A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about reflection

A dream is a wish your heart makes

Wild, fantastic fantasy stories that try to say something about real life through personification and metaphors are probably my favourite books. While absolutely loving the ride you're on, you also ponder deeper about real issues. I think from phantom I learnt what it means to love where you're at. From the last unicorn, to always keep an open mind to different happy endings. From the never ending story, that a wish is not something that starts with 'I wish'.

A wish comes out from within yourself, it's a desire for something, whether you know it or not. 'Do what you wish' is not 'do what you want' , it's 'do what you really actually desire and pursue it'. Half the battle of that is figuring out what you wish, which is a process I guess every young adult goes through, and maybe what I'm going through now. Maybe that's why I'm spending so much time sitting around and just thinking haha. It's much harder than you'd think.

And it's important for you to know, for where your treasure is, there your heart is also, and we speak only out of the overflow of our hearts.

Posted by seaskimmer 15:08 Tagged reflection Comments (0)

Harburger Days

Der letzte Tag

sunny 31 °C

It's 10.45pm and I'm sitting here at my desk for what seems like the last time. I'm 90% done with packing, all the rest of the stuff will be thrown into any small available space in half an hour. Tomorrow I check out at 9am, sell my mattress and bed stuff at 10am, run down to Marktkauf to get Ovomaltine for a certain A, and then set off for my bus to Frankfurt at 11am.

But now, now all I have is a sense of loss, or maybe it's the feeling of leaving the familiar and stepping into the unknown. I have two weeks of somewhat planned exploration, a kind of transition period before I head back home. And once I would have thought that going home would relieve me of all this awkward uncertainty and nebulousness. I think now I know better, and will prepare myself accordingly.

Home, defined as my room, will always be my ground zero. But I understand that home, defined as Singapore, has changed, in the same way I suppose I have changed. Coming back I'll have to deal with that, all relationships will be sort of the same and yet imperceptibly different. The conversations I've missed out on, climbs, popcorn prayer! And that's not necessarily bad. Change is the only constant, and no matter how annoying, discomforting, and downright wrong it can be, I guess I've come to terms with the need for adaptability. If that means accepting that things can never go back to the way they were before, so be it. I will survive. After all, I've managed the past 5 months!

Okay, enough emoness for now. Today I did sort of attempt to drink Hamburg in, to remember these 5 brief months. I woke up a little earlier and had breakfast at the fish market with S, which is apparently the thing to do, especially if you've been out all night partying at Reeperbahn (but obviously I just joined the morning crowd). The food was kind of whatever, maybe I didn't get the best haha. There was this old-ish band playing old rock and roll in front of a crowd, they were awesomeeee. I also had a nice time just sitting outside in the sun, eating my crab sandwich in front of vegetarian S hahaha. Going back with the S-bahn, I'll miss crossing the rivers twice to get to Hamburg, and once to Wilhelmsburg. I see my old Nordwandhalle everytime on S3 and S31, and I'm kind of sad that I didn't get to go in the past month. Ughhh. I'll miss my gym. I didn't even finish all the blacks and purples. And as we were walking back through the station, I told her I was smelling the pee smell again for the sake of remembrance hahaha.

I packed for most of the day. That involved La Sera, UB40, Big Mountain, Coldplay, Muse, John Mayer, Norah Jones, and not much packing. I was doing random exco stuff (another big deal, things will never be the same), doing my laundry, cooking a mountain of sambal fried rice, cleaning my room, throwing out the trash, borrowing a vacuum cleaner, and attempting to borrow a weighing scale. Oh yeah, and then watching Rushmore with S over my sambal fried rice dinner. (it's really good) (the movie, but the rice wasn't bad)

I guess I should go finish packing. Writing this has helped to reduce the magnitude of the end of Harburg! I don't know how I'll feel when my room becomes clean and white again (only possible when it's empty, aka none of my stuff in there hahahahah) and it becomes just another room, not my room. Emoness begone.

I'm looking forward to a dramatically nondescript return to sg actually. I really want to walk through the gates at Changi Airport, just me and my bags, and get to the MRT or the taxi stand. Like it's been for the past few months. Sort of. Exercising my poetic license to depart from sg with a huge bunch of people, and return with none. Besides the symbolism, it's also a chance for me to reflect and say hello again to sg on my own terms. No need for a rush of words, it's just me seeing home again :)

Posted by seaskimmer 13:45 Archived in Germany Tagged germany reflection hamburg harburg Comments (0)

