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10 things I have learnt from travelling

  1. I used to have lists and must do everything. I have learnt that going off the list brings nice alternative surprises.

2. I used to think the place was the most important thing. I have learnt that it’s sometimes the people that make the place.

3. I used to think that what you ate when you travelled was unimportant. I have learnt that food is a big part of travelling and often what triggers your memories more than anything else.

4. I used to think that souvenirs were the most important things to gather. I have learnt that photos and memories are much more precious.

5. I used to think travelling solo was the best way to go. I have learnt that travel is nicer when you have someone to share the memories with after the trip.

6. I used to trust what other people said about a place. I have learnt that you can’t trust what people say about a place- you have to go and see for yourself.

7. I used to think that places constantly changed. I have learnt that the more a place changes, the more it stays the same.

8. I used to think once you have been to a place there was no need to go back. I have learnt that there’s always somewhere new to go, even in places where you have been before.

9. I used to think you could go back to a place and it would be just as good as the first time you went. I have learnt that you can go back to a place, but never back in time.

10. I used to think that all places in the world were different. I have learnt that inevitably some places remind you of other places.

Most of all, I have learnt that the world is a beautiful, magical and amazing place and to enjoy its best to stay positive.

Or perhaps I knew this all along.

#travellessons travel blog competition

Related posts: Traveller vs Tourist, Travel rememberings, Solo trip to Hawaii

Tokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and Yanaka

When night came, we headed to Shinjuku where all the neon lights are. Outside of one of the many Sanrio Hello Kitty shops that they have in Japan, I found the biggest Hello Kitty statue I have ever seen.

We also found the infamous Robot Restaurant and climbed a stepladder for a photo with one of the robots. The area was lively and we stopped in a restaurant that served whale bacon and made soft serve ice cream instantly. We declined the former, but my daughter enjoyed the whole process of the later.

Most of the locals were playing a betting game where they betted on rolled dice for free beer. I think my husband wished he knew how to play.

The next day we woke later, exhausted from all the walking and almost overloaded with sight seeing.

We went to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, part of which is set to close in early 2017. There were enormous slabs of tuna everywhere prepared in any fashion you desired. My husband had raw fish and sea urchin for breakfast, followed by eel skewers for a snack. I couldn’t quite stomach it and had omelette instead.

I liked the huge mushrooms of many shapes, the paper-thin sheets of Nori seaweed and the lollies that were made to look like a tray of sushi. One question we never had answered was where is the inner market and how do you get there?

Next we went to Yanaka old city. It was small and hard to imagine that this was once the centre of Tokyo. The main street had tiny shops. My daughter enjoyed reading the Japanese manga fairy tale books and we liked looking at the houses, both small and grand.

We went back to Shinjuku in search of one of the Alice in Wonderland restaurants. Finding one of these themed places was a little bit of an obsession for me. After a lot of searching, I thought, why is an Alice restaurant so hard to find? But I suppose that’s the whole point.

Eventually we found it, down the rabbit hole elevator in the basement of a non-descript building. It was closed.

Instead, we went to Omide Yoko Cho memory lane for a tasty traditional lunch with Japanese beer and went shopping in one of the many Uniqlo’s- the Japanese brand that has now taken the world by storm.

Back in our neighbourhood, my daughter played in the block courtyard park before we went to dinner at one of my husband’s friends places. The local lady of the house served Daiwa Sushi (make your own) and the thinnest and tastiest slices of Kobe beef that we had ever eaten.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and Shibuya, Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Lady with a baby coming through…

Having just come off the back of two maternity leave roles, it gave me pause to reflect on my maternity leave experiences.

I’d had ownership of my job for three successful years when it was time for me to go on maternity leave. I soon realised that I must let go of control and pass on my knowledge as much as possible because once you’re gone, there’s nothing you can do.

Honestly, after I left, I was too busy keeping a small human alive to even think about what was happening back at work, let alone worry who was organising the next conference.

