Transforming bad to good memories

We came across an article a couple of months back. This one’s a pseudo scientific piece in which the author investigates and suggests what and how we may transform not-so-good situations during our travels into something good. We interpret this to mean that memories that are easily recalled and pleasant.

Well you be the judge of our take on this article here.

But what we do want to focus on today is not exactly how the memories are transformed, or for that matter how. What is more important to us is that one has memories in the first place. We’ve often heard friends and colleagues with children lament that they wished they had more time to spend with the young ones. To be there to see and participate in the lives of the children. Memories no less right?

What are the most memorable things you can recall from your youth? Times spent with parents? Heheh… probably not. Perhaps with friends more! That’s why our friends seem to want to build these memories with their children to have a ‘share of mind’.

For we have said countless times here in the blog, memories are but the only “things” that remain with us. Don’t you agree?

Who has been to Turku?

First of all, do you know where this is? And did you know that Helsinki was not the original capital of Finland? By the way Finland will be celebrating their independence day on 6th December. It has been 99 years! Congratulations!

Hundreds of years ago, the area settled by the Finnish people were dominated by the Swedes. They (the Swedes) built fortresses and towns all across what is today Finland. And guess where the capital of this territory was? No prizes for guessing that the city of Turku was the seat of power.

Was it so recent the Finns came to Finland?

We’ll always remember the story of how the Finns came to this part of the world. This was recounted by a Finnish colleague and friend of Mel, so don’t blame us for any inaccuracies!

You see, when the ice age began to end, the Finno-Ugrian peoples came to a cross road. One was due north and the other due south. Southwest to be probable since he did not specify from where this was.

The idea is that the tribe “split”. It was said the smart ones headed southwest and as history goes the rest went north to the frostbiting cold…now this is likely to get a lot of flak from Finnish people, but it was spoken half (well mostly) in jest and lots of vodka! Perhaps you can correct us here?

We think we had a great amount of affinity with Finland and in specific with Turku.

For Mel, it was a lot of work trips flying there via Copenhagen from Amsterdam. For Suan, she had the pleasure of exploring the city more than Mel did, cos’ he mostly saw Turku airport, hotel, the office and sat in taxis.

What did she see that Mel did not?

Read more here about our purported fate with Turku.

Bringing a piece of the journey home

Bad tourists leave things behind – we mean the negatives such as scribbling “xxx was here” on some thousand-year old artefact. Bad tourists also take things away from where they should stay – example smuggling out artefacts. Latest one being the defacing of corals in Bali apparently by Chinese tourists.

But it is also true that you want to bring something from that journey you make back with you. In this article, there are 15 Huffington editors who shared some of the most treasured items they brought home with them from their journeys.

Let’s see, what are the most outrageous items Mel and Suan bring home?

  • two 5’x3′ oil paintings from  Bali
  • a pair of 15-pound cut agate from Colorado
  • beaver gloves and hide from Alaska
  • acorns that had dispersed their seeds. The largest one from France.
  • reindeer rug from Finland

Yes we know it’s kids stuff. But hey! We are compliant Singaporeans who follows the rules and the laws of the land, wherever we are…

There is however a shadier side though to bringing things homes from your journeys. Surprisingly, many people do not know that selfies and photos with exotic animals are usually traumatic – for the animals we mean! In a recent article at the DailyMail, examples of how these “pets” are managed/prepared for their photography sessions sickens the heart. Think about it before you pay fora selfie.

What will you bring home?

What it means to live abroad

Sarah McArthur’s recent article about missing her younger sister’s 21st birthday was reminiscent of the days when we lived outside of Singapore for an extended period. While Suan was not living with Mel in Shanghai (though she commuted), we were together far away from family and friends for 3+ years while living in Holland.

Far Far Away
Life abroad will feel like this

True we had visitors such as our respective parents and family, but those visits were sparse and did not last long (a couple of weeks at most). Most folks have their own busy lives, enough to take them away from their own families and home, let alone make the trip halfway around the world to visit.

And who finances those trips?

For parents, it was an easy one, we did! As children with Asian upbringing heritage, it seemed normal to pay the way for your parents. I guess we must be a dying breed. Don’t hear much of that happening now these days even in the prudish Singapore context.

It is very true that we have grown very far apart from our childhood and school friends. We have missed weddings (Mel did), celebration of children’s birth etc. We have lost the confide of our friends. And certainly missed the times we could have spent hanging out late…sigh…

On the other hand we have made new friends, formed “clubs” of acquaintances and kept in touch even as we moved around the world. Or as they moved around the world. We’ve kept busy building new social lives and networks wherever we have been. So it is about adaptability and the ability to let go. Perhaps some things are harder to do.

