Money vs Happiness

Three things happened to me last week:

  1. My husband said that his goal for the next 5-10 years was to continue to be happy
  2. I finished up at my first job in the for profit sector
  3. I read that 52% of Aussies would sacrifice up to $10, 000 of their salary in order to feel happier.

When the first happened, I was surprised as I thought my husband’s goal for the next 5-10 years was to own a big house in the suburbs. Mine was to travel overseas at least once a year of course.

I thought his goal was sweet and simple and definitely achievable. The lesson of just being happy is one that I thought I had already learnt and one I actually remember teaching my husband about on a couple of different occasions when he decided to move on from a job. Perhaps it was a timely reminder due to the second occurrence.

The job I left last week, was my first job in a for profit company. Perhaps, because of this, I never stood a chance. I have no regrets, as I have always been of the school of thought that it’s better to go for it and find out, then always wonder what could have been. This theory works for relationships too I find!

It wasn’t about the people- there are good (and of course bad) people in every workplace- I just wasn’t happy. I’m not sure if it was even about being a for profit company either, for as long as I have purpose and passion I find I have the drive to work. So perhaps it is just that passion that I was missing.

Which brings me to point 3. I would definitely sacrifice money in my job to feel happier (although I shouldn’t have to!). And it seems I am not alone. We all know the theory that money doesn’t make you happy. But maybe it is money that makes you happy? Or enough money to keep your wife happy? Or maybe just having enough money to feel comfortable? And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Maybe it’s not about the fight between money and happiness at all, but about finding the right balance for you. As I embark upon my next round of soul-searching interviews to find the right fit for me, this is definitely something to keep in mind. At least I feel like I am getting closer. And as they say, this is the first day of the rest of my life.

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Singapore, 2015

On the way back from Sri Lanka, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore. We stayed at the luxurious Swissotel at Clarke Quay where my daughter loved the big bed, the free cow soft toy and kids toiletry pack. We all had great fun at the water slides on the roof too.

We also enjoyed exploring more of the Clarke Quay area. The art gallery with the colourful shutters, the street art and the view of Marina Bay Sands. Clarke Quay at night was also a pretty sight with all the lights.

One of the things on my hit list for this trip to Singapore was the largest fountain in the southern hemisphere- the Fountain of Wealth. And so to the fountain we went, located conveniently next to a large shopping centre with a huge Uniqlo and the best H&M I have been to so far.

The fountain was so big that you could walk into it so was definitely worth the trip. We also met my friend Cynthia and her new baby son for lunch. Dinner was with the other half of the couple, her partner Tony, and my husband’s friend Drew at Café Iguana back at Clarke Quay.

The next day, we went to Fort Canning Park, which was more of a sprawling park of walkways than an entertaining park for kids. We went to Cynthia and Tony’s for dinner at a local restaurant and reacquainted our daughters who enjoyed posing together for photos and holding hands on the walk back to the apartment.

With not enough time as always, the holiday came to an end once again, and it was time to bid farewell to our friends and fly back to Sydney.

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Pinnawala and Negombo, 2015

My parents, husband, daughter and I drove past Bible Rock, stopped in Kadurata for lunch and continued on to Pinnawala to see the elephants.

I had been here before, had loved it and couldn’t wait to show our daughter who I was sure would enjoy it too.

When we arrived, the elephant herd was on the plain, waiting to be walked for meal time. Some of the baby elephants were having shower time, which they seemed to be revelling in.

Afterwards they were all put together in a pen and our daughter was able to reach out and touch a trunk or two. And then it was time for bottle feeding- and boy did they suck it down!

I paid a little extra to feed a basket of fruit to one of the older elephants and it was worth every penny. They really are such gentle giants and our daughter thought it was hysterical when the elephant tried to suck my knee in the search for more goodies.

And then it was time for the daily trek to the river for bath time. I think the herd relished bathing as much as we marvelled in the spectacle. They flopped their big bodies into the water and stayed submerged for long lengths of time with just their trunks emerging for breathing.

