As a child, I always wanted to travel. Apart from school trips, our family didn’t have the luxury of globe-trotting together. We did, however, go to Indonesia, where my mother’s from, and some places in neighbouring Malaysia. Travelling out of South East Asia, seemed unreal to me.
Eight years ago, when I was about 24, I went through a bad breakup. I was not inspired and had no mood to go to work. At work one day, I saw an ad which said: “Flight to Japan from Singapore for SGD370 (US$260).” I called my best friend and asked her what she thought about going on a two-week trip to Japan with me, just the two of us. She said, “I’m all up for it but, what about your dad?”
You see, my father was a very strict man. Even at twenty-four, I had a curfew. Sometimes, if I wanted to watch a midnight movie with my friends or cousins, I had to ask him for permission beforehand. That night, at dinner, I sat with him at the table, “Pak…” I nervously asked “I want to go travel around Japan with Hani… can I?”
To my surprise, my dad told me to go see the world
He looked at me and calmly answered, “Allah created the world for us to explore. Go see the world. Observe your surroundings, and how people elsewhere live. Learn about their culture, always be polite, and stay humble. Learn the good things, and take them back home with you. Take notice of things that you take for granted, and be grateful for what you have.”
I did things I never knew I would
His unexpected answer changed my life. After that trip, I went on another, and another, and another. I strolled through the compounds of historic palaces and temples.
I found myself hiking mountains and ridges.
I found myself on secluded beaches.
I found myself driving lost in a jungle.
I went on urban explorations and discovering quaint cafés with good coffee. I did things I never knew I would. I bungee-jumped, zip lined to an island, paraglided, and sky jumped off the Macau Tower. I gazed at stars; I would have never seen in Singapore. I found myself spending endless time taking a break from my hectic life to just stare at the sky.
Part of the joy of going on a trip is planning them. I read books, and I read blogs. Even before I arrive at the destination, I am already excited. Through the planning, I learnt to manage my finances, and plan my budget efficiently.
Travelling forced me to step out of my comfort zone. I am not a social person by nature, but from my trips, I’ve met a few friends with whom I still keep in contact till now. I learnt to be independent, and am no longer afraid to ask for directions.
I allow myself to be lost in translation, and in my own world
During my trips, I allow myself to be lost in translation, and in my own world. I learnt to observe and appreciate all that’s going on around me. I found peace within myself. I also learnt to be more easy-going—since I know that I can’t do everything that I planned. Instead, I just take a step back and go with the flow.
Before I knew it, I ended up exhausting all my vacation leaves on travel. Some places I visited more than once. (I am not a full-time traveller. I have a full-time job.)
One day in 2015, my father was watching a documentary on Iceland. He called me over and asked me if I wanted to visit Iceland. Up till then, I had only visited countries around Asia and Australia.
“Look,” he said pointing at the glaciers on TV, “how great is God’s creation? Why don’t you go and see how it’s like to be humbled by such grand nature?”
A few weeks after, he passed on.
Last year, I visited Iceland, along with a few cities in Europe.
You’re right Dad—it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Where I’ve Been
Image Credit: Sri Purti