When I came back from maternity leave, I realised that the world had kept spinning without me and my replacement had actually improved some of the processes. My worry about not having a job to go back to was quickly allayed when she went on maternity leave herself.

But then I discovered that I actually didn’t want me old job back anyway. In a strange twist of fate, having a child actually gave me the ambition to have a career, not just a job. I figured that if I was spending time away from my daughter, I better be doing something that was worth it.

And so I made moves towards loftier career goals and took a maternity leave contract role in a company that would expand on the skills in the areas I wanted to work in. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of other strong career women there who supported me through my learning process and taught me that confidence is not a dirty word.

I learnt that self-belief is not arrogance, but ego can be weak and a sign of insecurity. I was also taught that it’s ok to be selfish and not selfless in order to get where you want to go.

Once my maternity leave contract ended when the mother returned, I took another maternity leave role from someone who had been in her job for over a decade and I think was freaking out, trying to control the only thing she could with the uncertainty of her first child on the horizon- her job.

And we all know better than that now don’t we?

Both the maternity roles I took gave me different opportunities and experiences, but I can honestly say that I am now done with stepping into someone else’s shoes, no matter how shiny they are. I’m ready to have this job of my own again in a new role that is mine for the taking.

Related posts: Work, work, work, Money vs Happiness, The hunt, Pride vs The Fall

Holidays are…

Preparing and researching

Booking and planning

Packing

Excitement

Waiting impatiently

Airports and QANTAS club

Arriving in your new temporary home

Unpacking

New places and new things to see

First experiences

Navigating a new city

Temples and churches

Old towns

Landmarks and lookout points

Road trips

Landscapes

Having fun

Swimming

Walking

Enjoying the sunshine

Not letting the rain stop you

Watching shows

New food to try

Markets

Bars and restaurants

Having the time to enjoy a meal

Not cooking or washing up

Meeting new people

Sitting and people watching

Quality time with the little one

Catching up with friends

Cocktail hour

Uninterrupted conversations

Laughing

Pampering

Having the time to shop

New clothes from your new favorite shop

Souvenirs to take home

Photos and memories to keep

Not worrying

Thinking

Having the time to notice rainbows

Watching old movies

Card games

Finishing a book

Sitting and doing nothing

Napping

Drifting

Not wanting it to end

Booking the next holiday.

Related posts: Happy Holidays, Random Public Holiday Ramblings,  Kid at Heart

The Hunt

You may have been wondering where I have been for the last 3 months (or maybe you haven’t).

Where I have been is job hunting. And let me tell you, job hunting takes over your life.

There is always something else you can do. Recruiter meetings, coffee meetings, emails, phone calls, applying and interviewing. On the bus, at lunch time, not to mention your whole weekend. It never ends.

Job hunting is hard. The constant search for that perfect role in that perfect company that will not only progress you career, but be interesting and fulfilling.

The constant highs and lows, hope and disappointment that makes you feel like a manic depressive with bipolar.

Just when you think you’ve found something, the other person gets the job and the excitement fades to having to start all over again.

It’s very hard to keep the motivation going under such conditions- living in limbo and becoming forgetful due to the need to focus on the task at hand. It is a stressful time!

But I was fortunate enough to have a supportive husband, a new mentor and a great network of professional contacts who had more confidence in me than I sometimes had in myself. I only hope to repay the favour as needed.

So now I am happy to say that I am starting the not so new year with a new job, a new haircut, new shoes and a new hand bag.

But getting the job is only half the battle. There will also be new people, new tasks and a new battle to prove your value.

It takes at least another 3 months to learn how things work and how you fit in to all of it.

But you never know what you are capable of until you try right?

Related posts: Change is the New Black, Work, work, work, Old skool vs New skool, Power Plays, To belong, Reinvention

Singapore, 2012: Old vs New

The next day, my husband and I headed back to Chinatown to explore further the mix of old and new. The old colourful Hindu Sri Mariamman temple was still there along with the Buddha Tooth Relic temple.

