MichHappenings

Weight Loss: I Lost 2 Kilogrammes in 31 Days 🗻

16:15

Going back to real life for a bit after writing 4 blog posts gushing about Melbourne, here's what's been happening in the past month in Malaysia.


Like the title indicates, I lost 2 kilogrammes in 31 days.

😌 To be honest, it's really not so much about the weight loss that makes me happy, but I'll get to that later.

CONTEXT TIME: 

Ever since I started working in Malaysia, which is more than five years ago now, I've gained an average of 1 kilogramme per year  (+5kg y'all). I didn't really notice until:

a) I stopped fitting into some of my own clothes, and 
b) my relatives noticed it for me. 😒

The perils of growing up in a South-East Asian country is that you will definitely have relatives, friends, and even acquaintances and complete strangers who will think it's PERFECTLY fine to fat-shame you... even when you're mostly a size M all your life. 

Thanks for the eating disorder back in my teenage years, guys. I look back on the time I spent starving myself and then forcing myself to puke fondly.

Not.

Anyway. Ever since I started working in my new company last year, I gained even more weight, due to: 

a) coming home after 8PM and then having dinner, 
b) all the snacks my colleagues kept feeding me, and 
c) a lack of exercise.

My relatives REALLY noticed. Oh, they noticed all right, on New Year's Day, Chinese New Year, and all the other family gathering events. 😷 

Here's another Asian custom that may baffle people reading this - they will point out your weight, and then they feed you food that is probably worth 5,000 calories over several courses of dishes, and then they continue pointing out your weight even more next time.

I think it's a conspiracy.

DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY:

In the first four months of the year, when I was thinking about not gaining any more weight, I implemented a new rule into my eating habits, which I still obey now.

1) No Eating Between 7PM to 7AM (with exceptions of maybe once a week if I *have* to)

I figured a lot of the weight gain after entering this company was due to me eating dinner at 8 or 9PM, and then throwing myself into bed barely an hour or two later.


Dinners like this, for example.

Rinse and repeat for a few months from Monday to Friday, and boom.

Instant weight gain. Instant VISIBLE weight gain. 

I believe I got distressed when I realised I couldn't comfortably wear some of my favourite clothes anymore, and THEN I got even more distressed when people pointed out I gained weight.

Gee, thanks. I didn't notice at all. 

Determined to at least not gain any more weight, I made it a rule that I will not eat between 7PM to 7AM. 

I wasn't going to starve myself of the food I liked, either. 🍔 🍟🍤 🍗 🍖 🍕

If I wanted to eat, I WOULD eat. I was just going to moderate what I ate - like maybe having something like this for dinner only once every month, perhaps.


I have already used up my June quota. Haha.

In May, I kicked this rule up a notch. 

I now only eat TWO meals a day (breakfast and late tea), and I also  remind myself constantly that I will not eat due to stress.  

In my very own words,

"You can make me angry, but I won't let you make me fat." 


Let's face it, life is life, and it's going to come with stress... mostly in the form of other people. 💅 

That form of stress made me crave for not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-delicious food, like chocolate bars, potato chips, fried chicken, nuggets, French fries...

I still want those food every time someone makes me angry, to be honest. I quite like angrily munching through an entire bag of potato chips when I'm frazzled, and don't have any other form of stress relief at hand. 

Yet, I'm not actually enjoying that pack of potato chips. I'm just using it to process my negative emotions, especially the emotions I cannot say out loud to the person that has made me tremendously annoyed.

Which begets the question: they've already made me angry, do I REALLY want to gain weight thanks to them as well? 

Clearly, the answer is a "NO" for me. 

Nowadays, when I'm stressed out by someone and feel like I want to eat snacks, I ask myself the above question to stop the craving. It usually works, and if it doesn't... I end up continually ranting about it to all of my closest friends until I stop feeling as angry.

 Thanks for being my friends, people who've had to read my long essays for several years already as of now.

1) Drinking More Tea, as I am now on an Alcohol/ Milkshake/ Soda Ban 😭

I have a canister filled with oolong tea leaves, and I LOVE my tea. I consider tea a vital part of my weekends for my relaxing rituals.


Spot the tea.

In the wake of banning myself from having drinks like beer, chocolate milkshake (sigh), and soda (though I have slipped a couple of times, I admit), I've been filling that flavoured drink gap by drinking more tea at least 4-5 days a week, instead of just on the weekend now.

There is a certain pleasure to waking up early, making your own breakfast in silence, and then drinking tea while reading the news of the day.

There is also pleasure in knowing that the cups of tea are delicious, AND do not contain as many calories as the drinks I've banned myself from having at the moment.

This isn't a hard rule to follow, to be honest. I've always put alcohol, milkshakes, and soda as special occasion drinks only, so nowadays I mostly stick to water when I'm out for dinner.

3) Cycling Every Day 🚴🏼‍♀️

Surprisingly enough, I've actually kept this up since May started.

I've heard that it takes 21 days to make something a habit, and 90 days to make it a lifestyle. Well, it's definitely a habit for me to go home and cycle on a stationary bike for half an hour now, before I make preparations to go to bed.

I don't even get hungry or the like on weekday nights anymore. I just shower and go to bed, and wake up the next day for my big breakfast again. 😊

It's funny what you can convince the body to do, once you force yourself to set it into motion. I actually feel like something's missing now when I'm out for dinner with friends, rather than being at home and cycling away my stresses and woes.

I hope this keeps up, because I DEFINITELY think I should exercise more.

4) Go Hiking At Least Once a Week; Yes, I'm Shocked Too


I sent this message to a friend the day after I first went hiking, and this was the message I got back.

Yes folks, I do not strike people as the type to like outdoorsy stuff. After all, I hate running, hate jogging, hate group sports, hate insects, hate mud, and so on.

In fact, I just spent the previous weekend running away from a giant insect (it looked like a wasp) while on a hill peak, proclaiming to all that "I HATE INSECTS".

My hiking buddy, PN, then remarked wryly: "...and yet here you are hiking."

It's true. I've kept up hiking at least once a week since I started a month ago, and this month I've embarked on hiking two days a week now with different groups of hikers (find your own hiking squad, mine's filled 😂).

With each hiking trip, I can feel myself getting stronger, and faster, especially around the legs. When I look down from peaks, I always feel a sense of achievement knowing that I've climbed to the top with my own two legs.

Ah well. I've become one of THOSE people.

Rather than the sense of achievement, though, I think what I enjoy most about hiking is... not thinking about anything else.

All I have to think of in that moment while inside the hill is where to take the next step. I am not plagued by family annoyances, or work worries, or social life irritations. I only think of making my way forward, and breathing in all that fresh air.


I had endured a 20 minute steep climb up to take this picture. Not that you can tell, but it's okay, *I* can tell. 😂

It's soothing to have that kind of detachment from real life (though I do wish it wasn't as muddy), which is hard to get in an urban city like KL. We don't have large beautiful parks we can lounge at all day, or beautiful beaches near the city, or a gorgeous starry night sky to look at due to the light pollution.

I can only wish the hills here were looked after better by my fellow Malaysians, though. I saw plastic bags, food remnants, and the like strewn across the park in this hill, which made me both angry and sad at the same time.

It's also why, when one of my fellow hikers told me that she'd like to bring me to a different hill to "see the waterfall", I replied fairly sardonically: "Why? I don't want to get rat urine disease."

