The truth behind elephants rides
world elephant day

Are you familiar with the photos where happy tourists on the back of an elephant? We see it everywhere, many companies use such photos to attract customers. Most of us who go for it are animal lovers - because we love this beautiful animal, and want to have the "once-in-a-lifetime" experience to interact with them. 

But there are some ugly truth behind this activity - the elephants have gone through tremendous suffering for us to enjoy the moment and posing for photos.

They were captured from the wild

Elephants are not domestic animals, all the elephants you see are captured from the wild. They are social animals who live together as family like we humans do. However, baby elephants are on high demand as they are easier to capture and train. They would be separated from their mothers at a young age and spend the rest of their life in captivity. 

They are broken

Elephants are intelligent animals with long-term memory and strong needs for affection. In order to get them 'trained' for riding or performance, the trainers go through a process to break their spirit. They are chained in a pen where they cannot move, often without water or food; they are beaten with bullhook (with a sharp end) till they bleed all over; they are forced to go into positions that break their bones. 

They are over-worked and poorly treated

They are money making machines. They will walk miles under the sun without having a rest; they are fed with poor food and sickness are often over-looked; they are chained up so they cannot move even a little bit when they are not 'working'. When you see an elephant moves side-by-side or swings its feet, they are not dancing, they are frustrated.

This is an issue very close to the heart of our female travel community If you care, here's how you can make a difference.

Do not go to any rides or performance. There are other ways to enjoy interaction with them - in their nature habitats when they are free. Fortunately, the world is waking up to this issue and there are many sanctuaries have opened with the purpose to rescue them. You can book a tour with these sanctuaries, where you can go for a walk with the elephants, take a bath with them, make medicine for them, learn about them. And your money will be spent on making their life better, no causing them to suffer.

Spread the word. Most people do it as they are not aware of the ugly truth. Just let them know. 

Sign the pledge. World Animal Protection is working with policy makers and tour operators to make a different, help the movement by signing HERE

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Why I Travel

I started writing this post with the title "why we travel" though I don't think I have the right to say "we" as every one of us travel for different reasons, and each individual reason is no better than the other.

I put travelling in the same category as reading. As an individual, one is conditioned by the environment you grow up in, by the people you make daily interactions with, and by the experience one is living. Reading and travelling are two activities that help us jump out of the environment we are used to in order to experience a different type of life.

read travel.jpg

My journey while growing up was smooth. My parents are doctors, so I always went to the best schools and always stayed on top of my classes. I used to think there was no other world beyond this little circle of mine - or I simply didn't pay any interest as it felt far away and irrelevant. When I was a teenager, my dream then was to live in a house with my best friends in no other place than my home town. Back then I hated travelling. This is because I saw going somewhere else as being away from my friends.

My first year in the UK brought me a lot of changes. It was the first time I made friends with people from different parts of the world. It was during my discussion with them that I realised how limited my view of the world was, and how different life can really be. I was amazed with the open mindedness shown by some of them; they simply do not judge other people's views, but instead, try to understand them -when all I did was try to stubbornly prove myself right. I grew more fascinated with the different perspectives life had to offer and I wanted to see them with my own eyes. That was when I fell in love with travelling.

But when I started travelling, it was done in "Chinese style". It was like a competition of how many places you could squeeze into a day. The urge to see the world and experience more within a limited time drove it (in China, there's only 10-day annual leave). The privilege a lot of people enjoy here (holidays, transport, visa-free, etc.) are simply not enjoyed in China. So please, when next you see a group of Chinese tourists, do not judge them.

I have friends who are always proud to announce the number of countries they've been to. While I'm proud of them, what makes me proud of myself is not the number of places I've been to, it's the number of friends I've made and the number of people I've met along the way. Now when I travel, I would happily spend a few days with a new local friend I have made rather than rushing off to see more sights. I learnt how to trust the people I meet on the road and how to accept their warm hearts. Some of my most treasured memories would not have happened without them; like staying in a temple at Old Bagan and meditating with the monks and people, or being taken on a scooter to see the most thrilling and amazing sunrise with no other soul in sight.

The world is without limits. The more I travel, the more I know that there are so many things I do not know yet. The more people I meet, the more I learn about human kindness and the deep connection we all share. The more places I go to, the more I understand that freedom is not about physically being on the road, but about mentally being on the road.

