brew I would make at home with a filter machine or a French press… strong with as little milk and sugar as possible!

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Cappuccino Mix: Hazelnut Flavour

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So the day I decided to try this guy out was a day where I wanted to indulge in something sweeter. I figured this would be like the equivalent of a French Vanilla mix you get at a place like Tim Hortons (for all you Canadians out there – you know what I mean). I was right. Opening the cup I found one large packet with the mix in it. It tasted pretty much like a French Vanilla type drink back home! Definitely one of those coffees that people may enjoy even if they aren’t hard-core coffee addicts.



 

Trio Gold

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The last pre-packaged coffee cup was the Trio Gold. This one looked like it was from a different brand altogether. Opening up the cup I was confused! There were two 3-in-1 packs inside. So basically I could have just bought one of those packs they display on the shelf? Well – at least the cup is bigger! So I stood there thinking for a minute, “Should I put both packs in? Maybe it is a mistake and usually there is only one packet inside… SWEET I WON A FREE PACKET!?” Well, after that brief conversation with myself at the back part of the 7/11 I decided to use only one pack thinking the second one was a mistake. I bought this one again a few days later and it had two in it again! So I have been collecting the second ones, and they have come in handy when I have access to a kettle. Score! Overall, it is your standard instant 3-in-1 coffee sachets, but I actually enjoy the taste. It is strong enough for my taste and I continue to only use one sachet.

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~~~

 

I remember the first time I tried this I was a little apprehensive. I was also not too comfortable with standing in the 7/11 making my coffee while people tried to pass by me. But over time I have come to enjoy this new coffee routine, and I know in time it will be one of those little memories that I will look back at when I remember this trip.

All I can say is I have been pleasantly surprised by the 7/11 coffee. My new Thailand morning routine is; get up, get some breakfast and coffee at 7/11, save money. Sorted!

So: Stir and enjoy? Enjoy I did! Well, for 7/11 instant coffee these ones are not bad at all! Of course it did take me some time to get used to the idea that I am now regularly drinking instant coffee. The taste of these coffees seemed to have been getting better and better the more I drink them. The times I do have the chance to drink a well-brewed cup, are times I really appreciate now. At the end of the day this is part of what travelling is – at least for me! I can’t expect to always have a lovely brewed coffee.

Cheers!

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Bangkok (Wat Pho)

Wat Pho

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I was so excited to visit the Reclining Buddha and the Wat Pho. It was one of the things on my to do list that was very much touristic. I love visiting cultural sites and I find temples are such beautiful structures. I definitely have a large interest in the religious and cultural eminence of the East.

I think a part of me was quite overwhelmed to finally see such a popular site. It was undoubtedly beautiful and BIG! It was difficult to take in and really appreciate the Reclining Buddha, and I believe it was mostly due to the fact that it was just so full of visitors. Not to mention I was finally visiting it for myself!

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The Reclining Buddha

It felt like I was on a moving conveyor belt – one of the many tourists walking by to take a quick glimpse of the structure, snap a pic, and move on. Even as I attempted to fight the movement, stay in a corner and try to have a moment of grace while taking in the space, it did not feel so genuine as people continued to walk by with phones and cameras. The vibe was definitely “tourist”. No matter, I was so happy to finally see the Reclining Buddha, and I was saddened to see that a part of it was under renovation, and I was unable to appreciate the carvings by his feet.

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After leaving the Reclining Buddha behind, more shrines and beautiful structures waited to be explored. To my delight there didn’t seem to be much traffic anywhere else and I was finally able to enjoy my surroundings and appreciate the fine details of this brilliant temple. What I loved about my afternoon here was how naturally I was able to return to some mindfulness practices. The surroundings are beautiful and peaceful, and it was easy to find a spot to stop and practice some “moments of grace” exercises. I enjoyed watching how the sunlight hit the tress and statues, as well as taking in the detailing of the structures. I loved noticing the different hand positions the Buddha statues held, wondering if any others noticed the slight differences as well.

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Overall, this is a very magical place. I definitely recommend going, however I would encourage anyone who goes to try and stay around for a few hours. Don’t rush through, that way you can escape the tourist path and find your way around several of the beautiful shrines and statues that are not as frequently visited. Start with the Reclining Buddha, do your best to take your time and space to enjoy the beauty of it then go explore as much of the grounds as possible. Enjoy the colours and the peaceful atmosphere.

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Cheers,

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Bangkok (Grand Palace and The Emerald Buddha)

The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Although unplanned, I visited the palace with an old friend from my undergrad days. The reason I wasn’t so keen on having this on my things to do list was because it really is a tourist trap – and a part of that means spending money. I have a budget to keep and there are other places that are cheaper and offer similar sights. Having said that, I am glad I went. It is a beautiful place despite the crowds of tourist groups that overwhelm the space.

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Large crowds of tourist in organised tours entering the palace.

The entrance to the palace is chaotic. Lines of guards stand by the entrance, ushering in tourists and directing the traffic. People are coming and going from all directions.

Before entering the temple area, we are inspected to make sure we are in appropriate clothing before entering. They are quite stern at the palace, asking you to wear lose fitting clothes that cover shoulders and knees. I brought a sarong to cover my shoulders, thinking I was such a genius; I’d wear my sarong over my shoulders and get away with wearing a tank top for the rest of the day so that once we are out of the palace I wont have to melt in the heat. Wrong. They didn’t accept that and asked me to rent a cotton blouse for a deposit of 200 Baht. Well, it turned out just fine as I ended up using my sarong as a headscarf to protect my head from the sun! The ticket to enter the palace and the temple area was 500 Baht.

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Once inside the temple the fast energy of the entrance calms down. You are surrounded by beautiful structures, decorated in full detail. The shrines tower high above you, touching the heavens and shining under the sun. I spent much of my time looking at the sculptures and admiring the detailing of all the architecture.

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The main attraction is the emerald Buddha. We almost missed it as renovations were happening in the surrounding area. This part of the temple was packed full of worshippers kneeling by the statue and tourists in the back trying hard to catch a glimpse and perhaps take a photo. The Buddha itself is simply a small statue made of emerald that sits on top of a large shrine… it was hard to see, as the crowds were large and it was so small. I enjoyed walking around outside and simply admiring the beauty and the vast-ness that are these temples in this part of the world.

Cheers,

K

A Brief Note…

A little reflection…

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…My good moments have been made with myself, and with a special someone. I am so grateful to have had the chance to take time out of everyday… to step back and reflect on the day I have had and think, “Yes, today was good”. It excites me to realise that I can pause and turn to my partner and say, “this is great, we are great”.

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I love travelling with you. I love you.

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Koh Panghan Haad Rin Beach

Love,

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Bangkok (An Introduction)

We took the night train from Penang to Bangkok, an 18-hour journey. It is definitely an experience to have and the better option if you must travel a long distance, as flights are much more expensive. We felt lucky to get tickets for the train as we purchased them only a day in advance. The other option would have been to take a bus, and that would have been a complete nightmare!