There was an old Buddha statue near a new perspex temple and old markets next to the new Tin Tin shop. My husband was a big fan of Tin Tin from his days of living in Belgium and he was happy to find some of the books in French so that he could teach the language to our child once it was born.

Another Asian favourite of my husband’s is a good hawker centre, so we found an authentic one here for lunch. The humidity being cut briefly by the afternoon rains was an old familiar Asian experience. One clap of thunder was so loud that it made me jump.

After the rain, we went into to the new Marina Bay Sands to journey to the top. We got a tip that the best place to go was the cocktail bar at the curved infinity pool where you got the view without having to pay for the observation deck.

From the bar we could see the shell like Art Science Museum, the Singapore Flyer and the domes and trees of Gardens By The Bay that was currently under construction. It was a clear day so I felt like I could see almost all the way to Malaysia.

On our last day in Singapore we went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. We saw the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, a statue of Chopin and Swan Lake with fountains, swan statues and real swans and turtles. We went behind a waterfall, which triggered the old memory that I had been there before.

I’m not usually a flower person, but we figured it would be rude not to go into the National Orchid Garden while were here. After all, the purple flower is the national emblem. There were arches of golden orchids, an interesting cage display and a tiger orchid fountain.

The waterfalls in the cool room were another welcome reprieve from the heat. We got lost heading out of the gardens and found it hard to find a cab home, so that evening we took it easy by dining at one of the riverside restaurants at the foot of our hotel.

After a hectic couple of days in Singapore, my husband was looking forward to some relaxing beach time on Tioman Island and I was looking forward to returning to the island that held old memories from the last time I had been there.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Part 1

Old Skool vs New Skool

In the office there are old skool workers and new skool workers. Those that have a methodical, often longer way of working at things with great attention to detail; and those that work creatively, quickly, but not perfectly.

And it got me thinking about other old skool versus new skool ways of doing things. And whose to say which way is best?

Take bus tickets for example. You used to be able to pay the driver with actual money to get on the bus. Then we moved to pre paid paper tickets and now we have automatic electronic plastic tickets. Easier and quicker, yes, but much less personal as you don’t even have to speak to the bus driver anymore.

That’s even if you are listening to the outside world, as you might have your earphones on listening to music on your phone that you are live streaming from the internet. No more records, CD’s, MP3 players or even iPods anymore. More portable, but less tangible. I secretly still love buying a CD and popping it on the shelf.

And what gives you that capability to do all that live music listening- your smart phone with internet of course. No more dial phone, home phone, car phones or even mobile phones anymore. I must admit that I love my smart phone and having everything available 24/7, but I also enjoy switching it off and leaving it at home when I go on holiday.

If you are driving and don’t know how to get where you are going, talking Google maps will get you there. No more asking directions, Gregory’s books, maps or even static maps on your smart phone anymore. But there was that time that Google maps sent me down a dead end street and I had to find my own way out in an area I was completely unfamiliar with proving that even technology isn’t perfect.

Socialising and Dating will also never be the same. Forget the old skool way of meeting through friends, at a party, on the street or even at a bar. Everything from a film buddy to a husband can be found online these days. Sure it’s great to know up front what people are looking for, but it also kinda takes the mystery/fun/spark out of it doesn’t it?

The world of traveling has also changed. It takes less time to get to places and if you are in a new skool place to you, chances are that it is old skool to someone else. No one uses guide books, they use ebooks. Blog advice has replaced the advice of locals. Sometimes I find myself writing about a hidden treasure and I almost don’t want people to go so that it remains old skool.

And I still love taking my real Lonely Planet guide book with me and asking a local for their opinion on what I have read. After all, we can’t get free live streaming internet on our smart phones with Google maps everywhere right? And that’s why I love to travel in the first place- to get off the grid, feel something and discover the new skool experience in the old skool.

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Small town vs Big city

Small towns are cute, quirky and green. They are safe, comforting and friendly.

Everyone seems to know of one another and celebrate the same things in the same environment.

But this means that small towns can also be gossipy, stifling and routine.