That is why for me, travelling is about finding my true self. Through the people I’ve met, I’ve had the opportunity to temporarily enter into someone else's life and experience it so I can learn to see the world from a different perspective; to feel from where my heart really lays rather than what my mind has been conditioned to believe.

travel alone meet friends

This is what I call true freedom, and this is why I travel and why I love solo travel. Someday my body may not allow me to be on the road but my heart and mind will never stop.

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Stay hygienic on the road - Essential packing list for women travellers

Travelling is fun. But a lot of us, women travellers in particular, have experienced some upsetting situations during our trips, some of these include a dirty toilet, running out of feminine products, etc. Below is a list of things that can really help you stay hygienic and confident but are usually overlooked when you are packing for your trip.

packing list for women travellers


This is one thing that should be on top of our list. We use our hands to do a lot of things; it is only important that we ensure they are free from germs. When we are in the mountains or in a rural village, getting clean water and soap usually seems difficult as they are not always within reach. Therefore, you need to ensure that you carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Sanitizers do not only clean hands, they clean surfaces too.

*Tip - Public transport (including airplane) are normally filled with different types of germs. Clean your hand often during a long-haul train or a long flight, and also avoid touching surfaces except when necessary.


You are probably used to having toilet paper and tissues as part of your daily life. But this isn't the case everywhere around the globe. I've been in some awkward situations where I had to ask people 'next door' for some dry paper. Simply carry a pack of pocket tissue with you all the time. 


I made the decision to replace my tampons with menstrual cups just last year, and I'm impressed! There are a lot advantages to be derived from doing this. First off, it holds a lot more than a tampon or pad -unless you're having a very heavy flow. You only need to change it when you wake up and before going to bed. It's comes in very handy when you're on the road. It is also very hygienic; you do not need to worry about bad smells or infections after a long day without changing it. It is also quite compact; you only need to carry one in your bag and worry less about when your unexpected friend comes to visit. And to top it all, it's environmental friendly as it creates a lot less waste.

*Tips: 1) Always wash your hands before using the cup. 2) If you cannot find a microwave or a hob to sterilize it, use your hand sanitizer! 3) If you are changing in a public toilet, carry a bottle of water with you in order to rinse it. And if you do not have water, simply wipe it with tissue.


This is one device a lot of us have probably not tried on. I didn't understand the purpose of this device until I had no choice but to use a toilet that's so disgusting, you wouldn't want your skin or bottom to touch any part of it. This device is an essential device as it is good for situations where you cannot find a proper place to urinate. It allows you to do your business while standing up. Additionally, you do not need to venture too far off the path before being able to finish your business when in urgent need; this simply makes it safer.

*Tip - Carry it in a separate plastic bag or case as you may not be able to wash it clean every time you use it.


Just pack it with your other medications. Sometimes, the humidity and long day activities can cause irritations. Although it's best to seek medical help, this cream will help you relieve the symptom so you can continue enjoying your trip.

*Tip - Avoid wearing thongs or G-strings during the day. There's a higher chance you'll get irritated when you wear these clothing, unlike when you wear briefs.


Always have a condom with you, even if you don't expect your trip to involve any sexual activity. This is for your own safety. Things can happen when we least expect them (the chances are small but we should be always prepared). Should we end up in an unexpected situation, at least we'll have protection.

Is there anything else you think can help us women while we're on the road? Leave a comment below so others can become knowledgeable about it.

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Married, still travel alone

The first solo trip I had was about five years ago. My boyfriend at that time was working overseas, and I had been sitting in my home for quite a while. The urge to travel was growing stronger with each passing day. Unfortunately, being a controlling and jealous person (warning: avoid guys who have these qualities at all cost), he was not in support of the idea of me travelling without him. The Easter holidays were approaching and I just could not stand the idea of spending another long weekend mourning and dreaming. So, I booked myself a flight trip to Venice.

The trip lasted for just four days, but it was enough time for me to taste the sweet freedom that comes with solo travelling. I can still remember the feeling of liberation I experienced when I sat in the water bus and just allowed Venice to expand in front of me with every canal I turned. Without the need to compromise, I went around the canal three times and by the time I was through, it was sunset. I did the same thing the next day. Ever since then, I fell in love with travelling alone.