It's almost as if to get clean pristine waters in this country now, I have to shell out huge amounts of money to enter PRIVATE resorts and hotels, where it's in their best interests to keep the natural waters clean.

There is so much to educate the Malaysian public about civic-mindedness, but I fear it is a losing battle.

But I digress.

A NEW LIFESTYLE SCHEDULE:

Doing all four of the above in 31 days was how I lost 2 kilogrammes in 31 days.

Could I have done more to lose more? Sure. Not interested.

Was I interested in doing more? Meh, not really.

I am not interested in clean eating - you do you though, clean eaters. I am not interested in getting super fit, or eating only egg whites, or paleo, or CrossFit, or whatever it is that people are into these days.

I am only highly interested in three things:

1) fitting into my favourite clothes again,
2) stopping my relatives from commenting on my visible weight gain (it's already bad enough that they like to bring up my love life 👺), and
3) Leading a healthier lifestyle, which may or may not result in weight loss.

I do have a specific weight in which I hope to achieve, but I'd say the most important aspect of the new lifestyle changes for me is that I KNOW I am stronger.

At the very least, it pleases me to know that when I'm climbing uphill, I'm no longer desperately breathing for more air, or feeling faint. The hiking route I have slowly conquered in these 31 days is a stepping stone to tougher terrains, and I'm pleased that each week shows me that I have just gotten better and better.

The human body is amazing, but only if you believe that your own human body is amazing, which I do.

Oh, and there's no comparison photo in this post, because ya'll don't need a comparison photo, not now, not when I have even fitter physical capabilities several months down the road.

I hope.

Whatever your decisions about your body and physical capabilities are, I only hope that they are the decisions that make you TRULY happier, as these decisions I made have made me (no force-puking/ starvation/ binge-eating this time!).

You see, it's not really about the weight loss, after all... it's about being stronger, and therefore, happier for me. :) 

Wanderlust: Australia

24,000 Steps in the Melbourne CBD + Aladdin

01:23

What do Melburnians do on a weekend? 🤔

I've heard that it involves delicious brunches, so I duly made my way out the door at 10AM in search of...

BURGERS! 🍔


I had my burger with onion rings, and it was A+ delicious.

Best of all, unlike on my birthday, the weather was mostly sunny and balmy all day long, facilitating a great walk from Carlton to the CBD.

Before I flew to Melbourne, I already had an idea of the kinds of things I wanted to eat. No Asian food, for example. I wanted Western-influenced staples like fish and chips, burgers, fries, and some sprinkling of Italian/ Spanish/ Mexican food.

What I didn't know was where, exactly, I'd find these offerings. When I walked to the city, I had no intention of walking to Betty's Burgers. I simply Googled "Melbourne CBD Burgers", and the first result that came up was Royal Stacks CBD.

So there I was, walking from Carlton to the CBD...


a glimpse of what's to come that night

... and texting my friends, when they said: "I heard Betty's Burgers is pretty good."

I was still determined to go to Royal Stacks CBD, but then... I saw Betty's Burgers just down the road from where I was walking.

OKAY UNIVERSE. I WILL TAKE YOUR SIGN. NEXT TIME THEN, ROYAL STACKS. ✌️

When I walked into Betty's Burgers, it was merely 11AM in the morning, and the restaurant was 75% empty. Just as I was about to sit down after getting my order of Betty's Classic, Onion Rings (BEER FRIED BATTERED ONION RINGS PEOPLE) and Garlic Mayo, the couple at the "window" bar left... so I quickly took over their seats.

I mean... just look at this lunch view. Certainly better than the sad desk lunches I've been having lately. 😭


Just sitting down and watching Melbourne pass by was a leisurely joy in itself. I ate my meal slowly, watching trams 🚊, people, cars, and buses go by, while also catching up on my social media.

It's the kind of small moments I live for, where everything seems to conspire to bring me joy. I watched a great musical the night before, the whole day stretched ahead of me with nothing urgent for me to attend to, the sun was shining, I felt neither too hot nor too cold, I had a delicious burger and onion rings to consume, and there was YET another musical to look forward to that night...

At that moment, I truly felt at peace, and I'm glad to say those moments came often during my trip in Melbourne (and only manifest mildly during the weekends now that I'm back in Malaysia, but oh well, real life and all that jazz).

This, I thought to myself, is what I go on holidays for.

Perhaps I've gone soft, or perhaps I've never really had grand ambitions in the first place. Yet, I'm glad that just eating a burger and having a quiet moment to myself while watching the world pass by is something that brings me great joy. Fine dining is great and all, but I firmly believe mundane moments SHOULD bring equally as much joy and peace, if not more.

(Actually, probably more; fine dining makes me slightly anxious)

If this makes me a mediocre person, so be it.


Here is the face of a person who is at ease with her current surroundings. It also helps that a cute guy pulled up to sit two seats away, AND smiled at me. 😂😂😂

^the real reason Mich is at ease and peace. 😂😂😂

Ahem.

Anyway.

It was past 12PM when I realised there was an actual QUEUE to get into Betty's Burgers, so I got up and left to make way for them. #considerate

I then spent the rest of my day getting lost... somewhat on purpose. I simply walked around the CBD, looking at Melbourne city life.

I saw a guy in a sharply-ironed suit, carrying a bouquet of flowers, and wondered who the lucky lady was.

I saw the homeless sitting or sleeping on cast-aside mattresses or piles of clothes, with signboards that said "don't judge us".

I walked past a gym, and saw muscular men in black walking out the doorway.

I walked along the side of the Yarra river, and a man selling ice-cream smiled at me.

I loved just meandering without a purpose, without feeling like I NEEDED to have a purpose. This is the Melbourne life I came to see, not to rush through in an attempt to find the next attraction.

I did, however, walk all the way to the Royal Botanical Gardens (I burned off that burger good), before I plopped down on a bench. The sky then alternated between raining slightly and then shining brightly again, proving that Melbourne weather changes its mind more than I do.


Look at those clouds of "MAKE UP YOUR MIND WHAT WEATHER YOU WANT TO BE FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF HOURS AT LEAST, MELBOURNE". I found the Shrine of Remembrance, which was slightly packed with tourists at the front, but then I went round the back and found this.


Shade, silence, and a GORGEOUS view to look upon as I pondered about life (and my aching legs).

Barely anyone went to the back of the shrine, which was a PRETTY GREAT THING. I think I sat there for half an hour before I reluctantly decided it was time to walk back to Carlton.

Yes, I was still up for walking MORE at this point in time.



On my way back, I found La Trobe's Cottage, which was first built in 1839. It's the home of Victoria's first governor, Charles Joseph La Trobe. It's basically a glimpse of what the houses of the rich were like back in the mid-19th century.

I certainly wouldn't mind having a cottage and white picket fencing like this for a home. I have a feeling a home like this will get broken into very quickly in this century, however.

I also found a bunch of these birds (clearly I have no idea what they are) just feeding off the ground, not even bothering to move away as I got closer to take this shot.

Ah, Melbourne. Have I mentioned I love you already? BECAUSE I DO.

I gave up on the walking by the time I reached Federation Square, and took the tram back to Carlton, though. 😂

***

I went off to watch Aladdin afterwards, this time with friends who are also Disney aficionados!

