Do you believe that… everything happens for a reason?

We make so many decisions in life – we are bound to reach a crossroad at some point of life, and feel torn by the many options that life has for us.

When you’re in school, we are constantly faced with these questions: What subjects should I take? What course? What school to apply to?

When we graduate, the pressing question is, which industry do I delve into? What jobs do I apply? Which jobs do I accept?

pier sunset Hakodate & Toya - 6-Day South Hokkaido Itinerary

Sunset at Hakodate, Hokkaido

Do you sometimes feel at a loss?

Oh darling, you are not alone. I feel this way way too often.

I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. Every setback, every challenge, every dilemma, every obstacle, every opportunity, everyone that enters your life. Everyone that leaves. You might not see it now, but when the time is right, on hindsight, you’ll come to realize that these situations were all touch points in your life, to get to where you eventually will be.

Something major has happened in my life recently. One that has shifted the gears of my universe. Just when I thought life is all panned out for me, I realize life is, once again, unpredictable. As I sit at the Club Lounge of Oasia Hotel Downtown at Level 21 alone overlooking Singapore’s skyline, I am pensive once again.

I am not preaching a certain religion – I grew up with the mindset to depend on oneself. While I won’t deny that there may be works of fate at play, I truly believe that you are what you make yourself to be. This particular quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald rings very true:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Growing up – making decisions

Cambodia temples | Bel Around The World

Visiting Cambodia’s temples.

From the moment I reached the age where I had to make important decisions in my life, I never really knew what I wanted. I chose a secondary school and junior college where I fulfilled their minimum criteria, period. In secondary school, I chose the triple science stream not because I was in love with the sciences, but simply because I could. It was only then did I find out how little affinity I have with Physics.

I encountered girls who used me as a subject of gossip. (What’s high school without a little drama?) In that naive 13-year-old frame of mind, I turned to Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People, and it changed my perspective completely. I went through a period where I delved deep into the throes of self-help books on goal-setting, forming habits (The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg) and the likes.

Somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18, I experienced my first love. I fell in love and fell out of love. I was deeply hurt and experienced the lowest point in my life from a love betrayed. More than reprimanding my poor choice or hating my then-lover, I’d evolved to grow from this.

10 Student travel tips i wish i'd known earlier.

Visiting NYC’s Strand bookstore.

Even my choice of university was based on elimination (“no thanks, boring lectures and business modules”, “no numbers please”, “zero interest in law or engineering”, “for the life of me, I wouldn’t survive medicine”), which eventually landed me in social sciences in Singapore Management University. At least one thing’s for sure – I can, and will, write.

On a side note, I’ve finally graduated from university officially, on 14 July 2017!!

isabel leong graduation smu

Of course, not every decision can be made through elimination. When I had to submit my university choice for an overseas exchange program, there were so many factors to consider! It was almost overwhelming.

Cost of living, degree of culture immersion, safety, weather, language barrier, distance to town, number of slots available, the types of subjects to take, subjects that are available AND relevant to my course of work, the partner school’s reputation… The list is endless. Even the littlest details matter – Are the locals friendly? Is it a party scene? Is going to school accessible? Will my dorm be liveable?

Exchange in France – The 6 months that made me figure out what I want

East side gallery, 36 hours in berlin, top things to do in berlin

Venturing through the street art in Berlin, Germany

Then there would be situations that befall you in the unlikeliest situations. Like how my plane lost my luggage en route from Greece to Vienna, or how I was so close to getting raped while Couchsurfing in France. My phone battery dying in the middle of the day, leaving me uncontactable with my Couchsurfing host and completely directionless while I was in Strasbourg. Me missing a bus because I couldn’t understand French. How I ended up with someone I barely knew on the first day I arrived in Paris, and he turned out to be the kindest person I’d ever met during my 6-month sojourn around Europe.

All these situations happen for a reason, don’t they? You could blame it on the bus captain, or the flight attendant, or the sheer bad luck for encountering bad people. You could stereotype certain people for their actions (or lack thereof). Or you could change your perspective and make the best of every situation.

Without embracing uncertainties, you will never be able to live life to the fullest.

You will never have a story tell, your story to tell. You will never know the ending of “could have been”s. You may never meet your lover, your best friend, or your soulmate. You will never really grow.

That is the reason why I tell people that living abroad for an extended period of time really teaches you about life and changes your perspective. When my feature on a local newspaper came out about my 6-month Europe trip and the revelations I’d experienced, I was really disheartened to hear of comments that say I was sugarcoating my experience, or how I took advantage of the fact that I’m a girl (and hence, are more vulnerable) to curry favours.

bel around the world interview today paper singapore travel budget student

My interview with TODAY paper.

If I could convince them, I would have them be in my shoes. Because really, you will never truly understand what I say until you experience it for yourself.

Take it from all the other student travellers I’ve interviewed who’ve studied abroad. We are unanimous about sharing how travelling has changed us, and how this experience can even attract prospective employers (well, it worked for me!).

The best part is, you don’t need to be rich to experience all this – just utilise student perks!

It’s okay not to know

Cannes France | Bel Around The World

Cannes, France

All I really want to drive across is, it’s okay not to know what you are in for. Even the most rational person cannot make a fully informed decision, no matter how logical they are. We simply make the best of what we have.

People tell me I’m lucky I found something I’m passionate about. I tell them, you’ll eventually find your life’s purpose. If you ask me, how did I get to where I am today? Did I know what I want very early on?

When I first started my first job in the communications/ media industry, I didn’t know what I was in for. I only knew I liked writing, hence I landed a role in Gushcloud, doing content writing. It was then that I was first exposed to the world of social media and influencer marketing. I learned how much potential it has to drive business and influence decisions. Prior to that, I was against sharing my personal life in public.

TRAVEL GIFTS Wax-seal-and-old-letters

Taking a leave of absence from university to do a stint in Ogilvy Public Relations exposed me to the world of journalists, writers and content producers. Experiences like these provided the impetus for me to take my personal travel blog to a more professional level, and create more informational and inspirational pieces to benefit readers like yourself.

Along the way, I learned all about what makes content work, how to effectively manage social media, photography, videography, SEO, business development and working with other brand entities through first-hand experience and experimenting. My school didn’t teach me any of these; I picked them all up as I went about building Bel Around The World.

I simply follow my interests – in writing and in travel.

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Hiking in Flores, Indonesia

Some get it all figured out in the early onset of life. Others just take more time to discover themselves. It’s a process of self-discovery.

Take the time to listen to yourself.

What drives you? What interests you? What do you lose sleep for? What puts you off? Are there instances where you are filled with positivity or other times when you feel like nothing can be worse than being stuck in certain situations or with certain people?

Do I really know what I want?

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Chasing cherry blossoms in Hakodate, Hokkaido

Heck, even today, I still don’t. Yet, there are instances where I’ve done things I am proud for. I can make my own decisions, I am more confident of myself than I ever was, and through trial and error, I have a clearer idea of what I don’t want.

Whatever you decide, don’t stay because you are afraid of change, saying goodbye, or ending up alone. There is nothing more harmful to your heart and soul than sharing them with someone not meant for you.
Beau Taplin

We accept the love we think we deserve. You deserve the best love you can give yourself.

How do you make the important decisions in your life? I’d love to know I’m not the only one struggling with life’s decisions. 🙂 

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on

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