Mothers and calves, younger ones tussling with each other and one who only left their ears above the water to show that they were there.

On the drive out we stopped at a Tambuli stand for some fresh coconut water, before heading to our final Sri Lankan destination, Negombo.

We stayed at an aging hotel with a pool, went for a walk along the beach and discovered part of a fishing village. My husband bought a handmade leather bag at Akram Leather Factory. The machinery in the factory was ancient, but it still did the job.

All our daughter wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool, so most of the day was spent doing that. And in the evening, we enjoyed drinks and I had a luscious seafood platter for my final meal.

After saying our fond farewells to our driver and my parents after they dropped us at the airport, it was time to leave Sri Lanka and our road trip behind. It had been nice to show my husband a country that I had always liked visiting and I am sure he now appreciated it and the people as much as I do.

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Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015

Sigiriya Rock was the next item on the agenda for our trip. My husband, daughter and I decided to give climbing the actual rock a miss in the midday heat and took a walk around the gardens instead.

The grounds were surrounded by a moat and contained many ramparts and water gardens with lily pads and lotus flowers. The view of Sigiriya Rock from the gardens was great and we bumped into the friendly Singaporean couple from Kandy again.

Dambulla Rock Temple turned out to be one of my favourite sites of the trip. The golden temple and golden Buddha at the foot of the mountain were large and shiny and there were lots of monkey families to keep us company on the walk up to the rock temple.

Dambulla is actually 5 caves built into the rock of a mountain with over 150 statues of Buddha. Overwhelming to say the least. The temple was whitewashed and quite striking on the outside. There was also a large sacred fig tree on the grounds with coloured flags twined in the branches.

The first cave was completely filled with a reclining Buddha and there was barely room to get in and see the statue. The second cave housed the great king and many sitting Buddha’s. There were even paintings of Buddha on the roof.

The third and fourth caves had stupas and Buddha’s in various poses. The last cave was one of the smallest and most dilapidated, but also the one I like the most- there was just something about the atmosphere in there.

After the walk back down, we stopped for lunch at the luxurious Thilanka, Dambulla on the recommendation of an uncle. The resort was isolated with a beautiful long pool and tennis courts. The food was tasty and it would have been nice to stay a few days in this little oasis, but alas, it was back on the road for us.

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Disney on Ice

I recently had the pleasure of going to Disney on Ice with my daughter and it was fabulous!

The last time I saw the show I went with my grandmother when was 5. Mickey Mouse was the main attraction then, along with Snow White.

Disney on Ice has changed since my day. There is still Mickey Mouse of course, but the main drawcard are the new princesses- Rapunzel and Frozen. But they still had Belle and my favourite- The Little Mermaid- perhaps a clever marketing move to hook the parents in too?

And so, I got to relive being five, 30 odd years later. A time when life was simpler, happiness was easy and stresses were few.

Clever Disney, transporting us all back to fun times with some entertainment, light and music. Even some of the adults were dressed up as Elsa. And why not take a break from the everyday job that you are going to be at for the next 30 years and let the fantasy take over instead?

I mean, in what reality are horses on ice skates, flashes of light come out of the hands of princesses and it snows inside?

And of course, everyone knows all the songs from having watched the movies a millions times at home- so why not sing along?

Sure, you could be cynical and say Disney is a moneymaking organisation that wants go charge you $35 for a plastic cup when you leave, but perhaps that’s ok with all the joy they have brought into the world for our little ones?

My daughter loved it too of course. Having 4 stories in one kept her interested, she enjoyed an Olaf ice cream and all she wanted to know was when is Elsa and Anna were coming on.

The one thing that did get me thinking though, was the fact that princesses have to change for perfect prince, like Ariel having to change for her prince. But on the flipside, the prince has to change for his perfect princess, like Flynn having to change for Rapunzel.

