On Becoming Twenty Five

I turned 25 a week ago. And funnily enough that was also the time I realised that I haven’t been updating this space for almost a month now since my last post on May 30th.

Life has caught on. I’m finally 25.

It has been a blessed month while I was away from this space. It was Ramadhan (fasting month in the Islamic calendar) and a lot of my time was spent with my family and being fully present in performing my ibadah during the Ramadhan period. And no doubt, this year’s Ramadhan felt different – different from the past few years when fasting month always falls during the peak periods of either working or schooling life. I will come around to write more about my gap year Ramadhan’s experiences. You might asked,  “How different could it be”?

But today, I thought I revived back this space by sharing some thoughts and mindful realisations that I had after turning the golden age of 25.

  1. I felt no difference in turning 25
    You know how they say, “Age is just a number.” Well, it is true. Every birthday year since I turned 20 has always felt the same. Of course, there are days where I will hyperventilate when I lie down in bed and realised that I’m a legit full grown adult (who doesn’t?!). But there are also days where I feel blessed to still be receiving comments from strangers who always thought that I’m 18 (and the youngest number I’ve ever received is 16 years old).

    The secret ingredient in looking and feeling young – surround yourself with positive energy. 

    At the end of the day, we don’t  need assurance from others to make us feel good about ourself. I’ve been blessed with amazing family and friends who emits positive outlook and energy in life. And I believed that is the true reason why I’m always feeling young and positive at heart. Like what they say “Surround yourself with people that reflect who you want to be and how you want to feel. Energies are contagious.”

  2. Time is never enough and becomes more valuable
    I don’t know about everyone else, even though some of my older friends keep assuring me that “You’re only 25! Relax a little,” I feel that time is never enough and I’m not working hard enough for my Hereafter at this prime age. This feeling of time is never enough came about after I attended a religious talk a few months back and the Sheikh mentioned,

    “In the Hereafter, Allah will not only ask you about what you did with your time on Earth, but he will specifically ask you, what you did in your Youth.” 


    That statement has been ingrained in me ever since and it is a definitely a challenge to be able to manage our time well and spent it towards a true purpose. Its a paradox cycle where you feel like you are spending your time productively but that productive time is spend to fulfil your Nafs (نَفْس) – self, psyche ego or soul. And for that, I’m always guilty.

  3. Death becomes a conscious thought
    I think about Death all the time. I think about the times when Allah saved me from deadly situations that could end up in Death. I think about the hikmah behind all those saved situations. And I think about the deeds that I’ve done and have not done. Is it enough to save me in the Hereafter? Probably not.

    The Death thoughts are not just about me. But I thought of the day when death will happen to my parents, brother, close family, relatives and friends. How will I react to that day? But I believed talking and reflecting about Death is necessary. It reminded me that this world is temporary and to not get occupied with world affairs. Talking about Death should motivate you to work towards your Hereafter and not scares you.


  4. Experience over material wealth
    No doubt. This realisation holds true ever since I turned 20. Materials gave us temporary happiness but experiences gave us a lifetime box full of memories. And for me traveling has been my favourite gateway in gaining new perspectives and to be in awe with Allah’s creations.


    Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.

  5. When will I ever get married?
    This realisation is hilarious but it hit me when I turned 25 last week. When I was 16, I used to say that people who are 25 and not married yet are crazy – 25 should be the perfect age to get married, have kids by 27 and live happily ever after.Well look at me now.

    I’m 25 and barely near that marriage timeline yet. I know its getting real when people starts praying for me to meet my jodoh (soulmate) real soon and when my parents start asking me the golden question “When are you getting married.” I barely have any love interest right now and the only thought currently occupying my head is “Where is the next destination I’m traveling to?”

    But I believed Allah knows what’s best for me and the right person will come when we are both ready for marriage. At this point of time in my life, I’m always seeking for new experiences, adventures and for what is worth, my other half needs to be comfortable with that or rocking the same boat. My only prayers as of now is to have my parents witness me getting married while they are still strong. InshaAllah.



    screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am

 

What if I was a tree?