Now, I am a happily married woman who still takes solo breaks. Last year, after I quit my corporate job, I travelled around South-East Asia on my own for three months. I am thankful for the great understanding and support my lovely husband has shown to me. Nowadays, although we do go on holidays together, I still take a solo trip for 1-2 weeks every three to four months.

A lot of people find it hard to understand; they think like, wouldn't it be nicer to travel with a loved one? The thing is yes, we are married, but that does not mean my husband and i are the same person. We are separate beings with different needs and interests. While he enjoys being on the road, I love staying and soaking myself in a place; while I prefer hiking in the mountains, he prefers to ride an ATV through the woods. I love our differences; the fact that we complement each other makes us a good team. But this also means making compromises in our daily lives and holidays. My solo trips serve as a getaway from our marriage; a means to recharge and refresh.

Personally, I believe travelling separately is a sign of a great relationship. As a solo female traveller I believe it's a sign of deep trust between each other and respect for each other's individuality. In China, people often say that marriage is like a cage. Luckily for me, my marriage has brought me more freedom, and it has allowed me to make more explorations, discovering the world and myself.

Additionally, everyone needs some space. Being apart occasionally is healthy for a relationship. Sometimes, we can forget how much we love and depend on each other. Missing each other is a sweet reminder of the connection we have built.

Married or single, whatever your relationship status might be, it is all about following your heart; it's about pursuing what makes you happy. Travelling solo is my choice. What is yours and what is your story?

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Joly Zou Comment
Love the sea? Be a responsible ocean traveller

Summertime is here again in Europe. For many of us, this means sunshine and the sea. Tell me, who doesn't love the see? Its vastness, peace, and refreshment... Last week, I pampered myself by taking a diving holiday in the Red Sea.

I love diving. It's not just a getaway to a different place, but to a whole different world. The sea life displaying beauty all around you while you float in the water. The visibility I experienced in the Red Sea was great -20 meters. However, the locals told me that the visibility has significantly reduced over the course of the last ten years. While the blooming tourism has presented the locals with lots of opportunities, our behavior is costing us the environment.

This reminds me of the trip I took to Indonesia last year, I saw the once crystal clear sea turned into a belt of floating rubbish. This really broke my heart. Underwater, there was debris, clearly visible to the eye, floating all around. All of these were not there when I had first visited the place five years ago.

We love our homes and with the sea being the mother of all life, it also serves as our home. Treating it with love and care should be on our priority list. Traveling the ocean in a responsible manner is one thing that's very easy to do, the only thing is, most of us are not aware of how to go about it. Therefore, I have compiled some tips below to ensure that we travel the ocean responsibly.


This rule applies to all see life -the ones in the water and those on the beach. Even if you put them back, picking them up or touching them in the first place have already disturbed their way of life, or worse, destroyed it. Be aware of your surroundings whenever you are in the water – swimming, diving or snorkelling, for the sea life and also for our own safety.


There are thousands of sea lives dying as a result of the rubbish that we produce and dump into the sea. In order to minimize this, ensure that you clean up after yourself. Do not leave even the tiniest bit of rubbish behind as even these can be very dangerous to sea creatures. And as a contribution to having a clean ocean, whenever you see rubbish lying around, do your best by picking it up and disposing it properly.


I have to admit that I have done this a few times in the past years. I enjoyed having the fishes around me and thought giving them food was a positive action. It was recently that I learned how harmful this can be; it can cause behavioural change of the fishes that they get use to human feeding, thus change their natural diet. This eventually will lead to lack of necessary nutrients. In addition, not all types of fish eat human food, constant feeding in one area means certain types of fish would over-populate, and over time, the ecosystem will be changed forever.


Corals are not stones, they are living things! A touch can kill the reef, thereby destroying the whole ecosystem dependent on it. And there’s safety concerns: the sharp edges can also hurt you.


Sharks and dolphins do not belong in swimming pools, but in the sea. If you know you want to see them, look for a natural way of viewing these beautiful and lovely animals. Avoid any and every performance that subjects them to the entertainment of other people. Also avoid tours where they "chum" the water or use different feeding methods to lure them in.


This is one thing that's often over-looked. The chemical products from most commercial brands will destroy the lives of reefs and other sea creatures. Think about the amount of sun screen thousands of people on the beach are pouring into the sea each and every day.

