Goodbyes Are Hard.

I started writing this when I said goodbye to you. And when you left. And when I left you. And we both went our separate ways. I started writing this in my head, after every goodbye I’ve ever said that’s broken my heart, and left me wishing goodbye wasn’t even a word that existed. I started writing this years ago, but I’ve only just put it into words.

Recently, my friend and I were speaking of goodbyes, of farewells, of separating and going our own ways.

“Surely, for someone like you, who’s been travelling for over 3 years, saying goodbye must be easy.”

The truth is, saying goodbye is never easy. And I think it’s only gotten harder and harder.

Of course, I’m not talking about saying goodbye to casual acquaintances – random people you meet in hostels and chat with over a coffee, or even people you might spend a whole day with sightseeing and talking about this and that. Those goodbyes are perhaps, not easy, but you accept them as a part of your reality. No, no. The goodbyes that I’m talking about are the ones you still think about days, weeks, months after they happen.

Travelling as much as I do, I’ve come to realize that real connections are hard to come by. People you really click with, people you feel like you’ve known for years after just a brief interaction, people you get you. When I meet these people, as rarely as it happens, it’s so easy to just be with them that I always end up being around them longer than I would ever have planned. I mean, it’s not like I have anywhere else to be, right? But inevitably, the longer I spend with them, the harder the goodbye becomes. And when we finally do part, the goodbye is always a heart-wrenching moment, as I leave with my eyes full of tears, always, fighting the urge to turn around and go right back to them.

But as with all things, the feeling fades, and eventually, I remember the wise words of A.A. Milne,

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

How lucky I am indeed. ❤

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Bye Bye Bye

Off to India in a couple of hours! I’ve packed my bags and gotten my pre-departure jitters on. Somehow, I think I might have been less nervous about going to South America…

India India India. I’ve been as a little girl with my family to visit distant relatives. I don’t remember much of those trips.

There were huge temples with scorching floors, and enormous granite statues.

There were cows every where, and that time someone stepped in a pile of cow dung.

I remember holding little chicks in my hand, and carrying a baby goat. I really wanted to bring the kid back with me, but the boy who caught the kid for me said they wouldn’t let me bring it on the plane. He promised to send it to me on the next ship out, and I waited for weeks for the arrival of the kid, but it never came.

A boy from the village took us on his motorcycle up and down the street and it was the most thrilling thing to ever happen to me at that age.

I remember the hospital; my brother fell sick and had terrible diarrhea and a high fever. They put him on a drip, but I don’t know if they let me see him in the hospital. I only remember the white tiled corridors we walked down, endlessly.

We ate dosai and spicy tomato chutney on the overnight train. It was the best chutney I’d eaten, but so spicy it made my eyes water.

We went up a really windy mountain road in a car. I was sitting in a distant uncle’s lap, but I started feeling sick. I told them to stop, but it was too late; I vomited.

My grandmother’s house didn’t have much, but I distinctly remember the creaky fan in the corner of the spartan room, and the wooden chest of drawers. I wonder if that’s still there.

I don’t remember much about the India I visited as a child. I’m sure much has changed, as have I. Or maybe it hasn’t. In any case, I’m looking forward to creating new memories. Here’s to India!

India flag

Spoilt

Written 6 May 2014

I’m spoilt. Not in the traditional sense of having too much money and parents who indulged my every whim and fancy in order to make up for being absent presences in my life. In a way that is far worse, and in a way that cannot be fixed, if such a thing needs to be fixed.

This morning, I woke up to the sound of African drums and was greeted by the imposing view of a glorious serra, the peaks blanketed in clouds as a fine, misty rain fell and afforded everything a strange, surreal, dreamlike quality. Two weeks ago, I watched the sun rise over a clear horizon, unbroken by ships or islands in the distance, the soft orange glow illuminating crystal clear waters and an empty shoreline dotted with palm trees. Two months ago, I stood in awe of a hundred thousand gallons of water gushing down 82 meters across 700 meters at one of the world’s most majestic waterfalls. And these are just a fraction of the amazing things I’ve seen. The rest, I don’t have the words to describe, nor do I care to – I would not be able to do them justice.

