After fourteen months of living in London I’ve decided it’s time to say bon voyage. It’s a city where something new happens on every street corner yet I gave very little attention to any of it. I did exactly the opposite of what I said I would do before moving there, so if I’m not indulging this truly great city then I’m just burning a hole in my pocket and that’s stupid.
Misusing my time and wanting to use my money for something other than rent is not the only reason why I’ve decided to say adios. There is another reason that hangs over me like a dull cloud, a reason that reverberates around my mind and sits in my stomach. It is something I can’t just turn off like a switch.
It’s the feeling I get when I’m not listening to that important, little voice at the back of my head, the one that’s asking the simple question: “Are you doing everything you can do to make yourself happy?”
Saying all this aloud makes me wince a little bit, but the desire to share my feelings with someone who might be able to relate to me outweighs the timidity of opening up.
My heart is telling me to travel, to get away, to move, to be on my own, create new memories and find new experiences that can’t be found from sitting in front of a computer screen. And that’s what I’m going to do for a little while in Southeast Asia.
After the chaos of our teenage years, we are told, if not directly then implicitly, that our twenties is the decade we carve out a career for ourselves; chasing promotions by staying late in the office and reaching target after target. Even if we don’t like our jobs we are advised to stick at it because it will be our golden ticket onto the property ladder. Our safe haven. We are supposed to consider ourselves ‘successful’ if we manage to achieve financial security, but what does it matter if in order to get there we had to sacrifice a fulfilled life? What really is success if we have to trade-off a chunk of our dreams and happiness to get there?
The most important quality that’s often lost is childlike joy, once the rigmarole of responsibilities becomes common ground in adulthood. Maybe it’s lost even before then. It’s sad. Where did the wonder go that was surgically replaced with kept-in-secret daydreaming? What gave us the idea that this is a requirement for adulthood?
Thankfully, I think travelling helps preserve or get back that childlike wonder. Something we should never lose. NEVER EVER!
The last time I went away for a substantial period was in 2009 when I went to China to teach English, and since then I’ve been to some incredible places which have satiated my desire to see the world between study and work, but no matter how much I try to convince myself that these are enough; I’m only kidding myself.
For this trip, the desire to travel comes from an overwhelming urge to be by myself. It will not be about trying to see everything like many of my trips are often about. At the beginning I will be meeting Ruchi in Kuala Lumpa, from there we’ll go to Burma for two weeks and after that she’ll fly back to London and I’ll be left up to my own devices, as well as spending some time with family in Malaysia.
I want to know how I’ll handle getting lost, being truly exhausted and with no one to moan to, trusting strangers, language barriers, taking wrong turns, and generally all the stuff that adds some vibrant discomfort to travelling. Those moments will be interesting and rather like an endurance test to myself.
I’m excited. I need this change.