Personally, I don’t think anyone should ever have to change for anyone, but perhaps it’s more a message about the right person bringing out the best in us all. I like to think so anyway.

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Kandy, 2015

Next stop in our road trip around Sri Lanka was Kandy. My parents, husband, daughter and I started with the main attraction first- the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic- said to house the tooth of Buddha.

The temple complex was large, vast and white washed. Part of the grounds weren’t even open to the public. We had to wear sarongs to enter where brightly coloured lotus flower offerings were for sale. There were lots of school children visiting in groups and many stupas.

Intricately carved stone made up the floor of the entry which was next to elephants on the walls and the temple itself was surrounded by a moat. The tunnelled ceilings were painted beautifully. The main area in the middle of the temple that held the tooth was carved in wood with elephant tusks at the closed door.

Upstairs was a room full of more permanent offerings, like gold leaved trees. The Audience Hall next door was an impressive structure with many pillars with designs carved into them.

The temple was located next to the lake- a beautiful blue green oasis in the middle of the busy city. We had lunch at the newly renovated Olde Empire Hotel and met a lovely couple from Singapore. We went shopping and found retro buses renovated and painted artfully.

We stayed up the hill at the Serene Grand Hotel with signs all over the balcony doors to keep them locked due to monkey activity. And they were not joking. We watched a few of the cheekier ones ransack a room in the neighbouring hotel after moving a chair on the balcony and opening the door to get in. The views of Kandy and the lake from up here were beautiful.

My daughter’s favourite thing about Kandy was the cultural show. With fast moves and many different costume changes for each region in Sri Lanka, it kept her entertained from start to finish. There was the peacock dance, the many different types of drummers, the fire dance, the witch and the masked man. The show ended with fire walking.

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Upcountry, 2015

While staying with my aunt Pauline and uncle Bernard at Ebony Springs, we explored the surrounding areas upcountry. One day, my parents, husband, daughter and I were taken to Mas Villa overlooking Kotamale Dam.

The old colonial dwelling once housed the prime minister and was now a luxury hotel. We went for lunch on the verandah, to nose around the indoor courtyard with koi filled fish ponds and for a swim in the pool. The house was almost as beautiful as the view from the garden and the signature desert.

On another day, we drove past tea pluckers to visit the factory at Norwood tea estate. My uncle Bernard had been managing this particular tea estate last time I had stayed in Sri Lanka.

The factory was obviously much bigger than Ebony Springs and it had many rooms of large machinery with no smoking and no betel chewing allowed. There were rollers, mixers, fermenting beds, drying areas, grading and packing rooms. Followed by a professional tea tasting of the finished product with aprons and spitting.

On the way back from the factory we saw Adam’s Peak, the Virgin Hills which was the site of a well-known plane crash and a colourful festival at a Hindu temple.

The next day, we decided to go into the closest town- Nawalapitiya- for some shopping. My daughter was delighted that we were taking a tuk tuk on this journey and one that she could pose in, being away from the busy city.

Nawalapitiya is a functional hill town for the locals. Most tourists would not stop here, except to catch a bus or a train to somewhere else. And I guess that’s what I liked about it- a little bit off the beaten path, and authentic.

Most shops held clothing or bags of produce- coconuts, betel leaves, chillies and rice. We stopped at a bakery for some dine in short eats that were very tasty.

And so ended our retreat at Ebony Springs. Good food, beautiful scenery, top notch tea and great company, as always.

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Ebony Springs, 2015

As we continued our journey into the hills, my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Nuwra Eliya to visit the manicured Victoria Park, including trees shaped like pineapples and flowerbeds with signs telling us to ‘Behave Decently’.

The kid’s playground was the old style colourful metal play equipment that would not pass safety laws in Australia, but all the kids seemed to enjoy it and nobody got hurt. Our daughter’s favourite was the ride on the miniature train.