I am spoilt, not because I have tonnes of money or people around me who indulge me excessively. I am spoilt, because I have had the opportunity to see the amazing wonders of the world. I am spoilt, because I have come to see the kindness of strangers as something to expect, and even depend on. I am spoilt, because I travel.

People often talk about how travel opens your eyes and broadens your mind, it teaches you to be thankful for the small things and helps you appreciate the comforts you have at home. But something that is not often mentioned, except by weary travellers who have been on the road too long, is that travel ruins you for other things.

When you’ve seen the tallest building in the world, every other skyscraper becomes just that. When you’ve seen the biggest waterfall in the world, every other waterfall looks like a trickle of water over a ledge. When you’ve seen towering mountains, walked across vast plateaus, swum in oceans of the clearest blue, everything else pales in comparison. That sense of awe that makes your breath catch in your chest and raises goosebumps up and down your arms, while never really going away, is dulled into something far less…inspiring.

The thing is, the human mind isn’t impressed by repetition; it’s impressed by novelty. And as amazing as a magnificent mountain or gushing river or scorching desert is, it ceases to impress after the first five (or ten or fifty) times you see it. Travel, while awakening your senses, also dulls them. A tired lament of travellers isn’t that they’ve seen too little, but (often?) that they’ve seen too much. Seen so much that what lies before them isn’t (and perhaps will never be) as impressive or amazing or awe-inspiring as the other things they’ve seen.

And at this stage of my journey, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the feeling of guilt – that I am spoilt for having seen so much that I am unable to appreciate the other amazing things I see. Perhaps, it would have been better if I had never left home and never seen these things, such that I still have appreciation for them and don’t take them for granted.

Yet, maybe this is the test of a traveller. A traveller then, is one who, even after weeks, months, years on the road, can still find beauty in the ordinary. Who can still appreciate every river, mountain, desert, city with wide-eyed wonderment like he did on the day he first packed his bags and left. Who sometimes, still stops to smell the flowers.

As for me, I hope one day, I will stop being spoilt, and start being a traveller.

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What am I doing here?

What are you doing here? What is anybody? It is a question I keep asking myself, increasingly more frequently with each passing day – a question to which I cannot find a satisfactory answer.

At some points in my life, I think we are here just to be happy. On those days, I am perfectly content to go out and do whatever pleases me – be it going out with my friends for an evening of merrymaking or buying myself an overpriced pair of shoes or even calling in sick to work for the heck of it. If the purpose of life is to be happy, I’m going to be happy or die trying.

Or so I tell myself.

Because sometimes I wake up and feel this vast emptiness, this hollowness that no amount of merrymaking or overpriced shoes or sick days could take away, this void crying out to be filled with something more than just my own egocentric whims and fancies. The feeling that all of this is pointless, is meaningless, is futile at best and devastating at worst becomes overwhelming and I just want to put my head in my hands and weep.

We think that we humans are somehow better off with the capacity to think, but perhaps less intelligent beings hot the better deal in the evolutionary (or creationist?) toss-up. Not having to wonder if any of this makes sense or means anything sometimes seems wonderful, compared to the torture of Thursday afternoon existential crises or Sunday evening conversations with your conscience.

Oh to be a dog and to love freely and unconditionally.
Oh to be a cat and not care if you are loved freely and unconditionally.
Oh to be an eagle and to soar over oceans and continents.
Oh to be a tortoise and carry your home on your back.
Oh to be an elephant, an ant, a crocodile, a platypus.
Oh to be a human.

Strange, isn’t it. How being a human is so very different from being human. Yet who can definitively say what it means to be human? Is there even one thing, one action, one emotion that makes us human? I don’t know. And I don’t believe anyone who claims to know.

Well, then, what resolution do I have for the questions I asked? What am I doing here? What are we doing here? Perhaps the question isn’t really what we are or are not doing here, but what we should be doing.

Perhaps.

I thought that writing this, putting my thoughts to paper, sifting through the chaos in my mind would help give me some clarity. But I remain just as confused (conflicted?) as I was before.

So, what now?

 

Empty São Paulo, Brazil, March 2014

Empty
São Paulo, Brazil, March 2014

“Poor” countries may be the richest of all

My friends and I were talking, and someone made the comment that she wanted a job that pays more. And that got me thinking – do we really need jobs that pay more, or do we just need to live somewhere where you don’t need as much to be just as happy?