As luck would have it, Aladdin started playing in Melbourne on 15th April, and I was there to catch it exactly one week later. 😊


My colleague told me that I looked tiny in this photo.

Me: "I'm tiny everywhere in Australia."
#bringmeback #nobodycallsmefatinAustralia

To be honest... if I had to compare between both the musicals I watched, I actually preferred The Book of Mormon 😅, ESPECIALLY in terms of value-for-money. Aladdin cost me a whopping RM160 more, which is A LOT in Malaysia.

This is not to say Aladdin was bad - I actually liked it, especially the genie (who certainly enjoyed hamming it up on stage).

It didn't immediately grab me from the start, though, the way The Book of Mormon did as soon as the first song ("Hello!") started. It did gradually grew on me, which I was thankful for, since I DID spend RM729.00 on the entire musical. 😂

If you asked me which one I'd rather have a second viewing of, though, it'd be.... The Book of Mormon (once again, The Book of Mormon is not suitable for sensitive people/ children).

There were lots to like about Aladdin, like the props and sets on stage (the Cave of Wonders scene, for one), the shiny costumes, the elaborate dance performances (especially during "Friend Like Me"), and the side characters of Genie,  Kassim, Babkak, Omar, Jafar, and Iago.

The story, however, felt rushed at times. I could not feel the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine (there was probably more chemistry between Aladdin and Genie), and I was left feeling baffled by how certain scenes felt rushed. It felt glitzy and glamourous, but I suppose I was looking for a little more... heart.

Michael James Scott as Genie was quite the show-stopper, though! I felt like we should have renamed Aladdin to Genie instead. 😂

Not sure when I'll get to watch my next musical, considering large-scale musicals don't really come here (and public transport isn't exactly ~accessible~ in KL), but I'm happy to have had the opportunity to watch TWO in Melbourne this year. I mean, that's two more than usual. 🤐

***

At the end of the day, I checked my Health app, and it turns out I walked 23,846 steps / a total of 16.1km on my "Meandering in Melbourne" day.

I guess that's pretty magical. Exactly one month later on the same date, I've walked... 2,664 steps. 😂

What I'd do for a magic carpet ride to my next holiday destination now. 😅 Still, there's still plenty more posts to write about Melbourne, so I suppose I can still pretend that I'm there (my soul is basically still there, anyway). Stay tuned for the next one, and thank you for reading! 😂

Wanderlust: Australia

Birthday in Melbourne + Book of Mormon

15:25

I just belated realised that my title of choice for this blog post has the initials of B.i.M.B.o.M..

Ha.

*funny bone is tickled*

As I welcomed another year of the late 20s on my birthday this year, I received a barrage of well-wishes from people I didn't even know a year ago.

My current colleagues, whom I met in August 2016, bombarded the group chat at my midnight and their 10PM back in Kuala Lumpur. One even uploaded a video singing "happy birthday" to my Facebook. 😄

When I consider the year that happened between April 2016 to April 2017, if I only had one word to describe it, it'd be this:

"Progressive." ❤️

I mean that in the best sense of the word. In April 2016, I had recently lost a job which I had such high hopes for. It was a start-up that wanted to hire a writer, but after three months, decided it did NOT need a writer after all.

It was demoralising. 😢

I spent my 2016 birthday at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and while it was fun, my birthday then was tinged with a sense of anxiety about when my new job would be.



What this picture doesn't show is the crippling fear about dwindling bank accounts and existential crisis about a lack of full-time jobs with job security.

Fast forward a year later, I'm still employed... and to be exact, I'm HAPPILY employed, and for this, I'm grateful.

This, along with other factors that contributed to my happiness, made this year's birthday much more relaxing as I woke up, ready to take on another day in Melbourne on MY BIRTHDAY.

Financial security is SO fundamental to one's happiness, wouldn't you say?

The weather on my birthday was sunny, the birds were chirping, the wind was balmy...

NOT.

In a complete 180° turnabout from my day exploring Carlton just the day before, the weather was gloomy, raining, and I was FREEZING.

 Thank you, Melbourne, for your amazing weather. I practically experienced it all in the few days I was there - except for snow.

I did not have an umbrella, so I borrowed my friend's coat and braved my way towards the bus stop for my first stop of the day - Queen Victoria Market.

It was oh-so-touristy, but it was a nice walk to see all the Australian produce, especially the FOOD SECTION.

The smell was heavenly. 😋

Breakfast of the day was something I frequently had in Australia back when I was a student.


That's right. Sausage in a bun, with tons of onions and mustard. Australian delicacy, let me tell ya.

You may think this looks ordinary, but it is not. It is an Australian institution - at least, it is to me. It brings to mind all the sausage sizzles I have been to, especially the ones at university orientation, where I was fed this FOR FREE.

When you find yourself in Australia, please, by all means, go to a sausage sizzle.

After I ticked the Queen Victoria Market off my "Melbourne tourist" list, I made my way to another. This particular spot was extremely special to me, because it's one of my favourite places, even though I had not been to this particular one yet.

I went to the library.

To be specific, I went to the State Library of Victoria (SLV).

As soon as I clocked the building (I walked all the way from the Queen Victoria Market to the library!), all I could think of was "I wish that Kuala Lumpur has a library exactly like this".

The SLV was a thing of history, beauty, and gorgeousness, all wrapped up in one building. If I were to get married (HAHA), it'd be in a library like this.

I marvelled at the paintings and sculptures in the gallery, and made my way to the most recognisable aspect of the SLV, the La Trobe Reading Room.


(Source

I had a rare moment of falling in love at first sight upon seeing this.

There's a gallery that spans all floors that you see above, so I literally went around in circles to check out the exhibitions on display, like this one.


There were rare old books on display, which I lingered over. This one features The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer as published by Kelmscott Press in 1896. 😍😍😍

After climbing to the very top of the La Trobe Reading Room, this famous figure in literature greeted me.


Years of studying his work, and I can only remember one sonnet and a short speech from MacBeth vividly 😷 (Sonnet 18 and the bit about 'out, out, brief candle!').

If I live in Melbourne, I foresee that I'd make trips here frequently.

From the library, I walked towards the iconic Flinders Street railway station (so much walking!), and had to stop every few minutes or so depending on the rain's mood.

Thanks, Melbourne.



I got this picture, and wanted to walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens. As the weather wasn't cooperating, however, I walked all the way back to the library again.

Well, to be exact, I walked all the way back for THIS.


😋😋😋😋😋😋😋

In many ways, this trip was a trip down memory lane about my international student days in Australia. While I may have been in another part of the country, the chain stores were the same, and I JUST had to have San Churro.

I felt a bit like a Disney princess at this San Churro. The table next to me was almost empty, except for one patron that I couldn't stop sneaking a peek at. It was a fat little sparrow, hopping around on the table, chair, and floor, but not leaving the store.

It also glanced curiously at me from time to time. 😍 My heart not-so-secretly yearns to be a Disney princess. Who doesn't want animals that clean your house for you?

So there I was. It was my birthday, I was in a completely new city, and I had spent most of the day by myself.

You know what?

I loved it. 

A decade ago, I still wanted to have parties with friends on my birthdays. Heck, even a couple of years ago, I secretly felt upset whenever certain friends didn't wish me at midnight on the dot - after all, *I* made the effort to do that on their birthdays.

