I live in Los Angeles with my husband and almost two-year-old son. While LA is my physical home, I have family scattered globally. Every year, we try and meet somewhere in Southeast Asia – either in Australia, Singapore, or Malaysia. Since we are all spread everywhere, it’s hard to not depend on technology with the ease and convenience of video calls. That is why balancing analogue and digital is very important to me. There are days that seem overwhelmingly hyper-connected. Having even 10 minutes with my TN makes my day so much calmer. Being mindful and intentional with my time helps too.
My husband is going back to grad school this Fall so time management is much more important now. (He had me set up my blue Pan Am regular sized TN for him to use in school ~ that feeling was super amazing!!) When we are not busy with work and (soon) school, we love taking our son to parks, checking out local coffee shops, watching movies together, reading, or just tinkering around with our analogue tools. My husband loves his 3D printers, and my son loves scribbling with crayons on flip charts (I usually have one at home for him to color or “doodle” on instead of on the walls).
I am a bridge-builder. I direct a leadership development program that unlocks the potential we have to create changes within our communities. When you lean on other people, you become better than you ever believed possible. That is a huge part of the power of community. I truly believe our nation is stronger when all citizens participate in shaping our democracy.
Nature is an amazing source of inspiration for me. Growing up on an island, water has always been a source of fascination. I’ve always loved the sound of crashing waves on the beach: the movement, the sound, the foam when it crashes on the shore and slowly pulls back into the ocean and comes back again. Water teaches me to be resilient – to bend, stretch myself out of my comfort zone and it is okay because I can spring back to where I am planted.
From time to time, when I need an analogue recharge, I always head to my happy place; to find inspiration, to connect with my community, and to just simply be me, Baum-kuchen.
“I strive to be respectful in my surroundings and know that everyone that I meet is put there in my path for a reason, and I should always be curious to learn and share experiences with them. Curiosity is always better than assumption.”
In this current era of technology, information, and digital life sharing, I often feel overwhelmed and at the same time, challenged, to keep up with everything that is happening around me. At the same time, I also recognized that technology is supposed to make life easier. Yet, if I feel overwhelmed, how can it make my life easier, better?
Being cognizant of this fact, I try and balance out my life on both ends. I do put in my schedule in a shared Google calendar with my husband. It helps manage both our schedule, and at the same time, I also have the same schedule in my analogue system. There have been a few times where our digital schedule has failed us due to phone battery dying or low connectivity issues where we can’t access the calendar. I love whipping out my TN and just rattling off the schedules that we have for the next few days. Nothing beats a wife knowing when to flash her analogue system and acknowledging that it has yet to fail us!
“For me, the reason for analogue vs. digital is simple. I want to live and experience my life and not just record it. Being present is a priority. I consciously focus on not turning my brain off for a digital experience or gratification.”
There’s nothing bad or evil about digital cameras, smartphones, or even social media. I just need to constantly remind myself that they are tools; tools to be used in a disciplined manner so that I am actually living life. My analogue tools help me be present to experience life and have a more tactile feel to it.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved notebooks and writing utensils. That defining moment in my life was definitely when I saw Sean Connery, writing in the Grail Diary, in Indiana Jones. It was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – the way that leather looked, all the glossy patina, and aged leather. He was writing down important notes for future reference and safekeeping about the Holy Grail. That action stuck with me: writing down important notes, memories, and future references. Since then, I have always kept a notebook with me, everywhere I go.
In my quest for the perfect notebook system, I scoured everywhere and tried (almost) everything. When I stumbled onto the Traveler’s Notebook system, I WAS BLOWN AWAY! It was surprising to me that I did not know about this amazing configuration, considering that I had tried almost every type I could find! In my early years (before using the TN system), I would print out my own calendar and build my own planner. Monthly calendars were printed on blank B5 papers and I had a Kokuyo Color Palette binder that would house my monthly, grid papers, lined papers, blank papers, to house my various notes and projects that I was working on. It was bulky and didn’t make sense at all as an EDC. That was why when I found the TN system, it just fits into my life and flowed really well.
I Googled everything I could learn about the Traveler’s Notebook and watched almost every YouTube video about it. Narrowing my search locally, I found that there was a boutique store that sold them, and the best part was that they were based in LA! I went to visit the store during their next available opening hours. My first experience with the Traveler’s Notebook was very much intertwined with Baum-kuchen. I visited the store 5 years ago, met with Wakako, who patiently explained the system and the different inserts and ways to use them. I left the store armed with my TN system ready to go. Suffice it to say that my visit to BK studio was love at first sight, and I continue to go back again and again because their love for analogue simply fits with my needs and lifestyle.
My analogue system combines both work and personal. Over the years, I have come to realize that I did not like maintaining multiple planners – it does not work for me and made it more of a chore than helping me keep track of things.