Don’t get me wrong – I think Singapore is a great place to live and whenever the people I meet ask me what Singapore is like, I tell them it’s a wonderful place. It’s a place where the streets are safe, even at 2 in the morning, where you can get just about any kind of food you want at any hour of the day (or night), where your kids can get an education that is pretty damn good. Things work (most of the time) in Singapore. There aren’t any strikes, or protests, or anything really. Life, for the most part, sails smoothly, if boringly, on.

And when I tell the friends I’ve made here this, the inevitable question always is – then why did you leave? If life in Singapore is so good, why are you here?

Oftentimes, “here” is a place with fewer creature comforts than I may be used to. Life “here” may not be like life in Singapore. Walking alone on the streets is something I try to avoid doing after dark, I haven’t had decent Asian food in ages, and I’m not sure about the education, but let’s just say I haven’t met very many English speakers (that’s not to say that learning English is the hallmark of good education, but it is a very widely spoken language and not ensuring the new generation has a firm grasp of it puts them at a disadvantage, in my opinion). Things exist in a state of near chaos, strikes and protests are a commonplace occurrence, and life sails smoothly on like a ship in a thunderstorm.

Yet, when I look at the people I’m surrounded by, these people who live on next to nothing, I can see their happiness. It emanates from within them. It adds a sparkle to their smile, a twinkle to their eye, a wonderful, rich heartiness to their laugh.

So while I tell people that I’m “here” to see the world, to have new experiences, to meet new people or some variation of the three, perhaps what I’m really doing here is searching for a place where life is rich, but not in the way I’m used to.

Watching people in Singapore, with all their fancy gadgets and shiny toys, it somehow still seems like their lives have been sucked out of them, leaving behind nothing but empty shells. Dead eyes that seem to look right through you, hollow laughs that last a tad too long and end too abruptly, and smiles that never quite seem to reach the eyes. Life in Singapore seems like paradise, but maybe I don’t want a place in paradise.

Thinking about where I come from, and the places I’ve been, slowly I begin to realize, that there is one key difference between us, and them. Despite them having almost nothing at all, they have enough. And us? Despite us having it all, we somehow don’t quite have enough. Maybe enough is where happiness lies. And maybe, all I want is to have enough, and to be happy with enough.

Perhaps, this is something that isn’t unique to Singapore, but I can only draw on my own experiences. I imagine that this happens in many places, especially where people have reached a level of economic development that life becomes more about the accumulation of material goods, rather than enjoying the time we have here with those who mean something to us. Because it is human nature to want, and to want more, and then some more. Human desire is insatiable, but feeding it makes it an greedy demon that starts to demand more and more and eventually comes to dictate our entire lives.

We have nobody but ourselves to blame that our lives have come to be controlled by this demon. We talk about rich people and poor people, rich communities and poor communities, rich countries and poor countries. We place an immense amount of importance on these material goods, the collection of which apparently reflects how rich or poor one is. But beyond a certain level of wealth, “richness” should not be measured in the number of cars, houses or electronic gadgets one has. And I have seen this with my own eyes – that one doesn’t need things to be rich; richness comes from something intangible. Richness comes from having caring friends and family around you. Richness comes from being able to laugh freely. Richness comes from being able to sleep peacefully at night. And that’s why, at the end of the day, I think that our friends in “poor”countries may be far richer than us.

Poor weather in Pucón

Written 27 Jan, 29 Jan

I only decided to go to Pucon because Marcel mentioned that he would be there for the New Year, and I didn’t have any other plans. In the end, I’m really glad I decided to go, because it turned out to be quite the adventure. To put it simply, if Bariloche was the highlight of my trip so far, Pucon was the most exciting.

I arrived in Pucon from Puerto Montt in the afternoon and checked myself into the hostel Marcel was staying at. Hostel Arauco – not a very fancy hostel, but it was very cheap (7000 pesos a night) and the lady who runs it was absolutely adorable. She didn’t speak any English, but she definitely understood it and always had a smart comment for whatever we said.

I didn’t do much that day, just wandered around the town checking out the various excursions being offered. One of the most common/popular ones was the climb to the summit of Mt Villarica, one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. Pucon has a great view of the volcano, but it was just my luck – the first five days I was in Pucon (let me assure you I didn’t intend to stay that long, but I’ll explain that in a bit), I didn’t see the volcano at all. Neither did I take any pictures, because who wants pictures of fog and mist and clouds, right?