The train is a lovely way to travel as it allows you to take in the country’s scenery on the journey, gives you quite a comfortable place to sleep at night – once the seats turn into decently-sized bunk beds (with curtains to have privacy!), and good food service for cheap! Having this lovely experience really helped keep our spirits high once arriving in Bangkok and making our way to our hotel.

Night train before its bedtime transformation.

Night train before its bedtime transformation.

The seats turn into a bed and a curtain is placed in front to allow you some privacy while you sleep

The seats turn into a bed and a curtain is placed in front to allow you some privacy while you sleep

We spent about 2 weeks in Bangkok, and the time flew right by! We didn’t do too many touristy things… but of course, that isn’t really the reason we travel. It was really lovely to be in this big city for some time: To establish a simple routine, to have time to simply do nothing except read by the pool and finally catch some sun on our skin… But of course there were some tourist attractions we didn’t miss, and other more personal moments that made our time in Bangkok special.

Special Moments:

  • Making parrot friends at a public park

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  • Public river boat taxi rides into the center of Bangkok

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  • Taking a spontaneous brief stroll down Khao San Road at 4am and pretending the zombie apocalypse happened

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  • 7/11 coffee! (Also the breakfast and snack runs!)

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  • Making animal friends

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  • Enjoying the beautifully adorned shrines

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  • Feeding the carp and catfish at Lumpinee park

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  • Pool and book time… of course.

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No mater where you are or where you are travelling to, I believe the best memories are not the ones that are planned, and they may not even be the activities that are popular in that place. The best memories are the simple moments that were never expected to happen.

Cheers,

K

Café Adventures: Penang (Part 4)

Here is the review of the final coffee shop I visited while in Penang.

Be sure to check out the others: Café Adventures: Penang (Part 3),Café Adventures: Penang (Part 2), and Café Adventures: Penang (Part 1)!

The Mugshot Café

This was the last café we checked out in Georgetown. We visited the café twice, and I think it is safe to say that this was our favourite out of all the cafés we visited in Penang. The atmosphere was unique and created an exciting vibe. Decoration varied from wall paintings by local artists, old vintage furniture, traditional architecture, and even a bit of nature.

 

Beautiful greenery and a tiny fish pond inside the cafe

Beautiful greenery and a tiny fish pond inside the cafe

Every corner of the café has a funky place to sit

Every corner of the café has a funky place to sit

The coffee shop has some impressive features such as homemade bagels toasted in a traditional wood stove, homemade yogurts that were made on site, as well as access to the Rainforest Bakery where customers of the Mugshot Café were welcome to cross over and buy fresh pastry to bring back and have with their coffees.

 

Front area of the coffee shop where you can order from the friendliest guy!

Front area of the coffee shop where you can order from the friendliest guy!



Mmm. Pastries :)

Rainforest Bakery. Mmm. Pastries 🙂

I ordered the cappuccino with homemade yogurt and a fresh almond croissant from the bakery. The food was delicious considering we ordered non-local specialties. The yogurt came in a mason jar – very fitting to the shop’s ‘hipster’ vibe. The cappuccino was well made as well; right amount of foam and the ratio of milk to espresso suited my taste.

 

Cappuccino, with lovely presentation

Cappuccino, with lovely presentation

 

Homemade yogurt made on site. I chose the one that had fresh mango and walnut topping!

Homemade yogurt made on site. I chose the one that had fresh mango and walnut topping!

My boyfriend ordered the iced macchiato in a large mason. I could resist tasting it myself, I enjoyed it very much…Unfortunately the boyfriend wasn’t a huge fan as he isn’t a coffee drinker! For me, it had the right amount of chocolate flavour – so not too much – staying true to its coffee origins (not like say, a Starbucks version?)

 

Iced macchiato in a mason jar.

Iced macchiato in a mason jar.

The Mugshot Cafe won our first place café experience in Penang. We loved it so much we dropped in one last time on our way to the train station leaving Malaysia.

 

 

I rate this coffee 4 cups out of 5.

 

Keep a look out for some more café adventures as we continue backpacking through Asia!

Café Adventures: Penang (Part 3)

Here we are, another entry of Café Adventures: Penang. The third shop we visited had a special fondness for bicycles and used this eco-friendly mode of transport as their design inspiration.

Be sure to check out the first two entries of this series: Café Adventures: Penang (Part 1) and Café Adventures: Penang (Part 2).

Wheeler’s Coffee

We visited this place one late morning/early afternoon for a brunch and coffee to start out our day in Penang. I was attracted and intrigued by the café because of the funky choice of decoration. The whole place was decked out with old bicycles, bicycle parts, and paintings with bicycles as its main focus.

 

Outside Wheeler’s Coffee



 

We sat outside for our meal; I ordered the tuna bagel sandwich and a cappuccino. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the café, and if I would be in Penang longer I would come back here again. The food is delicious with a good selection. The coffee I had was pretty good as well! It satisfied my caffeine need to start my day on a good note. The foam was made well and was just the right amount. The cappuccino wasn’t too milky either. It is a decent size with a nice presentation.

 

Cappuccino, with lovely presentation

Cappuccino, with lovely presentation

 

I believe the atmosphere of a café is an important element, and is one of the main reasons to take time out of your day to enjoy a good cup of coffee. I felt relaxed and really enjoyed my time at Wheeler’s Coffee. It was hard for me to accept I had finished my meal and coffee and was time to leave! I was thrilled when the waitress invited me to stay longer, wander around and take pictures of the decorations. She even allowed me to go upstairs, which seemed closed during that time of day, just so I could look at more of the bicycle-themed paintings and wall hangings.

 

 

 

            I rate this coffee 4 cups out 5.

Café Adventures: Penang (Part 2)

Back again, with another episode of café adventures in Penang. The second shop we visited was a cat café!

Be sure to check out the first of this series: Café Adventures: Penang (Part 1).

Purr-Fect Cat Cafe

I am a HUGE fan of cats. Die-hard: Love felines of any sort. This was an exciting find! Our hotel was near by and we had walked by the shop a few times not really noticing it. I giggled at the name of the establishment, but at first glance it looked like a small trinket shop that only sold cat-themed merchandise. To my great surprise it turned out that upstairs there was a legitimate cat café! My boyfriend showed me the place on tripadvisor and I could not contain myself. I had never expected there to be a cat café in Penang!

So, naturally the next afternoon we headed over to check it out. On the ground floor you have the merchandise and the cashier where you are able to order some coffee, cakes, and other sweet and savoury delights. The staff kindly encourages you to order at a minimum of 18RM, I believe this is the case to ensure they have enough funds to keep and care for the cats that live in the establishment. Once you order you are able to move upstairs where you can enjoy your food and drink. There is another glassed-off section where the cats hang out and play. As you wait for your order to be served you can visit the cats, play with them etc.… the usual cat café experience.