New Things

Unfamiliarity breeds patriotism

semi-overcast 8 °C

Friday, 2 May

Today I went with S and MJ to Neumuenster. It's a designer outlet mall about 2 hours of train and bus from Hamburg. I kind of regret going, because I really have no money for that kind of place. I only agreed yesterday night because I thought it might be fun and I thought I might be able to get a few good deals. But by the time lunchtime rolled around… I began to remember past experiences and the current state of my accounts! Then I decided to go along with the plan so that S wouldn't go alone (or so I thought) and so that I could be a bit more social lol. By the time we got to Neumuenster and I'd paid 11eur for a two-way train, and 2eur for the bus there, I was wishing I'd stayed in Hamburg and paid 5eur for Nordwandhalle instead. In the end I did manage to buy a pair of slippers, which was of an acceptable price and which I kind of needed anyway. But the whole time I was thinking, this would be so much cheaper in Primart…

According to the countdown on my phone, I've spent 62 days overseas and have 94 days left. I'm 40% through the 156 days : ( Even in this relatively short time, I think I've already learnt a lot.

I've learnt from keeping track of my money and deciding that I don't want to completely drain my accounts that money is hard to come by. I've never been so conscious of my spending before. In this respect I'm grateful to various really thrifty friends (ahem… E) who've shown me that living cheaply is a matter of perspective and priorities. Not to say that my parents haven't taught me to be careful with my money, but it's so different when my peers do so too.

I've also learnt more about accepting harder times. We've got all these sayings, no pain no gain, stretch yourself, blood sweat and chalk… but it's hard to keep the end in sight when you're actually going through that tougher time. The concept of strengthening through applying greater stress applies to pretty much every situation in life. I need to not be so soft, to stop complaining, to look ahead, and to shoulder on.

I've met many many people in the past two months and have had opportunity to observe. In some aspects I think I'm less naïve than some. For example in the money thing, I have one or two friends who really don’t realise that they spend a lot, because they're pretty rich. Also in terms of being open to new cultures, some display ignorance and others, prejudice. Seeing these things in them also made me consider my own deep-set, subconscious ignorance and prejudice. I think this is a lesson in lifelong learning as well as humility.

Another people thing: Europeans have a very different travel style from Asians. Asians tend to want to visit many places and take photos of all the famous places. Europeans will stay in a single country for a longer time, are more willing to chill and explore and talk to people. I think Asian style travel gets exhausting and meaningless after a while. And European style travel can be boring and doesn't let you see enough of the world. As always, moderation is key, so maybe I'll mix in a little of both.

Hamburg is gloriously sunny on some days but otherwise cold and windy. I miss my Singapore sunshine. Recently watched a few videos and read a few articles related to Singapore. Nostalgic and patriotic. I'm totally gonna follow the next election properly and read up on local politics, which I've never cared about before. Doing my best for my country! Anyway I'm having fun here, eager to see more of Europe, excited to hear what my profs have to say (maybe). I watch the counter on my phone with both trepidation and yearning. In the end I'll just try to make the most of my time here! What that means I'm not too sure. We shall see.

Posted by seaskimmer 08:54 Archived in Germany Tagged singapore shopping germany reflection hamburg daytrip Comments (0)

The end of the beginning: reflections

Square, Markt, place, plaza, praça. Different words, all mean the same thing, all of them refer to the ubiquitous open areas in every city. There's a Grand Place or Plaza Mayor in every town and countless other smaller squares. That's one thing that unites Europe, the squares, a place where people meet and interact, sell their goods, voice out their opinions, stage protests. No matter how I look at it, the most interesting, compelling and complex thing about the world is people. That's the soul of each city, and like I've said before, I think you'll never really know a place until you've met its people.

T asked which city in Spain and Portugal I liked the best, and would most like to visit again. After much thought, I said Barcelona.

Barcelona is a big enough city that you can spend a few days wandering around discovering things, even after having visited all the usual tourist attractions. The gothic quarter especially is a wonderful area to roam.
Madrid was so so for me. It felt either grand and cold or tired and old. I didn't really feel the life of the people.

Lisbon was a very sweet place, with small winding roads like bruges but with a more lived-in feel. I loved the views there, it was an absolutely beautiful place, and quite a homely atmosphere actually. Very walkable, with a good overlap of commercial and residential areas.

I preferred Porto to Lisbon because it was even more homely. When we emerged from Combatenes metro that first day, I got a shock because it felt like Malaysia haha. The buildings didn't feel as European somehow, although they were the same old dirtyish walls and tiles as Lisbon. Architecture was slightly different, the roads and sidewalks were mostly paved. The river is amazing, this wide river running through the heart of the city, from which the wealth and fame of Porto have sprung.

Comparing Iberia to Ireland and Belgium: I like the food better. Partly because I let myself eat more of their food. But mostly because they have their local foods, while Ireland and Belgium don't really have local food but rather random stuff like stew, which is cooked everywhere. This is excepting the Frites and Waffles of Belgium, which aren't really considered food but are really yummy.
Obviously, being such a sun person, I like Iberia more as well haha. So much warmer and sunnier there.

