Falling From the Penthouse: Working, but Traveling for Leisure

There is something so flawless about friendships and making friends isn't there? The human emotion + the need to connect. Not too long ago I stood in the elevator of a hotel feeling like a rejected girl because I wanted to be friends with someone who just didn't reciprocate. I felt strangely out of place and sad because I tried and tried and maybe my heart was in the right place but somewhere there was a disconnect. It was not mutual despite our conversations and seemingly good place. I ended the night by humming to Hey Jude while accepting the fact that not everyone will want friendship. Sometimes it just is. And you must let it go. Let it be. I still learn those lessons today, and probably will for many years. We often create our own heartbreaks through expectation. And what else is there to do after letting go seems to fail us? Hopefully we become better humans for it, and hold onto what's left of our hearts. --- Part 2/3 creative writing project

It’s no secret I enjoy traveling, and stay-cationing and planning my next little getaway. Because I work full time in a career that isn’t travel related, and doesn’t require much, if any, traveling, a lot of people often ask how i get to travel as much as i do while holding down a corporate job and having to be in the office during the weekdays.

Getting out there has always been a priority for me. Whether it is visiting another state, spending time in the next big city or slipping away into the woods, travel opportunities do not end when you choose to have a career. I get that there are people who quit their jobs and become nomads from country to country, washing dishes for a couch, backpacking their way through the world, but it is not a reality for everyone and there are people like you and I who want to sustain our professional careers without sacrificing our love to travel.

Here are some pointers that have worked for me in the past.

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You May Say That I’m a Dreamer

Jennifer Ngan Photography

When I was five, I struggled in kindergarten because I had a hard time understanding and speaking English. All my life, I only spoke Cantonese at home, and going to school was terrifying as it was brutal. The teachers suggested to my parents that I should stay behind, and take another year to catch up. My immigrant mother did not budge and knew that I will grow into it. She wasn’t worried.

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Writing As a Form of Meditation Through Self Reflection

Sometimes I lose touch with reality from stress. Getting flashbacks from things best stored away. I don't have a "method" to deal with triggers. It just is. I like to say i am above work stress, but I am not. Why does it matter really? It doesn't. In hindsight, some things are out of our control. I just wish my mind and body could agree. But, it is a brand new day... ☀️

There are pens and pencils that litter coffee table. Notepads and sticky notes shoved in every drawer and corner around my desk. Notes on my phone far too plenty, with new things added daily. Phrases i like, buttery rich words, pictures, artwork, lyrical sentences in the abstract nature, verbs, idioms, and sentences in every literary technique. A string of favorite quotes for artistic merit. All of that far too precious to be without.

This mess, if you look hard enough, is evidence of self reflection. It’s all in the trying to fall asleep thing at night, the restlessness, the sometimes-anxiety that comes and goes. The lying awake at night; that turns into midnight stories, short fiction. Creative writings. They are the scattered thoughts and dialogues of someone far too empathetic to let things go. And someone who wants to make sense of it all. Not through logic, no, but through the heart.

Most of my writings is a series of reflections, thoughts and musings. They have all my initials attached in some form or another. Sometimes I write things that resemble the symbol of ugliness but it is a representation of the things I’ve felt, and written in anger or frustration. There are words I’ve written, letters that are laced with scars and heat of the moment observations. The unwavering honesty is what makes the words authentic, true. Though exposed, and the exposure is then what makes a person naked.

In moments like those, it requires strength to emerge from the shadows. Shadows of shame and guilt. To truly recognize those written words, and understand that I am the imperfect person standing, it is recognizing that imperfection is just a side effect of the human condition. In that sense of reflection, it is a humbling realization to acknowledge my flaws before those I want to be the Most Perfect For.

I started journaling since I was in 7th or 8th grade, and continuously kept journals (both paper and online) since. What I realized when I went through more than a decade of old notebooks and writings was that I kept beating myself up for not being good enough, and never being the person that I wanted to be. Maybe it’s the angst of growing up, or it was self reflection.

