So what went down in February?

First and foremost, can we talk about how fast time has past and without realising its already the month of March? And not to the mention the fact that its been almost 3 months since I left my job. Phew, I’m just grateful that I’m still alive. I thought I should share a quick update on what I’ve been up to lately to keep the writing and blog alive.

So what went down for me in February? I had the best traveling month by far. I was spending most of my February on the airplane, cruising on the train and sleeping in bus rides that brought me to a different time zone.

In early February, I finally stepped foot at Mount Bromo, Indonesia after having talked about it for ages with a group of friends.

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And a few days later, I was jetting off with my bestfriend backpacking around Europe for 2 weeks – pretty much an impromptu trip that we both couldn’t believe we actually went for it.

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Came back home end of February feeling jet lagged and not surprisingly, finally feeling the tiredness from all the back to back travels since my gap year began in December. So here I am, taking a conscious decision to take a break from traveling for the month of March to focus on a project that I’m currently working on and to learn new knowledge as much as I possibly can. I’m calling the month of March “March More to Learn”

I’ll get around to writing more about my experience from the two trips in the next few weeks. Keep a look out if you are interested to read them. 

Have a good March ahead and don’t forget there’s so march more to learn.

P.S Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide is amazing – best start to the month of March. Check it out if you haven’t!

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36hrs in Bali, Mount Batur

19th January – 21st January

So here’s the thrilling part – Bali came right after my trip to Penang. Needless to say I had a pretty awesome traveling week last week.

My parents thought I was crazy enough to have the guts to take a midnight arrival flight and proceed to climb Mount Batur at 3AM in the morning. But I’d say, “Why not?” Because the sunrise view high above is beyond magical.

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Isn’t this view just spectacular? MashaAllah

But the decision to go to Bali just to climb Mount Batur alone didn’t come as easy. Here’s a little backstory of how this Bali trip actualized.

Technically, I’ve been to Bali before and the decision to go on this trip was triggered because of the fact that I could redeemed free return flights on Air Asia with my membership points – hello, come on let’s go. But here’s the catch, the timing was undesirable.

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Minutes before the sun start to rise pretty fast

It was a midnight flight. I had a little bit of anxiety issue when it comes to arriving in another foreign country at night. I mean who wouldn’t – its midnight, there’s a risk you might not find a cab, get cheated … and the list goes on. And the return flight was 7AM in the morning.

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Not to mention, I haven’t climb a mountain alone before. Climbing mountain has always been a thing for my bestfriend and I, and it all started back when we were in South Korea for our student exchange in 2014. And well, technically that’s where the comfort of climbing mountain with someone else has always been there subconsciously.

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Spotted here a wild mountain monkey. There were a lot of them by the way.

I had a slight trust issue with the hiking tour operator even though it was recommended by a friend who had used their services before. I think there were a few factors that influenced this – the simple English language being used over the email conversations, and even though there was no payment made prior to arrival in Bali for the guide, the simplicity of booking confirmation made it too good to be true.

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Other hikers preparing for the trek down after sunrise. And the black landscape in this picture is the volcanic ashes of Mount Batur.

It took me about 2 – 3 days to be reasonable and figured that this is all part of the journey of traveling alone and the final straw hit me when my bestfriend said this to me:

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I knew then I had to go for it. And well it was the best decision I made within that week. So yes, my Bali trip was literally just to climb the mountain, go for a 4hr spa session after and fly home at 7AM the next day.

P.S Check out more photos here.

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36hrs in Penang, Malaysia

16th – 18th January

While I was still working, Penang has always been in my list of random destination to travel to whenever there’s a free weekend around the corner – but it never did. So when Air Asia had their annual year end sale last year and had flights to Penang for $88.18 SGD round trip inclusive of taxes, I grabbed it. And without realizing, it was also my first leisure travel trip alone apart from the numerous work travels that required me to travel alone. 

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Random street in Georgetown

Penang was full of random surprises. I didn’t had a plan and almost forgot that I was traveling to Penang until about 3 days before the departure date. So I did what I know best and googled for the best things to do in Penang upon reaching its airport. I came across multiple list and I wasn’t satisfied. So I made up my mind to just wing it and travel to wherever that my feet brings me to.

I love walking and Penang, Georgetown is a great destination to pretty much walk aimlessly and still be intrigued by the random things you can find along the streets. In summary, my #36hrs adventure in Penang led me to discover a few hidden gems within the city, performed my 5 daily prayers in a mosque – my hostel was just opposite the mosque, hiked up and down Penang Hill for 4hrs, and had the best Sup Kambing ever (mutton soup).

But what I loved most about this trip, is the multiple intimate time I had with my own thoughts.