How do you buy a sunscreen that's ocean friendly then? What you need to do is ensure that the sunscreen you are buying doesn't contain these reef-damaging substances, including Oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor. Look for a product that uses sunblock such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of chemical one.


This one is quite difficult to do and I've sometimes felt self conscious as a solo female traveller. When you see that someone is doing something harmful to sea creatures, do speak up. Not to start an argument with them or go into fits of criticism, but to politely correct them with a gentle tone. Do not become offended or angry. When you see people throw different things around, pick those things up in their presence. It's not like most of us do not care, we simply are not aware of the harm we are causing. And since we were once in that ignorant position, we should be understanding, accommodating, and be able to properly guide others.

If you want to take it a step further by taking actions when you get back home, you can go through this article from National Geographic; it will definitely help a lot.


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Solo Female Travellers- The Myths painted about us

Thanks to the process of building Solocal, I have met many amazing female travellers, and I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me to listen to their stories. During the time I have spent with them, I noticed that we talked a lot about the misconceptions a lot of people seem to be having about us. It seems there’s some unrealistic painted pictures of and here are just a few:


We are single, lonely and desperate

Many people have the belief that we travel alone simply because we have no other choices. They feel we are either lonely or heart-broken. Yes, traveling may be a cure for broken hearts but most of us travel solo out of a positive angle: mostly to see how far we can go for ourselves and how much we can achieve. About half of the solo female travelers I know are actually married or in a relationship. It's not like we do not have loving and beautiful friends to travel with -which we do from time to time- but the thing is, sometimes, taking the road by ourselves serves as a treat to our body, mind, and soul.

So for anyone having this misconception about solo female travelers, do not expect to find us in bars waiting for someone to come and "comfort" us, and you'll probably find us much more difficult to ‘pick up’ as we do know when and how to say no. We are comfortable in our own skin and with our own company.

We keep to ourselves

Growing up with the motto "do not talk to strangers" embedded in our brains,  many people would assume that the safest way to travel is by listening to "trusted sources" and staying away from random people on the street. While this might be true for a kid, we solo female travellers do not travel with this notion.

We have learnt that most people are kind, friendly, and willing to help whenever the need arises. We are of the belief that the best way to enjoy a trip while staying away from trouble is to open our mouth -to converse, make new friends, discover interesting things, or ask for a favor.

Now, don't get me wrong; making new friends and every other characteristics I mentioned above does not mean we'll get into a stranger's car alone, accept an invite to someone's house, or just take a dark route that was pointed to us. We are "travel smart", and we are equipped with our experience and senses that act as radars and guides to keep us safe.


We always look fabulous

If you are an Instagram user, you probably have seen the shots of a beautiful girl in a fabulous dress, looking all relaxed and happy at an exotic place. Yes we adore those photos as well. However, we do not really know how those girls manage to always look fabulous and we really do not envy them.

This is because we need to be dressed for any circumstances, you often find us in our normal gear: hair-band, t-shirt, hiking pants and shoes. It is not like we cannot look fabulous, as a matter of fact, we can look pretty for a night out, but the truth is, our back pack does not really have the space for high heels, the hair straightener or make-ups. Oh, and many of us actually would choose to ‘dress down’ to avoid unwanted attentions when we travel to some cultures.

We are braver

Some people would say that we are braver than the others, but that’s not true. We are just like every other girl around you. Only we have learnt that the world is not a dangerous place like the media has made it look like. I have been to Vietnam when they were having a riot against the Chinese. I have been to Turkey when there was a terrorist attack, I have been to Thailand when there was a military coup; they are all fine as long as you follow the rules and you use your common sense like you would do when you are at home! You would get robbed on the street of London, just as you may get robbed on the street of Chiang Mai if you do not choose or behave wisely.

So if you have a place you always wanted to go but no one to go with you, please just book it and go. Or if you hear a woman who’s decided to travel on her own, have some faith in her and the world.

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Joly ZouComment
A Tourist v.s. A Traveller

We all love travelling, but we love it for different reasons. Some of us call it “holiday” while some others call it a “journey”; some of us are tourists, and some of us are travelers. Neither is innately good or bad, they both possess different characteristics that enables them to experience ultimately different things while venturing out into the world – to suit their own needs.

