SLICE OF LIFE
There is never a dull moment in Dalad Harivarawongse's hectic life. The 48-year-old marketing director at Armstrong Industrial Thailand seems to juggle her responsibilities as business executive and working mother to near perfection, and still has the energy to indulge in her hobbies which include a broad spectrum of interests - photography, sports, travel and animal conservation, with an emphasis on elephants.
Dalad Harivarawongse at Bryce Canyon national park, Utah.
Judging from the fact that she keeps herself busy as a bee, her motto in life - carpe diem - does not come as very much of a surprise. The straight-taking yet fun-loving Harvard graduate seems to have mastered the art of time management to a T.
"My recipe for time management simply stems from my self-indulgence. I was born hyperactive and I constantly force myself into doing everything I want. My top priorities come in this order: family, which I respond to with emotions of love; work, which means responsibility; and me, which conjures feelings of spirituality. I do not prioritise work. Family comes first, so I usually spend most of the day with my husband and kids," she said.
"Despite the hours being shorter at work, I am highly driven and dedicated to finishing my projects. The fact that I am a fast and result-orientated worker has put me into a habit of getting everything settled within the time-frame I have given myself."
Despite being a people person, Dalad enjoys travelling alone, and whenever possible with her family.
"Since most of the destinations I visit are remote and beyond technology's reach, I am by myself. I learn to cut myself off from the outside world, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. No phonecalls, no business discussions, just purely nature around me," she said. "I have been living this kind of life for many years, and in an attempt to strike a balance, I have learned that in order to get everything, you have to sacrifice a little of everything. There is definitely no win-win situation here."
Travelling and photography are an integral part of Dalad's "me time". Her heart leads her mind when it comes to places she wants to visit. Out of a handful of memorable trips she has made to date, the executive ranks visiting the Antarctica in 2006 as one of the most exhilarating.
"Setting foot on the White Continent, a place where animals have their right of way over us, was a special experience. My son, who was nine at the time, and I took off from Ushuaia, Argentina, and journeyed for two days across Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific meet, believed to be one of the roughest seas on earth. When we finally arrived at the Antarctic Peninsula, it was worth the effort and physical obstacles we'd encountered," she said.
Deciding to have her honeymoon in French Polynesia, back in 1994, turned out to also be an eventful sojourn. It took the couple two days to fly to Pape'ete, Tahiti. They spent two weeks island-hopping Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tearoa and Huahine. There was everything from jungle trekking, diving, sailing, shopping and even feeding sharks by hand.
Dalad's visit to the Chadar Trek in Ladakh, India, this year was probably the most physically demanding for her due to the freezing temperatures. It is believed to be one of the most arduous hikes in the world, as it takes you along the frozen, snow-blanketed Zanskar River. While the trek itself did not pose a challenge for her, she said the climate and geological structure of the route is most demanding on the body. Dalad said temperatures can range from -13C in the daytime to -30C at night. It can even plummet to -40C with wind chill.
The trek for her was like practicing meditation; one has to remain conscious of what you are doing the entire time.
Trekking is great stress-buster, she said, and calls it her dhamma teacher.
"I practice being a hermit whenever I go hiking as most of my treks are off the beaten track and off season," said Dalad. "I am literally alone, without a soul in sight. The natural grandeur always wakes me up to the realisation that I am only a tiny spec of dust in this huge world and that by being a humble, I will be granted favours by the people that I come in contact with. It's like a subliminal process of enlightenment is occurring within your soul. I learn to look forward to the future, yet live and do my best in the present."
Dalad said that as a stress-prone person, she tends to choose activities that help soothe her nerves. Aside from trekking, sailing has a calming influence on her. Being out at sea, riding the wind and waves, you need to keep your patience in tune with the ability to focus, ruminate and adjust to the moment.
Sailing has taught her sportsmanship as well as how to respect other people's rights.
While the aforementioned activities have been great remedies for stress, she said one that what tops it all is offering a helping hand to anyone who is in distress. It should also not always involve fiscal support. Donating blood has been an enriching experience for her, as well alleviating pain for both people and animals.
As an avid conservationist, Dalad is always ready to help when the need arises. A couple of years ago, she and Doyle, her eldest son, visited Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. The eco-tourism experience had a major impact on them.
"While we were there as volunteers for just a week, the elephants we came across stole our hearts. The sanctuary houses mostly abused or crippled elephants, yet what we encountered were creatures that stood tall and proud, despite their impairment," she said. "We returned from the trip determined to support these gentle giants in every way possible, which includes fundraising, awareness campaigns and offering all the effort needed to improve the condition of Thai elephants, both in the wilderness and those in captivity." On the work side, Dalad seems equally motivated to give it her all. Managing a family business is no run-of-the-mill occupation, but this arts major seems to have mastered it quickly enough.
The factory she manages has been around for 35 years, passed on to her after her father's death. Although her title is marketing director, she is basically in charge of everything. At the moment, she is working to restructure the company to become an even lower cost producer without effecting quality. The more obstacles she encounters, the more effort she puts into achieving favourable results. When work is looked at as a challenge, the process of overcoming hurdles that are put up along the way become an adventure.
How does she view the competition?
"I do not view the world as a competition, as I do not compete with others but myself. Whenever I want to reach a goal, I never think that I am going to win, but I am very confident that I will not give up. My dad always taught me to be a fighter, and as passionate as I am, I believe in my hunch that I will finally make it. This 'can do' attitude from my dad empowers me to forge ahead - it is actually my magic wand that keeps me from feeling defeated."