This idea of separation is different to other cat cafés where the cats roam around in the same area as the restaurant; I guess I understand why they decide to make the divide . However, there were moments where I could see that the cats were not too excited about the fact that there was a whole area they could not explore. There were about 8 cats in total in the shop. They were beautiful and seemed to be well cared for and loved. Many of them seemed to be a breed that reflected the Savannah or Bengal and they looked like tiny tame wild cats, which I loved!



I ordered the mint chocolate cake and a cappuccino. The cake was delicious; a perfect balance between the fresh mint and sweet dark chocolate. It was fresh, and the presentation was cute and appropriate: Chocolate sauce was used to write ‘meow’ onto my plate.

Mint chocolate cake

Mint chocolate cake

The coffee serving was too small for my taste, and the cappuccino was not strong enough, it seemed more like a tiny latte. There was some effort in presentation; a spider-web design created with chocolate sauce on top of the thin layer of foam. I drank it in about three seconds… I really needed the caffeine and it did not satisfy!

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

Overall, I enjoyed the experience because I had the chance to get some playtime with the kitties. It was totally unexpected which gave it its perk, and I really felt rejuvenated and de-stressed after playing and petting those little furry bundles of joy. If you love cats as much as me, I would recommend going. If you love and need coffee as much as me, try something other than the cappuccino, maybe you will find something a little stronger and better made… or maybe go at a time when your caffeine levels aren’t dangerously low?!!

I rate this coffee 2.5 cups out of 5.

Café Adventures: Penang (Part 1)

It has come to no surprise to me that I have been visiting several coffee shops and cafés along my travels. I am a huge coffee fan, and I am sure it is addicted to me as much as I am addicted to it (or maybe I am just kidding myself!). I don’t only enjoy my morning coffee routine; I enjoy several episodes of coffee drinking moments throughout the day. There is no occasion that couldn’t be enhanced by a lovely cup of coffee… in my opinion!

One thing I enjoy about a good cup of coffee is the routine it gives. In a world of chaos, I can count on the time of day where I can have a cup of coffee. I notice that the more stress or lack of stability I feel in my day, the more coffee breaks I crave. The familiarity in a cup of coffee is comforting. I well-made brew is joy and (I am sure we all heard this one before) ‘a hug in a cup’.

I will not deny the fact that I also have reached the point where my body needs the caffeine in coffee to function on full alert. I am not proud of this, however having the promise of a caffeine fix in the morning helps motivate my non-morning-person attitude, and to start my day.

I am fully aware that I may sound a little too enthusiastic about this drink! But, having a comfort – be it drinking coffee at certain times of day, or taking time to meditate or go for a walk in the park are things you can do to bring some moments in a crazy fast-paced day to slow down, be mindful, and enjoy moments of grace from these simple behaviours and routines.

Having said that, my boyfriend has encouraged me to share my café experiences and share some of the lovely and perhaps even the not so lovely atmospheres and cups of coffee I have been having on our Backpacking Through Asia journey.

~

Let’s start with Penang. Georgetown has several lovely coffee shop restaurants and small quirky cafés. I wish I was able to try more. Alas, these are the ones I had the chance to experience:

B&W Coffee House

We visited this coffee place on a Friday afternoon, a time of day where many people hide away from the scorching sun. We had the whole place to ourselves. I am sure this shop would be easily passed over if you didn’t know much about it previously. It’s hidden between other stores and doesn’t stand out like most coffee places in Georgetown.

The decoration is quite different – everything is made of cardboard. The tables and chairs have cow prints covering the surfaces, a cardboard dollhouse takes up one corner and inside it is a set of speakers that play a variety of pop songs.

Cardboard dollhouse

Cardboard dollhouse

As suggested in the shop’s name, the colour scheme is black and white. Walls are covered with previous customers’ signage and doodles. The place is definitely not an eco-friendly focused environment; our cold coffees came in plastic cups that are placed in decorated cardboard containers.

Wall doodles

Wall doodles

Hand-made signs decorate the walls

More wall doodles

Overall a friendly place and we definitely appreciated the deliciously iced blended coffees after walking under the hot afternoon sun. I’d say check it out once if you like weird and quirky decorated cafés!

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My ice blended cappuccino that came in a decorative cardboard box holder. Not so green (sorry!)… but yummy!

I rate this coffee: 4 (cold) cups out of 5

Backpacking Through Asia: Penang

The last stop we made in Malaysia was Penang. Personally, I was looking forward to visiting Georgetown: Getting out of KL and finding a more peaceful atmosphere. I was not disappointed.

The bus ride from Kuala Lumpur was fairly smooth… the bus left KL late, the driver was playing candy crush at the wheel while we all waited for him to decide to take off! This worried me a little, I suppose I was still thinking about the previous ride from Melaka and the, well… sound effects the driver made all the way to KL.

 

 

The journey to Penang took about half a day. As we drove north I noticed how Malaysia’s landscape changes from city flat lands to lush jungle and small mountains and hills.

As soon as we arrived into Georgetown I felt this homely atmosphere. It’s a lovely small town feeling with old buildings, the architecture spoke of the colonial days… Beautiful old doors, intricate carvings, and Chinese decorations. There is so much history in every corner. As we walked through Old Town we could see stories of the past seeping through the cracked walls and faded paint covering the small town houses.

 

IMG_2362

Early morning: Chinese breakfast market

 

Everyday there seemed to be something the local Buddhists celebrated. They created shrines on the curbs outside temples as well as their shops and homes, burning piles of prayers and fake paper money. The city streets were filled with smoke and biscuits offered to the ghosts of their past.

 

Guan Yin Yemple



Burning large incense sticks in front of the temple

Burning large incense sticks in front of the temple

 

Another small joy I experienced in Penang were the several themed coffee shops and cafés. Everyday I tried to visit a different one, talking to the local baristas and taking in the lovely wall art and decorations. They are more than happy to let you stay long after you have finished your latte and pastry, and take pictures of the shop’s unique decorations. The cafés of Penang definitely satisfied the coffee junkie and ‘hipster’ in me.

 

Wall art from the Mugshot Cafe

Wall art from the Mugshot Cafe



IMG_2416

Atmosphere in Mugshot Cafe



Wheeler's Cafe. A coffee shop decorated with bicycles and bicycle parts.

Wheeler’s Cafe.
A coffee shop decorated with bicycles and bicycle parts.

 

Next stop: Bangkok, Thailand. I am excited to reach the next country on this lovely journey through Asia.

Cheers,

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Kuala Lumpur

September 6th we took a bus from Melaka to the capital of Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur.
We arrived at the local bus terminal in the center of Melaka, where there was a huge crowd and much chaos around the several ticket booths selling tickets to all sorts of cities in Malaysia. A quick decision was made as we noticed there was a bus leaving to KL in 10 minutes. We spent 12RM each (about 2 euros)!