From a female’s perspective, we put some of the key differences into a fun image, and let’s have a deeper look into each of them.

travel v.s. tourist


A traveler cares less about what she wears. She is unconcerned about whether the clothes are cheap or designer stuff. She doesn't care whether it's slacks and jeans or an elegant dinner dress; what she cares about is that her clothes must be free and convenient for her to explore whatever comes her way.

As a tourist, she prefers to dress to kill, as she likes strolling the sights of the city, going to parties, taking pictures to share with friends or on social network. She often brings a big selection of clothes and shoes to suit all occasions, and would get up in the morning and try to look as perfect as possible for the day to come. Yes, she does look lovely and her friends and followers would get to enjoy the trip with her.


A traveler would be comfortable with hitting the road without any initial plans. Because she actually prefers to go with the flow that comes with wherever she is going, and let life surprises her. So she would usually just land and see how things turn out.

Before leaving her base, or home, a tourist will tend to have everything mapped out. From accommodation to places to visit, to how to get there; in short, she feels more comfortable with everything being planned out before she leaves. Because they do not like to be stressed during her time off.


A traveler packs for freedom. She packs light so she’s always ready to move or stay at any time. There are only four essentials for her: passport, wallet, phone and home keys. She would be excited for a last-minute trip, with only having time to take these things with her. A pair of hiking shoes, a book, a silk sleeping bag… are some bonus for her backpack. What if she finds there’s something missing? Not a problem, she would always find out where to get it.

A tourist packs so she can focus on enjoying herself. She’d rather get stressed by listing and packing everything she would need into a suitcase than finding out she needs to get something later during her trip. With things well planned out, she rarely need to face the hassle to drag her suitcase from one place to another, and can enjoy every moment in the right outfit with the best tools. After all, it is a holiday, no stress needed.


A traveler prefers to take part in everything that the locals are doing than go onto sight-seeing tours. She would try to learn their language, look for insights about their culture, learn their dance moves, drink with the locals, get invited to their homes a small party. She would get up in the morning without a plan, as she sees the unknown journey as the most important ingredient of travelling.

An experience is the best when it is shared. A tourist loves taking photos while going from one sight to another, so she can capture the moment and share with others who cannot be a part of her trip. She also tries to tick all the “top 10 things to do” on TripAdvisor’s list. Before going to bed, she would have the following day all planned out so she can avoid any troubles and best use her holiday time.


A traveler would try out food from a small street stall and be best friend with toilets for the next day. You would find her in a small rundown local restaurant pub among the locals, while eating something she probably has no idea even what it is.

Her list is not complete until she ticks the best restaurants off her list. A tourist researches before deciding where to eat, even the ice cream or a sandwich need to be from the top places with best reviews. She would never risk her stomach by stepping inside a place without the TripAdvisor badge.  


A traveler gets up and goes out without a plan, ready for a day of new adventures.  She would take the road where she does not see tourists; she would take a bus and gets out wherever catches her eyes. She’s not afraid of getting lost, as she’s comfortable with asking for help or initiating a conversation with a stranger. She opens her heart to accept anything comes her way.

A tourist does not go anywhere without her phone. She uses TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Google Maps like a bible. After all, if the best places are already being selected by tons of others, why take the risk of venturing to somewhere may not be great. And if you can find the best route to go from A to B, why waste time to wander around.

What really matters…

The above are just some differences in behaviour, and it is not all that black and white. What really distinguish a traveller from a tourist is the mindset.

A traveller on one hand hits the road with the aim of seeing the places for what they really are, meeting the locals, learning about their culture, and most importantly, finding more about herself. She travels to explore, to grow, to live her life. So whatever she does, she’s present.

A tourist on the other hand travels to escape her daily life. So she would worry about whether she has made the best of her trip, and she would constantly think about what to do next than just enjoying what she’s already doing.

Travel is a magical experience – for a tourist, or for a travellers. As despite how much we plan it, we are venturing into a world of unknown. We all need to take some risks, and open our heart to others and to ourselves. A tourist can become a traveller – what’s the tipping point?

I cannot speak for everyone, but in my case, it was when I desired to broaden my perspective and get connected with the world; when I wanted to understand more about myself; when I started to pursue personal freedom. It is a change of the heart, not one of behaviours. There’s a chance that you might fall into the tourist mood sometimes, but the truth is, at heart, you stay as a true traveller.

