One Year Later.. reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned

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When I woke up this morning, my friend reminded me that it was my one-year anniversary since I departed to New Zealand for my then adventure of a lifetime. She was the only non-family who sent me off at the airport as I deliberately chose a weekday in order to make it inconvenient for people as I don’t like such awkward situations and departure gates.

Few days back, I kind of remembered that June was the month that I departed but I never got down to checking and remembering the date but now that this has triggered my memory, I started re-reading my thoughts of Day 0, Luxury Start to the Poor Life, written 365 days ago, while I was sitting in a SIA business class seat, flying from Singapore to Christchurch.

Back then, I had the feelings of uncertainty and hesitation as everyone around me questioned if it was the right decision to do this ‘quit your job and travel the world’ thing and I kind of had a lot to prove the world that it was a courageous decision I decide to embark on and I’ll make it happen if that was what made me happy. Although my situation now is rather awkward and random, I have yet (and hope never will) to regret my courage to go on that adventure. As much as I’ve been jobless for 4 months (and counting), I’m actually kind of satisfied with my life for the past month(s) where I was not stressed, woke up when I feel like it, had many mini accomplishments and practically did and learned a lot of things. The only upsetting thing was that I wasn’t able to meet as many people as I wanted to, but I guess things would improve now that we are slowing easing out on our lockdown regulations.

Anyway, the aim of this post was to share the lessons/findings/knowledge that I’ve acquired throughout this year and perhaps inspire myself (and others).

1. Be Brave

It took a lot of courage to quit my job. It took a lot of courage to acknowledge that I won’t be increasing my assets for one year; or more and it took a lot of courage to go on this working holiday journey, alone. There were a couple of times that I felt so helpless in New Zealand (when I couldn’t secure any job in my first week) and when my car had issues and it takes courage to press on, and not give up. Home and my comfort zone were just an air ticket away but I didn’t want my ‘adventure’ to cut short.

When things get tough and you struggle to make a choice, always go back to the beginning and ask yourself what led you to make the original decision. There are times where you get confused and start questioning yourself about your decisions and perhaps, regret. Instead of regret, why don’t you figure out how you can make the situation better.

If you struggle to have the courage to make a certain decision in life, it’s time you question yourself on how much you really want it. Sometimes, the more you think, the more you struggle, the more afraid you are to make the decision. Sometimes, you just go to do it, and go with the flow and believe that everything will work out in the end.

What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

2. Opportunity waits for No One

Life can be pretty short and sometimes, an opportunity only comes once, and you might just be given half a second to decide. Most of the time, my suggestion is to grab the opportunity and spend the rest of the time figuring out how you can get rid the thoughts of all the ‘opportunity cost’. Prior to going to New Zealand, I was hoping and targeting to work in a ski resort. I applied for every single ski resort but sadly, I didn’t even score a single interview from any. However, 3 months into the season, an acquaintance of mine asked if I was keen to work for the remaining 5-6 weeks as he wanted to leave early. At the point in time, I did not want to leave Christchurch as I just got closer with the group of friends from my sharehouse and we were like going to somewhat establish a strong friendship (if I stayed on). I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave this new comfort zone that I found as I didn’t know anyone else in Wanaka and I might have to restart everything again. I almost didn’t grab that ski resort opportunity as I was too afraid of change. However, I remembered my initial desire to working in a ski resort and decided that this ‘dream’ existed even before arriving in NZ, why am I giving that up? I made the difficult decision to leave my comfort zone in Christchurch and embark on a solo + unknown adventure in a new town. Guess what, it turned out to be the best job I ever had PLUS I also found a group of friends that I’m still even in contact with till today. I will forever be thankful for myself for grabbing that opportunity + creating new options/memories/dreams to offset the opportunity cost I lost.

3. Be Responsible

New Zealand did teach me to be disciplined and responsible in my daily life. While I’m living at home (with my parents), there’s a high chance that my mum does things for me, even before I realised it. When I stayed alone (well, kind of), I had to be disciplined with every single thing from laundry, to what time I get home, to meal planning, to the cleanliness of my room and to remember setting my alarm and wake up in time for work. There were times I got caught up in my friend’s place till 1-2am and I had to sacrifice washing my hair as the noise from my blowdryer would wake my housemates up. I had to be sensible in doing my grocery shopping so that I would always have packed lunch options the night before. I also had to monitor my car’s petrol consumption to ensure that I had sufficient petrol for the next long drive. There are many tiny details in this new-founded responsibility and I guess it is what adult-ing is about. It’s nice to be in charge and it’s fun to make mistakes and watch yourself struggle to make things right. We tend to learn faster, the hard way.

4. Being Adaptable goes a long way

One of the important personality traits I learned in this journey is that it is advantageous if you’re adaptable. When you’re living in a place far away from home, your habits and culture may differ, and more often than not, you’re kind of the minority. There were different expectations of cleanliness (across all the places that I’ve lived in) and the notion of hygiene has a wide spectrum. There was one incident where I chose to look for new housing as I couldn’t stand the way dishes were left unwashed in the kitchen. I was feeling far too uncomfortable to adapt to a lousier standard of living. In other cases, I had to adapt to the rules of my landlord: like soaking dishes in hot water instead of washing them under a running tap and to wipe dishes dry and store them out of sight the moment you’re done with washing. These habits were in no way natural for me, but I had to change my way of thinking if I needed to find a nice play to stay. The recycling in New Zealand is a whole new level and I adapted to using lesser plastic, recycling paper bags and having to remember the trash collection schedule or risk having a month full of rubbish. There were also ocassions where I had to adapt to cultural differences, adapt to different personalities and at times, I had to change my mindset to.. fit in. It sounds a little complicated but sometimes, small sacrifices goes a long way. You’ll figure it out.

5. Change is the only constant

Embrace the change. There were many times throughout my working holiday experience where things didn’t go according to plan. You got to just keep calm and move on. Don’t be too hard up on the what-ifs and could-haves. You ain’t got time for that. Go with the flow and grab the opportunities that come along the way.

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Anyway, with the pessimistic outlook of the travel industry, I’m trying to find something to fill the void; something that can give me the same level of happiness as travel. Any suggestions?

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    • Haha, I’m nowhere near that level of expertise! Moreover, I’m kind of like a budget and thrifty traveler so the type of target market I can attract is rather limited. My thoughts are that travel is pretty much dead for the whole of this year and who knows what the future brings. I just have to figure out a way to love my country and life more in this situation. Haha.