We boarded the bus surprisingly right on time… I must say this was the strangest bus experience I have had in a long time. My partner and I sat near the front of the bus and we had the joy of listening to the bus diver belch and clear his throat for the full three hours! At first I thought it was funny, but as time past the sounds became more frequent, louder, and seemingly more forced! Needless to say I didn’t nap very much on the way to KL…

IMG_2332

Turns out this quick decision to buy the cheap ticket meant we didn’t really check where the bus would be dropping us off! We stopped just outside the city of Kuala Lumpur where we took a train into the center then a subway to China Town where our hostel was located. It turned out to be a really cool adventure and the train and subway system is quite efficient. Buying the train ticket was easy, buying the subway ticket was a little frustrating since most machines were busted and only took coins… of course we didn’t have many coins. I thought I would go ahead and try buying our tickets alone, turns out I chose a broken machine. Suddenly a bunch of older men were surrounding me trying to explain and teach my how to use the machines. It was a little overwhelming. Well my attempt to be useful failed and I joined my boyfriend back in the long line-up to wait for a machine that worked.

KLCC Petronas Towers. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KLCC Petronas Towers. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We arrived late afternoon at our hostel and I felt quite tired! My first impressions (though I have been here before many years ago) of KL are: overwhelming, chaotic, stressful. Definitely a big Asian city! It took me the day to get my bearings.

The following 3 days went well. We established our territory around Petaling Street, China Town. We found a lovely local café that made delicious coffee and eggs for breakfast. For dinner we went into the China Town strip where we ate street food – hot pot. Delicious!

Hot Pot, China Town Petaling Street, KL

Hot Pot, China Town
Petaling Street, KL

Batu Caves:

One afternoon we ventured outside the city to visit the Batu Caves. Beautiful eroded limestone, weathered down and shaped like statues, creating crevasses in the hill. This is where a popular Hindu Temple is located dedicated to Lord Murugan. At the foot of the hill you see a large golden statue of the Lord, behind it a long staircase leading up to the opening of the cave. On the way up several macaques curiously followed and greeted us. They jumped on the staircase railings and trees, looking for scraps of food and perhaps a flowy skirt of scarf to grab onto! Inside the Ramayana Cave are small shrines and places to worship. The view was incredible; beautiful large limestone ceilings, birds flying through, sun rays peering through the cracks…

Thean Hou Temple:

Another place we ventured to; a large Chinese temple at the top of a hill just outside downtown. This temple is quite modern, built in the 80s, however the size and detail of the establishment was worth the visit and the climb up the hill. The temple represented all sorts of worship and had detailed paintings covering every inch of wall. Behind we found a tortoise pond filled to the brim with turtles! There were so many they piled on top of each other, fighting for a comfortable space by the water. We stayed there a while, relaxing and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, watching the busy Kuala Lumpur streets below.

Next Stop: Thursday morning we left KL, spending the day in a bus that took us to Penang. For the next few days we will rest in Georgetown…

Cheers,

K

Backpacking Through Asia: Melaka

My 4 month travel around South East Asia has begun. My partner and I embarked early morning on September 3rd from Singapore and arrived to our first destination early afternoon.
Melaka, Malaysia.

A small city just a 3 hour bus ride from the border of Singapore. Today the city is a touristic hotspot, where the centre of Old Town has been restored and refurbished so that the entire square looks like it is part of a living museum. It is one of the smallest cities in Malaysia, where the past seems to be preserved in artificial plastering and burgundy red paint. It is a beautiful place in its own right. You can still see the past peering through renovated buildings…

I really enjoy the soundscape of this city: Chirping birds overhead, and old motorcycles and cars speeding through the narrow streets. The odd rickshaw biking by and blasting some disney tune or pop song.

On a single street you see Chinese and Hindu temples and a Mosque; tourists and worshippers gathering around witnessing the architecture.

Cheng Hoon Heng Teple

Cheng Hoon Heng Temple

The next stop will be Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. A big city full of unexpected sights.

See you there!

Cheers,

K



Travel Tummy TLC

I have been having tummy troubles lately. Ok this is not really a classy or exciting topic to speak about, but the reason I would like to share this is because I am sure all of us who have travelled to a foreign country would have experienced some sort of tummy annoyance.

There are many things that can happen to our immune system when travelling. We are exposing ourselves to a new environment, new climate, new food, new bacteria. It’s almost inevitable, and it’s hard to say it will always be the same symptom or discomfort.

Of course we can always prepare ourselves by bringing piles of medicines like Imodium, tums, etc… But that’s a lot to carry and remember to consume properly and sometimes we remember a little too late. The best thing to do is come prepared with those remedies but also allow your body to adjust to the new environment as well so not to rely on the meds for a long period of time.

I have found some extra remedies that really helped me this week:

  1. Hot relaxing shower. The warm water will not only relax you but will relax your muscles and help let go of any tension your digestion may be holding. A warm shower is not only lovely and luxurious it’s good for you!
  2. Light exercise. I admit I have avoided being active since I felt sick but I finally forced myself back into it and I remembered how great a help it actually is. Some yoga and other light movements such as simply taking walks help.
  3. Special drink. I mix semi-warm  water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a slice of fresh lemon. It is detoxing, boosts metabolism, and helps neutralise  the acidity in your belly. It may sound gross but it’s not so bad! I take it first thing in the morning before breakfast to start my day on a good note.
Singapore jungle

Singapore jungle. Exploring a new country is more enjoyable when you’re feeling your best.

Of course I believe in and support taking the required medication to help with recovery. These are simply some additional things I’ve been doing that seem to have presently aided in my recovery and maintain a healthy tummy and overall immune system. The last thing you want is to be under the weather abroad, am I right!?

What do you do to stay in tip top shape?

Cheers,

K


My 12% of the Globe (Places I’ve Visited)

Today I decided to find some ‘apps’ on the Internet that would help me count and recall all the countries and cities I have visited in my life so far. I found a few interactive maps that highlight the countries you’ve visited. Other sites give statistics on how much of the world you have explored.

The countries I have visited highlighted in blue

The countries I have visited highlighted in blue.  http://www.amcharts.com/visited_countries/#

I find it easy to simply check off an entire country and say: “I’ve been there”, but I find that it cheats you a little bit. I can’t tell myself I have visited an entire country if I had only visited one or two cities. I can’t even justify doing that if I have been in a place for a limited time where exploring and experiencing the place was minimal. Each city in a country is a different experience, with a different culture.

This website allows you to check off countries and territories. It then gives you your specific statistics of how much of each continent you have visited. These are my results so far! http://traveltip.org/countries_visited.php

The one site I have found where you can pin precise cities in the world is on the TripAdvisor page. If you have an account it can document and save not only the cities you have visited, but also the cities you would like to visit. You can even ‘favourite’.

