5 March 2020

I feel like a new person.

As cliched though it sounds, this precisely describes how I feel at the moment. Yesterday, today – I am a new me.

All because of one mobile app and ten minutes a day. I’m doing many things I never foresaw myself doing.

But then again, how much of life is foreseeable?

I certainly did not have this scenario in mind when my manager first recommended Headspace to me, all those weeks (months?) ago.

A little backstory, some months into my not-so-new-anymore job at Agoda, I started experiencing a buzz (a.k.a. state of heightened brain activity). I’ve written about this here. As a result of that buzz (which passed in a few weeks), I started a months-long conversation thread with my manager where we talk about how I can prevent work creep and burnout.

Eventually that thread led to a more specific goal on my end: not to think about work outside work hours. And to that goal, my manager recommended to me the app Headspace.

I sat on it for weeks, meaning I had the word “Headspace” written on my to-do list but did nothing about it. Partially out of the really negative reviews I saw on the Google app store about glitches and having to pay for everything, but I guess also partially out of inertia and a maybe-fear(?) – who knows.

Finally, several gentle proddings from my manager and one workshop on Building Great Habits later, I was inspired to download the app one evening. I just downloaded it and created an account, nothing more.

The next night (or maybe it was the night after next), I started my first 3-minute Basics course. And golly.

I never considered myself a meditating kind of person. I used to look on people who meditate with a kind of mild awe and incomprehension. I guessed they got something out of it, but I never got how people could sit and meditate.

Three minutes of Headspace Basics session later, I totally got it. I felt different. Calmer, more relaxed.

Just like that, the 3, then 5, then 10 minutes of Headspace each night before bed became something I looked forward to every morning. And this is not an exaggeration. I would start my day and think: I cannot wait for tonight so I can sit with Headspace for 10 minutes (that’s the maximum duration for the Basics course).

Since starting that first session, I’ve meditated for a total of 51 minutes across 7 sessions. And I’m loving every second of it.

Purely the fact that I’m now meditating every night is incredible. But there’s more.

Since starting this, I’ve begun to seek head space elsewhere. I’ve begun building into my day space for my mind to unwind. I’ve stopped watching Netflix before bed. Instead I just go straight to bed or (if I’m not sleepy) listen to a Sleepcast on the app. I’ve begun taking out my earphones to absorb the sounds around me and just “be”.

And I’m doing all these things not because I feel like I should or that it’d be good for me. I’m doing them because I want to. For no discernible reason, I’m just getting these urges to do these things.

I’ve also stopped multi-tasking. Because I want to. No one told me I shouldn’t do it. The guy I’m meditating to every night on Headspace never said anything about multi-tasking. I just realised I didn’t want to do it anymore.

This began yesterday morning. I was walking to work with my earphones in, listening to a podcast, when I caught myself about to lift my phone to type something into it (I can’t remember now what – might have been my morning’s calorie count). And I stopped myself. Because I wanted to not multi-task. I wanted to focus on the podcast and the walk. The calorie-count (if that’s what it was) could wait.

And I’ve begun reaping the benefits. I was in a workshop today at work and – by God – I never got so much out of a workshop. I was never able to focus so well, digest the information being transmitted, draw connections. All because I didn’t multi-task. I would get a thought flit into my mind: ah, I should send that e-mail. Ooh, I should check that. But I would just let the thought go. “I’m in this workshop now. That e-mail can be sent after. I don’t need to check that now – what good will it do? I’m in a workshop and can’t do anything about it anyways.”

I’ve stopped checking my phone while signing into my laptop. I type in my username and password, and the few seconds the laptop takes to boot up, I just wait. I look at the screen and wait. And once it’s done, I check my phone. Sounds silly. But it makes a difference to me. Being able to focus, and focusing, on one thing at a time has created what I only in the past few days realised I sorely needed: head space.

But wait: there’s more.

I’ve stopped wasting time on Instagram and Facebook. Two nights ago I started to swipe up on Instagram, then I stopped myself. I realised I didn’t really enjoy it, looking at those photos of people I used to know but barely do now didn’t do anything good for me. All it did was waste time and make me dazed. I always felt bad about it afterwards. So I stopped and put my phone away.

It’s as if I’ve become more aware of the impact of different actions on my frame of mind. And with that awareness I’ve taken back control over my life.

It’s incredible. And completely unexpected.

And that’s why I’m here: to capture this momentous moment for posterity.

Thank you Joy, thank you Headspace.

Hello new Val – let’s see where this road takes us.