We went to my favourite shoe shop in town, Bata, which had the cheapest kids shoes ever. There were many grand buildings in Nuwra Eliya- the bank, the post office and the Grand Hotel. We stopped at the famous Hill Club, but didn’t venture inside as we were not properly attired and were tired from all our playing in the park.

The next part of our drive wound through Mackwoods Tea Estate, past Ramada Falls to a lookout point over Kotamale Lake. We were getting higher and also prettier. Another drive past Kotamale Dam and we reached our destination- my  aunt and and uncle’s boutique tea estate and homestay- Ebony Springs.

My uncle Bernard had worked for many years at several of the large tea estates Upcountry and had recently decided to branch out on his own with speciality white teas. The statue of Letchmi the tea plucker had been rescued from a previous place of employment and now stood at the front gates as the icon of estate.

We spent a little time out eating the lovely food that my aunt Pauline and her helpers prepared- fresh sambal, curry crab and hoppers. We played karum, read and played with the dogs.

I went inside my uncle Bernard’s small factory where his three workers cut and hand rolled tealeaves into various shapes and sizes. Equipment, now out-dated in the bigger more automated factories, found its home here for drying and sorting the tea.

My uncle Bernard’s favourite invention was the tea urchins that opened up like a lotus flower when hot water was poured on them. Ahh bliss!

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Ella, 2015

On the way to Ella my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Kudwella. We took a short walk past stalls of dried fish to the Ho-o-maniya blow hole- and boy did it blow! The water was bright blue against the dark rocks and stretched far into the horizon.

The next part of the drive took us through Udawalewe National Park and we were lucky enough to stop and see an elephant on the side of the road by a lake. A local bus had also stopped and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

It was raining by the time we started climbing into the hills, but that didn’t stop me jumping out to take a picture of Rawana Falls. Our daughter was sick after all the winding roads so we were glad to reach our accommodation for a couple of nights at the Zion View Hotel.

And what a view it was- right across to Ella Rock. The restaurant had the best views from the top floor and they also had a handy kids play area with a swing and other toys. We met another family with a young boy and our daughter was in play date heaven.

Our family room was a couple of floors down, but still had an amazing view of the rock, Ella Gap and Rawana Falls with a strategically placed hammock on the balcony to watch it from. Early morning sunrises with the little one didn’t seem so bad sitting there with her as the morning fog lifted to reveal the view.

My husband and I ventured into the small town for supplies and stumbled upon a film crew shooting. It was a fight scene so most of the locals were watching excitedly. We also found one of the many funky new cafes that have cropped up in Ella.

Not brave enough to climb through the gap to and up Ella Rock, I was still glad that we had come to see such a beautiful place and taken in the peaceful hill town.

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Mirissa, 2015

Mirissa was the required beach rest stop that my husband requested for our Sri Lankan trip. We stayed at the Paradise Beach Club on the recommendation of a relative whip worked in the travel industry and it did not disappoint.

Our room had a view of palm trees and the quiet end of the beach from the balcony and was air conditioned. The hotel also had a pool, bar and reastaurant that served good food, not too expensively.

The beach itself was gorgeous and we spent most days strolling one way and then the other, especially at sunset. The tides rose high in the evenings and occasionally took out one of the resatuarants on the beach that served fresh seafood.

We found a roti and hopper stand in town, the former proving quite popular with my daughter when paired with a cold ginger beer. She also enjoyed swimming in the pool everyday, and probably just being out of the van for a few days.

One day we walked all the way to the island at the northern end of the beach. The island was connected to the mainland at low tide and you could climb up a staircase for a view back to the beach. On the way we passed bars, fresh coconut stalls and whale watching cruise sellers.

On our last night we had a sunset dinner while we watched surfers take to the waves and finished off with stage dancing with the little one, before it was bedtime. It was lovely falling asleep listening to the waves and I was glad that we had taken the time to slow down and enjoy some relaxing luxury on the beach.

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