Big cities are different, fun and challenging. They are tall, concrete and filled with endless possibilities.

They take you out of your comfort zone into a sometimes overwhelming place where you can make new friends and have new experiences every day.

But this means that big cities can also be fickle, lonely and expensive.

I grew up in a small town, and whilst I appreciate it was a nice little place to grow up, I think I was always a big city girl at heart.

Being an avid traveller doesn’t always mean you are necessarily a big city person, although it probably helps. Sometimes it’s the small towns that really show you what a place is like and who the people really are.

But I am a big city person and just the thought of going to a global city like London or New York gets me excited. Big cities are also big enough that they contain many smaller places to explore.

Being in a big city that you are familiar with gives you a sense of achievement and conquest, especially when you can navigate to your favourite places without a map.

But big cities are so big, that even in my home city of Sydney I often need to whip out Google maps to find out where that new restaurant is.

Small towns have their place and perhaps I wouldn’t be who I am today, or get that big city buzz as much, if I hadn’t grown up in a small town.

I still enjoy visiting my hometown of Berry, all the memories I have there and I am looking forward to taking my daughter to my birth town of Weymouth hoping that she can see what I see.

But I also can’t wait to take her to Central Park or a show at the West End; to see what she makes of the big hills of San Francisco or the mountains of Vancouver.

I wonder if she will be a big city girl with small town values like me, or just be a sophisticated city chick with no time for small town matters. I guess only time will tell…

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Real friends vs Digital friends

Real friends are great. They are there for you no matter what, in good times and bad; and all those sticky times in between. They’ve known you forever or are your new best friend. You like doing the same things together and planning for the future.

But life gets busy, people have kids or move away. You may be travelling for work and the time left for real friends becomes that 5 minutes at the end of the day before you collapse into a heap.

So what do you do?

You replace them with online friends! Online friends are great. They are there any time of the day and night and are from all over the world. They don’t care if you talk endlessly about travel, become opinionated or not answer their messages for a week.

Of course there is a danger in replacing real friends with online friends. They could not be who they say they are, they can still be mean and they may even defriend or block you. You also may never meet them in person.

And that’s great if you want to live in cyber space like most of Gen Y. And what about Millennials? Do they even know how to talk to people in real life anymore?

Digital friends can’t provide counselling on past and present issues as they are only hearing your side of the story. They can’t share a glass of wine and a meal with you or give you a real hug.

As a Gen X’er on the cusp of Y, I was very hesitant about social media. I still won’t share very personal pictures with the public. But in the age of digital transformation, does the Gen X attitude even matter anymore? It’s get on the digital train or get left behind these days.

So, no, I won’t be replacing my real friends with online friends anytime soon. But my real friends can take comfort in the fact that they won’t have to listen to my diatribe of travel obsession as I have some digital friends to ease the burden.

Related posts: Who are you?, Having it all?, Reinvention, Universal vs Personal,  Friendship: Great Expectations?

New Beginnings

At the moment, I am in the process of leaving the job I have been in for the longest in my career for a new role in a different industry, and it got me thinking about new beginnings.

New beginnings are exhilarating and exciting. Who knows what I will discover about myself, what new skills I will learn and whom I will meet?

Serial monogamists know what I’m talking about. Everything at the beginning of a relationship is perfect. There’s your first date, your first kiss, even your first difference of opinion is a milestone. Nothing is tarnished and life is good.

But once the shiny fades, and it is inevitably discovered that your new beau isn’t perfect, the temptation to leave and find another new beginning arises. It’s addictive.

However, if you stick around, you may discover that you’re not perfect either, that your imperfections balance each other out and end up with something more real. Something with depth and long-term prospects.

But at the end of the day, if you have tried for a new beginning in the familiar and your heart just isn’t in it anymore, it may be time to quit and go for a new beginning on the outside- especially if your happiness depends on it.

New beginnings in life can be scary, but they can also be interesting. One new beginning could change the course of your life forever. And isn’t that what this experience called life is all about?

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