One of the most frequent questions I get from recent transplants and people thinking of moving to Penang, Malaysia is: “What do you do with your time?” When you move someplace new, you have a chance to make a fresh start. Whether you’re retiring here, working as an expat in Malaysia or retiring early and wondering what to do with yourself, there are lots of unique opportunities in Penang that can help you create a fulfilling, happy life for yourself.
Before we moved here, my mother-in-law gave me some great advice: “Bloom wherever you’re planted.” I think that’s a beautiful way to approach life. To give you some ideas about how to blossom here in Penang, I asked the wonderful people in the Penang Expat Women Facebook group about things they do here that give their lives purpose, meaning and joy. I hope their responses give you some great ideas about what Penang has to offer and how you might bloom here, too:
Kendra Lamont Craig – I spent years before moving here focused on work and my kids and their sports. Once I came here I am no longer able to work so now I get to focus on finding out who I am. I always wanted to learn music so I started learning the violin first and have now added the piano. I then took a chance on an unknown person asking for badminton players. I will never regret sending out that first message. It has been amazing. I am now playing or training 4 days a week. When I am not playing badminton I get to work on my photography (my true passion in life). I am still discovering who I am but so far I really like who is emerging. She is more than just a wife and mother!
Natalia Orbis – Being a foster mom to kittens through the SPCA! And doing things that push me out of my comfort zone: exploring, traveling, learning. Started a container garden and love hacking ways to cook things here with limited ingredients. Exploring food markets and trying something new to eat as often as possible!
Eleanor Poppy Saunders – I’m a performing arts teacher but during the evenings I play in orchestra or jazz band and meet with friends to crochet or attend art events. Penang Philharmonic orchestra and jazz band has lots of events and we’re active on Facebook so can be contacted that way. There are various bars that have live music such as China House, Black Kettle, Talk Talk wine bar and Gusto cafe. Musicians can go to these gigs and talk to anyone there for ideas. For arts events, Hin Bus Depot is the perfect place to start. Just make friends and they’ll tell you where the next event is.
Agnes Deleplanque Kuhns – It is always a challenge when you move around to find the thing that makes your life more interesting. I have always first made sure to find a place to exercise and meet new people. After trying a few new activities such as Chinese painting or Mahjong, I found my one true calling: gemstones. I have been a student in gemology for the past 2 1/2 years and have been loving it. It has been intellectually very fulfilling and definitely very pleasing for the eyes. I take classes online with Gemological Institute of America. So between exercising, friends, kids and my studies, my days are pretty busy.
Rajvender Jaj – I work full time as a VLSI Design Engineer in Intel, Penang. Nights and weekends, I am a self-taught artist and like to experiment and to make projects in different styles. I love incorporating various techniques into my designs. I take classes, exhibit my stuff, and take orders for gifts, return gift for any occasion and any theme, party invites! This is how I spend my free time! This is my latest project. It’s an awesome gift box that I made from scratch. Personalized gift boxes make presents look more beautiful and very special. Beautiful to the eye and special to the heart – that is the charm of handmade stuff!
Sandra Perkins – I have a couple of clients to keep my head in that game, I study sometimes, I play games and do physical activity and I am now hoping to expand my cultural activities. But most importantly I nourish my relationships that are important to me. I have family and friends in other countries and friends here and I keep those active to different degrees depending. My closest relationships are probably my most valuable and most fulfilling parts of my life.
Rachel Craig – As well as a full-time mum of 3, I play around on my computer making things, logos, flyers, websites. I’ve made a couple of school yearbooks, help friends with their businesses & charities etc.
Shirley Fedorak – I write academic books for university courses. When I’m between contracts I return to my real passion, writing fiction. My husband and I love to meet new people and explore beautiful Penang. We’ve joined the Monday morning coffee get-togethers and I’ve joined a book club.
Wiki Leslie – Well my life revolves around my family and our 5 kids. I am a mama so that is what I do. “My time” I spend exercising, drinking and eating all the yummy things Penang offers…oh and having foot massages with cool chicks.
