Wanderlust

From my trip to Agra, India
From my trip to Agra, India

After visiting 23 countries over the 31 years of my life, I must say that there are only three things I absolutely hate about travel – touts, toilets and packaged tours. Why? Because touts are always make me feel like a money tree, exploring new toilets feels like an incalculable risk, and package tours are really just like watching 18 poorly edited trailers back-to-back when you really just want to see one good movie.

Having said that, these are the five reasons I brave such ‘untold dangers’ to hit the road time and again.

#1 Mental Detox
Packing for a trip helps to un-clutter my life – because unless you are Paris Hilton or her chihuahua, you usually only have one or two bags of luggage space. And deciding what to bring helps you pare the thousands of creature comforts and cool toys you have down to the essentials.

I never realise how many things I’ve amassed and how much time I spend sorting them out until I pack for a trip. And somehow, deciding that I really don’t need to bring another perfume, pair of shoes or gadget helps me clear up mental space, sift the essential from the fluff, and ultimately put things in perspective.

#2 For An Adventure

It’s either the white noise or the plastic chicken, but taking a plane always makes me feel like I’m in some kind of fake temporary limbo, and when I emerge on the other side, I’ll be entering a different world, a new Narnia where I can be someone else for a while, and even vanquish a Minotaur or two. Regardless, I always up for an adventure again on the other side.

#3 For New Perspectives

Remember Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams gets his students to stand on their desks to see the world from a different perspective? I’m starting to think that maybe as we grow older, we start to take ourselves too seriously to ever flippantly climb a table again, or see anything special when we do. That’s why we need to climb mountains, castles, 100 storey observatory towers in search of that same sense of wonder again.

#4 To Find My Pace

Don’t get me wrong: I love travelling with friends. But it also somehow feels like travelling in one big cloud of familiarity. Solo travel is a refreshing change because it helps me discover a new place, discover myself and find my own pace again. In a world where we are always scrambling to keep pace with others, I think everyone should try solo travel at least once.

#5 Because The World Is So Beautiful And We Are So Small

Travelling makes me believe in the magic again.

Taken in Rajasthan, India
Taken in Rajasthan, India

3-Sec Hot Choc Transformations

Chocolate

I’m a firm believer that spending at least one minute every day doing something completely ‘unnecessary’ will make a difference to your mental well-being.

My project today: DIY hot chocolate recipes that don’t require an inventory or a chocolatier’s dedication – just 3 seconds and some kitchen staples to re-invent an ‘ordinary’ indulgence and start the day on a different note.

1. SEA SALT
A pinch of coarse sea salt (from mineral-rich oceans and lakes) adds depth to your favourite cuppa.

2. ICE CREAM
Think: Molten brown perfection – melted ice cream, thick frothy chocolate and interesting favour infusions. Anything goes here: Baileys, earl grey, durian, coconut or toasted marshmallows ice cream…

3. CHILLI
Chilli = pain = the release of endorphins that induce a sense euphoria. And of course, combining ‘happy’ food with chocolate is a no brainer – chilli flakes or hot sauce  make interesting (but not everyday) combinations.

4. VANILLA EXTRACT
A whiff of vanilla has mood enhancing and anxiety-relieving benefits, according to aromatherapists. And it makes creamy milk hot chocolate varieties that much richer and flavourful.

5. CINNAMON
Get your antioxidant fix in your hot chocolate – studies suggest that this spice contains free radical fighters and reduces inflammation. Spiced hot chocolate is also apparently one of the first versions enjoyed by the Aztec and Spanish.

6. NUT BUTTER
These are chockfull of unsaturated (good) fats, omega-3 fatty acid and fibre. Processed peanut butter (less healthy) will work, but raw nut butters such as hazelnut and almond are even better. It’s like imbibing a melted sundae.

7. FLOUR
To get thick, soup-like Spanish hot chocolate, half a teaspoon of corn flour with real chocolate bits will do the trick. It’s chicken-soup of the soul, but sweeter.

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A Passing Memory

Many years ago, I was assigned to write a story on a hospice for a small Singapore-based health magazine.

The PR person for the hospice scheduled me to interview two patients, both of whom seemed happy enough to spend one precious day in the last days of their lives sharing their life story with me.

On the day of the interview, I came down with a bad cold. I didn’t want to infect terminally ill patients so I rescheduled the interview. When I called back a few days, I was told that one of my interviewees had passed away from complications.

So I did my interview with just one patient who was down with 4th stage lung cancer that had spread to the bones. I only remember that throughout the interview, she kept telling me, with a brittle smile, a hoarse voice and a twinkle in her eye, that she knew she’d be well and home with her family by Christmas.

She passed away a couple of weeks after.

                                                                                                        —–

At that time, I was very affected by this. I was not quite sure if I was inspired or simply depressed.

Because of a common cold, I lost the opportunity to meet a dying man with a story to tell. The woman who I did speak to was frail as a leaf, but so tenaciously optimistic – a poster girl for infinite human capacity to hope. And if that wasn’t enough irony and pathos, why would two people on the brink of death chose to spend their most treasured time speaking to an utter stranger when two years ago, they might not have spared me the time of day if I passed them on the streets.

Having said that, I really don’t want to milk this experience for moral summaries or trite truisms.

It was, as I told it.
It moved me and shifted the course of my life forever (if only by a micro-inch) – just like all the people we’ve met, books we’ve read, movies we’ve watched, places we’ve been to… everything that left a lump in our throat.

I’m starting this blog because I believe that extraordinary and ordinary inspirations happen every single day. And I don’t want to miss them.