New Val

6 August 2019

So I stopped for a month. Entirely.


For the month of July, my exercise consisted of walking and chewing. Not bad forms of exercise, but certainly nothing like rhythmic cycling. I could definitely feel the lack of freshness and energy that come with the bike. And also the horizontal expansion of body parts.

Yesterday was my first time back at my gym, doing 45 minutes of cycling with my favourite instructor. (Seriously, he’s awesome). And I was very happy to discover that my muscles, just like the North, remember. I was even able to cycle super fast to double-time beats at some points. That’s about where I was when I left off a month ago.

Though now that I think about it… I’ve done over 30 cycling classes. Is it normal that I’m still not able to follow the beat for the whole class? Hmm…

Rhythmic cycling is a constant battle with yourself. Push yourself a bit harder. Cycle a bit faster. Make your movements a bit bigger. Tap, push. In, out. Right, left. Make a V. All the while getting lost in the music thumping from the loudspeakers. I love it. And during the time I was going 2-3 times a week, I think I was getting pretty toned! Though the enjoyment is so great the getting toned past feels almost like a by-product.

So two months ago, on 3rd June, I wrote about how “things happen over a longer period of time when you’re an adult”. (This did materialise into an unfinished post on my main blog, as promised.)

I also mentioned, in the same post, that I may have good news to share “in a few weeks, maybe a month or two”.

And good news to share, I have:

I’m starting a new job next Tuesday!

Drumrolls. Confettis.

I’m really pretty psyched about this new job. I had written about my application and interview experience in my other blog (I do have a lot of blogs, don’t I) when I verbally received the offer last month. But since no contract had been signed at that point, I didn’t want to mention what company it was.

But now the contract has been signed, my Workday account (a self-service online portal where you do your employee admin stuff – that probably sums it up) set up, photo and bio provided to the CPO to share on their Facebook Workplace (no idea what shape or form this takes, guess I’ll find out next week!). So now I’m very happy to share that:

I’m moving to Agoda!

Drumrolls. Confettis.

To be honest, this move was completely unexpected. It’s really quite remarkable how a casual browse on LinkedIn turned into a proper application. And the series of interviews which I’ve described in detail in my other blog were a whirlwind.

I’ve gotta say this: their application process is watertight. Everything moves like clockwork. There literally is no time for the candidate to question their decision or waver.

Not that I would, question my decision I mean. I was pretty decided early on that I wanted to join the company. For four major reasons:

  1. The people – they’re sharp as a knife and talk straight
  2. The industry – getting to work in the fast-moving online travel industry is a pretty attractive prospect. Plus, I love hotel booking sites
  3. The data-driven nature – this is an aspect I’ve always felt was lacking in my current job. In fact, in all my past jobs. I’ve never been much of a data person. And I think a data person is a good kind of person to be
  4. The role – an expansion of scope to cover talent management as a whole, not just learning and development is unequivocally a good thing

I could probably name more. But those four alone are enough to seal the decision.

So I’m now in my last week at work, in fact last three days as I’m flying off to Hanoi to be with my partner on Friday. A four-day weekend. Flying back on Monday night and starting at Agoda at 9am on Tuesday. It’s going to be intense. But I didn’t want to sit around doing nothing for a week and start the following Monday.

I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet. I got an e-mail from Agoda yesterday about my first day. Also yesterday was my handover meeting with my boss at DKSH. But apart from that it’s business as usual. We have a team farewell dinner tonight. Which should be fun – I’m looking forward to it.

So yes, big news. And I am very happy.

Hope you guys have been well in the past month.

And oh, spending three weeks with my partner was absolutely fantastic. It was the longest amount of time we’ve spent together yet, and it bodes well for our future life together once we move to the same city next year.

Love you all and until next time,


3 June 2019

Good morning Bangkok! Or should I say Nonthaburi, since that is where I’m writing this post from.

Some significant events have happened since my last post. Fingers crossed I have good news to share in a few weeks, maybe a month or two.

It’s funny how things happen over a longer period of time when you’re an adult. I think when I was younger, if things happened over a period of several weeks, that would be considered a long time. Now though, if something can be concluded in a matter of weeks, that’s pretty quick.

I wonder why that is… (note to self: a post on my main blog on the relativity of time or some such obscure and important sounding topic might be in order – I’ve left that blog dormant for too long now)

One thing did happen, by adult time standards, at light speed yesterday though: my credit card application. Finally, after years of being content with having just a debit card, I decided to bite the bullet and enter the world of temporary debt.