Joanne Hipkiss – We retired here to Penang and I felt I wanted to do something worthwhile. I helped with Tenaganita [a group dedicated to protecting migrants, refugees, women and children from exploitation, slavery, human trafficking and discrimination] for a while. And now I help Dawn Mitchel to raise funds and support the Batu Grace orphanage over in Kulim. It’s very fulfilling and makes the week more purposeful. Of course I also enjoy massages and manicures etc. plus coffee mornings and lunches with a varied amount of friends. There are so many wonderful people here in Penang you can’t help but get involved. Oh and I love playing golf too.
Rachel Murray – I’m studying at university, work a few days a week and also look after my 4 kids. For a break I love to hike, exercise and explore Penang. I try to check out a few new cafes every week with lovely friends. For me there is nothing better than heading into Georgetown and wandering around Little India or Armenian Street and just soaking it all in. My faves at the moment are Chapel St, Secawan n such, Kraffman, Awesome Canteen, Bibis, Gustos, Hillside, Ferringhi Gardens. I love burgers so have been a regular at Tom Burgers and Two Buns recently too. I generally search up lists from Penang Foodie to find new places to try! Always a new spot and great food.
Jaime Way – I’m writing my first novel. I hesitate to call it a novel at only 8,000 words but the kids start school soon, so maybe the word count will start to rise soon.
Liz Alexander – Recently arrived (just under 3 weeks), I’m still reveling in the low cost of living here, which has given me the freedom to gift myself a “year off.” But because I need to keep my brain active, I’ve started to learn Bridge, take part in pub quiz night at Healy Mac’s (we’re always winning, lol!), and am toying with a couple of literary non-fiction book ideas plus travel stories I might sell (I’ve been a journalist and author of 21 non-fiction books to date, for 30-odd years). All in all, I’d say being able to “please myself” for the first time in decades has stimulated a great sense of meaning and happiness…not least discovering new friends and (like any good improviser) saying “Yes, and…” to opportunities that arise. What a gift, right?
Cimeron Morrissey (hey, that’s me!) – Well, I spend some of my time writing this blog to help other expats, and to provide inspiration, tips and a bit of laughter for fellow adventure addicts. For work, I’m a magazine writer. When I’m between stories, I love experiencing Penang’s festivals. I also like taking classes on Coursera (which offers free online classes from top universities around the world) to learn about all kinds of things I’ve always wanted to study but never had time to do back home. It’s really fulfilling to be able to follow my curiosity and learn about things like Bitcoin and artificial intelligence (to prepare for the robot uprising :-). ) When I can, I help a variety of animal welfare groups to promote conservation efforts for endangered species, and spay/neuter and adoption for domestic animals. We travel as much as possible since there’s so much to experience here in SE Asia, and I love, love, love the adventures we have. And when we’re in Penang, my husband and I kiteboard and foilboard whenever it’s windy, and we do goofy things with our friends that make us laugh. And since I am absolutely obsessed with monkeys, I make it my mission to see at least one family of them each week. They’re so flipping cute and they always make me smile.
Nadine Rupert – I am a full-time lecturer at a local university and proud mother of three, so that does not really allow time for own hobbies. But as part of my job I train Malaysian students in nature conservation and related issues. Penang is a treasure chest of natural wonders. Virtually in the backyard of Georgetown and in close proximity to nearly 1 million inhabitants and tourists, we find lush green hills and a 130 million year old rainforest. While many locals may take this for granted, as a foreigner, the beauty of this biodiversity is still awesome to me. So I made it my mission to study this amazing and unique ecosystem and train local students in how to do proper research, and together we educate the local communities, and people nationwide, about the importance of a healthy ecosystem. I welcome anybody interested to learn about Malaysia’s biodiversity and Penang’s wonders to join one of my projects. For Penangites, Langur Project Penang might be interesting, as it is conducted on the island.
Penang is a great place full of wonderful people (and monkeys!), and it’s fun to find new ways to bloom here. I hope you’ll blossom here as well!