Sometimes it is a sad thing, the realization. The realization that you are not how you want to see yourself. That you’re better, or your idea of yourself is much better than who you think you actually are. But this is part of the journey and it takes a special lens to see through the distortion. The mess. When there is evidence of reflection, creation, improvement, it is okay to see past it. I learned that writing, in any form, is a form of meditation. It helps with cultivating awareness to your thoughts and actions, seeing things for what they are and being okay with it. Writing it down, structuring those sentences, mapping out the timeline, and simply letting it flow through inertia

And to quote one of my favorites – “Good Luck Exploring the Infinite Abyss”


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A Dream in a Dream in a Dream

jennifer ngan photography
I’m wide awake, restless yet warm. I dreamt of you, just minutes before, still feeling the graze of your sweater on my skin. And your brown eyes burning into mine.

It was early morning, quiet and dark. We were both walking in tandem, breathing in the dewy air, the scent of jasmine prominent around us. Not one who is much for words, you say nothing but you smile that secret smile, and I, smile back and rest my head on your shoulder. We walk together, arm in arm flowing through. There is no destination. We just keep going.

Then it becomes a silent evening in, and the only sound is the turning of pages. We glance up and look at each other occasionally, smiling that secret smile. You’re working on a sketch, a drawing of sorts that you’re drawn to. Something you saw in a dream or a place, and trying to interpret that meaning through colors and shades. I am reading a book – and very much caught in the story, telling you about it when there is a pause in background music. You make predictions, and we laugh helplessly. My legs are resting atop yours, and I’m wondering how effortlessly easy this is. Us.

We both fell asleep with your sketch book in hand. I wake for a few minutes to spend that precious time with you – soothed by your steady breathing and strong arm resting under my head. When you open your eyes, you blink out of that dreamy shadow of sleep, and looking as if you’re seeing the world for the first time. In this quiet moment, time is still. The background music a mere blur of thumps and crescendos.

And within this moment, the quiet speaks the loudest. And it is within the presence of your quiet that I grow closer to you.

exploring and wandering, time a non-issue.

Jennifer Ngan Photography

My life lately, and particularly last year, was defined so much by movement – flying, driving, planning a destination, getting there, leaving, exercising, running. Repeating. As I’m writing this, I am sitting in an empty, overly bland airport in the middle of LA on our nation’s biggest holiday. With all the movement, what i am trying to get close to is the feeling of warmth and prickles of moving butterflies in the pit of my belly.

Coming back to visit my parents is always an interesting feeling. I always see the contrast of a life that I’m leaving behind, even if it’s only for a few days. And the feeling is reversed when I fly back to the Bay Area. I feel very much like I miss both, though the feeling of acceptance is in neither cities. Yet the familiarity of both cities is very much like home. But I feel the most “at home” when I am constantly moving – from place to place, exploring and wandering, time a non-issue.



Monochromatic for days.
Monochromatic for days.

I feel like I’ve spent a majority of my life waiting. Running, with no promise of an end in sight. Watching, though no light at the end of the tunnel. Waiting, while I get smaller and smaller, drowning into oblivion. 

So this explains how, while waiting for an Uber to pick me up at an ungodly 4am hour, staying still is not my strong suit. I was tired, but fidgeting, anxious then pensive, casually switching every few minutes. In a moment’s notice, i made some herbal tea and proceeded to wipe down the kitchen counters. 

4:30am is a moody grey, with skies devoid of any real color. The marigold leaves on the ground can hardly be seen at that hour. I am the only one outside, and despite my dismal view into the empty road, I can hear the idling engine of a car that sounds a few yards away, overworked and begging for rest. 4am doesn’t care what weather related disorder you have or how dark it is outside. It is, afterall, 4am. All will be forgotten when the sun rises.

Fast forward several hours later, and I am at my parents’ home. I’m focusing on the late Saturday morning, curled up in my bedroom floor with iced coffee, and soaking in the light streaming in from all three windows. It’s quiet and calm here, an acoustic rhythm strumming in the background. I am thoroughly appreciating the nothingness – I suppose this is what they mean to stay in the moment and relax. I could be the only person awake, or the only person writing about this moment. If right now is a color, it would be a golden peach glow with orange edges.