Book Review: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

In one of the oldest and most classic self-help books in the world (published in 1944!), Dale Carnegie reminds readers how to count our blessings instead of agonising over what we want. The book is chockfull with anecdotes. One particularly memorable one stands out; a man who lost all his savings, along with his confidence and drive, met a handicapped man who greeted him cheerfully on the streets. Realising what he still had, he pulled himself together and got a job and a loan to tide him over his difficulties. The story inspired a maxim for the writer.

I had the blues because I had no shoes,
Until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet. 

Wise sayings and examples like these are common sense, but it does not hurt to be reminded repeatedly about the power of positive thinking, gratitude, diligence, exercise and ample rest. Written in a narrative from a first person’s point of view, the book reads like a personal account or even a personal conversation, and is livelier and more personable than the average self-help guide. It is one of those rare books that one would not mind reading again and again, especially in times of feeling blue.

Quoting a reader, “recommended reading for everyone, particularly those in the corporate world, in jobs that are given too much importance than they really deserve.”

Nevertheless, readers should keep an open mind. Some mild chauvinism is implied in the content, as attitudes towards women in the 1940s are different from now. The author’s frequent references to religion may also be off-putting to those who do not share his religion.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Budget Living on Vacation

A boom is sweeping across the budget travel accommodation market. Many operators and owners of luxury hotel  chains to private home are riding on it. So, aside from the usual backpacker hostels, AirBnBs, guest houses and coach  surfing, there are other lesser-known options, cheaper than the average hotel that you can consider for your next trip. But, like everything else, do exercise caution so that  you don’t end up in the wrong places at the wrong time.

Homestay

Homestay programmes are common as a means to facilitate culture exchange and provide exchange students with a budget place to stay. But just because you’re no longer a student doesn’t mean it’s not an option. Homestay families rent out a room in their house usually for a little extra income as well as the opportunity to show a foreigner their way of life and culture. They will likely be interested to learn from you about your culture too. So remember to prepare some pictures in your phone. You don’t need to now the host family‘s language (drawings, electronic dictionaries and miming can go a long way), but taking the effort to learn some basics will make a good impression. You can find homestay families on websites like https://www.homestay.com. Searching homestay and the destination name will give you more specific options. Some countries organise homestays as part of their hospitality programmes and it’ll be much easier for you to find a directory of legitimate homestays through their tourism website.

Religious housing

If you are visiting a place with many religious buildings, this may be an option. The ambience will be peaceful and quiet. You do not have to be religious, and you will not be questioned on your beliefs: However, religious buildings tend to have curfews and there may be other restrictions. Nunneries may not take in male travellers, and monasteries may not take in female travellers for example. Modest clothing would be expected. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations before committing, and do respect others’ religion. Looking up monastery stays online should give you many options. MonasteryStays.com specialises in Italy-based ones.

Academic housing

Summer holidays are months long and during that period many student dormitories are temporarily vacated. Hence, some universities may;open these vacant rooms to visitors and tourists for cheap. Going to a prestigious university with gorgeous campus grounds like Oxford University—is—no longer a dream. Yes, the university is listed on httpt://www.universityrooms.com, one of the platforms where you can search and book rooms in academic buildings. You can also check out the official websites of universities to find out about short-term accommodation options.

House sitting

Some people have to leave their homes unattended for a long period of time, and they need someone to look after their house while they are away. If you don’t mind doing a little housework, taking care of a pet or keeping some plants alive, you could get accommodation for free. https://www.housecarers.com and http://www. trustedhousesitters.com are two websites where you can look up properties in need of house sitting.

Camping

If all else fails, there is always the good old outdoors to fall back on. Camping brings to mind forests and wildernesses, but some countries have camping sites within cities that charge a small fee, and in some parks it is legal to pitch a tent. It may be challenging to find camping grounds in densely populated cities, but even in Tokyo where it’s as urban as it gets, there are camping grounds at the outskirts. Some parks are home to drug dealers or potential crime spots after dark, so be careful where you park your tent!

These days, the concept of travel is so flexible that one can easily mould it to suit their budget and needs. But regardless whether you are staying in a hotel or a campsite, three requirements should remain paramount — personal safety, cleanliness and convenience. After all, you don’t want to come back with bed bugs or get mugged, or spend half the day trying to get to your lodging. Do research, check reviews on websites like www.tripadvisor.com, www.hostels.com and www.hostelz.com, consult friends, travellers and the locals. Travelling is an activity that expends a lot of energy, and at the end of the day, you want to come back to a nice place where you can unwind and gear up or the next day’s adventures.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image: Pixabay

Book Reviews: Think Like a Freak & Holes

Think Like A Freak  by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

”Think Like A Freak” is the third instalment of the popular Freakonomics series that claims to explore the hidden side of everything while getting readers to think out of the box. ’like a freak’ as the title suggests. If you have not read the first two books, don’t worry as it is perfectly all right to read this as a standalone. Despite being rather short in length at 211 pages, it explores a variety of ideas.

Using interesting stories and real-life examples to illustrate the points, the book covers crucial, practical advice like learning to admit ”I don’t know”, asking the right questions, knowing when to quit, thinking like children meaning responding to questions and investigating your interests without regard to what others may think, and more. You also learn some interesting nuggets of information that you probably never thought about questioning, like how you can eat 50 hotdogs in 10 minutes and why Nigerian email scammers say they are from Nigeria.