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

What if I was a tree? 
I would hold on strong to my roots
The warmth it radiates to my every branches and leaves
The anchor beneath the weight of the Earth
To ground me

What if I was a tree?
I would be the tree that shelter the vulnerable
The tree that feel the fears and see the tears 
The tree who knows the truth about them
To be the constant that they need

What if I was a tree?
I would fall in love with the leaf litter 
Even when I am stretched way up high
It replenishes my soul (soil) and foster interesting form of life
To build the forest we can eventually call home

The forest is more than just a bunch of trees
Each individual tree is unique to its own strength
Just like how humans are, living in this Earth 
Be the strength that you can be
Be the tree that you need to be
screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

31st January – 3rd February 

My friends and I have been talking about this trip for ages and when we finally made our first mountain climbing trip as a group happened, I was pretty impressed with ourselves for sticking through the decision. But for many reasons, Mount Bromo wasn’t what we expected.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

We first arrived in Surabaya city in the afternoon and because of our adventurous travel spirit, we decided to head down to the mountainous area through a slightly longer route – via a 3hr train ride to Probolinggo followed by another 2hr car ride to Cemoro Lawang, the base of Mount Bromo. After almost 5 hours of being cramped up on the local train and a bumpy car ride, we finally arrived at the mountain base in the evening.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

And here came the first thrilling part of the trip that we didn’t come prepared for. We totally did not anticipate the weather change that will vary from being in the city (Surabaya) to the mountainous area. We experienced the sunny Asian humid weather that we were used to, to freezing 2 degree cold wind weather at the mountainous area. The windbreakers/jackets that we had in our backpacks were not enough to protect the fatty layers of our bodies!

We knew it was going to be cold, but we didn’t know that we were actually embarking on an adventure in one of their ‘bad weather’ season. But like how tourist places are, the locals are always there to save the day. We had no choice but to rent out thick jackets and bought gloves/scarfs and beanies to protect ourselves throughout our stay in the mountainous area.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Knowing that we wanted to hike up the crater of Mount Bromo with our legs, with no tour guide and jeep to transport us up, we decided to stay at the closest guest house (Cemara Indah) that has an easy access to the start of the mountain base hiking trail for our early morning start at 3:00AM in the morning.

And here came the next thrilling part of our trip. Imagine this – it was totally pitch dark and the only lights we had were the one shining from our average joe torchlights and the light shining from the ‘thousands of jeeps’ that drove past us. I could certainly bet that the drivers were wondering anxiously if these 5 little kids knew where they were heading to. Well they guessed it right, we didn’t know where we were heading to. We thought we will be on the right track if we followed the direction of the jeeps but we thought wrong. The jeeps were basically heading towards the mountain opposite Mount Bromo called Mount Penanjakan where people usually sit at the summit to watch the sunrise over Mount Bromo.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

By then we were already walking on flat asphalt land, but of course due to the darkness around us we could still not see where we were. And by the Grace of God, we were saved by a local on a motorcycle whom out of nowhere appeared beside us. He assured us that for a small fee, he will guide us to the base of the Mount Bromo crater. The five of us gathered in a circle, had our shortest and most productive discussion ever, and agreed to trust the local to lead the way. Till today I truly believed the local was God sent at the time when we really needed Him the most.

Due to the bad weather, we were practically the only ones on the crater of Mount Bromo together with another hiker, waiting patiently and optimistically for the sunrise that never arrive. The sandstorm was pretty bad and till this day, I still didn’t know why we were holding on to that optimism over our safety.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Here we are waiting patiently for the sunrise that never arrive

But despite the cold, dusty lungs from the sandstorm and freezing sleepless nights back at the guesthouse, we made it work around our optimism and laughter. Here is something that I truly believe in – it is not where you are but who you are with that really matters. Till the next crazy adventure guys!

P.S Check out more photos from the trip here.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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!

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
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.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
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.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
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.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
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:

Screen Shot 2017-01-28 at 12.34.44 AM.png

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.

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am

 

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. 

Penang
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. 

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-34-44-am