Living abroad for work/career is really like what some call real traveling as opposed to vacations. You fly into a foreign country, apply for your bank accounts (to get paid), try to figure out how they tax your income, rent a place to stay and make transport arrangements (such as leasing a car or finding the nearest tram stop). You apply for residence permits, which is needed if you want to get the cable, mobile and broadband hooked up. You spend an inordinate amount of time compared with home to get the same things done, all while try to gesticulate and articulate your way with folks whose first language is not English (though they may speak it well).

However once you are done with that, its off to the races!

The content of much of the travel stories we are sharing slowly in this blog may be old, but they are the true experiences of doing what some dreamt or imagined. Social media was not very much in vogue 20 years ago.

How times change!

Is travel now a card collecting hobby?

I read the blog post of Alexandra Turney recently about how travel seems to be losing its wonder. I think we have about commented enough about the millenials’ lust for becoming digital nomads, dropping everything to travel the world. More than anything, we too have identified some of the points Alexandra shared in her post:

  • the ease of travel today is a result of progress made by society, earlier generations’ contribution that we have today the seeming ability to live moments in Europe and the next in Asia, then…guilty as charged.
  • travel or more precisely tourism without context of history (we have less of culture and arts here on this blog) mixed into the journey is often less impactful on generating memories. We like to mix in a little of that in our writings. Why do you even want to journey to a place far from home?
  • and that memories is what we are building as we travel, a very personal endeavour. One which we (Mel and Suan) hope to build jointly as we grow old together. So we’d have things to talk about when we lose our teeth.

We’ve had a surgeon friend in San Diego telling us how many countries he’d visited. Then there is the pair of physicians buddies (how come all doctors??) that shares how they dote on their 4-year old daughter taking her to luxury resorts all around the world (ok, Asia only for now).

Some may think this is like a contest of who had collected the most baseball cards. In my case, football (ie soccer) cards.

Playing cards
Hey I saved hard for these ok!

When I was little, I used to collect these playing cards that were modelled on themes such as fighter jets, warships, old trains etc. The idea was to deal the cards and call out an attribute of the locomotive – top speed (for example) against the other players.


If you collected a “star card” – ie the one with the best set of attributes, you can likely beat the rest and win all the cards! Managing to collect many sets of these cards was considered a bragging right. Fast forward and we have similar cards for soccer players, fantasy avatars, online or offline you name it. I am sure this resonates with some readers.

Today the ease of travel as Alexandra points out means that it is extremely accessible for the casual tourist to experience the same thing a serious traveller (as if there was such a thing) would.

And there are some out there who would really like to “distinguish” between traveling and vacationing. Apparently being a digital nomad achieves some badge of honour…There are those that claim that this builds character and adept intercultural skills. I wonder, if it takes someone years on the road traveling in order to build such skills interacting and working with diverse cultures and the unfamiliar, is exaggerated? I would not be too impressed, putting on my hat as an employer.

This constant comparing of where we’ve been or how many countries we’ve touched has set off a whole new trend in tourism. To us it’s called experiential travel. As bragging rights of about “being there, done that” fades for the destinations that WERE exotic, folks start to yearn for the elusive. That cruise and landing on Antarctica, the polar ice breaking cruise or being shot into sub-orbital space anyone?

The rise of travel to the off off off the beaten track has begun. Has travel become a card collecting exercise for you to gain bragging rights?

Get out of San Francisco

So here the thing.

Everyday as we drove about in San Francisco or around it, we have been hit with traffic jams of such magnitude that we cannot imagine doing this each and every work day. So, today we are determined to get out of town and into the bay area for some “peace and solitude” if there was ever such a thing!Rombauer winery4

Napa from our perspective is such a contrast from the city, though somewhat pricier in quite many aspects. Our wine tasting drive took us to four vineyards, some of which offers great views from their wine house.

In the summer, when the skies are clear it is a very enjoyable drive from vineyeard to vineyard. Add in the beautiful wines that we drank (moderately since we drive) + the meals we had, it certainly warrants that we should have stayed out here for a couple of days…if only again we had the time.

Old Faithful Geyser59On the other hand, it was great to get close to and to experience the power of mother nature. At the Old Faithful geyser (one of 3 in the world), the regular eruption of thermal jets into the sky reminds us that it is all very fragile here in California.Old Faithful Geyser48

The radio constantly reminded of the need for earthquake insurance (it’s a sales bid right?) in this seismically active part of the world.

So here we at the end of this segment of our “bleisure” journey. We have driven towards the Big Sur and did not quite make it, stopping only at Monterey bay. Perhaps you can see it all in our journalog next month.

Flying on to the East coast, we are now in New Jersey. A new chapter of this bleisure episode awaits. Watch out for our harrowing drive through Manhattan!