TripAdvisor app page on Facebook called

TripAdvisor app page on Facebook called “Cities I’ve Visited”.
My stats so far are: Visited 62 cities (orange pins) and 20 countries. I have also pinned an extra 37 cities that I’d like to visit (green pins). I have traveled 12% of the world. Gosh that’s tiny!
http://apps.facebook.com/tripadvisortravelmap/

It’s so fun to see the parts of the world I have touched and experienced and see exactly how little of it I have been to as well. It’s a silent challenge inviting me to keep exploring but also a reminder that I am one small being on this huge precious planet.

I am excited to keep adding pins to the map, learning about the world and myself, as well as expanding my boundaries.

Cheers,

K

Where Am I Now?

I have packed up and left Montreal where I have been living for the past two years. Most of my belongings are now in storage, all I brought with me was my cat, a large suitcase, and a backpack full of the essentials I will need for, well, the next little while.

My apartment in Montreal empty except for the few boxes of things I put into storage. Do you see the kitty? :)

My apartment in Montreal empty except for the few boxes of things I put into storage. Do you see the kitty? 🙂

For the past two months (July and August) I have been living in Singapore. I chose Singapore for a simple reason; my parents live and work here. They have been expats in this country for the past 9 years. I took the opportunity to go ‘home’ to be with my family as I complete my thesis in time to graduate this fall from my Masters program. As I write my thesis, I have been taking the opportunity to relax, regroup, and begin my journey of self-reflection and finding balance. It is no coincidence that my thesis has a focus on finding balance in roles as well. As I come to an end of my journey as a student, I am transitioning to a new chapter where I focus on self-care through travel.

The cat and his favorite toy ready for the big journey from Canada to Singapore

The cat and his favorite toy ready for the big journey from Canada to Singapore

So, my first stop in this journey is Singapore. I return to the country almost every year in the summer while I am on holiday from school. Before my university career I lived here with my family completing my final high school years in a school for expat kids like myself. Even though I am very familiar with this country, I try to return to this country with fresh eyes. With the eyes of a visitor, an explorer, a traveler who is keen to learn the ways of a country and culture that is not her own. I try to go to places I haven’t been before, or if I go to a familiar place I try hard to expand past the familiar routine.

It is difficult to stay away from the expat lifestyle in Singapore. There are so many foreigners who live and work in this country. It’s hard to return to this country and not fall back into that realm. I am now a visitor in this country, but no matter this will be my “home-base” for now.

Typical morning rainstorm in my parents' backyard in Singapore.

Typical morning rainstorm in my parents’ backyard in Singapore.

Soon I will be on my traveling adventure. My partner and I will be taking a few months to explore South East Asia. I am really excited for this journey to begin. To live, learn, and experience through the eyes of a wanderer. And, of course, I will be documenting my moments and reflecting on my adventures here.

Cheers,

K

The Power of Music (My 25 Tunes of the Day)

As an advocate for the arts as healing, I know the power of creative healing from my training as well as from personal experience. Although I have not been trained in music therapy, I understand and appreciate the power of music and know how helpful it can be to use this modality in my drama therapy practice.

Music is very much integrated in our human life. We all listen to music, whether it is from our personal collection, on the radio, in the background of TV shows and movies and even in shopping outlets. When we are not listening to musical creations, there is music in our natural world: The rhythm of our breath, the calls of animals… our very voices are an element of music. Music is a natural and very deep way of expression, and it touches our psyche like nothing else. It can feed our state of mind and even change it.

I need music everyday. I am constantly finding the perfect tune that expresses my present state and am always hunting down new songs and artists to expand my musical language

I want to share with you a few songs that I enjoy when I am working on lowering my anxiety, and even use during my yoga practice. Some of these songs simply help me enjoy being in the present and really cheer me up!

IMG_2095

A goldfish pond I found at the border of Malaysia. I found it so soothing… now onto the music!

My 25 Tunes of the Day:

  1. Dreams (ft. Monsoonsiren) by Tom Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8Y-i5Tzq-s
  2. As the Rush Comes (Gabriel & Dresden Chillout Mix) by Motorcycle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lhr-PB-Td8I
  3. Someone by Hooverphonic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3tmk_VPMNI
  4. They Move on Tracks of Never-Ending Light by This Will Destroy You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-BrIa2fO90
  5. Saint Claude by Christine and The Queens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzFYmz2lfT4
  6. Von by Sigur Ros https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6LCbJe1dmg
  7. Oya by Ibeyi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAzjmDZD4aY
  8. Running Up That Hill Cover by Placebo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP0ngiMBnas
  9. Something About You by All We Are https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHHj3NTqRqw
  10. Body Electric Lana Del Rey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fO07POv5IU
  11. Near Town by The Amazing Broken Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzHliB3b0Fw
  12. When the Body Speaks by Depeche Mode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejQ7KxUeItY
  13. Jimmy by Moriarty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnbl94GZ6TM
  14. Wolf by First Aid Kit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czj7SyPNRto
  15. Me Gustas Tu by Manu Chao https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs6Y4kZ8qtw
  16. House of Cards by Radiohead https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTCe02uV3TA
  17. Pearly Dewdrops Drops by Cocteau Twins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w9sETCjHJg
  18. Avril 14 by Aphex Twin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBFXJw7n-fU
  19. Went to War – Amason https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EreqrpjJNw
  20. When its Cold Id like to Die – Moby https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zZfBBp-j6I
  21. Kalimera by Maserati https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl_VrwlWH3I
  22. My Silver Lining by First Aid Kit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNNYtm2XJGc
  23. Grown Ocean by Fleet Foxes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewkhr8dM86M
  24. Small People by Giselle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMWXPf9ddIE
  25. HK Farewell by Placebo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMuYcabB0Oc

BONUS TRACK: Om Mani Padme Hum – Sanskrit Mantra (Bodhisttava of Compassion) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3tqJfgYWOs

It’s quite a varied selection from my collection! I hope you enjoy,

K

P.S. Thanks YouTube 😉

Finding Moments of Grace (20 Of My Favourite Things)

What is a moment of grace?

It can be a meditative moment where you visualize something, someone, or a moment in time that gives you happiness and serenity. I also find moments of grace during my daily routine, especially when I am attuned to the here and now and spending time appreciating the little things.

