Looking back on 2017, turning to 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Cheers to 2018!


Time flew, as time does, and we are into the third week of the month, which is the third week of the year. If you subscribe to cliches, as one does, then here we are, on the 3rd page of our 52 page book, 49 blank pages to go.


It’s nice to think that when we wake in the morning, every day has a potential to become extraordinary, but the truth is, so rarely do we begin with nothing on the page. We live in lives of routine and plans, with schedules and events. Some days are destined to be more eventful than others (the words ‘birthday!’ or "graduation!” scribbled across) and some days were always going to take a little more spirit to get through. The fact is - not all days are created equal.


And that’s okay.


2017 was a year that was filled with extraordinary days, with heart-wrenchingly sad days, and ordinary, plain days. I began the year telling myself that it was all about the attitude I brought, that good or bad days were entirely up to me. This meant that when I did have a bad day, I was weighted by the guilt of not having made it a good one. But over the year, I was humbled over and over again when I went through days where I did all the right things, yet all the wrong things happened, and days where all the wrong things I did led to joy. Truly, so little was in my control, and whilst I could control the perspective in which I saw these days, there was very little else I could do. This doesn’t by any stretch mean that we should stop trying to chase our dreams, or make decisions (I mean, if God’s gonna decide everything anyway), but it does mean that the pressure’s off when it comes to outcomes.


It was my favourite lesson of 2017 and I’m very happy to bring it to the new year with me.


Just briefly, for posterity, here were some of my 2017 highlights!


Exercise


Probably the most extraordinary thing that happened this year for me was the incorporation of regular exercise in my life. Long time readers have heard of my battles with coordination and my oft-repeated new year’s resolution to get off my bum and get the heart racing, but all the while, the closest I got to that was when my heart would pump faster to help me digest all the food I’ve eaten.


I certainly didn’t eat any less in 2017, but what I did do was exercise more and left my comfort zone far behind. I took part in a 5km run, and later on in the year, took part in a 7km run. I must confess that in both those runs I probably only ran half of it and walked the other, but it was a huge milestone for me nonetheless.


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I also started playing badminton more often and whilst I still believe I put the bad in badminton, I’ve also lost a lot of the fear I had for it. I don’t know if you can relate, but I used to get really anxious whenever I had to participate in a sport (1) because I’m a terrible terrible athlete and I’m always worried I’d end up being the hated team member, (2) I’m the queen of choking and even if it were a sport I could somewhat decently play, by the time it actually mattered my body would find it opportune to stop coordinating with my brain, and (3) because I have had very bad experiences with being hit by passing footballs, over enthusiastic shuttlecocks and don’t even get me started on the time I got whacked in the head by a racquet.


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But hey, ho, thanks to the patience of those around me, I’m less fearful and am more willing to try!


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Regular exercise also had to happen because I have an energetic dog who loves long walks. To keep her from ripping up my pots and plants (and my clothes), we try to take walks together up a neighbourhood hill.


Travels


I got the chance to do a fair bit of travelling, with a trip to Singapore to check out Google’s office. My dad had a meeting there and we were invited to tag along, getting the chance to try out their free cafeteria food and tour the massive space, equipped with spa, gym and snacks galore.


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America was once again paid a visit in 2017, this time to sit for my New York Bar Exam. There was so much to read and memorise that I got headaches from the sheer bulk of it. But glory to God, all went well! While I was there, though most of the time, I spent it indoors by the books, I did manage to sneak some fun in every now and then.


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Trips to the neighbourhood park to get some fresh air in the cool American summer.


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Attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with our seats sponsored by an anonymous philanthropist. He/she booked out an entire box for every day people to have the chance to watch the orchestra. Charity comes in all forms and hey, if you're all about turning society cultured, that’s one way to do it.


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I had my exam in Buffalo, New York, which was miles away from the iconic NYC. By the time I was released from the shackles from my 2 day exam, my sister (who kindly accompanied me all the way) and I only had time to call a quick taxi to Niagara Falls for a bout of tourism before our flight out the next morning.


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Speaking of my sister, she got engaged in 2017! Not exactly my news, but I’m going to have a brother-in-law so that’s grounds for excitement, right?


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I took some time after my exams to fly to the UK and visit those near and dear to me in heart. Summer in America and summer in the UK mean totally different things and although I got to wear shorts and a t-shirt in America, I stacked layer upon layer for the cool UK. Thank God for Jocelyn because I was not equipped for the weather and had to rely on her generosity in sharing her clothes (3 sizes too small for me FYI - that jacket never managed to zip up LOL).


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At the gardens of the Horniman Museum.


