Why isn’t there travel Insurance coverage for 9 months?

When we decided to embark on this crazy round-the-world adventure, the first thing we did was to look for the right travel insurance policy. For two women travelers, away for 9 months, being covered for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances is so important.

Who would have guessed that travel insurance was the first thing we embarked on and the last to be settled? Believe it or not, we found nothing out there that covers women travelers for such a lengthy period of time.

We’ve checked with numerous insurance companies in Singapore, and none have travel insurance policies that cover travelers going away for 9 months at a stretch. All require us to come back to Singapore after 90 or 180 days. So beware, folks! Insurance agents may sell you one-year travel insurance policies, but ask them about this. All will require you come back to Singapore after a stipulated number of days or you can’t claim at all.

It blows my mind because there are so many women travelers. The nature of travel has also evolved. Women are traveling further and wider, and for more varied reasons.  And we are also traveling for more extended periods of time. So why aren’t insurance companies keeping up with trends? I think most of us professional women would be prepared to pay more for peace of mind.

So in a nutshell, I guess you can say Ning & I are firsts in fighting for full 9-month travel insurance coverage.

We managed to get 9-month coverage only because we spoke directly with Great Eastern, and they genuinely listened and empathized with our needs. What they did was to develop an exclusive travel insurance cover for both of us, despite not having that available off the rack.

In many ways, we achieved this breakthrough because Great Eastern says that its mission is to ensure people have sufficient cover and achieve peace of mind. And when challenged, they responded and acted to meet our needs! In fact, we felt brave enough to approach them because we know they have researched extensively on women through the years, and understand our needs.

We were really touched when they agreed to customize something for us. It’s very, very rare for a huge insurance giant to bow down and listen to the needs of two girls, so we are truly indebted to them.

I think in some ways, we have broken the glass ceiling for women here, and we are thankful to GE because they have given us full peace of mind to chase our dream!!!

Join us on FACEBOOK!!!

 

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Happy Monday Bleu!

Hey folks…

As some of you know, yours truly succumbed to the nasty viral bug over the weekend and had to wear a face mask whenever I went out for meetings. Pam actually said I looked like a mugger with my face covered. Grrrr. Thanks BFF…

Anyway, being stuck home most of the time has made me more productive and focused in a way. During moments when I wasn’t feeling woozy, I made time to create two new pages on our website:

The first is our wish list, which many friends have insisted we put together so they know how to pitch in to help. Meeting more people like travel-savvy Hedy Mok who runs Eurotours & Travellers Choice Holidays, the BFF & I both realized we’d reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally need all the help we can get because our pool of personal funds are limited.

The other webpage I just created is dedicated to all the Adventures of 2 Girls doodles and cartoon strips I draw 🙂 I’m not professionally trained but I’ve always loved doodling cartoons ever since I was a little girl. Do check it out and feel free to comment. Haha 🙂

Meanwhile, what made me smile was something that just came in the mail… My Le Cordon Bleu package from Paris finally arrived! Some good things are just worth waiting for.

I found the above info very interesting (it also helped that it wasn’t in French) and remarkably  insightful. Looking through the official documents, I also found a notice instructing all Le Cordon Bleu students to buy the proper professional chef clogs, so I guess I’ll be needing to do some necessary shopping before school starts in Summer *grin*

Anyway…

Thus far, Pam & I have confirmed our flight out of Singapore on 18 March 2011 (no longer 3/3/11). We’ll be heading out to Honolulu, with a chance that we may catch my uke hero Jake Shimabukuro perform in the island of Maui the evening after we touch down.

We will be in Hawaii for about 3 weeks before we do our Canada/ USA road trip, via driving (we both have our international driver’s license) and using Greyhound. I’ll let Pam share the tentative travel route with you in a bit… the BFF will be blogging soon 🙂

Come Summer, we will be in France where I’ll be in Le Cordon Bleu doing my patisserie course this June till August. That itself will be either be an adventure or disaster. Maybe both. Well, we will see. But Magic Babe is really no Julia Child.

Righty, I’m going to lay down now cos my meds are making me drowsy. A big shout out of thanks to my favorite GP in the whole wide world, Dr Tan Su-Ming of Changi Clinic!