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The age of new media

Who'd ever thought that I would be in the same room with 'that woman' - Monica Lewinsky? It was at the closing key note of Festival of Marketing where she was introduced as a speaker: 'Monica is going to talk to us about branding...'. I was about to leave the venue when I heard this and thinking 'so she's found a way to make the shameful event a business'. Then another word caught my attention and made me stay: '... and compassion'. 

We've then seen a strong and confident woman walked onto the stage, revealed her personal journey and talked passionately about her beliefs. Since then, I've been spending my last week telling my friends that 'I adore Monica Lewinsky', and most people gave me the 'really?' look. Really, and here is why.

Broadcasting with compassion and authenticity

We love dramatic stories - this is what media tapping into. There is no new news here, just open any newspaper and count how many articles are about scandals, gossips, tragedies. In the traditional business model, media's success is evaluated by 'reach'. So the more drama built in the story, the more people read/watch it, and the more successful the content is, the more money it makes. How much of the story is real? Who knows and who cares as long as it's successful. 

Thanks to all the new channels which give power to us, this is changing. We are not attracted to a cover story of a certain celebrity any more, we look for people like us, we look for real stories behind a face, we look for inspirations. We've seen the success of 'Humans of New York' as it focuses on everyday human, it powerfully communicates a story with few words and a picture which inspires others.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the traditional broadcasting media channels are going to change in the near future. It's time for them to put compassion and authenticity at the core of its value: give us the full picture and get behind the surface to walk in the person's shoes  - be it's a criminal, a survivor, a politician, a celebrity, we are all humans and fundamentally the same

We are all celebrities

We all got followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumbler etc who are interested in what we do and say. Think about it - we are actually all 'celebrities', and better than other 'celebrities', we actually own our broadcasting media! We are actually media ourselves! 

Agreed? Then let's think ourselves in this way. What does it mean being a celebrity? In my opinion - to inspire others. What does it mean being a media? To communicate the inspirations. We've all got a valuable asset and powerful tools at our finger tips, the messages, pictures, videos, articles we post and share form a picture of us, and it gets to pass onto others. Whenever we are about to go 'broadcasting', how about do it with compassion (for ourselves and others) and authenticity, and think about what inspiration it may bring to others. 

Be mindful of our words and actions

We all get opinions and keen to express them. In the 'old' days, we saw a piece of news on TV or newspaper and discuss with our friends. Now, the raise of new media has empowered us with a stronger voice, and enabled us to go straight to the person who's the news' all about. With power comes responsibilities - we know this in corporates, politics, but I do think this is the universal truth.

The new media channels brought power with easiness, but unfortunately not much responsibility. We post, twitter, share things too easily online without thinking of the consequences. Monica has brought responsibility back to the picture - she uses 'cyberbullying' for the this new trend. 

We've talked about being celebrities and media channels ourselves, now think about how much damage we can make with our words - to ourselves and to others. There are families destroyed, lives lost, people hurt by our single post. Before we criticise or judge, or pass one a piece of criticism or judgement, how about learning about what's behind, try to find the whole picture, try to empathise with the person. 

Building resilience with a strong purpose 

I've kept this for the last. One thing Monica Lewinsky impressed me the most is her strength and confidence. Being the most hated woman in the whole world when she was 24 years old. I can hardly imagine how traumatised it could have been for her. 

There were people decided to end their lives over scandals, there were people disappeared from public for life, there were people used the scandal to create a business. Monica decided to re-appear in the public after a decade and stand for a good cause: against cyberbulling. Yes she is using her 'celebrity' power to get people listen to her at first place, but it is for something bigger than herself. She has turned herself as a channel for the cause. And only because she's found the purpose, she gained the power to come back with a stronger mind, and a more compassionate heart.

We've all made mistakes, we've all had failures, in the age of new media, we'll never know when these things would be picked up and made 'known'. Most important thing to remember is we are not our mistakes or failures, but they make us being better. If we can find our purpose in this world, we can then focus on turning all of them into something meaningful, and we will never be beaten!

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On the receiving side

I've had some surprise last week: received a couple of thank you notes from some dear friends. My eyes got wet when I read those messages. It is hard to describe the power lays in the lines.

