What I REALLY Achieved in 2013

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It’s the last day of 2013 and here I am, sharing my moment of self-reflection. After 2012, I really thought that it would be hard to top it considering the places I visited and milestones I achieved. I freaking graduated from law school. Went to NYC for the first time ever. Had my summer vacay in Greece. Traveled solo in Prague – and so on. How could I have possibly top that? Well, I did.

At the beginning of this year, I ushered 2013 with the weirdest countdown at Shibuya junction. It was seriously weird. Everyone was somehow waiting for something to happen. People cheering here and there. It was PACKED. Next thing I knew, my friend went ‘dude it’s like 12.10am’ – WHAT?!

It was barely 6 months since I returned home after staying abroad for 4 years and I braced myself to face reality. Getting bogged down by work and responsibility means I wouldn’t get to travel as much, right? To prevent myself from getting bored out of my wits, I started to explore my own city – yes I’m restless like that. Being away for 4 years, Singapore has grown so much. Thanks to my art loving boss, I began visiting galleries after galleries (which I never knew existed). I started watching plays (because musicals are so god damn expensive in this country) and attending events, trying new restaurants/café – basically just keeping myself entertained. I began to realise how vibrant my own country is! I was stupidly close-minded about this little red dot (because I think I grew up here and therefore I knew it well), like majority of the society who only want to ‘get out of this place whenever they can.

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It is so unrealistic to hinge on the dream of traveling and escaping. That’s what I realised since I came home. The problem didn’t lie with me being too busy, too poor or too whatever. It was with my attitude. I thought that these were vital to my happiness but I was so WRONG.  I found the power of having a strong positive attitude and a zest for life through the amazing people I’ve met along the way (and I’m truly thankful!). No matter how busy, how poor, how whatever other excuses, if you really want something so bad, and I mean SO BAD, you will make it happen. The trick is to having a positive attitude and believing that it will happen. When I started ‘peregrinate with me‘, it wasn’t just about traveling I wanted to promote. I wanted to influence the way people view life. When you have a zest for life and a positive attitude, you’re unstoppable. In 2013 alone, I reached out of my comfort zone, I climbed mountains, I dived the ocean, I jumped out of a plane, I made new friends, I made a difference however small it may be when I volunteered and I am truly happy with where I am in life.

Seriously, how many of you can say that you’re truly happy? Singaporeans were polled the unhappiest people on this planet – GEEZ! (Read it here) Most either wish that they were richer, or been to more places in the world, didn’t have to work such long hours, have more friends on Facebook – I don’t know what people wish for these days. (Read Daniel Wong’s Article on ‘How to be an Unhappy Singaporean‘) It is so hard to find contentment and happiness because we constantly want more and more. We feel so entitled that when we don’t get what we want, we get upset, we get angry. But why? Are we THAT entitled?

What  I really achieved in 2013 is discovering this zest for life and possessing this positive attitude throughout. My year was better not solely because of the things I did but my change in attitude that led to the awesome achievements.

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If your 2013 sucked balls, you shouldn’t be having stuff like “get a promotion, visit a new country, eat more salad” in your New Year’s Resolution. Instead, consider the following:

STOP:

1. STOP FEELING ENTITLED

2. STOP COMPARING

3. STOP COMPLAINING

BE:

4. BE POSITIVE

5. BE APPRECIATIVE

6. BE HUMBLE

7. BE KIND

8. BE RESPECTFUL

MORE IMPORTANTLY:

9. LOVE YOURSELF & YOUR OWN BODY

10. LIVE LIFE BECAUSE YOU LOVE LIFE

I wish you all a Happy 2014 ahead. 🙂

 

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

5 Reasons You Need to Visit Sri Lanka

Situated South of India, Sri Lanka is an island on its own. It is a charming tropical country with endless stories to share and beauty to uncover. Before my visit to Sri Lanka, my most distinct impression of Sri Lanka was the long civil war I read in my social studies textbook back in school. I never would have envisioned the Sri Lanka I saw on my 17 days of adventure if I hadn’t experienced it first hand. If you followed my travelogue, you would have read the things I rave on about in Sri Lanka. If that isn’t enough, I’m spelling out 5 reasons you need to visit Sri Lanka:

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1. Cultural Triangle and its Endless Tales

I heard a new story everyday in Sri Lanka, either of a prince or a princess or a village hero. Stories are endless in Sri Lanka and the locals can go on and on about it (even if their English is limited). I kick started my trip in the Ancient City of Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka. Honestly, I hadn’t done my research very well prior to my visit and I was so overwhelmed by the ruins and ancient temples. Thank goodness I had an awesome driver who became our mini tour guide.

Anyway, a quick search and you will learn that there are so many Cultural UNESCO sites worth visiting in Sri Lanka (and of course sites that aren’t UNESCO but play a crucial role in shaping the heritage of Sri Lanka). My personal favourite is the Ancient City of Pollonawura (SL #4) and I recall standing under the hot scorching sun in the middle of what was once a royal palace and feeling absolutely surreal. I will also most definitely remember my experience climbing up Sigiriya and the Rock Temple in one day (SL #3).

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2. Stroll along Sandy Beaches and Dive amongst Vibrant Marine Life

Sri Lanka is where you will see the most number of blue whales in one sighting. There are endless beautiful beaches that contour the island and a rich marine life out in the Indian Ocean.

Snorkel (SL #11), dive (SL#13, SL #14), or take a boat out, I guarantee that Sri Lanka is a great destination for a beach getaway.