For two reasons: sometimes my hotel booking site requires payment to be made via a credit card. Which means that last time when we went to Lipe I had to borrow my dad’s card, which just seems wrong. Secondly, I will most likely be moving country next year, which may entail big purchases. So having a credit card might actually come in handy.

In any case, I decided to get a credit card. Me being me, I went for the devil I know and applied for The One card with Central. And the process was simpler than simple. Faster than fast.

I had called beforehand to check what documents I needed. Once I arrived at the service counter at Central and announced my intention to apply for a credit card, I was efficiently and politely whisked away to the financial centre one floor down. All my documents were then taken and processed. About two hours later, my credit card was approved and ready to be mailed to my mailing address. In 7-10 working days I should be in possession of a shiny new card that will open doors to fickly hotels who wouldn’t take my debit!

Oh so simple.

How did I get onto this topic? Ah yes, adult time.

Another good thing that’s happened recently (I’m categorising getting a credit card as a good thing) is that I’ve gotten back to exercising regularly. With all the travel and stuff happening back in April and early May, I hardly had time to go to Absolute, which is my gym in On Nut.

But once I got back from Hanoi in May (the trip after the one I was writing about in my last post), I promptly registered for classes, and now I’m back as a regular going 2-3 times a week. I also bought a new package to extend my membership beyond October. I had been thinking of renewing and there was a pretty good deal, so I went for it.

Typical of me though, I decided on the spot (rather than take the night to think it over like my sales rep suggested) and ended up spending more than I needed to. My initial package was an unlimited package where I can cycle and do yoga and pilates. However, I don’t really do pilates. I’ve got my regular cycling on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and hot yoga on Wednesday. And that’s pretty much it.

So really, I didn’t need to get another unlimited package. But because I didn’t take the time to properly think it over, that’s exactly what I did. Ah well. On the bright side (there’s always a bright side), this will give me impetus to find time to go do pilates! Maybe some weeks I’ll go four times. The more, the healthier! (Is that not how the saying goes? Ah, who cares, language evolves all the time!)

So, if I could only get my eating in control… I’ve been eating particularly unhealthy foods recently. Ice cream, various kinds of carb-based desserts. So, so yummy. My thinking has been: I am exercising, hence am allowed a few treats. But if I’m to actually get my weight down and lose that flab… anyhow, it’s not a big issue. Weight loss is a by-product, not the driving goal. Really, I just want to get healthy and feel fresh and strong.

So yes, back to regular exercising, talking about which I should probably sort out my next Monday’s schedule and book my cycling class.

Until next time!



25 August 2017

Big news: I quit my job two days ago.

And I realised one thing about myself: I make major decisions pretty quickly.

The decision to go part-time was made over the course of one evening, and this one was too, well overnight if you count the time I spent in bed calculating how much I can earn from only translating subtitles.

Here’s how the decision came about.

On the afternoon of the 22nd, I was at home working on my subtitles (a Turkish historical series that’s a right b*tch to translate). Then I started having a conversation with my subtitles supervisor at my new company (I’m officially freelancing for two media providers now, yey!)

We were negotiating my monthly workload, and it became blindingly clear during the intense discussion that it’s just not going to work. I’m starting my CELTA teacher training course on 3rd October, which is going to be 13 and a half hours per week, then there’s homework on top of that. Then there’s the ten hours of show that my supervisor and I agreed on, then there’s my teaching (I got 3 new students hooray!). And then I still want to continue working for my first subtitles company. The shows are varied and interesting. I get to translate Korean content (from an English source though). Plus, the new project coordinator is super nice and I don’t want to disappear from her radar.

And that with 20 hours at Wall Street English on top? I might die, or go crazy, which is entirely possible.

So on the morning of the 23rd, I called my manager and informed him that I am resigning at the end of September. I’ve filled in the resignation form and will tender it first thing when I see him today.

Life without Wall Street English will be strange. It’s become a big part of my life in the past year and a half – the people, the place, the atmosphere. But life must go forward, and something’s gotta give.

Hello freelancer life! May the Gods be kind.



15 May 2017

I went to visit my grandfather at the hospital yesterday.

He had checked himself in the day before due to chest pains. He was having difficulty breathing. And given how many times he had had heart surgery he wasn’t going to take any chances.

My mother called him yesterday morning and established what floor he was on, then we set off for the hospital.

Arriving in the spacious room with about thirty beds, I saw him. He was sitting on the bed, hunched over a few pieces of paper. He had not seen us.