My TN is my catch-all planner. It currently houses my monthly calendar (which has both personal and work items: appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. - the functional side of my planning), a grid insert for bullet journaling, and a thin notebook for on-the-go journaling/observations. I love using BK’s Tomoe River paper insert for my journaling. It keeps my planner thin and does not bulk up. By the time it does slightly bulk up, it’ll be time to swap to a new insert. A kraft folder and a plastic insert that I hacked hold pictures of loved ones. It’s thin and wraps around my inserts nicely without adding bulk. The front pocket of my TN has my cards and cash, while the back pocket holds some ephemera and loose change.
"There’s something special about my TN that I cannot let go. Ever since the BK Inspiration Lab with TSL, it’s even more impossible to leave my TN behind."
Most of the time, I use my TN as a wallet. At the BK Inspiration Lab, The Superior Labor and BK team breathed new life into my TN. I love the convenience of minimizing my carry and having it all in a place where I can grab it and go. If I’m not using my TN, I would use my TSL x BK Travel for Life wallet. I have used this wallet during my travel multiple times, and I love the versatility of it: holding my passport, different money sizes from different countries, and the zipper part keeps my important stuff secured.
Occasionally, my passport TN would accompany me when I need to lighten my load, but my main always up-to-date would be my regular TN.
I have the BK Travel for Life brass plate sewn on my cover and Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost embossed on the front cover as well. I’ve had this TN with me for the past 5 years and am looking forward to more adventures with my TN. Initially, I would hesitate to sew anything on my cover. However, I realized that the more I use and personalize it, the more it would suit me and have my personal touch on it. Since then, I have been experimenting on my TNs more and more, by sewing a pen loop on my TN, inspired by @patrickng.
This year, I decided to try out the Jibun Techo. I wanted something that I can combine monthly and weekly, as well as to be able to have an entire year in a notebook for archiving purposes. This notebook helps out with planning and forward planning for work, and breaking down my days in a weekly format, which helps with planning my days effectively. I tried bringing it out with me as an everyday carry, but quickly realize that my system is perfectly fine with my TN as my EDC. My Jibun Techo is currently my catch-all planner that stays on my desk at home.
Of course, once you go down the rabbit hole of TNs, you will eventually reach the rabbit hole of fountain pens! I have several fountain pens in my collection and rotate usage. The ones that are always in my BK pen holder are my Pilot Prera (Thanks to Ame and Eunice at BK for recommending this to me – I love it) and my TWSBI Eco FP. I love having these two because of the different line strokes for my pages. I also carry a gray midliner and a Pilot Juice 0.4. These pens are always in my bag.
For my creative outlet, I have a separate TN which is usually filled with doodles, splotches of watercolor, occasional attempt at calligraphy, and mostly collaging - ripping pictures from magazines and newspapers and pasting them into my notebook. The action of ripping the pictures out from the magazines or paper helps me remember that everything does not need to be perfect, and that life is what you make out of it. It can be perfect or imperfect, and what matters is the perspective that my life is seen from me. As long as I remember that if I live my life to the fullest, I am living the best life for me, my life is my own.
Sometimes, I go on Instagram and admire the beauty of the different styles that we have in the analogue community. Different accounts inspire differently. These are accounts that I usually check:
- For aesthetics: @TheDailyRoe, @Pooi_Chin, @ninjatraveling, @skybambi.
- For regular sized TNs: @patrickng, @inkimperfections, @wakako_baumkuchen.
- For passport sized TNs: @seaweedkisses, @thecuriousnomad, @kathwrites.
Other times, I listen to podcasts. Currently, I’m listening to How I Built This with Guy Raz. I find it super fascinating hearing the different processes and a-ha moments for entrepreneurs out there. From time to time, I would also check out Yes I’m Hot In This, which is an Instagram account featuring a webcomic about the musings of a slightly sweaty Muslim-American woman.
Books are also a source of inspiration. Right now, I’m reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, a book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The premise is that the ideas that make it – what is called sticky ideas – share a series of common traits, which include both simplicity and unexpectedness. By crafting ideas in the way they’re presented, according to these and several other guidelines, leaders will increase their influence and their effectiveness.
I feel that there are too many distractions and noise in the life that we live in now. Too often, we don’t stop to smell the roses or enjoy that last glimpse of the sun before it sets. Living with an almost two-year-old toddler at home is the best teacher I can have on mindfulness and intentionality. Seeing his focus when he plays with his building blocks or stacking his mega blocks, makes me appreciate the little moments I have in life. Life should be lived in the now, where it is all happening – the past and future are just memories and illusions. It’s important to have memories and be able to revisit them from time to time, that is why the now is important in creating those memories.
“I wouldn’t want to look back and see that I have missed out on my now because I was chasing for that better future I’d always dreamed of.”
That’s why my analogue system works for me. It’s a place where I write my hopes and dreams, my plans and to-dos, so that I can focus on my now. Knowing that my analogue system keeps them safe for me helps me focus on my now, more intentionally.
You can find Soraya at: Instagram: @tinkerworld
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