I love travelling, but not so that I could update the social media friends and let them know that I am somewhere cool and you should envy me, I actually feel sorry for people who think that way because I don’t think they are fully present in the moment and taking it all in when they are travelling. They are busy looking for approval from social media friends who probably won’t give a rat’s ass about you the moment you really need help. I don’t hate people who think this way, I just feel somewhat sorry for them because they have the opportunity to travel that others can only dream about and yet their mind is elsewhere instead of immersing themselves in the culture and local colour of the place that they are travelling to. I’m not saying it’s superficial to take pictures, on the contrary, I love taking pictures as well and uploading them to social media because sometimes pictures are better memory keepers than our own memory. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of every day life, we tend to forget the rich moments that made us feel alive and then after a few months or after a few years, you stumble upon your photos by chance, and they make you pause for a while and they take you back to that time when you felt that utter elation that you felt when those photos were taken.
I travel because it gives me the opportunity to break away from routine once in a while and it allows me to go to different places, meet different people who speak a different language, and get an idea about their culture, practices, and history. I learned that once you immerse yourself in their world, you suddenly have this myriad of realisations that your hometown is not the only hometown in this world; your culture and culinary traditions are not the only culture and culinary traditions in this world; your religious and spiritual beliefs are not the only religious and spiritual beliefs in this world. Travelling makes me small that it makes me realise that I am not the only person in this world and that the world doesn’t revolve around me. It makes me feel so minuscule that I am always in awe of everything that I end up taking for granted when I’m at home that it ultimately humbles me to my knees.
I crave for that adrenaline rush when I realise that I am right smack in the middle of a night market of a foreign country where nobody knows who I am and I don’t have to go to work tomorrow and that I am but a little ant in the middle of the road filled with people that speak different languages I don’t understand and the night air is a bit chilly and it fogs my breath. There is that certain joyful sadness in moments like those. I am in this sea of people and I am nobody and when I look up to the night sky pierced with tiny, scattered stars, I can feel the biting chill of the wind on my face and I let it sink into my consciousness that I am but a speck in this vast universe, and I am okay with that.
The realisations don’t stop when I’m not travelling, though. Sometimes I would find those poignant moments tucked into a regular day of routine. They are few and far in between that it’s hard for me not to remember them. Just like when I’m on the third level of a parking lot and the wind is beginning to get a bit chilly because of the northeast monsoon. It’s dusk already but the lights aren’t being turned on yet and so the light I see is the purple light that the sky makes and I realise it’s beautiful. I try to take a picture but the camera will never do it justice, so I put the phone away and hold on to the railings and just soak it all in, close my eyes and take a deep breath, and just like that the moment is gone.
Sometimes when I’m driving late at night, when there are fewer cars around and the city is beginning to lull itself to sleep, I feel the vastness of where I am and of how small and insignificant I can be. I think to myself that I can drive to anywhere I want to go. I could go to the nearby sea town or go all the way up north and I can stop wherever I want and then just look up at the stars and feel my heart in this vast expanse of the universe and know that I am not greater than anybody and not less than anybody. I am just a part of billions. I may not be able to change the world, but I can start with me and I can try to reach people near me who believe the same truths that I do or who share the same sentiments or realisations as I do and maybe they wouldn’t feel so misunderstood and alone. We are all under the same sky anyway.