I just got back from a very short break that took me to one of my favourite Malaysian haunts: Kota Kinabalu. I had returned to a place I discovered last year, a relatively unknown gem close to the city, a little island called Dinawan. It had changed somewhat (in a good way), and I was happy – it was like discovering a new place again.

For me, vacations are for “me time” away from the daily grind and routine. Though I must sheepishly admit that despite wanting a change of routine, I sometimes – especially in a familiar locale – get into a very predictable routine at my “runaway hideaway”.

But my predictability can also be unpredictable, if that makes sense. It all depends on the mood I’m in and how that particular destination affects my state of mind at the time.

So on one vacation I might get very lazy and just channel-surf in my hotel room. For another, I might have a full schedule to explore something new, gorge on local dishes, absorb the culture and hang out with the locals.

How I plan those busier vacations also tends to differ. For some I might map out a daily schedule while I’m more spontaneous at other times and will just go with the flow.

That’s all well and good if you travel solo but sometimes you have friends tagging along. Which is why I’m particular about my vacation partner. It has to be someone who is equally able to adapt and be flexible. And who doesn’t think that vacationing together means sharing everything practically 24/7! I need someone who can do his or her own thing while I do mine.

There is no one right way to spend a vacation. It should be about what pleases you and makes you happy.

Which reminds me of the time I went to Bali with a friend who fully understood my need for my own space. Coincidentally, two Singaporean friends of hers were also on the island then and we arranged to meet up for dinner. She warned me, though, not to be too taken aback when I met them. Apparently, one of them was the vacation planner – and, boy, did he plan.

You see, he had actually drawn up a schedule, one that he expected his friend to follow to a T. The very detailed routine included exact times for every activity – from when to wake up and how much time to spend brushing your teeth and showering to how much time to spend eating and even when toilet breaks could be fitted in!

I still find it hard to believe, but 10 minutes into our dinner, the aforesaid OCD planner declares that “we have another 30 minutes before the dinner is completed, so we are on schedule.” He was totally oblivious to my incredulous look and gaping mouth!

Suffice to say he will never be one of my travelling companions.

Anyway, my point to all of this is that there is no one right way to spend a vacation. It should be about what pleases you and makes you happy.

No one should force you on a guilt trip for whiling away your holiday doing absolutely nothing. It’s your holiday not theirs. Or if your idea of a perfect vacation is an energy-sapping itinerary from day to night, so be it.

Those of you now away for the Chinese New Year break, here’s wishing you have that time away you desire and, of course, all the other requisite Lunar New Year wishes! Gong Xi, Gong Xi.


Touché is a monthly column in which team Star2 shares its thoughts.