First glimpse of Villarica on day 5 in Pucon Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

First glimpse of Villarica on day 5 in Pucon
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Day 2 in Pucon was cold and dreary. As usual, I had no idea what I was doing, so I tagged along with Marcel to wander around the town for a bit and check out some excursions. Marcel was really into going bodyrafting (they called it hidrospeed) and although I was rather concerned about how expensive it was, he eventually managed to convince me to sign up to go for it the next day as well. After that, we went to sit by the lake for a bit, before calling it a day.

Pretty decent lake would have been much prettier in better weather Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Pretty decent lake would have been much prettier in better weather
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Last day of 2013. A time for reflections, and looking back on the year and reminiscing. OR. A time to go bodyrafting! We turned up on time at 11am at the excursion office only to be told that they didn’t have a guide for us to go then, but that we could go at 3pm. What a waste of waking up early! We left the place in disgust, only to stumble upon another tour agency (Pucon Tours) offering bodyrafting AND the climb to the summit of the volcano at a much cheaper price. We quickly switched allegiances and went get provisions to tide us over the new year vacations.

Super supermarket is super with super stock of Milo! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Super supermarket is super with super stock of Milo!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Bodyrafting turned out to be really fun. We has these floats to cling on to as we paddled down the river. We were given wet suits and flippers but after two minutes in the freezing cold river, I thought gloves would have helped a lot.

Adrenalin does not keep you as warm as they say it will Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014 Photo credit: Pucon Tours

Adrenalin does not keep you as warm as they say it will
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014
Photo credit: Pucon Tours

It was a lot of fun, especially since the river was pretty tame, and it was quite enjoyable being in the river after I lost feeling in my fingers. After we got out of the water though, I had a fair amount of trouble putting my clothes back on because my fingers refused to function properly. After that, it was back to the main town to prepare for the evening festivities! Marcel and I made a simple dinner before heading to the lake to usher in 2014 by watching the fireworks! So pretty, and it felt like it went on forever. Great start to 2014 (:

Explosive 2014! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Explosive 2014!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It ended there however – when I woke up in the morning, it was cold and rainy, so I ended up spending the entire day in bed, enjoying the warmth under the covers. It was an absolutely lovely way to spend the first day of the year. Anyway, everything in town was closed, and I didn’t want to tire myself out before the climb to the summit of Mt Villarica the next day. We woke up at 5ish the next morning and headed over to the tour office at 6, only to find that they were postponing the excursion to the next day due to poor weather. -_- such a disappointment, but even if we had gone up, we wouldn’t have made it to the top. So it was back to bed for a couple more hours, before I headed out to the Cañi Sanctuary.

The summit is...somewhere there Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The summit is…somewhere there
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It was a three hour hike to the top, but it was a steep ascent for most of the way, so I kept stopping to take pictures.

I saw a cow hanging out, and wondered if there were goats too Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

I saw a cow hanging out, and wondered if there were goats too
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

And indeed there were! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

And indeed there were!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

I met a fellow trekker (I think his name was Martin) midway through the hike and we continued hiking together.

First rest stop where I met Martin Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

First rest stop where I met Martin
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Second rest stop where we...rested Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Second rest stop where we…rested
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

He told me about these prehistoric Araucaria trees which were pretty cool

Baby, adolescent, adult, prehistoric Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Baby, adolescent, adult, prehistoric
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The view at the top was pretty incredible, and worth the trek. It was also nice that it was relatively quiet, being one of the less popular attractions in Pucón.

The top! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The top!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Me at the top! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Me at the top!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The clouds cleared suddenly and BAM, there was Villarica! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The clouds cleared suddenly and BAM, there was Villarica!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After the hike down, it was back to the city, and early to bed to wake up at 5am again the next morning. Thankfully, our efforts at waking up early weren’t wasted, because this time, we managed to set off to the volcano. It was quite a sight at base camp, not just because of the gorgeous view, but because over a hundred people were waiting to make the ascent with various tour groups.

Let's ALL climb the volcano! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Let’s ALL climb the volcano!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

From base camp, we had the option to take a ski lift up some distance to save ourselves an hour of walking, which was a pretty fun experience in itself.

