A Change of Name, a Change of Focus

I recently applied to have my blog be part of Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders.  I really respect Lonely Planet (my first guidebook was Africa on a Shoestring) and would love to write for them (I was thanked for my contributions to the Japan guidebook and the Spain guidebook).  Unfortunately, my blog, as it was, was not travel-focused enough.

Maria McKenzie (Lonely Planet support)

Nov 16, 10:52 AM GMT

Hi Andrea,

Thank you for your interest in joining Lonely Planet Pathfinders. Unfortunately we are unable to accept your application as your site is not quite travel-focused enough for the programme. We’re looking for channels that feature recent and regular travel-centric content.

Kind regards,
Maria McKenzie | Lonely Planet Pathfinders team

I have removed the posts that were not travel-centric and, on the very good advice of Eli, the Partying Traveler, I have changed the name of the blog to better reflect what the reader can expect.  Those of you who are fans of the old-school travel writers like Hemingway, Blixen, and Flaubert will recognize the new name for my blog as being borrowed from Flaubert in Egypt.

 

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A Public Service Announcement

If you, or friends of yours, are planning on visiting South East Asia (and I highly recommend it) please be aware that there is no duty-free allowance for tobacco or alcohol if you are coming into Singapore from Malaysia.  That means ‘zero’, ‘nada’, ‘niente’, ‘none’!

A few days ago our bus was delayed because some young backpackers were trying to bring alcohol into Singapore from Malaysia.  We ended up leaving them at the border crossing in the middle of the night.   I was reminded of an incident a few months ago when our bus was delayed because a middle-aged woman thought the open package of cigarettes she was carrying did not apply to the NO duty-free allowance law.

I have travelled with Singaporean friends who threw away their cigarettes before going through immigration.  Trash receptacles are provided. Although most countries allow for some tobacco products to be imported without duty, Singapore does not.  Some alcohol can be imported without duty but NOT from Malaysia.  It doesn’t matter where you purchased the alcohol if your last port of departure was Malaysia.

Wishing everyone safe travels!

heavy-traffic-expected-at-woodlands-and-tuas-checkpoints

 

Living With Fear

The following is the text of a talk I gave to the Introverts Network. The synopsis read “Andrea Brandle steps outside her comfort zone for a few minutes to share her belief that fear can and should be overcome. She is an introvert and her advice is “if I can do it, so can you”. Andrea hopes that at very least, you will be entertained. Please feel free to laugh out loud.”

Living with Fear or Don’t be Afraid to be an Introvert

I met Mervin when we were both contributors to a book called Turning Ideas into Profit. At the book launch the authors stood at the front of an auditorium and each talked about their own chapter – except for me. I would rather swim with sharks than stand in front of a group of people and speak. So I was the timer. It was my job to let each speaker know when their time was up. It is a much harder job than you might imagine. If the speaker was in the middle of making a good point, I was loathe to ring the bell. When Mervin got up to speak about his chapter “Beyond Handshakes”, he said that he was an introvert, I laughed out loud. I thought he was making a joke! How could an introvert be on stage? Clearly, I misunderstood what it means to be an introvert.
When Mervin asked me to come and speak to you, a group of introverts, I thought I had better find out exactly what an introvert really is. While researching, I read that, “Mistaking introversion for shyness is a common error. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not necessarily fear social encounters like shy people do.” The word fear resonated with me. I live with fear – it is my constant companion. I called this talk “Living with Fear” not “Living in Fear”. The difference may seem small but it is frighteningly huge – Godzilla huge! If you live in fear you are anticipating some event that might happen such as in Japan I lived in fear that an earthquake would strike. Living with fear means that I am constantly and consistently afraid. I am afraid of ordinary things that most people would not think of as even a little bit scary. I am afraid of stairs, and by extension, escalators which are really just moving stairs. I am afraid of everything with wheels so I don’t drive a car or ride a bicycle. I am afraid of sticky things!
At one time, I was phobic about insects. I could regale you with stories of being chased screaming from my home by a moth, or being reduced to tears by a small worm in my salad, but the story you need to hear is about the cockroach in New Orleans. In preparation to move to Botswana I went on a holiday to New Orleans. My logic was that if I couldn’t spend a week by myself in an American city, I had no business going to live in Africa. I was staying alone in a small apartment in the French Quarter. It was late in the evening and I went to use the toilet. I was naked. I am telling you this because, for me and for many others, nakedness increases my sense of vulnerability. I reached out a few centimeters and gave the toilet roll a tug. As it spun around, a roach almost as big as the toilet roll appeared – black against white, millimeters from my hand. We don’t have any insects this big in Canada. It was bigger than some mice I have seen. I screamed, a blood-curdling shriek, and ran out of the bathroom with urine running down my leg. I stood in the kitchen with my heart pounding. My brain knows that a cockroach cannot hurt me. My brain knows that I am far bigger and more deadly but I was terrified! So I said to myself, “well, I guess I can’t go to Botswana after all.” Surely, insects in Africa would be large and scary. But I really, really wanted to go. So I went back into the bathroom to face my fear. It took me a while to find the roach. He was hiding inside the toilet roll. He looked at me and I swear he was terrified. I could relate – so I told him that I was going to turn off the bathroom light and leave on the bedroom light and that he should then leave as quickly as his little roach legs would allow.