People are nice everywhere. Really. So lovely. Pretty much everyone I've met and especially people I've asked directions from have been so kind! And people please accept the fact that Parisians are no different. They're just as nice as, say, the Irish. Maybe less talkative but no less eager to help.

Award for the worst tap water (to drink): Barcelona. That was weird. Drinkable, but weird. Everywhere else was fine or nice.

Award for the best desserts: Porto, because it was also the cheapest, therefore beating the waffles of Belgium

Award for the best drinks: people will kill me for not putting Belgium for the beers. I'm not really a beer person though. So it's a toss up between Spain for the sangria and Portugal for the Port. Mmm.

Award for the most tiring streets: Lisbon. I almost died there

Award for the most friendly people: Ireland. Keeping in mind John, the guy who told us all the best bars to drink at. Then again, maybe the award should go to Belgium, where we hitchhiked twice, and the first time with that lovely couple who told us the best bar to drink at, plus the best things to do, plus the best beers to drink!

I'm very thankful that things worked out between T and D and I. It was so bad at the beginning haha. I was constantly critical and annoyed, but when I learned to be more chill about it I began to have more fun. I can now say that I'm both friends and travel buddies with them. Yay.

Boy vs girl travel
1. No worrying about directions! Ever!
2. Drinking a ton of beer, at almost every meal, and more besides.

One month has passed since I've left home, I'm quite amazed. The next 4 months now lie before me, cluttered with with tutorials and lectures and German excursions, not to mention all of the various trips around Europe!! I think it will be very very very fast :/ got to make the most of it.

Cheers to a good exchange :)

Posted by seaskimmer 12:41 Tagged reflection Comments (0)

The end of the beginning: lists

Like S said, people change a lot on exchange, particularly when traveling. This is most evidently seen in little habits or dislikes cast aside after the trouble of keeping them up. Here's my list so far:

1. Drinking fizzy drinks

Seriously, how much beer have I drunk already? And I actually drank a whole bottle of coke that day in Madrid. I'm gonna return to sg with a bloated tummy

2. Not eating full meals

This is fine for some eg S and E but I always feel sad if I'm not at least 70 percent full. I still feel sad but I've come to terms with it, in the prioritised interests of time and money

3. Talking to strangers

I've never enjoyed talking to strangers. Now I'm totally fine with asking for directions from any number of people at any time. And short conversations with fellow travellers or locals can be fun! So many great people I've met along the way

4. Not showering or changing for periods of time

According to some, the validity of this item on this list is questionable, and I kind of think so too hahaha but for some it's a big deal so I don't care, it's here. The longest I've gone without showering is 3 full days I think, because it was too cold and there was no hot water. The longest I've gone without changing my jeans is one week which is fine for me. I can also jump into a (hostel) bed fully clothed and then jump out the next morning ready to rumble.

5. Not having a plan

I'm not really okay with this. I definitely think it's good to allow spontaneity and serendipity in travel, but I also really like to have everything set out so that I know what to do. But people like E who refuse to get a hostel forces me to not know where I'm staying for the night til 5pm that day! Haha. Interesting experiences, I should embrace it more. I think I prefer unplanned-ness in the form of itinerary though. I like asking locals what to do, that's an awesome way to get around.

My next list records lessons learnt in having the best time possible travelling.

1. Know yourself

Know what you like to do when travelling, whether it's museums (not really) or castles or parks, or if you like history or sports or literature. At the same time keep an open mind.

2. Plan properly

Get your maps out beforehand on your phone, lots of things are easily available online. Pick a few things you really want to do in each place you go, make sure you do those things. Then a few things you think might be interesting, leave those open to itinerary changes. Make sure you have metro stops to each written down or something, especially if you don't know the place well or if your sense of direction isn't the best, and especially if the people don't speak much English.

The worst thing to do is to wander around aimlessly around the city, and then be lost.

3. Choose your travel partners carefully.

As a Singaporean, I strongly advise to travel with a few good friends. If you're a girl please don't travel with a big group of girls, that always spells trouble haha. Travel brings out both the best and the worst in people.

As someone who chooses to be more open minded about meeting people, you could try going solo and then going with a fellow solo travellers you meet along the way, like E and her German friend. That's scary though.

Golden numbers are 1, 2, 4. I mean, 3 could be fine (Ireland and Spain/Portugal) but not unless you know each other well or in a mixed gender group.

One good thing about travelling in odd numbers is that I get to sit alone on the bus ride which is a blessing for introvert me when being 24/7 with travel partners. There's also always an empty chair and empty table space on which to dump all your stuff during lunch.

Posted by seaskimmer 12:31 Tagged reflection Comments (0)

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