ZZZZZzzzzz…

Ning

Quote of the Day: “An old friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a dead body.” – Jim Hayes

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To Pee or Not to Pee…

… that is the question.

Shakespeare aside, I remember needing to pee urgently while planting trees in the middle of the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia. We’d trekked all the way out to the middle of nowhere, and there were people everywhere, with no portable toilet in sight.

Driving up to Malaysia, I’ve also had to pee while on the highway, shifting on my seat, looking out for the next pee stop, which could be 10km away…

I love being a girl, but it’s a very bad thing… a very bad thing… when you need to pee urgently. So this is for me pee saviour from heaven.

Pee like a man!

My good friend Shaan Moledina actually got it years ago when we were colleagues at Vanilla magazine (MediaCorp Publishing). Shaan wrote our travel columns and featured this on her product spread. Can’t believe she wrote about it without trying it… Shaan, what sort of journalist are you?! o.O

Well, the long (no pun intended) and short of it is: It’s NEW. According to the instructions we found, this pee thing is made of special material that repels liquid. So after you use it, you can keep it without washing. Or after I use it, I can pass it to Ning to use, without washing. And all our pee will just slide right off.

And wait a minute… the instructions say, “Just lift your skirt or unzip your fly”. Gasp, no need to pull down your pants?!!

I’m thinking US Road Trip.

Where the hell is the next pee stop? Die, I need to pee… I need to pee…. Do you think I should pull down my pants by the side of the highway, and squat down, have my butt be scratched by the tall grass and risk having truckers get a peek of my yellow ass?

This purple pee thing + a mineral water bottle should do the trick. Neat!

Planning our US Road Trip w Shaan, Corrinne & Deb!

Shaan passed the pee thing to us on Friday when we met up with her, Corrinne (yes, Corrinne May the singer-songwriter!) and Deborah Chew from Caelan and Sage to plan for our US Road Trip. All 3 girls have lived or travelled or done road trips in the US, and it was so fun chatting with them!!!

We plonked ourselves at PS Cafe @ Dempsey with maps & guide books from 3pm and left just before 8pm! *LOL*

Ning & I learnt so much, and are excited to announce that we have a rough plan for our US Road Trip now, so USA… here we come!!!

Coming back to the pee thing, I think they sell it at adventure stores like Outdoor Life at Novena Square… This one is manufactured by Astonix Life Science. It’s called Whiz Freedom. Lookin’ forward to the freedom while we whiz around.. Wee whiz!

Here’s the link. Have fun pee-ing, girls!!! *wink*

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Our story so far…

Hey there… Thanks for checking out our Adventures of 2 Girls blog & Facebook page 🙂 Pam has done a fab job in blogging here thus far so now it’s my turn… *flexes fingers*

Most people know me as ‘Magic Babe’ Ning… the award-winning fire-eating sassy female magician & escape artist and FHM cover girl. But truth is, I’m really different off stage, out of character. There are some days (the good ones) when Pam calls me her “dorky BFF”. Why this award-winning journalist picked me as her BFF (best friend forever) escapes me.

But so you know more of me and not my larger-than-life stage character… I’m the kind of girl who firmly believes in shaping your own destiny. A great way would be to print your horoscope and do origami with it. Speaking of which, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I’d be a professional origami artist. But unfortunately, I hate paperwork.

However, I do love writing. In fact just this morning I sent off a letter to my WorldVision sponsored Mongolian boy, Batsaikhan Gunbileg, assuring him that the other 9-year olds in school won’t pick on him because of the endearing English name I quite recently gave him. In my patient letter to him I said, “Don’t be silly, Someoneyourownsize, why would anyone pick on you?” I know. Kids these days.

Anyways. Yes, our story so far.

Just yesterday we finally officially signed with our publisher Marshall Cavendish International, and Pam’s mom was very happy and excited for us. She heartily congratulated the 2 of us girls when she heard the news, and then asked the very important question.

“Is this Marshall fellow from Singapore or where ah?”

Brilliant. I love her sense of humor. Truly. With her inborn talent, the woman gives people like our professional comedienne friend Irene Ang a serious run for her money.