  1. Traveling alone will trigger approximately one million thoughts throughout your journey – day and night.
    And for a girl who constantly have a million thoughts regardless if I’m traveling or not, the struggle came about when I was not able to share these thoughts with anyone on the spot. Trust me, I get excited and thrilled with new experiences or anything interesting that caught my attention easily and during the trip, I find myself eventually talking to myself and laughing on my own to declutter these thoughts. But then I realise, maybe this is just me beginning to appreciate and be more conscious of the thoughts in my head amidst all the noise and clutter of everyday living.
  2. I found myself being torn apart in deciding if I should be myself or to take the advantage of being a total stranger in another country by putting up a different persona.
    For instance, I love having conversations and its always easy for me to strike one with a stranger. But while I was in Penang, I found myself trying to avoid conversations and people in my hostel just because I felt more comfortable being alone. Maybe its the novelty of having the luxury of doing things on my own and the constant learning to conceptualised my thoughts and actions into a memorable traveling experience that triggered this behaviour. Time felt so precious when you are alone.
  3. My decision making process got tested
    Inevitably when I’m are traveling alone, it felt like I’m living the famous phrase “It’s every man for himself.” I questioned myself for every decision that I made especially on the 4hrs trek up and down a 45 degree slope just to reach the peak of Penang Hill in 30 degree celsius weather. I almost died. But I realised, I actually love getting my mind tested in this element – decision making process. It creates this illusion that I’m actually using my brain for something useful.
  4. Traveling alone engages your senses up to 1000x as per your usual usage
    My eyes wander more and I became more aware of my surroundings and everything that is in my pathway seems to be interesting even if its not – probably because I’ve got to figure out how to entertain myself without being judged.
  5. This was somewhat surprising, but traveling alone somehow felt like I was casually traveling and exploring in my own country, only coming home to a different sleeping environment at the end of the day
    And maybe that’s the best part of all of this, feeling more assured that traveling has always gave me the comfort and sense of adventure that I need – always.

    P.S Check out my favourite photos of this trip here. 

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6 surprising things I didn’t know about being an aunt

Part of my gap year intention is to also spend more time with my family and being more available in taking care of my nephew. When I’m not traveling, I’m usually at home being a part time nanny. It’s been almost a month and I think I’m a pro at this.

My journey in becoming the coolest aunt to my new born nephew begins right now – every single waking hour of his life is my golden ticket to win his heart.

But throughout this journey so far, nobody told me that…

  1. My priorities would change
    Your life would clearly revolve around this little human being. I’d come home earlier than usual whenever I’m out running errands or meeting friends and at times blowing off hanging out with friends so that I can do my aunty duties. My day to day activities at home now includes feeding time, changing diapers and breakfast, lunch, dinner conversations that he clearly don’t understand which brings me to my second point.

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  2. My imaginary storytelling skill increases
    You begin to blabber random stories and sharing it with him at random hours of the day. It usually involves life pep talk, imaginary animal friends and food that he should try as he grow older. And the best part is, you are allowed to be weird in public without looking like a fool.
  3. Increase level of hormones
    Nobody told me that taking care of your sibling’s baby will make you want to have one of your own as soon as possible but who am I kidding, I don’t even have a boyfriend right now.
  4. My phone runs out of storage quickly
    No surprises here as I wouldn’t want to miss every single cute face and actions that he ever made.
  5. My poop smell tolerance level gets better 
    Who am I kidding? Getting peed and puked by a little human being is the greatest blessing one could ever have. I can never run away from it.
  6. The pressure to have kids comes off me a little
    At least for a few months before the conversation begins again because the pressure of getting married by my parents is higher. Well, Ma/Pa for now its a see you later because I’ll be out traveling for a week tomorrow. Just pray that you’ll find a future son-in-law during my travels.

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36 hours in Kuala Lumpur

31st December – 2nd January

This year I spent New Year’s eve away from home with my closest friends in Kuala Lumpur (KL). The journey to KL begins with a 9:45PM flight from Singapore and as expected, we were counting down to 2017 while in transit from KLIA to the city as we casually talked about our future trip to India and admiring the celebratory fireworks out of the train windows. There is no better company I would have spent the night with.

It was our 3rd year spending new year together as we made a pact to do our annual trip beginning of the year ever since we got closer back in 2014. And till this day, it still amazed me how God has brought us together in an unexpected time that eventually got us closer to how we are right now.

This inspired me to create a new series in this blog called “36 hrs in (inserts destination).” Throughout my gap year, I might do a few impulse travels to different cities or countries within a 36 hours timeframe which adds up to about a 3D2N trip. Not mentioning the fact that there are so many route possibilities with cheap flights around!

