Yassss, parenting can be a real drag (GETTY IMAGES)

Gen Z youngsters, like my 12-yearold daughter, are fond of dropping the expression “It’s giving” into conversation. For those readers unfamiliar with this particular turn of phrase (a group comprising many Millennials, a lot of my fellow Gen Xers, and very likely, all Boomers), it’s an abridged way of saying, “This is giving off a vibe much akin to something-or-other.” For example, a toddler scribbles a marker on their face: “It’s giving Post Malone.”

In its brevity, “It’s giving” is giving Singlish, I think—eliminating every possible extraneous word, the same way “Can” radically contracts the statement, “Indeed, we can pursue that course of action, if you wish.” However, much like “Yasss, queen,” “It’s giving” was born in the LGBTQ drag ball subculture, an environment of vibrant creative self-expression. Singlish, meanwhile, was born in Singapore.

Family-friendly, eco-friendly luxury at Nikoi Island

At the time of press, we’re still finalising where we’ll be spending this Christmas as a family. Possibly it’ll be Nikoi, the eco-luxe private island resort off Bintan. My wife and I had the chance to visit the neighbouring adults-only sister island Cempedak earlier this year and were very impressed by its environmentally friendly design and philosophies, the warm and genuine service, paradisical setting, and terrific cuisine. (They’ve just put out a cookbook—could be a nifty gift idea.)

What’s really great about Nikoi and Cempedak, though, is resting easy in the knowledge that your vacay budget isn’t going to some faceless multinational corporation. Instead, it’s supporting a local business that in turn, is funding a foundation actively uplifting some of the most underserved communities in our region.

The Island Foundation, which was founded in 2010 by the owners of Cempedak and Nikoi, aims to provide better learning opportunities for children in small island and coastal communities across Indonesia’s Bintan Regency. Through local teacher training, and the establishment of learning centres (12 thus far) teaching primary-aged kids subjects including English, IT, local culture, health, and environmental protection, the foundation is making a big difference in areas where typically, 77 per cent of children don’t finish school.

“We set out to give back to the community from day one,” says Nikoi cofounder Andrew Dixon. “We began with conversations with local villages. They expressed a need for education, especially in English, so first we set up libraries, providing reading materials.” The libraries quickly evolved into formal learning centres. “We connected with the United World College in Singapore, who assisted in creating a fantastic curriculum,” Dixon explains.

“We have about 600 children enrolled now, and the impact is evident, with over 3,000 kids benefiting so far,” he says. “We conduct teacher training workshops and have identified individuals in the villages to manage these learning centres, investing heavily in their training. They’ve become influential figures in their communities.”

Dixon says there’s a multiplier effect to these efforts; he reckons around 15,000 people have benefited directly or indirectly from the Above: Family-friendly, eco-friendly luxury at Nikoi Island. Opposite page: Yassss, parenting can be a real drag. 29 Agenda foundation’s community programmes. “That’s a significant figure for a small resort,” he says. When COVID shut down the hotels, Dixon explains, individual donors who’d been guests in the past stepped up to continue funding the foundation’s initiatives.

Sustainably constructed bamboo villas at Cempedak Island. Each year, Nikoi and Cempedak donate nearly SGD500,000 to supporting responsible tourism, conservation, local culture and education

Nevertheless, while many who stay at Nikoi and Cempedak do appreciate the fact their spending at the resorts helps support worthy causes, Dixon says the organisation is careful not to shove the charitable angle down people’s throats. “Guests come for the experience, and while we appreciate and welcome their interest in the foundation, we want them to enjoy their stay without feeling overwhelmed by sustainability messages,” he says.

A few years ago I had the chance to interview one of our region’s biggest charitable givers, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, a signatory to Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge (where the world’s richest commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy). This June, in his latest mega-generous endowment, the Aussie mining multibillionaire and his wife gave AUD5 billion to their Minderoo Foundation. The largest single charitable donation in Australian history, this sum will fuel the foundation’s various initiatives, including cleaner oceans, cancer cures, and an end to modern slavery.

Forrest told me he makes grand gestures like this not only to fund the work but to set an example for his fellow super-rich. He said, “Across Asia, including Australia, there’s a defensive mindset” among the very wealthy that leads them to horde their gold like real-life Scrooge McDucks. Instead, Forrest believes, the rich should utilise the talents that got them to the top in business—and the money they’ve earned in that position—to do some good. “The skill you have, which allowed you to accumulate that capital, you should use that skill to distribute capital in the wisest, highest leverage, highest benefit way possible,” he said.

Successful entrepreneurs have a responsibility to give both generously and strategically—in Forrest’s view, they are better qualified to rectify the world’s ills than politicians. When I asked him, playing the devil’s advocate, how he’d respond to the suggestion that perhaps the rich should just Sustainably constructed bamboo villas at Cempedak Island. Each year, Nikoi and Cempedak donate nearly SGD500,000 to supporting responsible tourism, conservation, local culture and education. pay their fair share of tax and let governments fix the big issues, suffice to say, Forrest disagreed enthusiastically.

“I’d say that is moronic—at its kindest. The greatest waste has happened under political leaders who say that. I’ve seen train wrecks created by politicians who’ve said, ‘Actually, we should just pay more tax.’ My response is, ‘Well, can you show me what you achieved with everyone else’s money, once you got your hands on it in the past? Answer: a train wreck,” Forrest said. “To those who’d suggest, ‘Oh, you should just pay more tax’—I’d say, ‘What, so politicians can waste more of it?’”

It’s giving… but not to the tax man. Season’s greetings, dear readers. May 2024 be a gift to us all.