So now Pam & I have signed away our lives for this new book that will be published in fall next year. The Adventures of 2 Girls will be all about our interesting travels (awesome place, great sights, fab restaurants, the best travel service providers, interesting people, fantastic experiences, eye-opening routes, etc) and if you’ve read our own personal past blog entries, you’d know some of the weirdest things & hilarious situations we’ve gotten ourselves into…

To name a few: a 10km/h police car chase; being near sex-trade/ organ-trade/ take-your-pick victims in Vietnam; getting my “fine ass” boiled till my capillaries actually bled in a Takayama onsen because we soaked too long in the Japanese hot spings (read: doing it wrong!); me being rudely startled when I was naked in the hotel bathtub just about to take my shower after the BFF, by an aggressive mutant-looking bug that looked like it had a mean stinger, gross legs and roach-like wings; me being a free all-you-can-eat bug buffet in Cambodia because I liberally sprayed a bug repellent spray that repelled everything except for sandflies that must have been starving for days while the BFF was perfectly OK despite being next to me because she went all natural. I must have received a few hundred bites all over, where the bug spray came into contact with my skin.

Hmmm. I’m beginning to see a pattern.

(Pam, why is it always meeeeeeeee?)

Anyway. I digress. Earlier in the week, the BFF & I got our faces dissed by the all-powerful woman working at the Italian Consulate counter. We didn’t manage to even talk to a consular about getting our long stay EU visas for 9 months. I now realize why they have a safety glass counter separating these officers from the people on the other side of the cramped room.

I’m a realist and my gut feel/ instincts have always served me time and again all these 28 years. But Miss Sunshine Pam was as usual, wide-eyed and busy tailed, truly positive that some nice patient smiling Italian consular would help stamp our visas so we could do our 3 month Italy-3 month France-3 month Greece travel adventure for our book… though the general ruling is that after a max of 90 days you gotta haul your asses out of EU. That’s right, the whole of EU and not just one of the many EU countries. Furthermore, you can only get back into EU after a minimum of 91 days. That’s how strict these Europeans are.

On hindsight, I guess it’s in a way my fault. The BFF had come straight from her work at Mediacorp Radio, where she’s a DJ for 938LIVE. So Pam did dress pretty decent. While I came from home because I didn’t have a gig to prepare for at the studio, so I was dressed in my favorite Supergirl t-shirt. Hey. It was comfy.

We must have seemed to the counter woman like penniless University students, because she wasn’t the least bit helpful and on a scale of 0 to 10 for service, I’d give her about a minus 28.

“But I read on your Italian Embassy website, all you need is to show your passports, indicate your intent for travel, prove that you’re financially secure and speak to a consular. We’ve waited over an hour, can we please talk to someone who can advice us please?” the BFF was still trying to earnestly explain to the stony faced Singaporean makcik (aunty) who must have felt all powerful behind the shatter-proof security glass counter window that didn’t even have speaking holes.

“No,” the fellow Singaporean flatly refused, staying her ground. She was following The Book and probably looking forward to getting off work and not waiting to serve the 30 over people squashed in their petite kitchen sized waiting room. She continued deadpan, unblinking. She showed 2 brown fingers the size of sausages. “Only 2 ways. Study visa from university there. Or work visa from company there.”

“But…” the determined pint-sized BFF still continued. It almost looked like a match between David & Godzilla. Sorry. Goliath. “…there must be some other way!”

The bureaucratic worker sniffed. “Can lah. You have one million dollars?”

Say what? I sighed. This was getting no where and there’s nothing worse than having precious time wasted.

The passionate BFF still didn’t give up. “Really? I didn’t see it on the website.”

“Tell you what,” our all powerful counter makcik was obviously tired of us. Her plump brown hand offered a scrap of paper through the slide door of the counter top. “You send email here and say what you want. But you may not hear from them lah, because what you want is cannot. Not possible.”

With that we were unceremoniously dismissed. Looking at the tiny slip of paper as we left the tiny stale-aired confines that felt quite claustrophobic because there were over thirty individuals waiting their turn at the Counter of Un-Romantic Rejections and Broken Hearts, the BFF & I realized that the email address given was a general one for Italian visa inquiries and not at all to a specific officer with a name. Lovely.