This year? Yeah, whatever. It didn't matter if people remembered my birthday or not (my birthday is not visible on Facebook), or if my close friends wished me late. Of course, I was still touched that my colleagues made the effort to wish me a happy birthday at the stroke of midnight, but if they didn't, I wouldn't have felt offended.

IS THIS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE FREE FROM ONE MORE SOCIETAL EXPECTATION?!?!

Societal expectations used to tell me that I'd be a loser if I didn't have huge parties surrounded by friends, and I subscribed to that. I look back on my 16th birthday from time to time, and think that I could have saved A LOT OF HASSLE AND HEARTACHE if I didn't insist on having a party.

Like, how many people from that party am I still in touch with? Literally 3, and we MAYBE meet once a year. Maybe. How many times was I reminded that the party-planners have sacrificed their time and money for me to have that party? Tons of times.

Yep. Talk about a #wasteoftime 😑.

Nowadays, if societal expectations still think I'm a loser for travelling solo on my birthday, it's fine. I shall embrace being a HAPPY loser.

I wasn't expecting to get cake on my birthday, even. I had not told my friends in Melbourne that I was coming over to celebrate my birthday - they had already given me the gift of FREE ACCOMMODATION - and I was expecting to have the day end without acknowledgement of it from the people I was staying with.

Yet I came back in the early evening to this.



 Flowers, a birthday card, and 🎂🎂🎂.

What did I do to deserve this? 😄😄😄

My friends had accidentally found out it was my birthday due to a conversation we had the day before, which went like this (paraphrased):

Friend: "Oh I wanted to watch Beauty and the Beast! Was it good?"
Me: "It was so good! Oh, but I adore Emma Watson, so I'm kind of biased."
Friend: "I love her too. She's gorgeous, smart, and she's a feminist, and she's always wearing fashion that's environmentally friendly... she's perfect."
Me: "Right?! Emma's just slightly older than me, so I always tell myself that I want to grow up to be Emma Watson."
Friend: "So you'll be Emma Watson in *insert amount of time here*? Sounds doable." 😂
Me: "Well, us April babies are pretty good at getting what we want."
Friend: "Wait... April? When's your birthday, Mich?"
Me: "Um. Tomorrow." 

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

And that, folks, is how I gave away my birthday, and it's why I got surprised with flowers, a birthday card, and cake when I came back.

Yep.

I'm a pretty happy loser indeed.

***

Before long, I headed out again by myself. The entire Melbourne trip was a birthday gift to myself, and this... this was one of the highlights I had planned for the actual day of my birthday.

The Book of Mormon musical. 


😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

I don't believe that any musical will be able to top my love for Wicked, but this immediately shot up to my top 3 list in terms of my favourite musicals.

I won't recommend this musical to just anyone, though. While Wicked is great viewing for the family, The Book of Mormon is NOT a musical for the following types of people:

1) Children,
2) Sensitive people,
3) Religious people, and
4) Politically correct people.

I didn't know what to expect, but from the moment the musical started, I couldn't stop cackling at the rude, crude, and politically incorrect jokes and implied scenes.



Someone did not regret paying so much to be watching The Book of Mormon from this seat.

The only thing that marred my experience of The Book of Mormon slightly was the man who sat next to me. I was fairly perplexed by his reaction, to be honest.

Before the show started, there was the prerequisite announcement of: "please ensure that your mobile phones are turned off...", to which the guy next to me said "NO" vehemently.

Me inside: "...okay?"

Then, when the announcement went on to say: "please note that all photography and videography is prohibited during the performance", the guy next to me then said "F*CK YOU."

Me inside: "Oh my God (pun not intended), is this guy going to keep this up during the musical?!?!" 😱😱😱

I'm happy to report he didn't, ALTHOUGH I was still perplexed by his initial reaction. Like... what was that even about? 👺

I really enjoyed the musical, and my only regret of the night was that I did not purchase the musical programme. 😭 I was all like "I AM GOING TO SAVE MONEY BY NOT PURCHASING THIS AUD25 PROGRAMME" that night, only to buy the AUD25 Aladdin programme the very next day anyway.

So folks, let this be a lesson to you. If something has sparked joy in you, and you know having a memento of the event will spark even more joy in you every time you look at it, GET THAT THING.

I wanted to go back to Princess Theatre to buy it, except... the day I went, The Book of Mormon was closed for two days, and I was scheduled to fly back the day it reopened. 😭

Sigh.

***

My birthday in Melbourne was quiet and gloomy (weather-wise). It had no big parties, no over the top celebrations, and no one sang 'Happy Birthday' to me in person, and yet...

... it was a day that filled me with contentment and joy, a day that reminded me that I am in a good place work-wise, a day that let me know that I can financially afford a trip to Melbourne AND have fancy musical seats if I saved up (and starved myself 😂) enough, and a day that made me feel cherished by friends, colleagues, and family.

If that's not a good way to spend a birthday, I don't know what is.  🙂

I hope that this year will be good to me, too ❤️. May I always remember to be content, and to cherish the little things so many people take for granted - food, shelter, running water, health, and all that.

Now. Where to next year, I wonder?

Wanderlust: Australia

Exploring Carlton, Melbourne 👢

04:56

My first official day in Melbourne was super relaxing.

I didn't even go into the city - I just wandered around the suburb of Carlton, which is located directly above the CBD.

I wanted to go to Melbourne to sightsee, certainly. Yet, above all, I just wanted to relax. I am not too fond of the method of travel where you have to squeeze in EVERYTHING in a matter of a few hours or so - I like to linger and enjoy.

It is the allure of being able to do WHAT I want, WHENEVER I want, WHEREVER I want that makes me love solo travelling so much.

There is no need to consider other people's schedules, no need to consider what those people want to do, no need to wait for people to get ready, no need to compromise on what to do. Whatever I feel like doing that day... I just do it 😉 (terms and conditions, like not being obscenely rich, applies).

On 20th April 2017, my heart moved me to explore the suburb of Carlton, and so I did.



It's simple, and simply amazing, to get around Melbourne by foot. The sun was shining brightly that day (something I learned would quickly disappear by the very next day itself), I had Google Maps with me, and all I had to do was to walk towards my destination.

Even if I didn't feel like walking, I could always just wait for a tram - oh my gosh I LOVED ❤️ those trams - but Melbourne was a great place to get around on foot. There were wide pavements, the cutest dogs would randomly pass by with their owners, and cars will literally STOP for you to cross the smaller roads.

😊😊😊

Coming from a city where most roads don't have a clearly defined pavement, and cars are more prone to run into you than to STOP AND LET YOU CROSS, I really enjoyed this aspect of Melbourne. This is apparently how much I've walked on my first day in Melbourne.


That's about 10 times more than I walk in a day in Kuala Lumpur. 😶

First up in my itinerary was the Melbourne Museum.



This is not the Melbourne Museum.

This is part of the Royal Exhibition Building, which is directly opposite the Melbourne Museum.

Now *I* didn't know that, because this looked more like a museum than the Melbourne Museum (which was more futuristic with ceiling-to-floor glass). I know now that I am a museum-ist, and I expect them to look a certain way.

Anyway.

I spent 5 minutes wondering why a huge bunch of middle-aged women kept going into the "Melbourne Museum", and walked closer to realise there was a Quilt Convention going on inside this building. 😂

If only I could have stayed for a month instead of just the one week, because a Dog Lovers Show took place in this building on the 5th of May.

