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How to Survive Out There: Entertain Yourself

People who are sent to a new place for a period of time that's not long enough to be working on a new life but lengthy enough to make them miss home are subject to a dilemma of either just waiting it out or choosing to do something with their time.  After a few weeks of staying in a new place, it just becomes impossible to stay in bed the whole day. When the hotel air suddenly feels musty, you'll know that you need something else to do.

There is only one rule: entertain yourself. It takes a good amount of practice to master the art of keeping boredom at bay.

Here are some tried and tested tips:

1. Know the place

Others get holed up in the hotel without seeing a thing. Some see this as a golden ticket of opportunity to see and experience the 'newness' around them. It could be visiting the spots, first the touristy ones, then go find some off-the-beaten track of your own. It could be just walking around and exploring, like moving in a new neighborhood and getting to know who lives next door. Or it could be learning about their culture. Get to know something that will amaze you each day.

Bring out your map and do something about the newness around you

2. Do yoga/walk/swim

It's the perfect time to revisit that old fitness routine you liked. I somehow rekindled my inkling for yoga, doing poses early in the day before I prepare for work and at night, before I retire to bed. If you have ever thought of meditating or practicing mindfulness but have not found the time, being alone in a new place is the perfect opportunity to start. On weekends, I would walk to the sports stadium, sit on the stairs and pretend it's the same Met Museum of Art stairs in Gossip Girl, watch people jog, and see the grandiose sunset. On some days when it's extra humid, I would go to the pool across the hotel and swim. Sometimes I would bring a book, dip my toes in the water, and read the whole afternoon.

Here's another realization: it is highly possible that you will go easy on yourself (meaning eating more!) and in the end, gain xx pounds. It happened to me and though I was able to catch it towards the end of my 3-month stint, I unfortunately still have my extra baggage. Lesson learned.

3. Learn a new language

My Spanish progressed in 3 months. For 30 minutes each night, I would play my Pimsleur lessons and repeat the phrases out loud. Hablo castellano un poco.

It can be a new language, a new skill (learn salsa maybe), or something career-related to add glitz to your resume.

4. Eat and take time tasting the food while you're at it

Eat at different places. Explore every night. Except on nights when I am really tired and would just settle for room service, I would go out of my way to try out new places to eat at. Discover the joy of eating alone. I ate slow, savoring each and every bite of food. I learned to pay attention to the food I was eating, conscious of how it tastes, as opposed to before when I just gorged on my food and talked throughout the entire meal.

Practice mindful eating

5. Talk to people

Be it people in the hotel, the office, or people in the street or in restaurants. Be it locals, foreigners, or Filipinos alike. Make sure it's genuine. Cut the rehearsed small talks. Just talk. Chances are you will end the day learning something new. The worst thing that could happen is you talked to a crook and the conversation did not go so well.. that one you could keep in your memory as something to laugh about later. As for me, I ended up getting to know someone whom I had good conversations with over dinner, someone who took me around Brunei and and who shared the best dining spots, and a new girl friend who took me on a spa and salon weekend.

6. Keep yourself up-to-date 

The most efficient way to keep track of upcoming events is to read blogs of local social media movers. They actually have more information than the daily paper. Out of curiosity, I tried several things, even the ones that I would never make an effort to see back home. I've watched a Circus Firemen show, a classical music night with a Taiwanese pianist and violinist, a university football game, a Regatta competition, and a kart race competition. All because of those blogs.

7. Troop to other places on weekends

If you feel like you've seen everything there is in your area, plan for a longer trip on weekends. Sure it takes a little more effort than just going out of the hotel and walking around, but remember, when you're back home, you would probably regret not taking the opportunity. Just let people know where you are and when you should be back.

8. Ask around for "The best"

Where is the best place to view the sunset? Where can I have the best Nasi Katok? Where is the best satay place in town? Where can I have the best nasi ayam penyet? Where can I get the best Japanese/Thai/Indian food? Can you take me to the best beach? Where's the best place to get chocolates? 

When I thought of something, I always asked where was the best place to get it. Most likely, people will have differing opinions. Have your own winner. Finding the best is an adventure of its own.

9. Catch up with friends and family online

Being away is the perfect time to connect with old friends online. Better yet, if time permits, hop on a plane and visit friends.

10. Lastly, you could always resort to the TV. Or better yet, read.

You now have an excuse to spend endless hours watching that TV series.

Do you have more tips on how to make good use of your stint abroad? Share your thoughts!


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