Sunday, November 24, 2013

An AWEsome weekend

Weekends are good. Some weekends are great. Once in a while, you have a weekend that is truly spectacular.

Two weeks ago I went to Kuala Lumpur for the Asian Women's Empowerment conference, and I'm so glad I did!

The whole thing kicked off with a wander through KL's streets sampling various goodies with Food Tour Malaysia. It was a great chance to try some local food while getting to know some of the other conference speakers and attendees. I'll post some photos from that soon!

After the food tour, some of us went to a bar called the Helipad, which is, strangely enough, on an actual disused Helipad! There are no barriers, so they're pretty strict about making sure you don't go past that yellow line! It was a bit pricey, but gave us a great sunset and a view of KL tower and the Petronas twin towers.

After the bar, believe it or not, some of us were a bit hungry so we went for Roti Canai. Yum!

Saturday began with a brilliant speech by Juno, in which she told us that it's OK. Ok to to be who we are, do what we want, and live our lives our own way, despite the objections our families, friends, or society in general might have. Now, this isn't something I've really had a problem with, as my family and friends have all been very supportive of the life that I lead, but even so, these issues still come up from time to time. Even at work now it seems that everyone is so career-focused, and I feel like I should be too. I'm the odd one out because, honestly, all I want to do is travel. (I maybe shouldn't say this on a public blog, but whatever) I know I SHOULD go do a Master's degree in TESOL, but I can't quite get motivated to do it. I got into teaching English because of the travel possibilities, not for the love of teaching or the English language. So it still means a lot for me to be told that it's really ok if I want to leave my job and just travel.

Anyway, Juno went on to point out that to truly be independent, we need to be dependent. That everyone needs a support network, either at home from family, or from friends, or from other like-minded people (as in, everyone else in that room!) My life abroad would definitely be a lot more difficult if I didn't have family at home supporting me, looking after the odd bits of bureaucracy that just seem to come up randomly, and just generally being available for me to call up for help or to talk over any thoughts or issues I've been thinking about.

The Keynote speaker on Saturday was Sangduen 'Lek' Chailert, the founder of Save Elephant Foundation. She first fell in love with elephants as a child and has dedicated her entire life to freeing elephants from working in the tourism and logging industries. She had us all in tears as she spoke about the brutality elephants endure in the name of tradition. For her efforts she has faced criticism from her family, her hometown, her society, and even her government. To stand up and speak out for what she believes in in the face of all of that takes an astounding amount of courage, which she just seems to have in spades.

Me with Lek Chailert - what an inspiring woman!
On Saturday afternoon there were simultaneous sessions on freelancing, travelling as a solo female, writing, travel fashion, social media, and initiating social change. Unfortunately, because they ran at the same time I could only attend half of them but I'm looking forward to the video of the others being available.

Saturday finished off with the conference dinner, complete with giveaways! Of course I didn't win anything, but some of my new friends won some great prizes, such as a stay at Tune Hotel in Melbourne and a package trip to Phuket!

After dinner a few of us decided to go to KLCC to see the big towers and have a wander around. We even found a Krispy Kreme donut shop so Pamela and Aggy got to try them!

Sunday morning began with a few of the conference participants telling their stories. Makiko, Won, See, and Deborah shared their experiences and inspired us to be more and do more!

Next, it was my turn! Well, me and five others. We sat on the 'Travel Talk' panel and answered any questions the participants had on various parts of the world, solo travel, security, visas, and global work opportunities.

I think it went well, and was quite pleased when afterward one woman came up to me and was all excited to talk to me about the possibilities of doing a working holiday abroad! Yay! I inspired someone! Me!

Last up was final Keynote speaker Ligwina Hananto, who gave us a surprisingly lively and entertaining talk about finances! Her main point was that women in any situation need to have control of their own money, and that everyone should have an 'emergency fund' of at least 3 months' living expenses.

Me with the lovely Ligwina. What a character!

I was sad that it was the end! It all went by so fast and I met so many amazing people. 

I'm so glad I went to this event. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect but I came away from it inspired, motivated, and like I could achieve anything . I sat on the plane home feeling more positive and certain about what I want to do than I have in a long time. And most of all, I feel now like I'm part of something. There's a whole community out there, which I now belong to, that I can turn to at any time for friendship, support, and advice. I hope all the other women there left feeling the same way.

Thanks AWE '13, and I hope to see you all next year!

1 comment:

  1. looks like a really fun and certainly inspiring weekend. wish I could have made it. xoxox


Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!