Here are 20 things that are not only what I enjoy but are elements that help me experience moments of grace:

 

1. A perfectly brewed cup of coffee

1. A perfectly brewed cup of coffee

2. Graffiti messages

2. Graffiti messages that are uplifting

3. The beach

3. The beach

4. Sunsets

4. Sunsets

5. Museums (Dale Chihuly)

5. Museums (this is a Dale Chihuly piece)

6. Rainbows visible downtown

6. Rainbows visible downtown

7. Bubble baths

7. Bubble baths

8. Island getaways

8. Island getaways (villa on Gili T, Indonesia)

9. Winter beauty

9. Winter beauty

10. Travel!

10. Travel!

11. Meeting animals in the least expected places

11. Meeting animals in the least expected places. This bird is inside a cafe!

12. Tropical fruit

12. Tropical fruit

13. Cocktails (by the beach!)

13. Cocktails (by the beach!)

14. The Ocean

14. The Ocean

15. Coconuts

15. Coconuts

16. SCUBA Diving

16. SCUBA Diving

17. Street art

17. Street art

18. Blanket forts

18. Blanket forts

19. My cat!

19. My cat!

20. Nature

20. Nature

There are so many more I could add to my list of things that help me find moments of grace.

~~~

Upon reflection, I really enjoyed this exercise! Not only did I get to go through almost all of my photos and remember these lovely moments, looking back it was so amazing to see how easy it was to create a list and know I could continue adding onto it! That was such a reassuring and uplifting realization. Counting the small things that give us happiness throughout the day is such an incredibly revitalizing activity. The stressful part of our day can become so heavy it is easy to forget and to look away from the beauty we are surrounded by. I encourage you all to make a list for yourself! It’s so much fun!

Cheers,

K

5 Days to Think About Mindful Practices (Day 5)

Day 5: Body Scanning

It has come to the final day of the 5 day mindfulness practice reflection. I aim to continue finding ways to incorporate mindfulness in my daily routine and new exercises that I find simple to use on a regular basis.

I believe this should be an on going exploration, one that is alive and present with us always. Being in the moment is a struggle, and I believe it can be a challenge for us all at one point or another. We live in a world where we always seem to find things to think about, worry about, plan ahead for… that it can be easy to lose touch with the present. We don’t allow ourselves to put on the breaks and – excuse the cliché, “stop to smell the roses”.

I am currently on a personal journey where I am exploring ways to find balance in myself. I believe part of finding this harmony is to find time to be mindful, to enjoy the present, and find grace in simple daily experiences.

~~~

Today I want to share an exercise that needs a little more practice to perform. I enjoy doing this after I completed a yoga practice or when I have a few minutes before a stressful or challenging class/presentation/work session. The good thing about this exercise is that you can adapt it to your liking and spend a few minutes or a few hours on it.

Body scanning can be seen as a form of meditation. The aim of this exercise is to regulate the nervous system, focus on your body, relax, de-stress, and practice being in the moment.

How To Do It:

Step 1: Lie on the floor, flat on your back and let the palms of your hands and the tips of your toes face the sky. Close your eyes and start focusing on your breath.

Step 2: With your eyes still closed visualize your toes reaching the ceiling/sky. Breathe into your toes. Breathe out any tension in that part of your body.

Step 3: Start to slowly move up your body, visualizing parts of your body you feel needs the attention. Breathe into one part of the body at a time. As you visualize it in your mind, breathe out any tension or soreness.

Step 4: Once you have completed the body scan to your satisfaction visualize your body as a whole, relax and concentrate on the breath once more.

Step 5: To avoid dizziness as you come out of this meditation, role to one side and gently push up to a sitting position. Slowly open your eyes, and then stand up slowly.

Tips:

  • If you cannot lay on the floor, you can adapt the exercise and do it in a comfortable desk chair. Put your palms on the arms of the chair or on your lap facing up. Have your feet flat on the floor, toes pointing straight out and your knees ideally at a 90-degree angle.
  • During the exercise, work your way up starting at the feet and legs then go to your hands and arms. Next, move to your torso, chest, and back. End with your neck, head, and face.
  • Hold the visualization of the part of your body for a few seconds, breathing in and then out releasing tension at a comfortable paced breath. Start with a few seconds, and with more practice try spending more time on each part of your body.
  • Cover your eyes with something like a cloth if it will help you keep your eyes closed and fight off distractions.
  • Set the atmosphere. Incense, candles, calming instrumental music, and dim lighting. Turn off phones etc.
  • Stressful thoughts and worries may try to creep into your mind during the exercise. Instead of feeling frustrated, acknowledge the thought and imagine it pass out of your mind. Continue the body scan from where you left off. This skill will become easier as you practice.
Such a beautiful variety of incense.  rue St Denis, Montreal, Canada

Such a beautiful variety of incense.
Rue St Denis, Montreal, Canada

This is a relaxation exercise so try not to rush! With more practice you will master the patience and the visualization technique. Don’t be discouraged, there is no right way to do this exercise. Find a space and a routine that works best for you and your time.

After doing an exercise like this I feel revived and energized. I feel happy and calm and grateful that I allowed myself to spend some extra time on this self-care practice. Time spent on your wellness is an investment. I find the results help my mood and overall outlook on the day.

