What are you reading?

With so many distractions and things to do after work and over the weekends, I have not been disciplined with reading or completing a book. Functional reading such as catching up on news and reading for work take over reading which feeds the soul.

Even when it comes to reading, there’s a question of what do I read now, with the limited time and attention and yet, so much more out there to consume. I’ve hard copy books which are still waiting for some attention. Books on Kindle waiting for that long, chill holiday. On top of that, there’s hiking research and planning to be done for that upcoming backcountry hiking trip in September 2018. Don’t get me wrong. This is a not complaint. I love reading, researching and planning. This is about my recent read…

I managed to complete a book on my Kindle within two days of my purchase! Which is now a feat. No, it’s not a short story. In fact, it’s a rather inspiring true story of four women who are doing well in their careers and at home. They each have two children and they are in their mid-forties and early-fifties.

The book: Four Mums in a Boat

The read was easy and entertaining, so I managed to devour the book over the weekend, owing to our rare lazy Sunday.

They defied all odds and were the first women to row across the North Sea and the oldest women to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. They had no ocean rowing experience and in the book, I learnt that there’s a big difference between river rowing and ocean rowing. They had so many obstacles standing in the way of their dreams before they had even gotten to the actual race.

What I’ve learnt from their story: 

These are not new but we get drawn into the cycle of our routines, work and life.

  • Change is in your hands and you have the power to change something you don’t like in your life.
  • Push on even with some physical challenges. A good reminder for long hiking trips.
  • Dare to dream
  • Grab an opportunity
  • Pack only what you would eat and love in a snack pack…. everything else goes overboard…or in our case, we would end up carrying them [food we don’t want] in and out of the park.

As what Frances has mentioned in the book, “…it takes all sorts to make a world. Some people will never understand. They feel uneasy when other people try to break the mould, rock the boat, and do something a little different; when they stop treading the same path as everyone else.”

Watch this video of their journey (in a nutshell): https://youtu.be/KwVrYWHjqLI 

I’m glad I made the decision to stay home and finish a book on a Sunday. What I’d missed was Tom Cruise’s, apparently best, Mission Impossible movie yet…and training for our hike.

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The special walk

I was proposed to about fourteen days ago, on a bridge above a canopy of trees, in Singapore, in the rain, while on a day hike. It was apt since we both love the outdoors, greenery, hiking and it was one of our first hikes together in Singapore. Since then, we’ve gone on longer hikes in New Zealand, Canada and Norway, in the rain, under the sun and in the snow. We’ve made many good memories while on those hikes that’s for sure.

There are so many memories and thoughts that I’m struggling to put this in a blog article read by people who do not know us and hence, the lack of context. For us, getting engaged is a milestone in our lives after five years of living together, but it does not change many other things. Commitment is above any law and it is what holds people accountable to something. However, that said, I grew up in a more conservative culture whereby couples who live together should be legally married and there is still a slight stigma for women who live together with a partner, without getting married or an indication of that happening in the near future. So this was definitely good news for my parents too. They did find out about this earlier than me…when M asked them for permission and blessing before the proposal.

Tradition aside, it is also a goal for many women – to have their very special day, being a princess (although sometimes, we probably do not stop being princesses…). Thanks to all those TV influences – both Western and Eastern, what we are brought up with and societal mindset. Many women see that [getting attached or married] as a part of their value or self-worth.

Coming back to simpler and happier thoughts, hiking and our journey so far which cumulated to the day of being proposed to. It was definitely a special moment which seems more important than signing any legal document. The first few hikes we had as a couple in Singapore and later brought us on many other adventures.

The adventures we had together were great experiences which brought us closer as partners. Multi-day hikes are a great way to bond for sure, when you are ‘bonded’ together for that number of days and nights…

There are so many memories and stories to tell around each hike, adventure and experience we’ve had together. Although we’ve had some bad ones too, just like any other couples, I think it takes work from both parties to work out any issues.

Some things I’ve learn so far after being in a good and healthy relationship. We may not be perfect at doing this yet but a relationship is a learning journey.

  • Do not leave issues as they are. Work them out and find a middle ground if there is and then move on.
  • As partners, we need to lift each other up. From simple things like sharing domestic chores to something more emotional and mental.
  • Listening to each other. Really listen. This is so important for any form of relationship – friends, colleagues, family…yet so tough. Many people listen ‘shallowly’ and jump right off to what they want to say. I’m more aware of this now, but still room for improvement.
  • If there are deal breakers in the relationship, learn to say no and break away as early as possible. Life is too short for staying unhappy for too long.
  • Learn to discover and travel solo first before travelling with your partner. Find that space, peace and happiness within yourself as you should not rely solely on someone else to make you happy.
  • Mutual respect, honesty and trust form the basis of a healthy relationship.

We are so alike in so many ways that it is easy for me to be my weird self. I don’t think there could have been another answer to the proposal other than, yes.

The season for love: is everyday

To think that Valentine’s Day was actually the day we started dating officially. We celebrate our anniversary with at least 60% of the adult population. The day which I’d received chocolates and flowers which gave me such a thrill. That was about five years ago now. While back then, ironically, we probably didn’t know each other as well as we do now. That said, we still learning about each other, but perhaps not so much of a ‘steep learning curve’ now.

While Valentine’s Day is when couples remember to date each other perfunctorily, it should also remind us that gestures of love should continue throughout the year, everyday. It is rather much like an observance of International Women’s Day, World Friendship Day etc. They aren’t something we celebrate for a day but rather, for reflection of achievements and the journey to come. I’m sure many would agree.