I did, however, see a couple in running gear, and each had one large malamute on a leash as they all leisurely walked around the museum grounds.

Hello #couplegoals. 😍

Eventually I found my way into the Melbourne Museum, and walked around for two hours getting educated, before walking out and promptly forgetting everything I was educated about.

I am a disgrace to my primary and secondary Science teachers. Not that they really cared about me, so I guess it's even.

In the Museum, there was the usual array of exhibitions about dinosaurs, animals, the geography and history of Victoria, and the like. I purposely avoided the bugs exhibition (nope nope nope), but plucked up the courage to go to the "The Human Body" exhibition.

One note of warning: don't simply press any button in this exhibition.

Otherwise, you may suddenly see a lighted-up, extremely graphic illustration of the human stomach from the inside. Ever want to know how your bowels, intestines, and gut look like in lighted-up glory, all pink and slimy? This is the place to go.

Another thing that made my stomach churn (hur hur) was the little snippet of information I read about how all the human body exhibits on display were taken from ACTUAL humans, and preserved for authenticity purposes.

Okay.

I'm just really glad the whole display on how food looks like in each stage didn't involve actual poop (which is the final stage, as I assume you know).

After such an exciting and educating session about the human body and how we literally turn food into poop in a matter of hours, I finally walked out of the museum...

... to go to Tank Fish and Chips along Lygon Street in Carlton.

Nope, the exhibition didn't put me off completely.


*sighs with happiness*

I ordered the "Old School Fish and Chips", and chewed slowly, savouring each bite. I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest while enjoying the fresh fish, and looking up at intervals to see the lunch crowd come in and out.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what simple happiness is like. 🌞

Afterwards, I went back to the Melbourne Museum again, this time for *drumrolls* Lego!

*cues Everything is Awesome*



Now that that's stuck in your head, let me tell you what's not so awesome.

I paid AUD20 (RM70!!!) to see Lego buildings. Sure, they're wonders of the world, like this...



I'm duly amazed that people had the time to make Lego sculptures based on real-world architecture, famous paintings and objects, and events but also...

RM70... for a Lego exhibition.

Yes yes, I know you're not supposed to convert money back to your home currency when you're travelling, but I seriously cannot recommend parting with RM70 for this. It's cool and all, but maybe it'll be even cooler if I earned AUD60,000 a year instead of the amount I do now (not AUD60,000, clearly).



Someone also made a Lego sculpture out of the Tokyo subway system, because why ever the heck not, right?

(I will still stick to my Google Maps in Tokyo when I'm there - all hail GPS!)

After the Lego exhibition in which I took lots of Instagram stories and pictures to make it worth the RM70 price tag, I started meandering around the neighbourhood.

I meandered over to hipster Fitzroy, and somehow found myself here.


The gorgeous St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The surroundings was surprisingly more quiet than I expected. I really liked its Gothic exterior (and interior), and the part I liked most was the cathedral's small pockets of gardens, like this one.


"If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?"

I sat out in the gardens for far longer than I did inside the cathedral itself, impressive as it was. It felt less impressive to see the Chinese tourists take pictures inside, especially with Jesus on the cross in their pictures, but you do you, Chinese tourists.

My favourite part of St. Patrick's Cathedral's interior was the stained glass.


Impressive. It also gave me a slight neck crick, as I stood below staring up at it for quite sometime.

It felt more serene outside the building. I sat on a bench near where a steady stream of water kept flowing, and watched birds flap around in that shallow stream.

HELLO PEACE AND QUIET. 

I fell even more in love ❤️ with Melbourne at that point, for the ability to just sit outside in a quiet garden for half an hour or so, and watch the sky turn from a baby blue to a slightly darker one that is streaked with the rays of the setting sun.

I love autumn.

Once again, I walked all the way back to Carlton again (I definitely burned all the calories from that fish and chips), this time for...


Black Star Pastry Melbourne!

When I was still relatively active on Dayre (hello if you're reading this and you're from Dayre!), I kept seeing all the Australia-based Dayreans rave about Black Star Pastry in Newtown, Sydney.

The strawberry and watermelon cake was THE BOMB, they said. They loved going back to Black Star Pastry to have pastry, they said. It's a must-have, they said.

Then I went on Time Out Melbourne, and saw that Black Star Pastry opened a branch in Melbourne. Specifically, they opened a branch in CARLTON, where I was staying.

Okay then, universe.

I TOOK YOUR SIGN... and it was delicious.

I actually wanted to have more, but at AUD8.50 a slice, I regretfully bade Black Star Pastry and left.

Is it a must-have?

Well, if you're looking for some quiet time, good cake, AND a nice courtyard to sit in, Black Star Pastry Melbourne's not bad.

To cap off my day, I wandered to Woolworths and bought dinner and snacks.

"Ah, I missed this." I thought to myself as I went from aisle to aisle. If you told me ten years ago that I'd miss a grocery store chain, I'd have laughed. Now I'm even missing convenience store food, it's amazing what a decade can do to you.

I'll be back soon, my Japan Family Mart fried chicken!!!

Was my first designated day of leisure indeed leisurely?

Yes, yes it was.

Thank you, Carlton. It was much needed. 🍰  Thank you for restoring a sense of calm and normalcy to me after months of work with no leave.

Wanderlust: Australia

Hello Melbourne (Finally)!

12:34

Back when I was a student in Australia, from time to time people would ask me:

"Hey, you're in Australia! Why haven't you visited South Australia/ Victoria/ Queensland/ *insert Australian state or city here*?"

To which I have to reply:

"I. Am. A. Broke. International. University. Student." 😢

I would definitely have LOVED to travel around Australia, but I could barely make it down south to Pemberton in Western Australia. My monthly expenses came up to an average of AUD1,000 - AUD1,200, and THAT, includes rent.

I was on penny-pinching mode, and travel is not conducive to such modes.

Fast-forward some years later, I finally made it to one of the Australian cities I've always wanted to visit, but never had the chance to - Melbourne. 👩🏼‍✈️

To be honest, what convinced me to go to Melbourne was because my Perth friends who recently moved to Melbourne invited me to STAY with them if I was ever in Melbourne. The prospect of FREE ACCOMMODATION lured me more than my own desire to visit Melbourne.

Yep. When you're from a country where the currency is SUPER WEAK (with AUD1 equivalent to MYR3.45 when I exchanged money for this trip) globally, FREE ACCOMMODATION is a God-sent gift when it comes to travelling.

Thank you, friends. Thanks to them, from 19th April 2017 to 26th April 2017, I experienced what it was like to stay in Melbourne for a little bit... AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT OF IT. ❤️

I love that Melbourne is secular, and also allows people to profess their faith (without forcing anyone else into it). I love that it's well-structured and easy to get from Point A to Point B in the city without having to drive. I love that it's considerably laidback, and people still care enough to dress up well and be considerate to each other. I love that people are friendly AND not intrusive.

I've felt all these and more in the short time I was in Melbourne, and I can finally see why it's The World's Most Liveable City since 2011 (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit).


I also love Australian fish and chips, since British fish and chips are a bit unaffordable for me at this time. 

8D7N Melbourne Trip Budget 💸

I planned to spend a maximum of RM6,500 (AUD2,000~) for eight days and seven nights in Melbourne (with FREE ACCOMMODATION).