When people say they don’t like camping, it’s usually because they’re attached to the comforts of city living. But what if you didn’t have to stray far from conveniences like running water, restaurants and bathrooms?

What if you could camp right in the middle of your city?

That’s the idea behind “urban camping.” Eager fans waiting for concerts or a store’s opening may have pioneered the practice, but it’s grown beyond securing your spot at the front of a queue. So, why not camp in the city for the joy of the experience itself?

As strange as it may seem, urban camping is having a moment, and it’s hard to ignore.


Urban camping is exactly what the name suggests— camping out in an urban area. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and remote wilderness areas can be hard to get to. Urban camping brings the thrill of sleeping outdoors to the concrete jungle instead of making you hike for hours to get to your spot.

“Camping in a city” is rather vague. That broad umbrella definition can mean several different things, and that’s part of the appeal of urban camping. The practice has a lot of variety—arguably even more so than conventional camping.

For some, urban camping is less about pitching a tent on a sidewalk and more about being near a metropolitan area. That could mean finding a nearby campsite or rolling out your sleeping bag in a park. This way, you get near or even within city limits but still have some more traditional hallmarks of the camping experience.

More hardcore urban campers ditch the grass for asphalt. They may sleep on the roofs of their apartment buildings, find abandoned buildings to camp in, or even opt for sidewalks or parking lots.

Of course, not every city dweller—including some public officials—takes kindly to urban camping. This conflict has led to an extreme subcategory called “stealth camping,” where the idea is to camp where no one will notice you. That could mean sleeping in a car or setting up a hammock in an area with minimal foot traffic.


Whether or not you need to stealth camp, why would you pitch your tent in the city? For some, it’s a matter of convenience. Urban camping lets you enjoy sleeping under the stars without trekking far outside of civilisation. If you forget to pack something or would like to eat out, you can easily run out to a store or restaurant.

Urban camping can also be a thrifty way to travel. Even New York City has camping spots within 50 kilometres of the city, offering a far more affordable alternative to a hotel or Airbnb. Why not save money on lodging to give yourself more to spend on food, drink and entertainment?

Urban camping can be a nice middle ground if you’re a fan of the outdoors but your friends and family don’t share your enthusiasm. Everyone can enjoy the tent experience without worrying about bugs or potentially dangerous wildlife. The proximity to proper toilets, hot showers and good coffee is also hard to overlook, even for the most outdoorsy adventurers.

If nothing else, there’s an undeniable thrill to urban camping. What you lose in connection with nature, you gain in the excitement of the concrete jungle. Willingly pitching a tent on asphalt is so unorthodox that it’ll undeniably draw eyes and attention.

How many others can claim they’ve done the same? If you’re looking for a unique experience or cool story to tell, this is a relatively easy way to get one.

Urban camping also scratches a certain rebellious itch some may have. Even if it’s perfectly legal—which it isn’t always, but more on that later—it’s unusual enough to make a statement. You could see it as a stance against urban sprawl or the monotony of city living.


As unique and exciting as the urban camping experience can be, it carries unique dangers, too. Most prominently, it’s not always legal. Singapore has five authorised camping sites across three parks, and many cities around the globe restrict where you can sleep or pitch tents. If you don’t read up on these regulations before camping, a hefty fine might ruin your weekend.

If you’re not careful, urban camping may also be unsafe. Sure, there aren’t any lions, tigers or bears to worry about, but, oh my, humans can be just as if not more dangerous.

Camping out in the wrong part of town with little more than a tent to protect you is ill-advised if you value your safety. That’s especially true if you’re travelling and don’t know the area well.

Even if you’re not in a riskier part of the city, know that people probably won’t leave you alone. Urban camping is a strange sight, so if your spot sees enough foot traffic, you’ll get a few passers-by staring at you, taking pictures or talking to you about it. For some, that attention is part of the draw of urban camping. For others, it may feel like an invasion of privacy.

Camping purists may also find city landscapes too distracting for an ideal camping experience. Even if you’re in a park, you’ll likely hear more cars going by than you would in a more remote campsite. Cities’ light pollution also makes it harder to see stars, so if you’re looking to reconvene with nature, you’re better off in the woods.


If you don’t mind the noise and attention, urban camping is an experience like no other. Like ordinary camping, though, it requires some preparation to make the most of this adventure.

The most important step is to read up on your destination before planning to camp in the city. Make sure it’s legal before you try it. In most places, you’ll find that some forms of urban camping are totally permissible, but others will get you into trouble.

You’re more likely to be ok in a park or rooftop than you are out on the streets but read local regulations carefully to know for sure.

You may need to get a camping permit, too. You can get one online for one of Singapore’s five legal camping grounds, and many other areas have online portals, too. A parking permit may also be a good idea, depending on your specific urban camping approach.

Next, be sure to camp in a safe area. If you’re unfamiliar with the city, ask locals which places to avoid. Choosing a place with plenty of light and going with a group will make it safer.

One of the best parts about urban camping is that packing is less of an issue. If you realise you need something you forgot, you can run out to a nearby shop to get it. Even so, ensure you have a few essentials—namely, a sleeping bag, lights, a portable charger and appropriate clothing.

You probably can’t build a fire on the sidewalk, so don’t worry about firewood, but you may be able to simulate the experience with a portable gas stove. Just review local regulations before the police take away your means of making s’mores.


Urban camping may not offer all the same things as going into the wilderness, but that’s the point. It’s a unique experience you won’t get with conventional camping or staying at a hotel in the city.

If you’re looking for a way to switch things up, give this weird, unconventional kind of camping a shot. You may just find it’s for you.