View from the ski lift Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

View from the ski lift
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Us on the ski lift Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Us on the ski lift
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The hike up from there was entirely over snow and ice (not to mention freezing cold), so we strapped on our crampons, geared up with our ice picks and put on our gloves and jackets and set off.

All set to conquer the volcano Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

All set to conquer the volcano
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Or maybe not, if I can't even keep my balance on solid ground :/

Or maybe not, if I can’t even keep my balance on solid ground Pucon, Chile, Dec 2013/ Jan 2014

It was slow going, with 24 in our group, so we kept stopping every 10 meters or so.

Hordes of people starting the ascent Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Hordes of people starting the ascent
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Eventually though, the group split into several factions depending on their pace. It was smooth going from then on, with breaks every now and then to rest and eat some snacks for energy.

Break time is time to take silly pictures  Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Break time is time to take silly pictures
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

But also to admire the view Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

But also to admire the view
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After climbing for about 3hours, the wind suddenly picked up and we couldn’t advance any further because the snow had frozen over, making it impossible to walk, and there was also the danger of being blown off the volcano because of the strong winds. So we sat at a little rest point, trying not to freeze and hoping the wind would die down soon.

Our trusty guide who led the way was very surprised that a Singaporean had made it to Pucon Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Our trusty guide who led the way was insistent that I was the first Singaporean to climb Villarica
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It did, and we managed to continue hiking up the ridiculously steep volcano after waiting about 45 minutes. By this time, there were only 7 of us left in the group, the rest having fallen turned back for various reasons. It was a really steep incline, about 70 degrees, and we were going quite slowly, when I almost died.

I was second last in the group, and we were all walking along the same trail. The thing about snow and ice is that it can look quite solid, until you step in it and realize it’s become almost nothing but water. Which is something that happens when a bunch of people step in a patch of snow. So. 200m short of the summit (roughly 2700m above sea level), I stepped in a patch of loose snow, and started sliding down the side of the volcano. In the event that something like that happens, we had been told to dig our ice picks into the snow to stop the slide, but I somehow managed to lose my ice pick when I fell, and I started sliding down the side of the volcano. I slid 10-15m down, all the while thinking that I was going to die, but luckily, the guide was almost directly below me, and he managed to catch me. We continued sliding down another 5m or so before he stopped our fall, barely 100m short of the edge of a cliff on the volcano.

After the fall - getting back on my feet on a steep incline was not easy Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After the fall – getting back on my feet on a steep incline was not easy
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The nothingness that should have been my grave Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The nothingness that should have been my grave
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The peak was not to be mine to conquer. At least not on this trip. Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The peak was not to be mine to conquer. At least not on this trip.
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It was, in short, the most terrifying few seconds of my life, and if the guide hadn’t caught me, I would not be alive today. I don’t know what guardian angels I have but I owe a huge debt to whatever forces of the universe that kept me alive. They say when you’re about to die your life flashes before your eyes, but I didn’t experience anything of the sort. As I was falling, and my body was desperately trying to cling to something to stop the fall, all my brain was telling me was that if this really was the end, it would be a good way to die – at least I was doing something that I really wanted to do, instead of being miserable that I was stuck in some boring job somewhere.

I wasn’t injured from the fall, just slightly shaken up, but the guide refused to let me continue to the summit, for the safety of the whole team. So while the other 6 continued to the top, I was left with my life-saving guide to head back down. It turned out to be an awesome turn of events, because we were supposed to slide down the ice on the volcano on our butts, but while everyone else had to walk down some more dangerous sections because the guides couldn’t watch over everyone, because I had my own private guide, he let me slide down almost the entirety of the volcano, even pulling me along as he ski/slid down. It was supremely fun, and I had a really nice time talking to him about travelling and life and death and all sorts of other things.