In the end, I spent around RM6,000.00, and was under budget.

WOOHOO.

In fact, I would have spent less if it wasn't for the souvenirs I had to tote home for The Important People (aka parents, other relatives who have given me money over the years, work colleagues, and closest friends), all of which cost me around 10% of my total expenditure.

I was happy enough to do this for a trip from Australia, since "shopping for myself" wasn't high on my list. In fact, I bought nothing for myself except an Aladdin musical programme, as that was one of the points of my trip.


I consider the musical money well-spent.

Here's my total Melbourne expenditure, as below -

Flight Tickets: RM1,605.00
Musical Ticket (Aladdin): RM729.00
Musical Ticket (Book of Mormon): RM569.00
AUD750 (exchanged at a rate of RM3.45 to AUD1): RM2,587.50
Rental Pocket Wifi: RM225.00
Transportation to/ from KLIA: RM130.00
Transportation to Southern Cross Station from Melbourne Airport (and vice-versa): RM120.00 (Thank you SkyBus :3)

Total: RM5,965.50

This is not meant to be a guideline on how you can save money while travelling to Melbourne from Kuala Lumpur, by the way.

I'm sure there are other far more qualified travellers who will be able to tell you how to get the CHEAPEST flights, the CHEAPEST seats in the musicals (or not go to a musical at all), the CHEAPEST food, how to survive on FREE wifi, and think of all the money you can save by walking along the Great Ocean Road instead of going on a tour (joking).

As much as I try to save money in certain ways, there are definitely things I would splash out for, like the 7th row of a Broadway musical. I like to see every facial change up close as the show commences, and feel like I'm in the middle of it all.

I'm also fortunate that my friends in Melbourne insisted on treating me to several meals, so I saved a few more dollars that way. ;_;

Before this trip, I asked myself what were the important "must-dos" that I had in Melbourne. I came up with 3 answers -

1) Musicals,
2) Leisurely Sightseeing, and
3) Food.

I am of the opinion that for some experiences, it's better to get the best seats money can buy, or not have that experience at all. To me, musicals are part of that (it's also why I don't go to no-seating concerts - pay over RM1,000 to stand and have people's sweat on me? No thanks) . When I saw that Book of Mormon and Aladdin would cost me RM569.00 and RM729.00 respectively for premier seats... I winced a bit, and went ahead to get those tickets anyway.

I adore musicals, especially Broadway productions, and they don't come to Malaysia often. In Melbourne, where musicals rotate often in their theatres, I JUST had to go to the ones that would be playing when I was there.

A+ decision, if I do say so myself. Book of Mormon was hilariously tongue-in-cheek, and Aladdin was colourful and fun... but I'll save the gushing for another day.

My First Few Hours in Melbourne

When I flew on AirAsia to Melbourne, I spent the 8 hours or so watching Scarlet Heart on my tablet. There I was, happily sitting in the Quiet Zone, listening to the audio via my earphones, when I noticed... something.

Someone else was playing a video in the seat across the aisle, and THAT someone didn't see the need for earphones.

Yes, in a zone of the plane designated as QUIET, someone decided playing videos on LOUD was also an act allowable in the QUIET ZONE.

I wonder why people wonder why I don't like people in general. I didn't pay the extra money to hear snippets of your video. 😤

I got to Melbourne Airport, and I was already internally bracing myself for how the airport staff would treat me. Do I look like a suspicious person to you, dear reader?



Maybe I do. 

Apparently, young foreign Asian women are totally suspicious in Australia. Every Australian airport I've been in (which is a grand total of two, Sydney and Perth), I've had airport staff stop me after Immigration to ask me a bunch of questions, ranging from what I'm doing in Australia, where I'm staying, who are the friends I'm meeting in Australia, what do I do for a living, blah blah blah.

When I was a student in Perth, I had THREE of them stop me along the same corridor, one right after the other, asking the same questions... and "friendly" is not an adjective I'd use to describe them.

My inner self then was snapping fingers left and right and being like: "EXCUSE ME, I AM SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY AND PAYING THREE TIMES MORE THAN WHAT YOUR STUDENTS DO FOR A TERTIARY COURSE, AT LEAST STOP TREATING ME LIKE A CRIMINAL."

So far, the only airport I ever feel like voluntarily spending time in is Kansai International Airport. The Japanese may be firm, but at least they still look at me like I'm *human*.

But I digress.

I was totally - TOTALLY - prepared to get the same kind of treatment in Melbourne Airport when I arrived. Go through Immigration, get grilled by a string of officers, have Customs make me describe what's in my bag, take two hours just to get out, the usual.

What actually happened: 

I got through Immigration, and five seconds later a woman stopped me to talk to me. In my head I went: "oh here we go again". I answered her questions pleasantly enough (she was nice enough, but I couldn't help but notice her smiles/ laughs didn't reach her eyes), left after five minutes, got my luggage, and then...

I got out.

LESS THAN AN HOUR AFTER I LEFT THE PLANE, I WAS OUT OF THE AIRPORT.

Was I in a state of shock?

Um, YES.

"Wait, NO ONE WANTED TO CHECK MY LUGGAGE?"
"I was just waved through?"
"They smiled at me?!?!"
"What is the Melbourne equivalent of a lottery?"

May all my experiences at Australian airports be like this from now on. Ohm.

I'd like to think that that set the tone for my Melbourne trip. Things I thought might inconvenience me went perfectly well in the end.

Apart from that, my first few hours in Melbourne weren't exactly memorable. Five hours after I stepped off the plane, I lost consciousness and drifted into sleep, preparing for my first official day in Melbourne... which will be another blog post.  Here are some pictorial snippets of my journey Down Under in Victoria:







In the span of six full days, I covered two musicals, some of the suburbs, the city itself, the Great Ocean Road 🌊, Phillip Island, and some excellent food.

Hello Melbourne (Victoria), indeed. I miss you already. 😘



MichHappenings

The 5 Stages of Lunar New Year Celebrations in Malaysia

22:58

The first 15 days of the Lunar New Year, the year of the Rooster, has come and gone in the past 15 days.

Phew. 

As a young adult from a large extended family, the Lunar New Year celebrations is both a joyful and scary process at the same time.

It's a celebration and holiday that I do enjoy for various reasons. Yet, over the years, the Lunar New Year is also something that provokes this pondering: "can I just pack my bags and go on an extended trip overseas for some rest and relaxation?"

Often, I find myself needing a break from the Lunar New Year celebrations that usually goes on for 4 - 7 days with different segments of my family, before the celebrating peters out slowly until the 15th day.

I know this sounds like fun, but you know what does fun require?

Work.

Lots and lots of work. Basically, the older you get, the more you work for the Lunar New Year.

These are the 5 stages I go through pre, during, and after the Lunar New Year celebrations each year.


Stage 1: The D/T/F Stage


Yes. You know, the Dread/ Terror/ Fear stage that starts at least a month before the Lunar New Year. Apart from the usual household frenzy (and subsequent nagging, if you live with your parents or in-laws), there is also dreading the questions and statements you will get during the Lunar New Year.

Every thing that you have done within the past year will be up for discussion as well-meaning relatives question you about what you've been up to.

This is enough to fill me, a person who does not like the spotlight, with dread, terror, and fear.

