Lessons learned

1.) Things don’t always have to be perfect

I meant to paint my fingernails a gorgeous shade of coral to complement my tan before disembarking for the East. But – shock horror – I never got around to it! Did it ruin my holiday? Not on your nelly. In fact it probably worked out for the best, the lack of washing up and increased vitamin D absorption, meant my nails grew super-quick and repainting whilst I’m on my jollies would have been a total chore.

It sounds so silly but ordinarily I wouldn’t have felt ‘right’ if I didn’t have lacquered nails for my hols, but somehow I didn’t even care. Now, if it had of been my toenails that would have been a different story – gah!

2.) Live for the moment and enjoy the now

Whilst there’s always going to be some planning on any holiday where you want to take in more sights than the hotel pool I’d have previously got too wrapped up in what I’m doing tomorrow to actually enjoy the now. But amazingly not the case on this break – result!

3.) Persue your interests

Arriving at the beautiful Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur (following a slight detour thanks to the Lonely Planet Guide’s dubious directions) brought back to me how interested I am in Buddhism. Back home my Buddhism books have been duly dusted down and I’m remembering why I rate this highly logical belief system so much. Good karma here I come!

Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur
Over the bridge and up the hill (the second hill we’d climbed after realising the directions we’d been given weren’t that great) we discovered the gorgeous Thean Hou Temple and my affinity to the Buddhist faith

4.) It’s OK to do what you want sometimes – even if that means doing nothing

I’d forgotten how good napping, reading and generally watching the world go by is and I definitely need to indulge that on a more frequent basis. Regular spa treatments (I had a massage whilst I was away) and lots of exotic tea are also good habits I’ll be keeping now I’m back home. I’m even thinking of taking up yoga!

Cocktail and sunset

A pina colada, or whatever you'd rather...

5.) Nothing is more amazing than nature

Oran-gutan

A gorgeous Oran-gutan at Sepilok, Sandakan, Borneo

Whether we were observing the Oran-gutans at feeding time, the Proboscius Monkeys in the Mangroves or just simply the sun setting, we were consistently astounded with what comes, well, naturally. Which brings home that we should be doing all we can to protect Mother Nature and all of her beautiful creatures. Cue me looking into ways I can be more environmentally conscious now I’m back in Blighty. Fortunately, a lot of green measures are also money saving measures!

6.) ‘Need’ and ‘want’ are two wholly different things

I bought Grazia magazine to read on the coach journey back from Heathrow and whilst I still coveted all the lovely shiny new clothes, I couldn’t help but feel they were slightly superfluous given how people live in some of the poorer parts of Borneo. I’m not ready to swap fashion for frump just yet but I will be trying to consume less and make more use of the things which I already have. Gok will be proud!

Stilt Village, Sandakan, Borneo

How the other half live. Stilt Village, Borneo

7.) With determination, an enterprising mind, a smile on your face and a bit of help you can achieve anything

The Oran Abai tribe are working with the local jungle lodge and the government by providing food and labour to the lodge and home stay facilities to travellers. This partnership means the village, which is only accessible by boat, now has access to a junior school, solar power and improved sanitation. All this whilst still finding time to wave cheerfully at tourists sailing past in speedboats gawping at their village! Think that means I can stop moaning that ‘I can’t do it’ when I have access to high speed broadband and a network of public transport to take me wherever I need to be!

8.) Support local businesses – whilst we’ve still got them

Snooping around the markets in Kota Kinabalu stirred up some nostalgia for the fruit and vegetable shops and market stalls which my mom used to visit when I was a child. These are now few and far between. But how much nicer would it be to support a local firm rather than a big multi-national. So this weekend I’ll be getting my beef mince from a butchers – not a supermarket. And that red pepper I need? Well I’m hoping that will be arriving courtesy of the farm shop.

8.) And for future holiday reference…

  • Always pack more pants than you think you’ll need
  • If you’re going somewhere where you can’t drink the tap water take mouthwash. Brushing your teeth with bottled water isn’t the easiest so you’ll need the mouthwash for extra freshness
  • No matter how tempting they look – don’t eat the mussels!
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