But after a hearty lunch of comforting assam laksa, we felt a lot better. Also the rest of the week was spent meeting some truly amazing people… feisty street-smart folks who have traveled the world, backpacked solo, passionately loved the places they came from or went to… I truly felt very inspired and am thankful for this gift 🙂

I think it’s a blessing actually, that we can’t spend all 9 full months in EU as previously planned. It’s a bit of a tragedy for Pam because Italy is her favorite country in the whole wide world. But in the broader sense of things, we now effectively open ourselves up to traveling the rest of the world!

Our first stop from sunny Singapore will be Hawaii (we plan to leave this 18 March), followed by other states in the USA & Canada… before spending summer in Paris, and the last 3 months elsewhere before coming back home in November.

Also, several fantastic folks have approached us about sponsorship too… this truly lightens the load for us girls, so thank you dear angels!!!

Ta for now, more later…

Ning

Quote of the Day: “Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block

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They Travelled the World on a Bike!

I first heard about Goh Mia Chun and his wife Samantha Pan when a friend shared their amazing story with me — a couple who travelled the world on a motorbike! WOW!

Goh Mia Chun & wife Samantha with bike "Hope Too".

Maybe it was fate, but before I could hunt them down, their contact fell onto my lap. A PR company contacted me and suggested an interview with them.

At that time, Ning & I were already discussing plans to take a break from our careers and embark on an adventure of a lifetime. So that conversation in The Living Room with Goh and Sam was – unknown to my listeners on 938LIVE – very poignant for me.

What struck me most about the couple is that they are the most humble and down-to-earth people. We often think we have to be well-off to travel the world. But what Goh said really struck me, “My parents own a hawker stall, and I live in a 3-room HDB flat. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Check out this vid of their triumphant return to Singapore after 2.5 years on the road:

The last time I met up with them was at Ning’s “The Aerial Exit” at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Well, I met up with them again last night for a curry fish head dinner at Blk 354 Clementi Ave 2. Since coming back from their trip, this is their 1st fish head curry meal, and Goh was really looking forward to it.

A Fish Head Curry Dinner with Goh & Sam!

During the meal, they shared with me how they managed their finances on the road. What I learnt was this: Have a “reservoir” of money in an account that we can draw from. Then have a number of debit cards which are like “taps” to access this reservoir.

Don’t keep too much money in the debit accounts – perhaps 2,000 bucks. And top-up as & when these accounts drain. This is because if our debit cards are stolen, the thieves can only take away this much. Our “main reservoir” is still safe.

Make copies of vital documents like IC, passport, bank statements, international drivers permits, passport photos etc., and put them online. In case our actual documents are stolen, we can still access the soft copies and print them wherever we are.

On a lighter note, Sam shared with me about how Europeans count differently with their fingers… it was hilarious! Who would’ve thought? *LOL* But these are little details that will come in handy (no pun intended) when I’m ordering 2 coffees or sandwiches at an Italian espresso bar!

Sam also suggested we bring our own little lock for securing our cupboard at cheap 2-star hotels or B&Bs… Often they do provide, but isn’t it safer to use your own lock & key?

With Goh Mia Chun (and friends Marie & Bing Long) at The Aerial Exit.

Having friends like Goh & Sam really reassures me because I feel like what Ning & I are doing is possible. They have done it, so can we. And I’m so touched by their generosity in sharing their time, their stories, their travel tips with me.

I can’t wait for the BFF to come back tomorrow! I’m bursting to share with her what I’ve learnt from Goh & Sam, as well as Class 95’s Yasmine Cheng, whom I had lunch with today at the MediaCorp canteen.

Yazzie in The Living Room.

Yaz heard about our trip and asked if I was free to grab a quick bite together. Over a bowl of laksa yong tau foo, she shared with me about the South of France & Provence, and how we MUST rent a car and drive through the French countryside & French Riviera. She talked about fields of sunflowers and lavender, and quaint Medieval towns.