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Queuing for Padella at Covent Garden.


Boarded a cruise headed to Phuket with my mom and had a great time. We got to dress up and eat loads, so really, what more could I ask for?


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Friends


One of my favourite people paid a visit to Malaysia from Hong Kong and we touristed all over town!


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Rocking the baggy Asian trousers like any good ol’ foreigner would in front of the National Monument.


I’ll share our schedule later on for those who may have foreign friends visiting but although we barely had 3 days (a little more thanks to the typhoon in HK which delayed her flight back), we had so much fun together!


Threw a “just because” party for fun which was, well, a lot of fun! In 2017, I made it a point to call my friends rather than wait for plans to happen and I hope to continue this in 2018.


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Speaking of friends, we introduced a new furry one to the family. Meet Cookie, our tiny Maltese. She’s so small and blends in so well with the marble floor of our home that we had to tie a bell around her neck so we’d know when she was near. I don’t even want to think about all the times we kicked her by accident because we didn’t see her coming.


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I celebrated a quiet birthday in 2017. I was blessed to have surprises by my colleagues and bouquets by my loved ones over the week, which reminded me how much I had and how lucky I am.


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In 2018, I want to be more. I want to give more of me in the things I do. I want to be in the moment of all my moments. I want to write more and write well. I want to be healthy and live fully, finding enjoyment and purpose in all that I do, and finding strengths in the difficult people around me. I want to quit complaining and start thanking.


After all, there’s so much to be grateful for.

Tiffany x Traveloka: Escape to the KL Journal

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Full disclosure. I’m a bargain junkie. I store coupons in my wallet, have a pretty solid list of go-to apps for deals, subscribed to almost every kind of membership possible for discounts, and more often than not, take me to a mall and I’d be able to point out which store has an ongoing promotion. I’m all about stretching whatever ringgit I have, and especially so when spending on my wants.

In comes Traveloka, a pre-trip planning site that’s all about helping you get that bang for your buck. If you’re a fairly frequent traveller, you don’t need me to tell you that Traveloka isn’t the only player in the flight+hotels booking scene. But after getting acquainted with it, what I can tell you is that they’re all about playing this game well.

1. Flights + Hotel bookings

I think the ideal app is one that anticipates your needs. So checking out flights is pretty much the standard across all pre-trip planning sites where you key in the details of your journey (namely the departure and destination airport, dates, number of passengers, number of nights), and you wait the standard amount of time for the page to load with the cheapest flights available (about 30 seconds to a minute depending on where you’re going). Traveloka has all of that, and a little more.

Along with the usual calendar which highlights the lowest fare, it also includes the local public holidays which makes it so much easier for planning trips on long weekends!

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Lowest fares marked in green, February public holidays marked in red.

So you’ll need a little discernment when it comes to state holidays. For example, if it’s the Sultan of Terengganu’s birthday, the app would still mark it as red, but you’d be able to check out what the occasion is and evaluate its relevance to your state. But all in all, it makes bookings easier, saves you time, and don’t we all want travel planning to as fuss-free as can be?

I wish all travel sites did this!

2. Price Alert

If you’ve already downloaded one of the booking apps, you may be a little reluctant to add another to your home screen. But Traveloka’s Price Alerts alone is enough to make it worth the extra seconds needed to download the app, especially if you’re the sort to plan ahead for your trips.

It’s  no  secret that I’m in a long distance relationship, but along with a wonderful  boyfriend and many hours on FaceTime, comes an implied annual commitment to  fly  over  6,000  miles from KL to London, which can be very expensive if not well strategized. I asked around and it’s not unheard of to hear of friends who have paid over RM3,000 for a return ticket to London.

So price trackers aren’t new and plenty of sites allow you to set alerts for flights for a particular date have fallen in price. But Traveloka distinguishes itself by how flexible its alerts are!

For example, if I knew I wanted to go to London some time in April, the price alerts allow me to:
  • set the duration of my trip e.g. 11 days
  • set specific dates or the range of dates in which I’m willing to go e.g. 1 April - 30 April
  • set the maximum budget e.g. RM3,000
  • set the class I want to fly e.g. economy, business, etc
  • set the frequency of the alerts received e.g. daily, weekly
This makes a massive difference to trip planning because if I have a season I don’t want to miss (like sakura season in spring!) but still want to get the best price, this omits a lot of the guesswork in picking the best combination of dates for my journey.

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I’ve set some alerts for London, Philly and Sydney to visit my boyfriend, sister, and brother.