I figured it will be interesting to either share the 5 main thoughts I had throughout the trip or to share more about the highlights of the trip within that 36 hours timeframe. And to start it off, here are my 5 main thoughts while in Kuala Lumpur this new year with an annoying bunch of friends:-

  1. Keep on being spontaneous
    I’m always known to be spontaneous and like how the Malay slang says “Ok go jer,” I’m the #okgojer kinda girl. This trip came about spontaneously and it was definitely a plus point to have my best friend and closest friends with me. Being spontaneous has always made me feel alive. It gives us a sense of adventure which personally for me, is an important element to a well balanced life. One tip that I could share in becoming a more spontaneous self – follow your gut feelings and just say yes when it feels right!
  2. Be grateful with what you have
    Even though this annoying bunch of friends annoy me in many funny ways possible throughout the trip, there were a few times I caught myself staring at their faces and feeling so grateful for their presence in my life. They taught me to always stay true to yourself and don’t let others bring you down – evident from the amount of things we all share comfortably and know about each other and yet we are still #overlyattached to one another.
  3. Acknowledge the important things in your life
    As we grow older, we naturally become more aware of the important things in our life. At the back of my head, I’ve always known that my religion, family, friends and a sense of adventure are the important things in my life. But somehow throughout the 2 years I was hustling, subconsciously I forgot about these important things in life and that got me feeling unsettled.
  4. Surround yourself with inspiring and good company
    While I was in KL, I caught up with a dear friend of mine Ee Lynn whom I met in a workshop organized in Jakarta by the YSEALI team back in Oct 2016. The conversation that we had over an amazing breakfast at Kenny Hills Bakers left me feeling inspired all over again. It reminds me of how I felt by the end of the workshop, and also the impactful moments throughout 2016 that led me to where I am right now. Like how the saying goes “You are who you surround yourself with.”

  5. Everyone you meet in your life, teaches you a lesson
    I believe that everything that happens in life, happened for a reason including the people that we met. And I felt that meeting this bunch of annoying friends, is one of the greatest blessings in life that God has bestowed on me. Alhamdulillah. 

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The day I told my parents I’m quitting my job

Yes I’ve quit my job and I’m already 29 days into my gap year as I wrote this piece.

Probably I should back track a little to give you guys some context to how this day finally happened – yes I used the word “finally” because I’ve thought about it for ages. I spent almost half a year thinking, rethinking, doubting myself before I took the leap and made the decision.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetWell for a start, do not get me wrong but I had a pretty cool job, awesome colleagues that became more than just colleagues, a community that inspires me every single day and a workplace that just felt like home – well who wouldn’t love it for all the free Ben & Jerry Ice Cream that a girl could ever eat.

For what seems like a year and a half, I was hustling right after graduation. I aspired to be a damn good life hustler and a bad ass one in some ways. But life caught on and earlier this year, I started to question about what exactly am I hustling for.

Months past and after what seems like a million deep conversations with my best friend, close friends and colleagues, I caved in and learnt to embrace my feelings more. I began to question every single emotion that I’m feeling and instead of letting it go, I took it deeper and ask myself why am I feeling this way. And throughout this journey, I constantly prayed to God to give me the guidance that I need to assure me of the decisions that I made.

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I prayed to God to give me a sign but he gave me signs that brought me out of the doubtful feeling I felt for half a year. And that my friends, eventually led me to the day I took up the courage to tell my boss that I’m leaving my job and 3 months later, finally telling my parents about it – which by the way, is a totally different story on its own on how my parents surprised me with their calm reactions.

For what its worth, here are the 4 things that I learnt throughout this decision making process that will hopefully benefit you guys too:-

  1. Self Care
    Embrace your feelings more and trust your gut feelings – biggest lesson of the year for me. Take pride in taking care of yourself first be it emotionally or physically before taking care of others. If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to cry, you cry and don’t let anyone say you can’t because everyone experiences things differently from each other.
  2. Power of Intention
    Always remember why and what you are hustling for in life. Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we don’t realise that we are hustling for someone else’s goals and intention. When you are clear of your intentions, no challenge in life is difficult or confusing because you will become more open and sincere in overcoming it.
  3. Take Action
    Once you’ve made that decision and feel at peace with it, take action. Strive to be an efficient hustler and just go for it.
  4. Trust the Process
    In layman terms, go with the flow and have faith. Nobody knows how things will turn out to be if you don’t ever give it a try. Learn to let go and find comfort in the uncertainty because sometimes in times of uncertainty comes great adventure.

 فَإِذَاعَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

And once you have taken a decision, place your trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who place their trust in Him – Surah Al-Imran (3:159)

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So what will I be doing in my gap year?

What’s next? Well, I’m an accidental crafter of all sorts so I’m pretty sure I’ll craft a rather interesting gap year ahead – no fixed plans but to just wing it and travel as much as I can. My gap year motto; experience epic shit, but make sure it’s fun. If you guys have interesting recommendations that I should be experiencing during my gap year, let me know!

I’ve created this blog to document my travels, experiences, thoughts and photo stories throughout this gap year – pretty much that’s how the “Pack My Thoughts” blog name got created. Click on the Menu button on the top right hand corner and check out what’s in store – or more aptly, what’s in my mind.

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For a start, read more about my first #zatripping experience to Mecca and Madinah in my first Photo Stories series that gave me so much strength spiritually and emotionally to constantly strive to not only be a better Muslim but to always be thankful with life as it comes – in good times and bad times.

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