From the culture I came from (China), I hardly received any genuine recognition or compliment - traditionally, Chinese are quite reserved in showing our opinions or feelings. Sadly when I grew up, I knew clearly what's wrong as I did get punished, but I hardly got to know what value I created... Yes I have many close friends and we do things for each other, but again in Chinese culture - we do not often tell our friends how much we appreciate each other as it is 'assumed'.  And sure, we receive thanks every day from people around us and many of them are genuine, but they are quite generic for me to understand what difference I have made. 

When I look back, actually I can vividly remember some of the few thanks that I have received: in junior school my best friend wrote a letter to me and thanked me to always cared for her - holding an umbrella in the rain, defending her against others, listening to her troubles; In university, I received an email right after my birthday from an old good friend who counted our memories and thanked me for being in his life; on my eighteenth birthday, my father bought me flowers and said to me that he was thankful for me being his daughter; my ex-boyfriend thanked me for taking care of him when he was drunk; my ex-boss thanked me for being a motivation for the team... Yes I can remember them, and some exact words.

I was hugely touched by the notes that I received last week. They were not generic thank you, but both went through specific moments and actions, and both were written with such genuine heart. They have made a big difference to me: they drove some of the doubts away and helped me to be more confident in being myself, they become my own power in pursuing what I believe in, they made me be more cautious of my actions and encourage me to do more for others, and they've reminded me of the foundations of our great friendship and brought us closer together. And, they just made me understand more how much power there is in expressing appreciation. I sincerely thank my friends who sent me those notes, and I endeavour to let my friends and family know how much they are valued by me.

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Everyday is a gift.

In a psychology course that I took, the professor said there are more positive moments in our life than negative one, but humans are designed to capture and react more to the negative ones as a self-protective mechanism to survive. The past week has been a test on this: we've spent a week on noticing the things we are thankful for at the end of every day.

Never take it for granted

Looking at the seven lists from last week, there are many things that in every day which I never acknowledged before: my sweet boy Vico always comes to wake me up in the morning, my husband always puts my need first and chooses to support me whatever my choice is, my parents being the rock in my life… And I started to pay notice to the things that I use in my daily life: dishwasher which saved me so much time (most families in China don't have one), the cats' toys which kept them happy indoors, the gadgets that I have at home which fit my every need and kept me connected… And the daily sceneries: the beautiful autumn colour in the street, the flowers in my garden, birds jumping and hunting… These things happen to me every day and matter to me greatly, but because it is everyday, I stopped to pay notice to them.

Look for the positive

I fell under the weather in the first couple of days, severe headache and lots of sleep. I struggled to get out of bed to write the list on the first day, and started by thinking what an awful day I had. Then my mind got brightened up by every entry that I made: my husband took care of me, nice hot drinks to warm me up, a sweet message from a dear friend, supports from the ones who joined the trial programme, my cats' purring beside me when I was dozing off… And when the cold's gone, I felt ever grateful for having a healthy body and decided to start taking care of my body.
My meeting got cancelled last minute on Thursday, but instead, I got to spend a day at home with my husband and avoid the 2 hours commute.
It rained on Saturday which made us stay indoors and got the house clean and watched a film together.
Life is not always as we expected, instead of spending time on complaining, I start to put my energy on what each of these situation bring me.

Be aware of every action

The number of things to be grateful for goes up whenever I went out and got in touch with the world. Many times this week, small actions from people around me, even strangers, have given me great joy. A 'miss you' message from an old friend, an interesting chat with a couple that shared the table, offering of an tissue for my running nose from the station manager, strangers' smiles and greetings during a long walk… These things are small, and the person who did it probably hardly gave it a thought, but they are the things that brighten my daily life. What about my own actions, have I brought more positivities to the world?

I've kept those lists, and will go back to them from time to time. When I open my eyes in the morning, I know today's a brand new day, it is an unique gift which I can choose how to use. For the scenes that I pass, people that I meet, activities that are around, will never be the same. Here's a great video has given me so much inspiration and I just watched it again...

We're building an app for female travellers. It connects you with each other around the world. Helping you have an easier, safer and more enjoyable journey. Sound good? Sign up below to join our Beta, be the first to try it out and help us develop what works for you.

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