Friday, April 22, 2016

LEAVING THE (SILICON) VALLEY OF DREAMS

" What was Mark (Zuckerberg) like? "
" A genius, but very socially awkward."

" Do you ever regret leaving? "
" No. "

***
Someone asked me the other day if I'd ever met anyone interesting on my travels.

I've definitely met heaps of very intriguing people. However, I thought I'd mention one person in particular.

***
Bryan hadn't been a huge fan of the conventional American education system, so he dropped out after high school. He then enrolled for the military to get some life experience and see some more of the world. He told me some funny stories about the troops being deployed as peacekeepers in Middle Eastern countries where they would play football and mingle with the local civilians in their free time.

The locals would always ask him how many wives he had, and he would say "None." (It is the norm for Middle Eastern men to be married with a few wives by their early twenties.)

He'd always receive a lot of ribbing and get called a loser for this. After a while, he started bluffing and saying "Oh yeah I've got four at home." They would then call him 'Brother', fistbump him and slap him on the back in approval.

***
Bryan left the military after a good number of years. He started to teach himself code and got a job as a developer at Microsoft. 

In 2007, a new company named Facebook was hiring. He thought 'why not?', applied, and got in. He was located in Los Angeles and Facebook was based in San Francisco, but their flexible / mobile employee arrangement made for comfortable working conditions. 

Come 2012, he started getting restless having spent such a stretch of time with this company. He tried to leave, but Facebook instead offered him a better package and opportunities. He took up the offer and came to join them at HQ in San Francisco. It was a pretty sweet deal ; he was set up in a nice apartment (paid for by company) and had miscellaneous expenses covered by them as well. Not only that, he was brought to the role of Lead Developer managing a team of staff and got a nice bump in pay. This enabled him to live very comfortably, although San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in America.

He knew he was in a good place and should have been thankful for scoring so well. However, after some time he realized that it wasn't what he really wanted. It took him a while to do so, but he finally quit his job as a Lead Developer at Facebook and bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. 

*** 
Claimed by Forbes, Business Times, and others as 'Best Place In The World To Work', you always hear so much about how Facebook is the 'dream job', with incredible company culture, generous pay, unbelievable staff benefits (catered lunches, gym facilities, unlimited holidays, flexible working hours, etc).

To an outsider, leaving the dream job at Facebook would be unthinkable - but that is exactly what Bryan did.

The reason I am writing about Bryan in particular is because I think we have all been him at some point or another. Overwhelmed by the familiarity of your surroundings, bored of routine, tired of the same old same old, craving for change and raring to give it all up to leap into the great adventure that is the unknown.

While starting afresh may sometimes be good, it also bodes well to look around and acknowledge how blessed we are (although not all of us may be Lead Developers at Facebook).

***
I first ran into Bryan in July 2014 when he was bouncing around Southeast Asia. He gave off a very friendly, curious, intelligent vibe and we hit it off well. After spending one day wandering about with lots of great conversation, we parted ways - me back home and he wherever it is he was heading. 

Unbelievably out of sheer coincidence I ran into him again in December 2015 when I took my diving license in the tiny remote island of Koh Tao, Thailand. 

Being the girl that I am, I insisted on taking a photo here because of the pretty lights.

I have no clue where he is now, but I hope he's doing well.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

SOLO BACKPACKING SERIES: PADANG, SUMATERA Pt.3

This is the final post on my first solo backpacking trip to Padang, Sumatera, Indonesia.

*** 
Day 5

I woke up early in my guesthouse in Bukit Tinggi. So early that the town was still asleep. I decided to walk about and find the clock tower I'd read about the night before while researching things to do in Bukit Tinggi.


Successfully found the clock tower (it wasn't too far off from my guesthouse) with horse-drawn carriages standing at the ready for the influx of tourists which would normally stream in during the afternoon.

I walked back to my guesthouse and sat in the cafe downstairs, having breakfast and mulling what to do with myself that day. 


Cup of chai tea with 4 hardboiled eggs for breakfast. :)

As I sat there eating, two people walked in. I immediately knew they were backpackers from the way they looked and the friendly vibe they gave off. They introduced themselves as Joshua from Netherlands and Suzanne from Holland. They were looking for a guide to take them out to the waterfalls and old palace, and for a 3rd person to fill in to split the cost of scooter rental and guide.

The very friendly cafe owner overheard our conversation and had a guide and two scooters promptly brought to our doorstep.


Our guide in the red helmet, Suzanne in the white helmet, and Joshua in the black helmet.


And we were off. :)

Landscapes along the way.





The first waterfall we came to.


Joshua looking tiny in contrast with the waterfall.



Stayed for a while and enjoyed this serenity. Sadly it was really cold and no one had bathing suits so we didn't swim.

Set off for more sights and adventures.


Green paddyfields.



Second waterfall we came across. Not as nice as the first.


Climbed up to a lookout spot with views of the entire valley.


Our guide then took us to Pagaruyung palace.


Group photo.


Palace grounds.

Although this is Indonesia, we were in the highlands and it was cool and dry (if you're wondering why everyone's wearing scarves / sweaters). Turned back after this palace and got lost, but eventually got back on track and returned safely to our guesthouse.

***
Day 6 & 7

I got back into Padang town and met up with my couchsurfing host for my final night. The next day marked the end of my trip as I flew back into KL (but not without begging for money at the very last minute to pay for airport tax which I was obliviously unaware of).

*** 
In hindsight, I absolutely WOULD NOT recommend a place as rough and rugged as Sumatera to a solo backpacker on their maiden first trip. I dived in and made it through with some scrapes and scratches, but it would be better to head to a country like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or even more developed parts of Indonesia where accommodation is aplenty and infrastructure / logistics are well maintained by way of buses, trains, and boats.