She even lent us her own guide books, with must-see places all marked out in pen. We love you, Yazzie!!! *big hug*

Yazzie's personal guide books on loan to us!

From feeling lost and nervous, I suddenly feel supremely empowered and very, very excited!!! *beams* Thank you, Yaz! Thank you, Goh & Sam, for your wonderful help and support. Goh, you could at least have let me pay for dinner!!! *pout*

Read all about Goh & Sam’s amazing adventures here.

* Join “Adventures of 2 Girls” on FACEBOOK.

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I Set Up Skype Today

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I’ve plonked myself at Wang (somewhere across the island from my house & in unfamiliar territory) to spend some quiet time writing. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to do this, and it’s Quiet Bliss.

A quiet afternoon afternoon away from home to write.

It’s less than 8 weeks to the day we leave Singapore, and already it feels like the beginning of the end. I’ve never been away from home for 9 months before – the longest being 2 weeks. And definitely not apart from my two little boys for that long.

As a mum, it’s almost a bittersweet feeling.

Today, I set up Skype on my iPhone and added my two boys – who are already on Skype. In fact, they are tech-savvy lil’ critters, and have been urging me to get on Skype for the longest time.

I have a Skype account but (as usual) forgot my ID and password, so it’s just been sitting there, unused. Besides, why do we need to Skype when we see each other everyday? But I realise with a heavy heart that I won’t wake up to J & J every morning soon, and hear their *loud* voices, arguing about Black Shot, or reporting to me that the other has not brushed his teeth….

Immediately after I added them, I bounced out of the room to tell them to accept my request. They were playing Black Shot as usual. “Wait, mum,” J1 replied with a lazy drawl, his eyes glued on the computer screen where he was trying to kill off his brother. “We’re busy…”

J & J... whom I will miss dearly.

Well, the long and short of the story is that we’re now connected on Skype. I’ve yet to figure our how the video calling works, with my iPhone 3GS. If they see me, I can’t see them. And if I see them, they can’t see me. Hmm.

In any case, I don’t know how I will fare being apart from my lil’ darlings for so long. If anyone out there would like to sponsor them to Paris in June, I’ll kiss your feet!

* Join us on FACEBOOK.

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No-Pay Leave Approved!

I stepped into the office two days ago, opened my inbox, and greeting me was an email from HR saying that my request for one-year, no-pay leave has been approved.

I almost fell off my chair in excitement… it was minutes before I went on-air so I couldn’t break the news to everyone. The first person I SMS-ed was, of course, Ning.

The idea of traveling and writing together was birthed many months ago…. from moments of lazy daydreaming that gained momentum and were fueled by a restlessness to do something more exciting with our lives! *LOL*

Waaat…. we are adrenaline junkies mah.

Thing is, both are us love our careers, we love what we do, and we are successful in it.

Magic is Ning’s life and she has a very strong & loyal following here in Singapore, and around the world. I host a ‘live’ radio talk show on Singapore’s national broadcaster – the longest-running English chat show on radio (which turns 75 this year!). So taking a BREAK from our successful careers is damn scary lor.

It’s not the “push” factors that are fueling this adventure, but the irresistible “pull” of seeing the world together and writing about our adventures. And we always have adventures when we travel together! *LOL* We’ll share more in this blog…  but you can start by reading our About Pam & Ning page.

Read "About Pam & Ning" to understand why this blog!

In any case, an idea remains an idea until you start declaring it to people.  And we did -starting with our families and closest friends. And I have to say that Ning’s family and my family are the most supportive, loving and generous people in the world. They threw their support behind us 100%, even though they probably didn’t understand the compulsion for us to do this. And I guess that gave us the confidence… and courage… to break the news to our bosses.

To take no-pay leave beyond 6 months at my company, the request goes through many, MANY levels of approval. All the way up to the big boss. You can’t imagine how restless I was waiting for a response from HR. I think I emailed Adeline 100x, with the subject title, “Any updates???” *LOL*

Well it finally came 2 days ago. My last day is 28 Feb, and come March 2011…….. Adventures of 2 Girls begins!!!

** Join us on FACEBOOK.

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Hello world!

SOMETHING EXCITING THIS WAY COMES…

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