The image struck me. He looked so vulnerable and alone. And the thing is, he is vulnerable and alone. He has a live-in helper, but that’s nothing compared to family.

He looked up, saw us, and put his papers away. My dad brought stools, and my mom and I sat down next to the bed. We sat with him for two hours, talking about this and that. My dad sat some distance away on the visitor’s bench, playing a game on his phone.

I was the one who suggested leaving. It was getting late afternoon and I wanted to sort through our DVD collection when I got home.

My grandpa was sad that we were leaving. He didn’t say anything, but you could feel it. As we walked away I looked back, and wished I hadn’t.

He looked dejected. There was no better word to describe the image that I saw. He was sitting alone on the bed, and loneliness weighed down around him.

The whole episode reminded me of the fact that I still have my grandpa, that he is alone in his house, far away from us, and that he could leave us at a moment’s notice.

I’ll call him today to check up on him. I’ll also make time to go visit him on my days off. There’s a bus I can take that goes straight to his house.

I hope for the sake of me and him that the image stays with me. So I never forget that I have one very important person I need to spend time with.

I will try my best not to forget. I really will. This is my promise to myself.

Let’s not forget our elderly relatives. Let’s love them and be with them as freely as we do our friends and colleagues.

Until next time,

A thoughtful Val

12 September 2014

I’m taking it slow today; I felt like it.

I am supposed to have dinner with a friend in two and a half hours. And for the past (*check time on phone*) hour (wow, time flies) I have been sitting in the dressing room of my sports club, waiting for my hair to dry.

I don’t think I’ve ever sat and waited for my hair to dry. I’m usually in a hurry to get somewhere, and the services of my trusted hairdryer are usually called on.

It feels good to take it slow. Really good. I didn’t realise how good it would feel, but it does.

Taking it slow also happens to be my philosophy of the day. It has been 3 months since I graduated, and I’m still unemployed. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Why rush into a phase of your life that will last for well over 30 years? What’s the hurry?

I have no urgent financial need for a job; if I’m careful with my money, I can stay unemployed for the better part of a year. I don’t plan to; but if I happen to, it’s not the end of the world. Far from it.

So yes, I’m taking my time. Am I looking for a job? I keep my eyes open. But am I in a hurry to get one? No. For the first time in seven years, I have no immediate obligations; I literally have all the time in the world. And I plan to take advantage of it.

So if you ask me what I’ve been up to since I graduated, don’t be surprised if my answer is “mostly reading and blogging”. That’s exactly what I plan to spend most of my time doing. Because once I do get a job, I won’t have as much time for it anymore.

Maybe you’ll disapprove of my slow approach to graduate life. But I’m currently quite happy with it.

We never know what’s going to happen, though. We’ll see how long this phase lasts; I have no idea.

But I guess that’s the beauty of it.



11 April 2014

My left knee hurts.

I don’t remember when it began hurting. Or rather, I don’t know. One day I was fine. Then the pain was there and I could no longer stretch my left leg.

For a person who likes stretching, this is bad. And things only get worse considering that, in exactly two days, I will be deprived of the only sports I can do that supposedly won’t add insult to an injured knee.

I’m talking about swimming. I’ve been meaning to go swimming. I don’t remember the last time I went swimming. Most likely some time in December. Maybe November. More likely December.

That’s a long time ago.

*pause so everyone can reflect on how fast time flies, and how little time we all have on this earth*

I really like swimming. It’s such a… delicate and thorough sport, for lack of better descriptive adjectives. Delicate as opposed to running, which many (including myself) would agree is one of the worst sports one could possibly practise on a regular basis given how high-impact it is, especially on the knees. (Hmm…) And thorough because you can really feel each muscle contract, and control it.

It’s an amazing feeling, tracing your movements to the contraction of your muscles, down to every exertion. I had a Eureka moment some time last year, when I’d just re-taken up swimming, where suddenly everything made sense: I realised my body was under my control.

A fact that goes too often unobserved amidst the chaos of daily life. And one worth making an effort to remember.

I would get back to moaning about my knee, but there’s one thing I must mention now that I’m on the topic of the human body: Koerperwelten.

If you’re not afraid of blood and/or corpses and/or bones, and you can only go to one exhibition in your entire life, this is the one I want you to be going to. It’s annual. I think it actually happens several times per year. But you’re going to have to check (information to follow).