3. 0% Installment Plan

Okay, so I don’t think we should be going on a holiday if we plainly can’t afford it. If you’re willing to pay installments, you’re better off saving a little bit every month till you’ve reached your savings goal, then you spend on what you want. But I do see the value in not having to pay a lump sum to go on vacation.

Especially if you’re booking flights far in advance, it doesn’t always feel worth the pinch when you’re RM5k dryer in your bank account in January for a holiday in December. That’s money that would’ve been interest bearing had you let it sit in a fixed deposit!

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Traveloka introduces 0% installment plans (only for Maybank cards) so you aren’t charged extra for paying over a 6 month or 12 month period. There are some terms and conditions that apply though so be sure to read up before opting for this. If it’s a trip you were going to take anyway, and you’re confident you’ll be able to meet the monthly payments, it’s a really good way to spread out your big ticket travel expenditures over the year.

4. #honestprice + Best Price

We live in a time where the bargain app ecosystem has developed so much that we can pretty much approximate our entire budget for a trip before we step foot in it. But c’mon, how many times have you gotten excited over a perceived good deal for a flight online, only to realize that once you’ve added travel taxes, credit card surcharge and a multitude of other misc. fees, the flight was no where near the bargain you thought it was?

Title here’s self-explanatory! Traveloka’s quoted prices are the #honestprice so what you see is what you get. Bundle that together with its “Best Price” feature, which lets you redeem hotel credits for a purchase you’ve made if there’s a better price out there for the same details, and you’ve got confidence that what you’re booking is the cheapest and most transparent price you’d find.

As you can tell, I’m totally sold on Traveloka, but let me qualify the enthusiasm by saying that at least right now, it’s primarily geared for the Asian market. When I searched up flights from London to neighbouring European cities, the usual Easy Jet and Ryan Air flights didn’t come up. In fact, it took several searches before any flights showed up on the system. But for flights from Asia or to Asia, I highly recommend it! They’ve paired up with several airlines that offer exclusive deals to Traveloka members, so you’d have access to flights prices that other search engines won’t even be able to pick up! Definitely worth the download, available on Google Play or the App Store and you can do so here.

I got the chance to learn more about Traveloka when I was invited for a staycation in KL with one of the hotels featured on their site, the Kuala Lumpur Journal. Picturesque, relaxing, and set in the heart of KL, it’s the sort of hotel I’d recommend for those looking for something modern and cool. If you’re into supporting local, even better!

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Traveloka 2Open, leafy spaces that transforms into a chill speakeasy at night. Best part? Free-flow cocktails for ladies night on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays!

There’s been plenty of times my friends and I have discussed going on a staycation, possibly heading for a night out and having somewhere to spend the night after. The Journal sounds like just the place to hang with your friends, take gram worthy pictures, and enjoy all KL has to offer.

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Made myself very much at home beneath the fluffy sheets!

DSC_0104My roommate, Rika Jue, was getting ready for Comic Fiesta and I just had to try on her wig!

2017-12-27 12.12.33 1Getting to know Rika Jue and Renness.

I’m hardly a big time blogger (4 posts in 2017 is hardly reassuring) but I got the chance to partner with Traveloka thanks to The Butterfly Project, a blogger community set up by the ever enterprising Tammy who really created such a warm, welcoming community for those who blog.  It was my first time at a Butterfly event (lol so I was technically a caterpillar) but I wasn’t made to feel awkward or alone at all. Huge thanks to my roomie, Rika Jue, who took photos for me, introduced me to people and teman-ed me so I was never alone.
The bloggers I met and the teams behind the collaboration with Traveloka and the Journal were all so nice! I felt a little like a fresher back at university, and although I told myself to not do anything embarrassing for at least 24 hours, before half the day was even up, I had stabbed a wan tan a little too enthusiastically and of course, it had to fly across the room to the horror of a few around me. Couple that with hammering my fingers at the leather workshop they organised for us (more on that another time!) and a few stumbles here and there, by the end of the staycation I think I got a bit of a reputation amongst the Traveloka team for being so incredibly clumsy. “Any new bruises ah?”

2017-12-27 12.53.01 1Escaped with Traveloka! Thanks for the snap, Eros.


But praise the Lord, I escaped unscathed and will be back soon as I won myself another night’s stay at the hotel thanks to my #talkatiff video. LOL sorry if I’m more famous one day maybe I’ll host a giveaway, but for now, I’m excited to go back to play tourist in my home city.

Happy new year, everyone! My resolutions for the year are a little belated as I’m going to spend the week thinking about them, but if you have any suggestions of good habits to adopt, feel free to drop me a comment or an email!

This post is written in collaboration with Traveloka, which sponsored our stay at KL Journal.





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