No topic is off-limits, starting from statements on your appearance, to questions about your career, to observations about your love life and family plans ("when are you bringing a boyfriend home?", "when are you getting married?", "when are you having a kid"? etc).

God bless the soul that gained visible weight in the past year.

God bless me. 

This year, in preparation for comments I knew were forthcoming about my weight, I set about buying new clothes that were loose tops, and also bought dark tights to wear despite THIS being Malaysia, a tropical country.


"Oh no. It's not hot at all." 

I wore my new autumn-suited tops on a daily basis during the Lunar New Year, even when there was no air-conditioning available.

I would much rather perspire underneath my clothes than to hear "you gained weight!".

Yes, thank you. I noticed, myself.

Stage 2: The Overeat Stage

During the first week of the Lunar New Year, it is inevitable that I gain even more weight anyway, thus necessitating the need for loose tops.

Each day is filled with food, food, and more food.

Apart from the snacks that pop up (I've tried my best to avoid them this year), like prawn crackers and arrowroot chips, there's also the endless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I have to attend.

On average in real life, I eat two meals a day, a big one for breakfast, and a small one for dinner.

During the Lunar New Year, this average gets thrown out of whack. People often tell me that I "eat so little!". These are also usually the very same people that tell me that I've gained weight.

Gee, I wonder why I eat so little.

That being said, I've always been on the "stop eating when I feel moderately full" team (SO WHY DID I GAIN WEIGHT IN THE PAST YEAR?). I fully believe that mankind isn't made to eat 8-course heavy meals on a daily basis.

Still, I make like I am a competitive eater during the Lunar New Year, because

a) I have to "give face" to the host/ person who is treating, and
b) I hate food wastage.



It is both a blessing and a curse that I have to keep reassuring the elders in the family that I am not starving myself, and that I have to stop them from ordering/ cooking more because I LITERALLY CANNOT EAT ANYMORE, unless I want to puke.

With dim sum breakfasts, rice lunches accompanied by 5 dishes, and 10-course dinners for almost a week, I returned to my regular simple meals with pleasure after the main celebrations were done.

I love Eating, but I am not much for Mindless Eating, when the taste is not as appreciated because I am physically incapable of having more food without feeling like I will throw up.

Stage 3: The "I Am So Over It" Stage

Family's great.

Usually, it's great from afar.

2 - 3 hours in each other's presence? No problem.

A few days of having to see different members every few hours, without having time to yourself for long stretches of time? Not so great.

There were many moments this Lunar New Year when I daydreamed that I could be in bed, reading a book, listening to music, putting on a facial sheet mask, and sipping tea in silence.

It didn't happen until the 8th day of the Lunar New Year, when it was a Saturday and I had no plans for the evening.


It was blissful.

Perhaps this "I am so over the Lunar New Year celebrations" mindset is a problem unique to introverts? Being in most people's presence drains me of energy, and there was no place for me to rest in the manner and method I wanted to.

It was all, take out plates to serve, make sure everyone's seated, watch the kids, wash the dishes, etc, etc. Even my nights did not feel restful enough.

It's no wonder, then, that I always go through Stage 4 every year, without fail.

 Stage 4: The "I Feel Sick" Stage 


Even as I type this, I'm nursing a running nose that has been plaguing me since ten days ago.

I also felt the beginnings of a sore throat, but LUCKILY it did not develop further into a cough, the way it had in past years.

The human body, or at least, my body, is not designed to do nothing but eat and socialise all day.

Mine is designed to eat (moderately) and sleep (in a room of my own) all day.



Oh, and also reading in silence, of course. I am currently reading the second book in this series, "The Invasion of the Tearling". It's addictive.

My body has once again readjusted to my usual lifestyle, except for my nose that just refuses to stop sniffling. Many a tissue has  been sacrificed for my nose in the past 10 days.

Finally, as the Lunar New Year reaches its ending, I get to enjoy Stage 5.

Stage 5: The "Moneyed"* Stage

*Only applicable to unmarried individuals, while married individuals are probably out-moneyed.

One of the good things about the Lunar New Year is having other people feed me with food that is of a higher "class" than the food I usually feed myself.

It's not that they are more delicious (I happen to think simple dishes are super delicious), but it's that the food I get to have is more expensive than my usual fare.

Take, for example, this dish of glorious cheese-baked prawns.


This is definitely only something I get to see during festivities, and would rarely order if I was paying.

The other good thing is that people literally give me money in red packets, alternatively known as "ang pao".


The idea of "ang pao" is that once you're considered an adult (in Malaysia, it's when you're married), you have to start handing out these red packets during the Lunar New Year as blessings for the next generation as they become adults themselves.

Yes, the book "Adulthood is a Myth" is purposely placed in the photo.

Apparently the only way to be considered eligible to hand out these red packets is when you're bona fide married, or have a child.

Essentially, I suppose, it's a form of saying that you can be truly considered an adult only when you are married.

Ha.

These red packet blessings make my life a little bit easier each year, as they help pay off bills like insurance and the Internet.

Apart from my travelling, this is one of those rare times where I get to treat myself a little better, instead of having to constantly penny-pinch to achieve my dreams of travelling more /owning my own home.

I guess you can say that I feel slightly more moneyed at the moment.

This is a brief moment, of course, but I definitely enjoy these blessings from my elders before I use them all up. ;)

I will miss this stage when I am considered an adult by Lunar New Year standards, if that is to happen (hur). The love of my husband better be worth missing this stage...

*

As the firecrackers stop, as family members return to the places where they live and work, and as life goes back to its normal routine (before the next big occasion), I heave a sigh of relief as the Year of the Rooster begins in earnest.

Like dishes, a life lived simply each day is a form of joy that I take much pleasure in too.

Whatever the Year of the Rooster may bring, I  hope that it's always filled with good health, safe journeys, and that each day brings me a step closer to having my dreams fulfilled.

MichMusings

6 Ways to Save Money When You're a Malaysian Young Adult

22:06

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle against the ringgit (Malaysian currency) when it comes to fulfilling my dreams of travelling overseas for at least 15 days each year.

Wanting to rest, relax, and take in the sights of another country in 15 out of 356 days isn't such a big deal, right?

Right?

While my salary has gone up in the past few years since I started working (thank you Universe), the ringgit has also taken quite the beating. This is how the ringgit currently stacks up against 5 other countries.



*deep sigh*

The worsening ringgit is good for Malaysian tourism, but it's not so good for my preferred kind of travelling. While my username may say michxwanderlust, it's only because michxfirstworldcountries isn't as easy to type.

So, what do first world countries have in common? Well, mainly currency that is much stronger than the Malaysian ringgit.

Some say the solution to this is to prefer travelling in countries that are much more affordable, for example, such as my own country, Malaysia, or the surrounding South-East Asian countries (apart from Singapore, because if I'm going to go to Singapore, I might as well pay a bit more to go to Australia instead).


Others say this is a millennial whining and why, back in the day, they didn't even get to travel to the next state in Malaysia at my age, and so on.

Me, I say that I am determined to overcome this ringgit problem to STILL be able to afford to travel to countries like Japan, and so this year I've come up with EVEN more ways to save money than I used to before.

Here are 6 of those ways, and may you, dear reader, find this useful.

1. Consume Less (Outside) Food and Non-Water Drinks



Apart from Writing, Reading, Sleeping, and Travelling, Eating is one of my Five Greatest Loves.