Moment of grace: Sunset behind palm trees. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Moment of grace: Sunset behind palm trees.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

~~~

It is difficult to justify taking time to spend on yourself. It’s hard to learn the habit and say it is OK to leave work for a few minutes. Furthermore, we get distracted by our social networking and lose time we can use to learn effective self-care practices.

I hope that the last few days reflecting on simple practices will be a reminder to continue thinking about and trying out mindfulness. I think starting small and working up to bigger exercises will help negotiate and ease mindful practice into an already busy life.

Cheers,

K

5 Days to Think About Mindful Practices (Day 4)

Day 4: Breathing

I am an anxious person. When I get anxious my body and my thoughts change. My anxiety can be triggered at any place or any time. I get anxious when I am stressed and have lots of work and errands to get done, I get anxious after an overwhelming experience, sometimes I even get anxious and I can’t explain why.

My body tenses and I feel pain, mostly in my neck and upper back. Sometimes I feel numbness and tingling in my arms and hands. My heart races, and my breaths are short and heavy.

My mind starts spiraling as I start thinking of the worst-case scenario and begin over analyzing every detail of the situation. My self-confidence is lost and I begin a monologue of negative self-talk.

If you experience anxiety of any kind, I am sure you know how hard it is to come out of this negative place.

Our mind and body are very connected. If you can catch a symptom of anxiety early enough, I find even a simple exercise to self-regulate can help begin the process of easing both body and mind. An easy one I enjoy doing is breathing exercises. It is simple to carry out wherever you are, and it doesn’t take any extra material or skill to master.

How To Do It:

  • Mindful breaths: When you begin to feel anxiety arise, distract your thoughts and focus on your breath. Concentrate on breathing deeply through your nose or mouth (whichever is most comfortable) and then focus on the breath leaving your lungs.
  • Count: Try counting as you breath in and out. This will encourage you to breathe slowly and deeply for an even amount of time.
  • Grounding exercises: Try grounding yourself and coming back to the here-and-now.

Tips:

  • Mindful breaths: visualize your breath cleansing your body and your mind of the anxiety. You can close your eyes if you are at a place where that is possible.
  • Count: Try counting at a 1:2 ratio. For example if you breathe in for 4 seconds then try breathing out for 8.
  • Grounded exercises: Try some of the exercises I mentioned on previous days. For example, I find doing this breathing exercise paired with wriggling my toes and fingers help me ground myself more effectively. I often touch my chest to feel it rise and fall as I breathe.
Hand made prayer flags I found hanging in a park. I sat and took a moment to breathe in those hopeful messages and relaxing colours.  Montreal, Canada

Hand made prayer flags I found hanging in a park.
I sat and took a moment to breathe in those hopeful messages and relaxing colours.
Montreal, Canada

I find that once I can control my breathing during a stressful moment, not only am I distracting my mind from anxious thoughts but I am letting my body know that I am in no danger and so the flight, fight, freeze reaction will not kick in.

Happy breathing,

K

5 Days to Think About Mindful Practices (Day 3)

Day 3: Sensory Experiencing

There are times I feel myself becoming disconnected with my space and my senses. This happens during times when I become very busy and I am in in my thoughts almost 100% of the day. I am so preoccupied with work, studies, writing my thesis etc., I am either focused and thinking about those responsibilities or focused on something like my computer screen or a text book. It almost feels like getting tunnel vision, and all I see are my hands typing away below me, and the computer in front. I forget that I have a body and that I have other space and objects around me. Scary.

When I realise that this is happening, I pause and do some easy exercises that ground me and bring me back to my body.

How To Do It:

  • Movement: Wiggling your toes or fingers (or both!) helps the mind focus on your body and brings you out of your head-space. I find this exercise helps me recuperate and de-stress.
  • Touch: Take a moment to feel the texture of the desk you are sitting at, or feel the seams of your jeans. I also find putting my hands on my knees, or hugging myself is a very effective way of grounding myself and coming back to the here and now.
  • Sight: Looking away from my computer and spending a few moments taking in the room I am in helps. Mindfully looking at objects like the coffee mug beside me, or even the leaves on the tree that’s just outside my window help me relax and gather my thoughts.
I also love noticing colours in nature.

I also love noticing colours in nature.

Tips:

  • Movement: If you are wiggling your toes and wearing shoes, concentrate on how it feels when your toes hit the roof of your shoe or how they feel in your socks. If your barefoot, think about how your toes feel against the floor. Rub your fingers together and concentrate on how that feels.
  • Touch: This can be a subtle grounding exercise and you don’t need anything extra to do it. Feeling your jewellery, the buttons on your shirt, even the strands of your hair between your fingers are enough. Literally, anything you have on you at the moment will do!
  • Sight: Actively name the objects you are focusing on; whisper it if you are in public and feel embarrassed, or say them aloud if you please.
Wiggling or rubbing your fingers together is a simple grounding exercise.  I also love feeling my jewelery especially if I am wearing a chunky bracelet like this one!

Wiggling or rubbing your fingers together is a simple grounding exercise.
I also love feeling my jewelery especially if I am wearing a chunky bracelet like this one!

All of these little exercises don’t need extra training or material for you to do. I do it wherever I am; at home, on the street, in the metro… It helps me not only get out of my head but calm me down if I am feeling anxious – especially if I am in a crowded and over-stimulating environment.

Let me know what helps you!

Cheers,

K

5 Days to Think About Mindful Practices (Day 2)

Day 2: Taking in Your Surroundings

Another symptom of our modern life is that we tend to close ourselves off from our present surroundings. Instead of living in the moment and taking in the details of our environment we are lost in our thoughts and in the screens of our smartphones, or plugged into our tunes. Our destination is the goal, and we close our eyes to what is around us on the journey.

At times I have walked down streets without these ‘blockers’; streets I have walked several times before and realised that I had never noticed certain details when I was focused on getting to my destination in a hurry, texting, and looking through my iTunes.

On the days where I pause and let myself mindfully walk home after a busy day, I find beauty in places I don’t expect. I take in the architecture of buildings I pass everyday; I find nature peaking through and surviving in the busy city sidewalks. I watch kind moments between two people. I love stopping at the crosswalk and taking in all my surroundings, looking up at the sky and noticing how the sunlight touches the ground.

Sun rays shining onto the trees and brightening the long highway through New Brunswick, Canada.

Sun rays shining onto the trees and brightening the long highway through New Brunswick, Canada.

How to do it/Tips:

  • When you have more time to spare (perhaps after a long day?) try to walk a part of your journey home, instead of taking that bus/metro/driving, so you have the chance to go at a pace you enjoy and take in as much of your environment as you can.
  • Look up! Usually we are looking down at our feet or straight ahead as we B-line our way through the crowd. Look up and see the tops of the buildings, the sky, and the sunlight hitting the leaves on the trees.
  • People watch. Notice people going about their daily life. Did you catch a beautiful moment of kindness?
  • Smile to yourself, at the bed of flowers you only just noticed outside that coffee shop you go to every morning, smile at a stranger.
Walking home and noticing the soft fresh snow flakes landing on the colourful buildings.  Montreal, Canada

Walking home and noticing the soft fresh snow flakes landing on the colourful buildings.
Montreal, Canada

A full cluster of Frangipani flowers at the back of the house. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

A full cluster of Frangipani flowers at the back of the house.
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

It amazes me how enlivening it is to look at my environment through a different mind set. Taking it slow and making your goal finding moments of grace in a busy environment rather than racing by. I feel revived, less stressed, and not affected by modern day burdens. Even if it’s only for those 10 minutes I spend walking home, its self-care my body and soul really appreciate.

I noticed a small garden on the side of a busy road. On this day I was lucky to have spare time walked over and sat in the grass to enjoy the nature.  West Island Montreal, Canada

I noticed a small garden on the side of a busy road. On this day I was lucky to have spare time and walked over to sit in the grass to enjoy nature.
West Island Montreal, Canada

Have a joyful day!

Cheers,

K