Believe it or not, one of my biggest fears is public speaking. Do you know that according to Wikipedia, public speaking is the number one fear in North America? The second greatest is death!! Think about that, I am less afraid of dying than I am of standing here in front of you speaking. But really, everything gets easier with practice. Karen Foo, who contributed the chapter on Motivating and Challenging the GenY, tricked me into speaking at a book signing event we had for Turning Ideas into Profit. It was in a bookstore and there were only two people listening but it was good practice. She has since roped me into being the MC at our monthly meetings for the Association of Professional Trainers of Singapore. I know she is doing it for my own good!
Mervin suggested that I talk to you about travelling because the best thing about my life is that it has been lived across continents. Singapore is the fifth country I have lived in. I was born in a mining town in Canada where I spent many months of the year afraid I would freeze to death. After that I lived in Botswana in the Kalahari Desert where there are more deadly snakes than anywhere else on Earth, I have already mentioned that I lived in Japan home to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunami and finally Spain where I was robbed by gypsies before coming to Singapore. Many people think that means I am brave. Hardly!
As a child, I read about faraway places, distant lands, exotic destinations, but I never set foot outside of North America until I was thirty years old. At thirty, the fear that I would never see the world became greater than the fear of being in a place where the people looked different from me or spoke a different language or ate different food. So it was with great fear and trepidation that I embarked upon the trip that has become my life. Sometimes people will ask me what kind of job I do that allows me to live in such diverse places. I laugh! I do a different job every where I live. Sometimes I have a job arranged before I arrive, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can speak the language, sometimes I can’t.
I really want to earn my living as a writer but often I fear I am not good enough. I have been writing since I was a little kid but no-one has ever paid me to write. I write about my adventures and about my observations of the world around me. I write about the people I meet . I think being a writer would be the perfect job for an introvert, except for the part where you have to promote your books. Mervin can help you with that part.
So why am I standing here in front of you with sweaty hands and trembling knees? Why do I pack up and move to another country as soon as I become comfortable? Perhaps I am just crazy. That would explain why an adult woman with a career and her own house in a good neighbourhood, would don a backpack, and with a one-way airplane ticket and a small tent, move to an African country she knew nothing about. Perhaps, I am not crazy but rather, I am driven by a deeper fear; maybe I am afraid of being ordinary.
In Mervin’s book “i Can Connect: An Introvert’s Handbook to Stress-Free Networking” he writes, “Some introverts are so embarrassed about being introverted, that they refuse to admit they are. They tend to hide it by displaying more extroverted behaviour in front of others.”
The point I want you to take away from this is that fear can be beaten. Fear can be overcome. Being fearful is something you should want to change about yourself. Being introverted is not something you should want to change! 25 to 30 percent of people, depending on which source you read, are introverted. Introverts are the scientists, philosophers, and artists. They are the thinkers, the ‘idea’ people. To say that introverts should try to be more extroverted is like saying red flowers should try to be yellow! Why?
According to Mervin, “We know what meeting new people can possibly do for our business and careers, yet it is this exact activity that also makes us want to clam up… When we finally pluck up the courage to attend such a meeting, whether it is an obligation to someone who had invited us, or because we eventually convinced ourselves to give it a try, we develop a whole new set of fears.” The part I especially like is “Embracing your introversion is the first step to accepting yourself for who you are. Introverts have qualities that help us excel at business networking: We value quality relationships, we love discussing ideas, we enjoy one-to-one time, we cherish our alone time and we enjoy observing people.” I am not going to stand up here and read the entire book to you but I do encourage you to read it, if you have not already. It highlights the qualities introverts can bring to group meetings and helps you to understand that you absolutely, positively, do not need to be afraid of being an introvert!

 

 

Crow Attack

I like to think that I get along with most animals and I have found that, generally speaking, my furred and feathered neighbours tend to avoid interaction with me. So, being verbally and physically attacked by a crow yesterday came as quite a shock.

I was walking across a parking lot on my way to the post office when a crow began making a terrible racket. When I looked up at the crow, I saw that he (I am not really sure of the crow’s gender) was looking at me.  Clearly, I had done something to upset him, so I apologised.

As I continued walking, he let out a frightening caw and swooped at my head. I felt the wind from his wings. I was totally confused and my mind was reeling as I tried to imagine what was provoking this behaviour. I was envisioning Hitchcock’s The Birds.

The crow swooped again and this time I could feel his claw in my hair. I lost it! “Stop bothering me now”, I yelled. “I have never done anything to you! Leave me alone, you stupid crow.” The fact that I stooped to personal insults is a testament to how agitated I had become. I held the large, white envelopes I was carrying over my head and proceeded to the post office.

Fortunately, I sustained no injuries but I remain completely baffled.

Seeing with new eyes

I have been to Kuala Lumpur so many times that I have lost count. I have stayed in a variety of hotels, in a number of neighbourhoods, so I stopped thinking of going to KL as travel. It had become mundane, ordinary, routine.

Last week everything changed; well, almost everything. I took a bus that I have taken countless times but instead of leaving late, as it always had before, it left 15 minutes early. Instead of turning left at the usual intersection, it turned right and I was able to see a part of Singapore I had never seen before, even though I have lived here for 6 years.

Upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, the bus went through an area that I had never seen before. I was sitting on the edge of my seat with my nose pressed to the window. This is travelling!

I remembered that when I was about to leave Botswana, I started seeing commonplace sights differently. I called it “seeing with good-bye eyes”. When we travel to a place for the first time and everything is new, we see it with shining clarity. If we stay, some things start to seem dull.

Perhaps this phenomenon is like growing old. When we are children most of our experiences are new. As adults, most things are run-of-the-mill. Then as seniors, we start to see the world with ‘good-bye eyes’.

Wishing all my readers the chance to see everything around them with new eyes.