One of the many wise things my old man once told me was: “Experience both good and bad. For without bad, how can one know what is good?”
That resonated with me for years to come, together with other fatherly wisdom like “There’s no need to call me for help- until you are in a police car.”
So that’s not your typical Asian dad advice and it raised all kinds of suspicion in my rebellious angsty teenage days. But he was onto something. Instead of cornering me into obedience, he left the learning and decision-making based on experiencing both ends of a spectrum to me.
And that, my friends, is why we should travel.
Truth is, the good, the bad, the world is relative. Cold showers are annoying. Relative to warm showers? Or to Nicki Minaj on repeat?
PLEASE GOD, NO.
Rest assured, I would take a year of cold showers instead of having to listen to “Freedom” one more time on the radio.
When one sees beyond the bubble of circumstances which forms the entirety of your identity and existence, one begins to put things into perspective. Our circumstances are wholly but unfortunately built upon simple things like our jobs, schools, neighbourhood, friends and our collective view of and interaction with all of the above. Your opinion of these may be formed on the basis of the majority view of your community.
For example, take the opinion that the Malaysian public transport systems are shit. It may also be affected by international mass media – TV, newspapers, magazines, the almighty internet. You see bullet trains in Japan and complex subway networks in New York and London and you draw conclusions.
God bless the TV for delivering my daily dose of Spongebob Squarepants. But it truly is just a cluster of colours, motion and sound delivered to you in pixels. Before it got to you, it has been manipulated, moulded, changed, edited, torn apart and put together so that you see exactly what the director wants you to see. The point I’m making is – how much is out there that cannot be conveyed via medium but only through experience?
So the Malaysian public transport system is a minefield. I used to think that too.
And then, I spent 5 days in Vietnam.
Okay, maybe Malaysian public transport isn’t such an issue after all.
And then, I spent 5 weeks in Uganda.
I was on my knees singing praises to the gods of buses and trains for having spared my country.
Uganda: Trains so infrequent that it’s literally okay to prance around the tracks. Photocredit – demotix.com
But such is life, isn’t it?
I love that I hail from Malaysia truly Asia, the land of durians and butchered English.
I love that I grew up in a dynamic, developing environment and then was lucky enough to have lived in Australia for the past 7 years. Safe to say that whatever your circumstance, humans complain and whinge to anyone who is willing to listen. While I was promised (and delivered) a comparably higher quality of life, Australians complain about the same thing Malaysians do. The traffic, the government, the education system, the public transport system, the city planning.
While people clog The Age’s server with negative reviews and my Facebook newsfeed fills up with swearing and sarcastic remarks the one day a train is delayed by 5 minutes at rush hour in Melbourne, I am grateful a train exists.
I guess I travel for numerous reasons but this is my main motivator and favourite. The diversity of location is physical in the act of travel and one can stop at that, or one can find in it the shift in paradigm and perspective. Extend the simple opinion of the public transport system to a people, a culture, communities, religion, governments, way of lives and with every new country and new people I get in touch with, I feel like I am one step closer to truly understanding my place in the world and how to be the best human being I can be given the circumstances I have been presented.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
YES, MIRIAM, YES IT IS!
Sooooo… why do you travel?