Quitting your full-time job to move to the mountains and focus your time and energy on channelling your passions into new business ventures sure sounds like the dream for many. That’s exactly what I did. Leaving behind the standard 9-to-5 grind was certainly one of the best decisions of my life, and I’ve never looked back. My journey took me from Singapore to the resort town of Tagaytay, where I set up a bed and breakfast and ice cream company with my husband.

Ice Cream Dreams

The first year of our entrepreneurial adventure was one of the hardest years of our lives. We had a limited amount of savings and big dreams of living out in nature, running creative ventures, and making it in the world just off our own hard work. In order to make our dreams come true, we had put in every last penny we had into our businesses.

Used to the ease of Singapore life, we were rather culture shocked in the rural provinces of the Philippines. It brought forward new stresses in our lives that we didn’t know existed – living in a third world country will do that to you. Often times we had no electricity for days, no running water, backed up plumbing, cases of theft from our staff, life-threatening security threats, typhoons – the list goes on. Entrepreneurs say that your first year of business is hardest – but perhaps the elements of culture shock and poverty made it even more difficult.

Kaching

Since we concentrated on investing in the business, we didn’t have the luxury of expensive dinners, shopping the season’s newest clothes, or going on a holiday. Then one day I received a call that my late mother’s home had been sold and I would inherit a significant amount of money. With that, I decided that apart from investing the funds, I would give my husband and I a much-needed gift: a holiday of our dreams. I decided to choose a place that we had never been, but somewhere that was full of exotic natural beauty. This would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I decided.

Alone in the Dunes

I had always wanted to go to the Middle East, and I had been eyeing this amazing resort in Zighy Bay for the longest time. Only it was way out of my price range. It was now or never, I thought, so I booked it. I had never been to a desert before and thought that since we were in the Middle East already, we might as well visit another region.

After searching online for the “most secluded resorts in the world”, I came across Qasr al Sarab, a lavish resort that was located in the dunes of the Abu Dhabi’s Liwa Oasis. I decided that this would be the first stop of our 11-day trip and then we would rent a car and drive to Oman.

OManG, it’s so hot!

Upon landing in Abu Dhabi in the peak of summer, I was in shock. I had never experienced such a sweltering climate. We got to our car and drove to Qasr al Sarab, which felt more like a palace than a resort. All you could see from all angles were miles and miles of sand, almost totally devoid of life, except for the occasional camel or gazelle.

 

The spread of food was lavish at every meal and as we visited during Ramadan, there was almost nothing to do all day but cool off in the pool. Here, the stresses from the last year seemed thousands of miles away — they just melted off. It felt like I was in another world – women smelled of musky perfumes, intricate carpets lined the floors of our room, and sweet dates literally fell from the trees.

On the Backs of Camels

On our final morning in the desert, we booked a sunrise camel ride. In the dark of the wee hours of the morning, a car took us out into the middle of the desert. There was absolutely no one and not a single sound to be heard. Never before had I experienced such silence. Just off to the right of us was a group of camels – these were the ones we were going to ride, along with our guide.

This camel ride took us through the Liwa Oasis for about an hour until we climbed one of the highest dunes, where there were breakfast and tea waiting for us. From this dune, I felt such a renewed sense of peace and contentment.

All Six Senses Tingling

Ready for our next adventure, we piled into the car and drove nearly six hours through nothing but desert to the Gulf of Oman. Although it was just as warm as Abu Dhabi, the terrain in this region was treacherous, with barrier-less roads leading you through rocky cliffs. Our hotel, Six Senses Zighy Bay, was located on a beautiful bay of crystal-clear, warm water – it was absolutely jaw-dropping.

Our villa was located right on the beach, and we had our days filled with absolutely nothing to do but sit and reflect. The ocean at our feet provided a needed cleansing for my spirit. There was time to play again, and there was time to rest. During the trip, my husband and I made it a point not to talk about the businesses and simply be there for and with each other.

 

Here Fishy Fishy

In between the moments of doing absolutely nothing, we snorkelled in the sea to swim with the colourful fish, we explored the nearby Bedouin settlements made of nothing but wood and stone, and we tried piquant local dishes that we had never tried before. It was a time to re-engage with life and get curious again.

When you’re running your own businesses, I realised that it could be hard to take a step back, get some perspective, and just be. This epic trip to the Middle East took me out of my element in so many ways. It’s now my firm belief that this feeling of being out of my element is exactly what I need every now and then to keep me inspired, connected, motivated, and humble.