5 Days to Think About Mindful Practices (Day 1)

For the next few days I want to focus and reflect on ways mindfulness can be brought back into daily life. Sometimes life gets stressful and more often than not we find ourselves running around to try and meet deadlines and self-care takes a back seat. How can we integrate little things into our crazy life to ensure we make time for ourselves?

Day 1: Eating, Drinking, and Cooking

In our busy modern world our mealtime culture has changed to accommodate our fast paced and over-scheduled lives. We grab or make a fast meal-to-go and eat while we commute, read, study, or continue work. Many of us don’t think much about what we are eating and definitely don’t take a moment to mindfully be present of our food. I know I don’t most of the time!

In my own case during these stressful times of the year (during my studies especially) I wouldn’t value my food and even find it inconvenient to stop and take time to fuel my body. Other times during late night stressful paper writing I would snack mindlessly, not even registering exactly what or how much I am consuming. Needless to say, my relationship with food is not the healthiest. I think a part of that is due to the fact that I don’t practice mindful eating.

Homemade cheesecakes from the Cat Cafe in Montreal:

Homemade cheesecakes from the Cat Cafe in Montreal: “Cafe Chat l’Heureux”

How to do it:

Cooking: Find at least one evening where you are able to spend some quality time with your kitchen. Find a meal you enjoy cooking rather than one you find tedious and stressful to prepare. Take time to enjoy the produce and be aware of the steps; for example washing the vegetables, chopping them up and placing them into the pan. Take time to smell the food cooking and listen to the sizzling in the pan.

Eating and Drinking: I can’t start my day without a cup of coffee. I enjoy and take time to prepare my coffee. When it’s all ready in my cup or travel mug I try and take a moment to stop running around the apartment packing my bag for the day. I sit with my coffee and savor the moment. When eating a meal, I try to at least take time to be present and in the moment for the first few bites; concentrating on the action of eating rather than simply chewing and swallowing while my mind is elsewhere.

One of my favourite independent coffee shops in Montreal:

One of my favourite independent coffee shops in Montreal: “La Formule Espresso Bar”.

Tips:

  • Put your phone and other electronic devices away while you eat.
  • Try not to eat where you work; switch seats/desks or location if possible. This way you will be less likely to associate your meal time with your stressful work time.
  • Chew slowly, watch your plate and notice your food; colours, smells, tastes…
One of my favourites: Papaya Fruit. Singapore

One of my favourite fruits: Papaya.
Singapore.

Enjoy your food. Eat well, eat healthy, and be happy!

Bon appétit!

K

10 (Dis)Advantages of Being a Third Culture Person

Living abroad, travelling, spending summers in a different place every year. People may look at you like you’re a weirdo! Here are a few advantages and disadvantages I have experienced living as a third culture person:

10 Advantages

  1. Learning and experiencing different cultures and languages, being immersed in local traditions.
  2. Making international connections: You will always have a friend to meet and a place to stay, maybe even cool job opportunities, almost anywhere in the world.
  3. Being adaptable to situations, customs, and cultures. We learn pretty fast!
  4. Being open-minded to different experiences, traditions, and religions.
  5. Being a pro in airports and flying etiquette; travel is the norm.
  6. Being comfortable in several currencies. Dollars? Rupiah? Sorted.
  7. Always having cool stories. “When I was SCUBA diving in Indonesia…”
  8. Being more adventurous than the average person.
  9. Having a passport looks really freaking awesome – so many stamps and visas!
  10. Having a CV that is quite impressive.

10 Disadvantages

  1. Culture shock on returning to your home country is a very possible reality.
  2. Not really fitting in. No matter where you are whether in your home country or abroad. But, you’ll always be that little bit more mysterious and special.
  3. Friendships/Relationships/Family: These can be quite difficult to keep. You may not have too many close friends, simply many acquaintances.
  4. Trying to express a thought without having to use more than one language… is this even a disadvantage?
  5. Making decisions can be hard. Who should I visit while I am here, what city should I go to university, wait – what language do I speak here?!?!
  6. Constant goodbyes. Saying goodbye is a familiar ordeal but it never gets easier.
  7. Identity crisis. Feeling confused about who you are and what your roots are. This is especially true if you have grown up in a million different places during your childhood/teenaged years. This can be VERY frustrating at times.
  8. Having to try to answer questions like; “Of all the places you’ve lived and travelled to, which is your favourite?” Just, no.
  9. Filling out immigration forms can be stressful. Permanent address? Um…?
  10. Feeling really lonely and misunderstood sometimes… but don’t fret you’re not alone in this feeling!
Bridge connecting the Malaysian and Singapore border.

Expanding my world: Bridge connecting the Malaysian and Singaporean border.

Do you have any other to add to the list?

Overall, finding a community and meeting people who have a similar life experience will ease your loneliness and help you get over those more difficult moments when you feel a little confused and perhaps a little down about your situation.

Making friends who you can share your crazy life with openly, knowing they can relate and share similar stories from their third culture life will help you feel like you belong. It may even help you feel like you could be more like yourself. Embrace your confusing and brilliant upbringing! It is what makes you stand out from the crowd and will help you continue to have amazing life adventures!

Although there are disadvantages of living this lifestyle, I think the advantages go far beyond.

Cheers,

K

Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Individual…

“Where are you from?”

“Where do you live?”

These are easy ice-breaking questions that many of us have no problem with answering when we first meet a new person. Well, maybe not all of us. I know these questions are amongst a few that actually give me a mini panic attack every time a stranger approaches, expecting a simple answer like, “Montreal” and maybe even followed by, “And where are you from?”

For me this simple social exchange goes more like:

Stranger: So where are you from?

Me: Um… well, that’s a tough question…

(awkward pause)

Do you wanna know where I live,

where I was born, or generally what country I am from?

I freeze up and become extremely socially awkward which to the unsuspecting stranger may look as if I was acting rude or had no desire to socialize with them. The truth is I become awkward because my answer is a long story that I don’t want to share if this stranger is not willing to listen. Usually, out of politeness and out of social obligation a person will ask this question and expect a simple quick answer, then continue with more superficial small talk. I hate small talk because my stories are not usually as simple as “I am from Montreal”. And why would I lie, that would mean continuing small talk and continuing to come up with more lies.

An even more frightening thought is, if I do begin to explain my life story I will come off as extremely self-centered and obnoxious. That thought scares me so much I’d rather stay humble and silent and seem rude and socially awkward.

If you resonate with any of this you are probably a part of this brilliant and confusing lifestyle of travel. You may be a part of this amazing phenomena called ‘third culture’, or you may be just a simple traveller who left home a while ago and consider no one place your ‘home’. You may have just left home after being there your whole life and started a career abroad. No matter how your story starts we are all a part of this social anomaly.

I like to call myself several things; third culture kid (more appropriately third culture person now), nomad, traveller, global citizen, expatriate, someone with more than one nationality…

One thing that may be universal to us is that we haven’t placed roots in a single place. We may have even up-rooted ourselves from our home-countries and now are free to move and place our roots across borders.

We spread seeds all over the world and make friends and connections worldwide, we call ‘home’ wherever our suitcase lies and our head rests for the night. We call ‘home’ where we have a 2-year business contract and a rented apartment. We call ‘home’ where we feel happy… and that may not be our childhood town.

What is a ‘third culture person’? It may mean many things for different people, but the idea is that an individual has more than a single cultural identity. This may mean being born into a multi-cultural family, or living in a country that is not your own. Many third culture individuals may even find themselves feeling more at home with this other culture than their own. We are exposed to foreign cultures, languages, and customs and we blend in with the locals. We know how to say basic phrases in a thousand languages and we love living abroad.

What does being a third culture or expat mean to you?

Muscat, Oman

Muscat, Oman

Sackville, New Brunswick

Sackville, New Brunswick

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Ille Perrot, Quebec

Ille Perrot, Quebec

Cheers,

K