Hiraeth for Home

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This might be the best way to describe how I feel much of the time, a feeling for which I have yet to find a word to describe satisfactorily in English. A constant feeling that something is missing, that something has been lost, something that perhaps never existed or I have never known.

To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognise it as familiar.
– Pamela Petro, Dreaming in Welsh

As humans, it is perhaps unavoidable that we crave a sense of belonging, some sort of rootedness, an identification with a place to call home, a place to come back to and rest our weary bodies in the comfort of the knowledge this, this and everything it represents, is you. Yet, despite having been born in Singapore and having lived here almost all my life, I don’t quite feel that way towards this place.

When I travel, there is always the excitement of going somewhere new, of seeing something new, of creating new memories and of forging new relationships. As much as I relish the prospect of all these novel experiences and find them intoxicating, there is always this unspoken hope that perhaps, this time, I will be going home.

People who find out that I’m just about to embark on this strange travel-journey-hiatus-exploration-adventure thing almost inevitably ask Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you going away? Sometimes, it is phrased as What do you hope to achieve? or even What are you doing?, often in a tone of mild admiration tinged with a surprise which barely masks a whole lot of bemused incredulity. But ultimately, what everyone seems to want to know is the reason for undertaking such a seemingly pointless activity. And while I may give a myriad of answers to these questions, perhaps the real answer is because i have this hiareth on me, a hiraeth for home. I suppose then, only finding home, whatever or wherever that may be, will finally let me rest my weary body somewhere that is me, with all my imperfections and oddities.

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Wrocław, Poland, July 2011

Packing List Post!

It’s 4 weeks to D(eparture)-day and I am super excited, but am also increasingly being struck by pre-departure jitters. One of the things I’ve started doing is working on putting together a packing list. I haven’t even thought about what clothes to bring, and it already feels too long. Hopefully, I don’t end up with a giant 17kg backpack like I did on my virgin backpacking trip around Europe. That was…quite disastrous, even though I didn’t even realize I was lugging around a third of my body weight on my back until I was stopped at immigration in Warsaw.

17kg backpack with sneakers dangling off it for perspective (also because the sneakers didn’t fit into the pack)
Verona, Italy, June 2011

Unfortunately, my poor backpack didn’t manage to withstand the physical torture I put it through, and this pack was laid to rest after I returned from Europe.

This time, I’m a little wiser (I hope). Even though my pack (pictures soon to come!) can hold a massive 62 litres, I’m hoping I will not ever use that much space and stick with a much more manageable 40-45 litres instead. I wanted to get the 55 litre version of this, but they didn’t have them in my size. I should have gotten a smaller pack anyway, but I suppose time will tell. In any case, suggestions as to what I should (or should not) bring on my trip are most welcome! Do leave a comment if you have any thoughts!

In the meanwhile, back to the packing list!

Terrify Yourself

Which is exactly what I’m doing. Quitting my job and buying this one way ticket is just about the most terrifying thing I have ever done. But doing it is the only way to ensure I succeed. There is no room for failure. Once I’m there, far for the entrapments of daily life, there will be nothing else to do but survive and make it work. I know that this is what I want to do, and I’m going to go out and do it, regardless of what anyone says.

This article (courtesy of my friend, Ann) sums it up pretty nicely. That fear, of the unknown, of failure, of anything and everything can be harnessed to work for you. To push you onward to greater things, things you would not have achieved otherwise. I suppose that is true in some ways. But it’s always comforting to know that should things really not work out the way you had intended (note that that I say “the way you had intended” and not “the way you planned” – it’s impossible to plan, there being too many variables and unknowns to account for), you have people to fall back on. For this, I am eternally grateful to my family, because I know that no matter how badly I screw up, they’ll be there.

I guess it’s always important to give thanks for the things in life we have, even as we chase our dreams with a relentless fury and passion that hopefully, come to fruition in the form of amazing things.

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Inle Lake, Burma, August 2013

Countdown: 6 weeks – 1 day

39 days to my last day of work, and 41 days till I get on a plane out of here. I’m excited, nervous, apprehensive and convinced this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my very short life.

Last night, I forwarded my flight itineraries to my family. Singapore to Cochin on 17 November, Cochin to Dubai on 21 November, Dubai to Buenos Aires on 24 November. Obviously, there is no return ticket to Singapore. I hope this will be enough for my parents to realize that I probably won’t be back in a month or two. It’s mildly terrifying, not having a plan, but also curiously liberating. I guess time will tell how wise this decision is, but I’d rather find out on my own then be told by people who have never left.

In the meanwhile, life continues with all of its banalities – work and responsibilities, with the occasional meet up with friends to keep my sanity in check. It’s odd to think that these people will no longer be such a major part of my life as I go out and explore new places, meet new people and forge new friendships. I suppose that’s life. It’s interesting how travel is so much a reflection of the lives we could lead, but don’t. For whatever reason, too often, we choose to cloister ourselves within the familiar, when the unfamiliar has so much more to offer. Whatever works for you, I’ve decided this doesn’t work for me. I shall go my own way and find what does work for me. And hopefully, when I do return, it will be as a better person.

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Marrakesh, Morocco, April 2011