I celebrate the time and attention from my partner. The gift of time and attention are priceless.
On the other spectrum, I value the time I have to myself too. Time and space to develop personally.
I appreciate that my partner shares household chores and has a gift for ironing.

I still love the flowers I’d received at the office today. They are sitting pretty in a vase on our dining table now.

 

 

Canada outdoors love affair 

​Our first hiking and camping trip together was in Canada during a visit home (for M). Now it feels like a homecoming to me too when I recall the country’s great outdoors, fresh air, clean water, marvellous mountains, lakes and chalets.

We’ve gone hiking in other regions like New Zealand and Norway after, but I am looking forward to hiking and camping in Canada again. I only wish that we were staying in Canada for a longer duration… We would hike and camp in BC and Newfoundland. Choices…. Too many…

Happy 150th Canada and thank you for the free pass! #showusyourpass #explorecanada

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRBBNndjgSe/

Okay, so quick update. We ended up going for our hike in Canada late-October to early-November. As you know, weather at that time isn’t ideal for camping and hiking. Additionally, we didn’t use our Canada 150 pass since we didn’t stay at the National Parks as we went during off-season.

Listen up: Podcasts might be your best friend

Yes, podcasts (not all) can be your best friend.

We survived those long road trips listening to podcasts or specifically CBC The Current and As it happens. I was always of the view that radio should be filled with songs and music in the past, but that has changed when I started on podcasts.

When one gets strapped for time and feel that you are constantly doing things in a day, torn between work, fitness, personal enrichment, entertainment and social, getting information through alternative means is highly valued – besides ‘osmosis of information through cells’. Catching up on information on the go is a great way to maximize time and learning. For people who cannot read in a moving vehicle, like me, listening to podcasts is an option.

Podcasts are useful when you aren’t performing another task which requires some thinking or concentration. Multitasking is a myth and that is supported by research around brain functions – our brains are only able to focus deeply on one task at a time.  Doing too many things at the same time diminishes the brain’s capacity for deep thinking.

So reading and working while listening to podcasts are bad combinations. Podcasts are great for long drives like our road trip from New York to Halifax in Canada and Halifax to Ottawa.

Listening to certain podcasts can be enlightening and enriching. They also help as conversation starters at networking events or deeper conversation pieces around pertinent topics. It helps you to consider different perspectives. For me, it also helps me to listen deeper to what people are saying. Listening is a skill and I’m still learning.

The best thing that happened to me was getting started with some podcasts. There are some paid and free apps for podcasts. You can get Pocket Casts or a free app I use, Castbox. I tried a couple of other apps before and like Castbox for its interface and it saves your profile across devices.

I personally like CBC’s As it happens, Freakonomics, Hidden Brain, Note to Self, Up First and more recently, BBC Analysis.

So what are you listening to today?

Goodbye January 2016

So we started the new year barely 30 days ago. It has been a whirlwind month with work demanding all of one’s time and it probably took us a whole week or probably more to get over our ‘time lag’ upon returning to Singapore from Canada in the first week.

It feels just like yesterday when we were just taking a long road trip from Canada to New York for our flight, looking out for bad weather conditions, the rare Starbucks signs and getting lost in the bowels of New York city streets looking for our ‘refresh’ hotel before the long flight back.

The white streets, Nordstrom and friendly squirrels in Ottawa are just a memory in our third week back to Singapore. They all seem like a long time ago but all just part of the January illusion when events catch-up on you when the new year starts in fifth gear. Of course, paying for those credit card bills from the holiday brings the awareness that it all just happened and we are only just beginning the year and the haze of January is disappearing when we see the ass of February and it hits us that we have worked ourselves into February or raced into February.

While we say goodbye to the first month of the year, there is a little trepidation that the rest of the year will be eventful and what will the 2016 elections bring, what other big events await us this year? I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but conditions have led us to believe that the world is falling sick and what we do each day at work, is a very micro aspect of helping to alleviate any conditions which can threaten our way of life.

Climate change for one is a huge concern after drastic weather changes in the North and winter arriving close to two months late and more. [These thoughts are all my personal opinion and not much of a dissertation piece based on in-depth research.] It is supposed to be 20 degrees into the negative but it is barely going beyond 0 or -5 in some parts of Canada. We talk about this for years and committees have been established. The world needs drastic approaches to this by changing policies such as lowering the cost of electric cars, building the infrastructure for electric or hybrids, making them more affordable and convenient could increase the take-up rates and reducing the reliance on gas, banning leaded petrol in countries (Canada I know has banned leaded petrol), education of the public and coal being a major culprit, needs to be replaced with alternatives.

Leadership crisis across the world from world leaders to corporate leaders. The expectations of leaders have changed. There is a need for different views and approaches which may be slightly more socialist in nature. What is the definition of a good leader and why?

I could go on, but life is good and we rejoice in many things. This is also not an article about how the world needs fixing, but how our problems at work seem small in comparison to the magnitude of the world and the universe. We have a few years of actually living our lives so perhaps it is what we need to consider – what does living our lives mean?

Discovery, international experience and learning form my foundation for ‘living a life’. Which means, for us to be happy, we need to be living up to our definition of ‘living our lives’. If I am not discovering new things, learning and experiencing life through traveling or living abroad, my soul may shrivel up and die. All very dramatic.

So while we bid January goodbye, how about taking stock of our lives at this point and shaping our lives in a direction; before we start to find ourselves drifting into the events of 2016 and losing perspective.