My lifesaver, Rodrigo Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

My lifesaver, Rodrigo
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Something he told me really resonated with me – that you should live your life in such a way that every day is a good day to die, and if you make it out alive, then all the better for you. Which is something I think a lot of us often forget, so it was a good wake up call for me. It’s something a lot of people have said – that if at the end of the day, you look back at what you did and feel like you wouldn’t have been happy to die, the next day, you gotta do something different. It’s all up to us, and sometimes we forget that we exist in cages of our own making, not in cages others have put us in. It may seem difficult, terrifying or even wrong to open our cages and fly fly flyyy away, but once you do, you realize that it wasn’t so difficult, that the outside isn’t so terrifying and that the only thing you can do wrong is not to live your life exactly how you want to. I’m glad I’ve opened my cage and flown away, and perhaps one day I will return, but that time is not now.

But, I digress. In any case, that was the end of the Pucon adventure, because when we reached the town again, I packed up my stuff and set off for the next city – Concepción.

P.S. Apologies for the excessively long-winded post. Props (and maybe a postcard!) if you actually read all that 😉 Haha this is how I bribe people to comment on my posts!

Change and Aloneness

Change and Aloneness

Hmm. I’m in an odd sort of mood today. Kinda pensive, kinda unsettled, kinda sad. Not sure why, nor what brought this about.

Travelling is a strange thing. You learn so much about yourself – how you deal with stressful situations, what kind of person you are in different circumstances, what you enjoy, what you hate, and so on. But the more you learn about yourself, the more you come to the realization that you actually know nothing about yourself. Which is a unsettling and perhaps even terrifying realization, at least for me. To imagine that after all these years of being the person that you are, you really don’t know yourself at all. How can that be, you might ask. I don’t claim to know. I can only share with you how I feel, and it is up to you to agree or agree to disagree.

I think it might have something to do with how we are constantly changing, from day to day, even minute to minute or second to second. Things happen, and people change. The thing is, in the daily humdrum of things, the changes are small. Perhaps not insignificant, but small enough to go unnoticed. Small enough to disappear into the routines of life.

You wake up.
You have breakfast.
You go to work.
You kill time till lunch.
You have lunch.
You come back to the office and kill more time.
You go home.
You have dinner.
You watch tv.
You go to bed.
Day in, day out, everyday forever.

Nothing ever changes. Well, maybe it does.

You wake up late one day, and that throws off your routine.
You eat leftover pizza for breakfast and that messes you up the rest of the day.
Your boss yells at you at work,
you have a special farewell lunch for a colleague,
you get fired,
you go to a party and meet someone interesting,
you decide to read a book instead of watching tv,
you go on vacation.

Things change, but ultimately nothing ever does, and the next day, two days later, a week or two later, you’re back to your routine. And when things become routine, you stop changing, or perhaps the change is so slow and gradual that one day, you will just wake up and wonder “when did I become this person?”

Travelling, on the other hand, removes you from routine. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is routine when you travel. You go to sleep in one place, you wake up in another, and the next day you’re in a place you’ve never heard off, having lunch with people you’ve never met before and probably won’t see ever again. You forge many new relationships, transient but ever more so intense for their transience – the underlying sentiment being one of trying to make the most of the fleeting time you have together before it is time to pick everything up and move on. Every connection is painfully vivid, seared into your very consciousness and revolutionizing the way you look at things, but all too soon, it is gone. And at the end of it, you’re left with a feeling of profound aloneness. The feeling that each and every one of us inhibits a separate sphere of reality, with a separate past that existed without you, and a separate future that will exist, regardless of your existence. And sometimes, our spheres may overlap briefly, but too soon, we drift apart, to continue our lonely existence, each in our own little bubble, completely and utterly isolated and insulated from each other.

At the end of the day, we are all travellers. Some of us have suitcases and backpacks, and some of us don’t, but we are all travelling. Perhaps not around the world, or even to a different country or city, but toward some unknown destination. We have no choice in the matter, so we do the best we can, plodding along as best as we know how. And sometimes, we meet someone else who seems to be going the same way, or we stop for a rest next to some other weary traveller. We share a smile, a few kind words, or maybe even walk together for a time. In so doing, we find comfort and solace in the knowledge that while we each are profoundly alone, so is everyone else.

I realize this is a rather incoherent and rambling post, but I felt like I had to get this out. It’s been more than two months since I left home, and while I’ve called more places home in the last two months than I have in the last two years, perhaps what I’m craving is some sort of routine. A while to rest, to breathe, to be. We always get so caught up in what we have or want to do, that we often forget that it is just as important to simply be.

I’m going to find a place to be. I hope you do too.

 

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