It was about five years ago that I made my mind up with a simple decision, one that would change my life. I had, at the tender age of fifteen, decided what my dream is and that I would do all I can to achieve it. I want to travel. From that on, when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I said I wanted to travel, to see the world. When it comes to the point where I had to decide on a career, I decided on a qualification that would take me to places. One that would allow me to travel.
My very first trip overseas was to Thailand, in which my parents had excitedly told me that were going to travel to Bangkok and Pattaya. It was on a group tour, we went around visiting places in a bus. We saw the tigers in the zoo, elephants performed tricks, went to a staged cultural show and sat on a river cruise. We did a couple other things as well, but one thing for sure, the places we visited were tourist attractions. If I might add on, commercialized tourist attractions to be exact.
The next year, I went to Taiwan with my family. Again, we went in a group tour where we visited more commercialized tourist attractions. Although Taiwan was a beautiful place, I didn’t enjoy myself thoroughly. Why? It wasn’t because the places I visited was horrible, it wasn’t because something awful happened. It was always my dream to travel, and now that I was going to places, shouldn’t I be happy?
No, I wasn’t happy. Before the Thailand & Taiwan trip, I thought I knew what travelling meant. I thought it meant visiting beautiful, famous tourist places and going to the local handicrafts shops to buy the souvenirs for your friends back home. After those two trips, I knew travelling wasn’t meant to be like that, at least for me. Visiting commercialized handicrafted tourist attractions is definitely not travelling. Sometimes, I see them as an exploitation. It’s a harsh way to put it, I know.
I told these stories to my dear friend and she then asked,
“What does travelling means to you?”
I gave it some thought and then I realised it was simple really. To most, travelling would be a form of a getaway, to re-energize oneself before you head back to the ‘real’ world. I would agree so much to that, that yes, that is one of the few reasons too. But it is definitely not the main answer to the question. There is so much to travelling, it’s about immersing yourself in whole new culture, a foreign land where everything, almost everything is different from what you are used to back home.
“To live is to experience things, not sit around pondering the meaning of life.” – Paulo Coelho
Travelling is about the experience, where you discover amazing facts, stories that are not written in the books or travel guides. These are the stories you hear from the locals of the places, stories that you stumbled upon because you were curious and you asked. Through these stories, it made me realise just how diverse the cultures in different places are and how different my daily life, my norm is compared to another person. Travelling is a discovery process for me and the best part is you don’t know what to expect but the unexpected.
It’s also about taking chances, because there will never be another better time to do something spontaneous than when you’re travelling. It’s like taking the unbeaten, less travelled roads, heading away from the norm of ‘tourist attractions’. As Paulo Coelho wrote in Aleph, “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.”
But more often than not, I have come to a realization that travelling is about broadening my perspective, opening my mind because like I said earlier, you don’t really know the world until you head out, see it and experience it first hand. It’s never the same to listen or to read about others travel stories. Each time I head out to the road, I start asking more and more questions; questioning things that I would have usually taken for granted in my daily life. Sometimes, these are simple things that we wouldn’t have imagine living without. But travelling makes you realise of the things that truly matters in life and one thing for sure, I looked at life differently since I started travelling.
I had also come to realize what a huge world we live in through travelling, sometimes this very fact can get a little overwhelming because I realize what a tiny space I occupy in this world. But with every trip I take, travelling has broaden my mind with knowledge and adding in breathe taking sights, smells and sensations to my mind. And all this have fuelled my imagination and enabled me to learn more about myself.
And, that is what travelling means to me. But even as I write this I know with the next trip I take, I would come back with another experience and there would be more answers to add to the question. Till then, I cannot wait for the next trip!
* * * * * * * * * *
I decided to end this post with a little fun fact of the pictures I took during my travels. Would you believe me if I told you that all of these pictures were taken in Malaysia? Malaysia is a beautiful country and it will always be my first love. They always say that the grass is greener on the other side, but for me, I think that if we looked just a little harder we’ll find the beauty on this side of the grass.