Life in Melbourne (2016 in Review)

I bow down to pray
I try to make the worst seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay
~ A Million Reasons by Lady Gaga

Travel has very much defined my life in the past few years, having embarked on numerous ‘big’ travels (self-defined as one month or longer) spanning 4 continents, approaching 40 countries and an estimated 100 cities. Each ‘big’ travel has coincided with various milestones in my life: exchange semester in Europe, graduation from university, leaving my first job in Singapore and selling my stake in a backpackers hostel.

After stepping down as a business owner of the backpackers, I decided to move to Melbourne and begin a new life overseas. 2016 has been the first full year I spent in Melbourne. Primarily due to the lack of any major happenings in my life, 2016 is also the first time in the past few years where I had not done any ‘big’ travels. Inevitably, I begin to reminisce on my past travels and my mindset following each milestone, which could be described in the following words: exchange in 2011 (inspired), graduation in 2012 (hopeful), quitting my first job in 2013/14 (idealistic) and ceasing to be a business owner in 2015 (thoughtful). If I were to chart the positivity of these ‘one-word’ adjectives over time, it will be on a downward trend. Likewise, the pattern has persisted into 2016, for I will use the word – confused – to describe my current sentiments.

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3 Statements Indicating You Are A Travel Snob

Travel is about meeting new people, and sharing stories with each other. Sometimes, you meet the annoying Mr/Mrs Know-It-Alls, who have been to so many places in the world. With these people, you probably find yourself in conversations like these:

Statement #1
You: “Oh, this sunset is so beautiful!”
Travel snob: “Nah, it’s just alright. I’ve seen much better.”

People Gathering For Oia's Sunset - P8270654_nEO_IMG Credits: Yuankuei Cheng

Maybe you are witnessing the “best sunset in the world” at Santorini with a newfound hostel mate, and you just have to exclaim on the magic unravelling in front of you. Only to meet a Debbie Downer who brags about seeing far more spectacular sunsets in far-flung locations, like the safaris of Africa or on a dinghy boat in the open seas.

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Boracay?! Why not visit these 3 Filipino Islands instead?

Boracay is probably the most famous destination in the Philippines, and more than a million visitors visit the 7km long island each year. But for some hardy travellers, they might find the island overly touristic and gimmicky: McDonald’s and 7-Eleven chains sprouting amongst local shops, restaurants and bars with exorbitant prices above the country’s norm, flashy resorts constructed in between shabby villages, children building sandcastles for tips and over-congestion marring the natural beauty of the white sand beaches.

If you share these sentiments and crave a more local experience untainted by tourism, you can consider visiting these 3 islands in the Philippines instead:

1. Siargao (Mindanao)

Cloud 9 Boardwalk, SiargaoBoardwalk leading to the “Cloud 9” surfs
Magpupungko Tidal Pools, SiargaoTidal pools at Magpupungko during low tide Jellyfish lagoon in Sohoton Cove, SiargaoYou can carry these stingless jellyfish on your palm!

How to get there: 45-minute flights ply the Cebu-Siargao route every 1-2days.

YAY: If you are a surfing enthusiast, Siargao is the place for you! The earliest surfers experienced such euphoria from riding the waves, that they dubbed the waves “Cloud 9”. If you are a non-surfer, don’t worry. You can visit the gorgeously green Magpupungko Tidal Pools which appears during low tide, or go for a boat-tour to the jellyfish lagoon (!!) in the Sohoton Cove National Park.

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I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
~ I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For by U2

A year ago, I had intentions to write an article on chasing your dreams and following your passions, beginning it with the fast-beat pop/rock song, Counting Stars by One Republic: “Baby [I’ve] been praying hard, said no more counting dollars, [we’ll] be counting stars”. Instead, 365 days later, I am writing an entirely different article, starting it with the rock/gospel anthem, I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For by U2.

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3 Favourite Sunrises of Mine

Sunrise vs sunset: It is said that those who prefer sunrises are optimists who look forward to the start of a new day, while those who prefer sunsets are pessimists who brood over the events of the past day. I prefer sunsets but I do not consider myself to be a pessimist; instead, I am just a lazy ass who loves to sleep in! :D It is an ordeal to wake up for sunrises – hitting the snooze button numerous times, rubbing my sleepy eyes, burying my face in the pillow, tossing and turning around, before crawling out of bed grudgingly. But, for these 3 sunrises, it was definitely well worth my effort :)

1.  Mount Merapi, Jogjakarta

Sunrise at Mount Merapi, JogjakartaSunrise, Mount Merapi

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The Price of Work

When the work is done, the work is done
We’ll be bionic and beyond the circuits of our minds
We’ll get nothing done under electric sun
Leave the weight of labour far behind

We’re the greatest story that was ever told
But we don’t know where we’re from
And the walls became but a memory
Of the days when all the work begun
~ The Day The Work Is Done by Take That

After sunset, I was strolling along Lake Tekapo and admiring the crescent moon hanging low on the cobaltish-yellow night sky. Through the earphones plugged deep in my ears, I begin to hear the anthemic beats and catchy melody of “The Day The Work Is Done” by Take That. On a short sabbatical after quitting my job, the song instantly resonated with me and I looped the song a few times.

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3 Favourite Sunsets of Mine

I love sunsets til the extent that they are a quintessential part of my travels! Observing how the sun casts an orangey glow onto a foreign scenery – be it buildings, lakes or mountains – is always magical. It envelops me in a moment of mystique, resulting in me feeling almost ‘zen-like’ and at one with the world.

Recollecting on the sunsets I witnessed during my travels, these 3 especially stood out:

1.  Mount Fløyen, Bergen 

Sunset from Mount Fløyen, Bergen

Sunset from Mount Fløyen, Bergen

I was already in a euphoric state of mind from visiting the magnificent Bergen fjords the day before. Adding to that, I rode a funicular for the first time to get to the top of Mount Fløyen. Seeing this gorgeous sunset over the lovely city of Bergen was the final icing on the cake! Hence, it is no surprise that this sunset appeared first on my list. Oh – and given the high cost of living in Norway – it was particularly satisfying to sip our orange juice costing 10 Norwegian Krone that we bought at the supermarket, while waiting for the sun to set :)

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