It’s a travelling exhibition. Origin (you guessed it): Germany. I went in September 2012, during my most productive vacation yet in Germany (first day of Oktoberfest – check; Koerperwelten – check, check!). My German friend and host was insistent that we go (because he wanted to), and I went along with him.

And wow. Ain’t I glad I did.

It’s the most beautiful, mind-blowing ensemble of ‘things’ I have ever seen. Koerperwelten (Bodyworlds in English) is, as the website proudly announces, “the original exhibition of real human bodies”. And that’s exactly what it is.

I don’t want to say too much. I went relatively uninformed, and I think there’s a strong case to be made for seeing the exhibition with a blank mental canvas. The imprint will be that much stronger.

Here, though, is information on current exhibitions. (I didn’t know they did simultaneous exhibitions. Well now I do. One does learn a thing or two every day!) Feel free to browse. I wouldn’t Google image it if I were you (and afraid of blood, corpses, and/or bones).

*pause so you can go Google image: Koerperwelten*


Now, about that hurting knee. Possibly a result of Sunday’s morning run (6.6k) on concrete. I did go to a park, but the park was so small that the runners (myself included) elected to run on the concrete path that goes around it.

Running on concrete – not a good idea. I don’t think I stretched properly after either.

Could that be why my knee’s hurting? Maybe. Possibly.

But now, what do I do about it? Today’s Friday. I’m at the sports club. I planned to go to my Battle Beat class this evening to use up my last class coupon. Should I go to the class?

But it’s only one coupon. Surely, my knee must take precedence over 125 THB.

Maybe one hour on the elliptical… I did that yesterday. The knee didn’t hurt during, and it didn’t appear to hurt more after. So it should be fine?

So little I know about the workings of my own body. Where did all those hours of high school anatomy lessons go?

I’ll see how I feel.

I’ll see how the knee feels.

Now I’m hungry.

Time for breakfast date with grandpa.


Until tomorrow, or maybe this evening,

Have a good day,





28 March 2014

Oops. Someone forgot to write a post yesterday.

Well, I did and I didn’t.

Allow me to explain.

As you may know, I write these posts at the end of the day. Usually after 5pm. Often much later.

Yesterday, I had a work appointment at 5pm.

Arises the question: do I blog before? Or do I blog after?

(Two questions?)

In my blissful ignorance of what the evening held in store, I decided to leave it until after. After all, I didn’t have many hours to spare before my 5 o’clock. And if there are two things I don’t like, they’re 1) writing a post in a hurry and 2) going to a meeting in a hurry.

So it was settled. I would come back and write the post in perfect tranquillity. Free from worries and time constraints.

I went to my meeting. By 5.30pm everything was done. Then, realising how much time there was left, I decided on a little detour. I went to a department store to run some personal errands and do some off-location revision.

So far, my revision has taken place a) at home and b) at my sports club. I thought a little change of locale would spice it up a little.

So I happily installed myself in a café in the department store. Having walked around the floor twice to make sure I didn’t miss a hidden spot (I can be neurotic like that. Especially with cafés. Don’t ask.)

And started on my French exercise.

Then I thought I’d check in with the outside world. (Thought always occurs while revising. Hmm. Interesting.) So I went on my messaging app. And realised that some of my friends were headed to the very same department store.

I think you know where this is going.

No regrets though. Do you know what’s better than a meal with friends? An unplanned meal with friends.

I had the best time.

So, that’s why I didn’t forget to write the post. I simply misallocated time due to an unforeseen event – an information asymmetry, if you will.

The dinner lasted a good long while. By the time I got back to my sports club (my base for yesterday), it was late and all the facilities were closed.

I thought to myself: ah well, I can always write it at home.

So I drove home, with the intention of getting down to blogging before I go to bed.

I got home. And forgot.

Turns out my brain isn’t perfect after all. *exaggerated gasp*

Anyways, here I am today. Using today’s allotment of post to explain my failure to produce yesterday’s post.

I call that creative substitution.

(Yes, I’m throwing Economic vocab in here and there for no good reason. I’ve been reading so much dry Economics stuff today. I am adamant that I be allowed this indulgence.)

Creative and convenient, given that I haven’t done much worthy of reporting today. Unless you find European unemployment and protective labour market institutions particularly sexy.

Not a fan of Economics? How about hierarchical and political incommensurability of values? (My studies do take me to weird and random places…)

Nope. Didn’t think so.

I can actually feel a slight vibration in my eyeballs. I take that as a sign that I should stop staring at the laptop. (I’ve been reading on Mendeley all day.)

So I shall retire to my comfy bed.

Have a good evening,