I have redefined retirement at age 23. I have a lifestyle where I do the things I like, with the time I have and still get paid for it. I designed my freedom these two decades, traveling to more than 40 countries. I run a successful business doing consulting works as a Corporate Writer, Corporate Emcee, Event Producer and a Workshop Facilitator. I am also a talk-show host on an Internet Radio station with two programs "A Course In Miracles for Work-Life" and "Freedom Speaks". Life is Healthy, Rich & FREE! You can design this lifestyle according to your willingness. I hope mine will inspire you to achieve that freedom too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Solo fine dining treat in Brisbane!

After more than 2 weeks traversing southern Australia, from Melbourne trekking into Grampians National Park to taking the ferry across the Bass Straits into Tasmania, then walking and trekking and staying in lodges at National Parks, cooking my own meals and having all the fresh air and fresh seafoods, I just needed to rest.

So, when finally I got on the plane to leave Hobart and flew into Brisbane, I told myself I am going to take a good rest in Brisbane for 3 days before taking the flight back to Kuala Lumpur. And lo and behold, once I said that, I arrived in Brisbane almost midnight. All the shops were closed and the streets were deserted. Hardly any cars in downtown Brisbane. I was trapped. I did not know where to go to find a place to stay. I don't plan my trip, you see, not like most people who book their accommodation way ahead of time, most backpackers traveling in Australia did the same, they plan ahead and book their dorm-room early so that when they arrive, they will tell the van driver where they want to go and they are dropped at the dorm's doorstep.

So, I thought it will be easy for me to find a place to stay. But I did not have the slightest idea that even dorms can be filled up too, especially in Brisbane. I experienced the fully booked situation when I was in St Kilda, a beach resort town about 30 minutes away from Melbourne, then I had to turn back to Melbourne carrying my rucksack the whole day, only to put it down when my shoulder almost gave way and I had to stop at a cafe for lunch. But that time was because St Kilda had their music festival, so everyone flocked there to watch and be merry.

I never thought that Brisbane will be the same - and in the middle of the night too!!

When I was dropped off in the middle of downtown Brisbane, I walked with my rucksack, looking for dorm. No map, don't know where to go, no one to ask, and it was dark, 12 midnight!! So, I just walked, and my rucksack got heavier and heavier. After about half an hour walk, now 12.30am, I found that the road I had taken leads to no dorm but to some factory area, got to turn back to town. Then, for another 30 minutes, I found a dorm operator but it was full, heck!! Walked again, now the rucksack is eating into my flesh. Found another backpackers inn, also full. Already 1am, walked some more, this time I was beginning to yawn, found a bench and sat a while. Saw 7-11, aha, it will be a good place to ask. Dragged myself up and walked towards the 7-11 store. Oh, great, a Chinese guy on duty, maybe he will know where I can find a place to stay, now already 2am. When I spoke to him, I realised that he could not understand English well, he tried his very best to listen but he could not get my message, I gave up, I spoke to him in Mandarin instead, then realised that he is from mainland China and he just started work. Oh well, 2.30am. Walked again, now feet began to feel heavy and body is tired. I took a corner and suddenly remembered that the van just passed this place and dropped 2 passengers to check into a backpackers inn, I hurriedly walk towards a well-lit building. Prayed, pushed open the door, it was 3am, prayed again, and ask for a dorm bed. The guy at the counter, obviously very oblivious to how I tired I looked, or maybe he is so used to see backpackers looking worn out, he did not answer that there is a dorm bed available, he just stated the price and assumed I to "seal" the contract. Of course, I was relieved, at 3am, I checked into a room, climbed onto the bed above a double-decker bunk, did not even bother to take my shower, don't even know who are the people snoring below me and at the next bunk beds - I lay my sleepy head and my very very heavy body and slept like a log...zzzzzzzz.....

I woke up late in the morning, washed up and headed to town for a sumptuous fine-dining treat. My image consultant friend eyes and ears popped out after hearing my story, "Aiyoh, you can go for fine dining alone? In Brisbane!?!?!?" I said why not, I enjoyed myself the way I wanted it, great! Love the foods in Brisbane. Very breezy town and I just walked in the shopping streets all 3 days, sitting most of the time enjoying a cup of coffee and a piece of delectable chocolate cake, yummy...yum yum!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Faces, The Phases - Taj Mahal

I suddenly have a strong desire to want to find out actually when was the year I went to India for the first time. I went looking for my old passports, which I still keep all of it since my first one. The passports have all the dates of my travel over the past 20 years. Looking at all the stamping on all the pages by so many different customs all over the world left me in an awe-inspiring state. I am thrilled that over so many years, I have carried out my dreams to travel the world and defined my destiny so clearly.

Having found my date to India, which happened in Jan 1998, 10 years ago, I also found the article I wrote to my friends when I came back from my trip then. I extract some passages and keep the essence as pure as it was written that 10 years ago. I can't tell you how impressed I am with the way I expressed myself through my writings then. Eventhough some of the words I may have used differently now if I were to re-write, but I like to leave it that way because that was how I felt 10 years ago and it was all good :

"India - a place where living survived and the survivors thrived, a place I would love to go back again and again to bathe in the vast plain of romanticism and adventures. Especially the Thar desert which I had missed this time......."

"I was in Agra for the Taj Mahal, the most romantic building in the world. I just finished reading the book "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth before I embarked on my journey. When I was standing on the pavement overlooking the river at the back of the Taj Mahal, one scene from the book came gushing back at me. It was the scene where a boy who is pursuing literature and love reading poetry tried to woo the girl of his dream by taking her on a boat (sampan) ride on the river over sunset. While they were rowing through the river, he showed and explained to her a king who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen who died during labour. The Taj Mahal was built with marbles, emeralds and semi-precious stones. The monument now stands as a testament to his unrelenting love to his wife. As what Rabindranath Tagore, the 1st Bengali recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote in Hindi about Emperor Shah Jahan's heartfelt grieve when it was built :

....was to preserve forever your heart's pain....

That at least a single, eternally-heaved sigh

would stay to grieve the sky.

Though emeralds, rubies, pearls are all ...

But as the glitter of a rainbow tricking out empty air

and must pass away,

Yet still one solitary tear ...

would hang on the cheek of time

in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal.

"After this, I visited the Fort/Palace where King Akbar Khan built and resided during his reign. This palace now lies overlooking the Taj Mahal which is only 1 km away. From here, I went further south to small village called Fatehpur Sikri. This was the place where the same King actually built his palace but abandoned it and moved to Agra just one year later. So, now in Fatehpur Sikri stood his old Mosque in a square and a huge palace. It was worth a visit. But no one knows why he moved out in just one year."

Wow, you see, that was my feelings of Taj Mahal 10 years ago when I first visited it. Now, if I go back, I would have a totally new experience because "you don't step into the same river twice" so said Buddha.