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3. View from the Highlands and the Sea of Tea Plantations

On my drive up to the highlands, the view was simply spectacular. Everyone knows that Sri Lanka is a land of tea and you wouldn’t miss the tea plantations on your left and right as you cruise along the winding roads. Having said that the view from up in the highland is even better. Plunging waterfalls, dramatic waves of mountain peaks in between valleys and blanket of forests. It is indeed picturesque. If you’re up for the challenge, hike up Adam’s peak. What you see after 7000 steps is a priceless reward for your struggle to the top (SL #10).

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4. Take a Trip to World’s End (Literally) and Horton Plains

Spent my birthday here (SL #8) and it was well worth it. One minute it feels like you’re in New Zealand. Another minute you feel like you’re in Africa. Woke up super early in the morning to make it there as the view disappears in the clouds after 9.30am. Apart from the greenery, you can choose to take an alternative route to see some wildlife in the National Park.

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5. Experience World-Class Driving First Hand

So I mentioned in my travelogue that Sri Lankans are mad drivers. Towards the end of my trip, I concluded that they are world-class drivers. Whether it is a car, a bus, a tuk tuk or a motorcyclist, they can amazingly weave through the traffic without a scratch. Somehow, there is this automatic road system amongst the drivers and they are able to manoeuvre their way around each other. Having said that, traffic accidents contribute as one of the highest death tolls in Sri Lanka and pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain. So it is wise to still take caution when you’re walking along the road in Sri Lanka.

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As always, the list is non-exhaustive. Sri Lanka has so much to offer and it is only right that you give it a shot. On top of everything mentioned above, Sri Lanka is so blessed with bio diversity you don’t even have to travel to Africa to chance upon an elephant crossing the road, or head to a zoo to see monkeys at every corner.

It is so near to Singapore (Well, close enough).

For Singaporeans, it is nearer than a flight to Hong Kong, almost as close to Bali and sometimes cheaper than Thailand. To give you a better idea, a general and quick summary of what Sri Lanka has to offer would be the consolidation of the beaches in Bali, the ancient ruins similar to Cambodia, the tea estates in Cameron Highlands and the hustle and bustle of Bangkok city.

Please don’t overlook this country. The people are so friendly and they will welcome you with open arms.

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TIPS:

1. The most efficient and comfortable way to visit the cultural triangle is to hire a driver (which I did). If you need recommendation, I am more than happy to give you the contact of the driver I engaged with, Ranjith. He is the most honest, genuine, and reliable person I know (Even though he doesn’t earn a lot himself, he bought gifts along the way for the poorer children in the villages!) I met his family and they are so sweet (His daughter even called to send me her well wishes on my birthday). If you need a driver in Sri Lanka, I will 100%, without a doubt recommend Ranjith. Email me at peregrinatewithme@gmail.com and I will send you his details!

2. Consider taking the bus from one town to another especially during peak period. The train gets crazy packed (I nearly died on Xmas eve from claustrophobia). The buses are much more frequent than the trains and buses allocate specific seats for female commuters. Having said that, the road network isn’t the best in Sri Lanka so the journey may be longer and a lot bumpier than the trains. Weigh your pros and cons!

3. Tickets for the attractions can be rather extortionate. If you’re tight on cash, you might want to pick the sites that you want to go most. It is also important to note that several locals at the attractions will approach you and offer their services as a tour guide and they will expect you to pay them at the end of the “tour”. Much of the information can be found on the net and in travel guide books – I relied on rough guides. If you don’t want to get ripped off, say no them.

That’s all that I have to offer for now on my Sri Lanka trip.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

SL #15 & #16

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First of all, a late Merry Xmas to everyone. It’s my last night in Colombo and I’m leaving for the airport in the morning. I suppose to all good things must come to an end. My first impression of Colombo was “chaos”, but subsequently, I realised that this city has a lot of potential to grow. Being a Singaporean, I can see Sri Lanka now as the early days of Singapore evidenced from the increase in focus on their port and the countless skyscrapers that are under construction.

If I’m honest, I liked the other villages and towns that I went by on this trip more so than Colombo. It’s fair to say that like many other cities in the world, there would be more scams and touts as compared to the humble rural regions. Nonetheless, I enjoy what it has to offer. Left my footprints around the incredibly vibrant Pettah Market. Took a lovely stroll around the Fort on Xmas day. Had my zen moment at Seema Malaka. Checked out the World Trade Centre and shopped around countless malls including the oldest building believed to be in Colombo; the Old Dutch Hospital.

Thank you Sri Lanka. I will definitely visit again.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

SL #14

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A moray eel greeted me this morning. My first moray eel sighting since I got my open water diver cert! Along with some barracudas. Since the tsunami in 2004, it’s a pity that a lot of the corals have been destroyed and marine life depleted over the years. However, we manage to catch a glimpse of what the waters here have to offer. Was told by the divers in Sri Lanka that Trincomale has a more vibrant reef. Gives me a reason to come back to Sri Lanka again.

Going to catch the train for Colombo tomorrow morning and I will be spending Xmas and the last few days of my Sri Lanka adventure in the big city. I’m both excited to see what Colombo has to offer but rather upset that it will be the end of my trip! Nonetheless, people I’ve met along the way have been good to me and I’ve saved some pretty awesome memories from the experience I’ve had here.

Colombo I’m coming for you.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

SL #13

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I am falling in love with Hikkaduwa. ♥

Ventured into another beach town known for its dive sites. As compared to Mirissa, Hikkaduwa seems like a hippie version. There are so many quirky restaurants, cafés and bars aligned along the majestic coastline. Since I got here, I’ve fed turtles; Had a sumptuous dinner at a seaside restaurant (Hug Inn, highly recommended)!; Took a peek into Top Secret, a chill-out beach bar; Made new friends who brought us around town and we shall be diving and snorkelling together as well. This place is awesome.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x