The writing style is easy to understand, light-hearted and entertaining, making it a fun read. While it is thought- provoking, and encourages one to think differently, don’t expect it to change your life after a few reads, because that would of course require work on your own part. Being able to adopt its central values, however, would undoubtedly make your life a lot more interesting.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley is a preteen who has been falsely accused of stealing. Between the options of jail and Camp Green Lake, Stanley picks the latter, having never been well-off enough to go to a camp. Unfortunately, Camp Green Lake is not the usual camp he had in mind. As part of ‘character building’, campers, usually juvenile delinquents are made to dig holes measuring five feet tall and five feet wide everyday under the hot sun. He must also learn to get along with the other boys around him. He falls into various adventures in unexpected ways.

”Holes” tells the realistic learning journey of dealing with harsh conditions, tragedy and failure. There are no rewards or promised success for doing good, but the protagonist chooses the right choices simply because they are right, even if he is subject to unfair treatment. It is a children’s book, but with a youthful yet mature sentiment, talking to, instead of talking down to children.

The writer weaves back and forth between the protagonist’s past and his ancestors, to the present. Often, the outcome is presented to the reader before the cause and process. However, it is not confusing to read and at times has the added advantage of provoking thought and engagement as the reader fervently turns pages wanting to know how something came about.

It is written in easy to read format where sentences and ideas are presented in short lengths. The narration is light-hearted and relaxing; in the face of unpleasant circumstances, the protagonist remains calm and maintains his sense of humour. Even children who do not usually like reading should find this book likeable enough.

This is an interesting and inspirational book for children and also adults looking for a quick entertaining read. Parents and teachers are encouraged to read this book with their young charges; many useful lessons can be imparted from analysing the storyline.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Moving House: The dos and don’ts while packing your stuff

Moving to a new place is often a stressful experience and certainly everyone deserves a well-earned rest when the move is complete. Nothing can be more frustrating than thinking you can finally sit back and settle down, only to discover some items are damaged or missing.

However, with some careful planning and preparations, you can eliminate this source of stress and really put your  feet up to enjoy your new home.

Draw up an Inventory. This is the most tedious part, but you’ll be grateful you did it. When packing your things into a box, make a list of the items inside each box. If you do not have time to list down all items, prioritise the ones that are important to you or will be needed at the new house. File these lists in a safe and accessible place. During the unpacking process, you can refer to the lists to check them off. This will be especially handy if your box contains a jumble of different things.

Number and label your boxes / storage. The labels need not be a detailed list of items (that’s what the inventory is for) but should reflect the general contents. For example: “Kitchen utensils and cutlery”. “Mum’s books”. Make a list of all your boxes. This will serve as a very important reference for you to check if any box has gone missing in the process of moving.

Pack items that belong in the same place / room together. You can unpack your boxes according to rooms later, which will make the process much easier. Furthermore, if your mover is kind enough to help you move items where you want them to be, you will be able to tell them very quickly just by looking at the labels on the boxes.

Label boxes with fragile items as such so that movers can handle it accordingly. Heavy items should be placed at the bottom below lighter, more fragile items. If it is not possible to discern the top / bottom of a box, “This way up” labels will help solve the problem.

Pad your fragile items with bubblewrap or cloth items such as clothing, curtains and towels. Using cloth items that you’re going to pack anyway helps to save space and time. Just make sure you are not subjecting your items to any form of damage. Don’t forget to inventorise them so you don’t spend hours fretting over “missing” clothing in your box of porcelain cups.

Pad empty spaces with filler items such as crushed paper, air packets and bubblewrap. Cloth items can once again come in handy. This is to prevent breakable items from rolling around spaces, bumping into other things and possibly breaking  as a result.

Do not over-pack boxes with heavy items. The boxes may break. Consider placing heavy items, like books, in smaller boxes to avoid the risk of over-packing. It will make the moving process easier and more efficient for the movers.

Do not pack valuables like your money and jewellery. You should take care of these items yourself. If you have a safe box, empty it before handing it over to the mover.

Do not expect all movers to be able to dismantle and reassemble your bulky furniture. Some movers may offer pre mium services, but being movers, their main job is to move your things. Save everyone’s time by dismantling the item yourself, but before that, photograph the set-up so you have a visual reference when reassembling it.

Read contracts carefully and clarify all doubts before engaging a mover. Some companies may not have a clause for compensating for damaged items.

No time to unpack right away? Then you might want to pack a suitcase containing some essentials like toiletries and a few changes of clothes to last you for a few days so you don’t have to live like a hobo or spend on things you already have. The suitcase should also contain some first aid items as well as tools for unpacking like cutter and scissors.

Packing for a move is tedious and daunting, but it also presents a good opportunity to de-clutter and generate awareness of items you already possess. The end-result is a neat and organised house, which is liberating and rewarding. The challenge is of course, to maintain this sense of tidiness for as long as possible.

If you are looking to dispose your furniture, Town Council offers removal service (up to 3 items each time, per month) to all HDB households. Visit our website at www.btptc.org.sg for our terms and condition, and arrange for an appointment.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.
Image source