Yet out of all the five, food is the one that takes the least importance, if I have to budget my time and money that way.

Since 2017 began, my weekday meals have been, in the middle-class sense, quite sad. I'm not starving or anything, but I have been eating the same weekday late tea meal for almost three weeks now.

You see, I decided to invest in a sandwich press last month. I've been making full use of that sandwich press almost every weekday now, to make myself a late tea/ dinner meal.

I've basically cut down my food expenses to less than RM10.00 per week (sometimes I am weak and crave snacks ahem) on average thanks to the sandwich press, so yes, it's done its part in helping me save money.

Of course, this means I'm having a sandwich for dinner from Monday to Friday with no changes, but beggars can't be choosers.

I'll just munch on my sandwich and pretend it's this, or some other similar coping mechanism.


T_____________T

This whole having a sandwich for dinner on weekdays makes me really look forward to the weekends. Even if I'm just cooking at home to save money (and to be healthy!), at least it's something different to a sandwich for dinner, two evenings a week.

It is lucky I like sandwiches, and do not mind eating them daily (if a bit wistfully while thinking of other food products).

Then there is my preferred beverage of choice, which is usually water, or tea. Lucky I like these two too. Water is the best. Ain't nobody got too much extra cash (or metabolism) to spend on soda, alcohol, milkshakes, and the like right now, because THE GOAL IS TO TRAVEL!!!

Alternatively I suppose you can still have nice food if you have someone who is willing to pay for you, but apart from being a money-saving measure, this money-saving tip number one is also a weight-maintaining measure.

Win-win for me, I guess...?


2. Get Experiences, Not Things 

This tip was also mentioned in my resolutions I made for this year, but it's being repeated here now in a money-saving sense.

Naturally, I think, some experiences are way more expensive than the things you buy. A trip to a good hair salon can set you back by a good RM300 - RM500. You could get three quality outfits out of that!

In the money-saving sense, however, I am referring to experiences that are free, or at least cheap-ish.

Yes, people, there are experiences to be had for free! It's what all those "free things to do in *insert city here*" guides are for, after all.

In my personal life, the kind of experiences I give myself on the weekends doesn't usually involve going out. Instead, I tend to stay at home to stream dramas, read books, clean, exercise, listen to Spotify, play games, blog, write, and so on.



And you know what? I love my weekends indoors, and don't think I'm depriving myself of anything this way just to be able to travel to the countries I want to travel to. Perhaps this is related to tip three?

3. Be an Introvert

If I have to force myself to be extroverted in order to move up the social/ career ladder, people can definitely learn to be more introverted for the sake of their wallets.

I have had people asking me if I ever get bored not having anything to do on Friday nights, because my answers to the "what are you doing on Friday night?" question are usually around the same theme.

"I AM GOING HOME TO SLEEP." 


I say this with as much excitement as someone saying "I'm going out on a date!" or "I'm going to go clubbing with my friends!".


This^ over clubs any day for me... and I don't have to pay a cover charge, pay for drinks, or pay for the Uber to take me home when I'm too tipsy to drive.

Money-saving win? Money-saving win.

I honestly don't get people who say they get "soooooooooooooo bored" just staying at home. I love staying at home. I pay rent, I SHOULD utilise that rent as much as I can in person.

4. Have Less "Friends"

It seems like my tips to saving money means being an asocial, misanthropic, and homebound nerd, also an alternative title for my blog name. Being all those things can certainly be kind to your wallet (unless you order a lot of things online for the things you nerd out for, then good luck to you), but I don't mean that you should purge ALL your friends.

I don't have a lot of friends. 

I say this not with sadness, but as a statement.

No, the friends I choose to keep company with ARE ~friends~, the kind that I already know would be willing to support my dreams, are not judgmental of my lifestyle behaviour or choices (but will totally offer much-needed advice without beating around the bush), and would be willing to text me past their bedtime if I really need them to.

Bedtime is really important, so I appreciate those who do.


Most of all, have the kind of friends who do not judge you for not going out to meet them every week (once a month are how often my friends and I actually meet each other), who do not judge you for being "poor", who do not laugh at your phone that is now three years old, who do not ask you why you always wear the same clothes, and who understand that you are saving money for something that is important to you.

These... are friends.

5. Use Electronic Devices for as Long as You Can 


I feel like some people cannot see that constantly upgrading their electronic devices will take a major toll on their wallet. Maybe they're just so financially fabulous that they don't have to worry about changing their phones/ laptops/ cameras every year or so, but... the people I know who like to upgrade every year or so aren't actually that financially fabulous.

My current phone is 3 years old, the laptop I am typing this on is 7 years old, and my camera is also 3 years old.

I have no intention of changing my phone, no matter how fast the battery drains. My home laptop is extremely slow, but also useable. My camera still works; it may not take the best pictures compared to, say, the Sony A7, but it serves its purpose.

I mean, I won the camera in a lucky draw, so no complaints there.

Of course, if you must have the best equipment due to work purposes, this is unavoidable. However, for the average person, there is really no need to upgrade your phone. Even if you decide to join one of those annual upgrade programs to get a new phone every year, you're still paying more to get a mildly better version of a device that was working perfectly in the first place.

I'm quite fond of my iPhone 5s, and will probably use it until it is complete obsolete. One of my friends used an iPhone 3Gs for almost 6 years - I guess we're the sort to be attached to our devices once we get them.

This, as you can tell, has been doing wonders in terms of saving money, and I intend to continue. To me, travelling triumphs over acquiring new electronic devices anytime, but if it's the opposite for you, feel free to continue (and cut back on travelling instead).

6. Before You Buy Anything, Ask Yourself: "Will I Use This a Year (*insert other appropriate time amount*) From Now?"



Nowadays, I try to maximise value out of the products I buy. Let's take makeup as an example. For makeup, I just wear the same brands over and over again, making sure I buy the ones that I know I will use constantly.

As a result, I guess I am not adventurous in terms of makeup at all, but hey, I don't have to be adventurous. I'm not a beauty blogger or writer.

In the past year or two, every time I've been attracted to buy something,  I've tried asking myself if the product will see continued usage for a long amount of time. I'm happy to report that what I bought is still being used, whether it's bags, accessories, clothes, and whatnot.

This style of asking myself several times if I really do ~need~ something has probably helped me survived through the brief four months of unemployment I went through last year. I was forced to use whatever was left of my savings to pay for bills, and luckily, I did not have to ask anyone to lend me cash for my commitments.

It is also the uncertain economic times that necessitates this sort of behaviour in young adults earning the ringgit. For someone who magically lost a job last year just because the company decided it did not need a writer anymore, it has only pointed out to me the necessity of being more prudent in my spending, and to prioritise exactly what I want to spend most on.

This year, I have decided travelling is my first priority out of my Five Greatest Loves, tying with Writing at first spot (since it is Writing that gets me an income). I can buy less books, sleep less in order to write more, and even starve myself to save on money, if it means that I can travel to the places I want to go to.


I guess there'll be no more Kobe beef-like meals purchased by myself for a while...

I don't recommend totally depriving yourself in your day-to-day life just to save money(I certainly don't), but if you have something to save up for, these 6 tips may come in handy, just as practicing them have been useful for me.

Here's to being able to travel overseas safely and securely (physically, financially, and otherwise) in the countries I want to go to for at least 15 days this year.

x
Mich