Friday, November 08, 2013

The lingering residues of travel

Something feels strange.

Three weeks flitted by since I got back from a month of wanderlust - I'm again on my turf; cloaked in the comfort of home, an ease of communication, and yet... there is something I couldn't shake off my shoulders.

I assumed that I was coming home to familiarity... only to enter my room and the opposite greets me.

      The strangeness in my room revealed itself to be: a wardrobe is full with clothes, as well as the drawers, which are nearly to its brim. There are some still loitering on my bed, and on the clothes hanger. Nothing unusual; it is exactly as I've left them. But being away for a while, I looked it with new eyes, and I found myself inwardly exclaiming: Why do I have so many clothes? My backpack became free from my shoulders and dropped to the floor. In it, there were three T-shirts, two pants, one set of 'sleep' wear and some undergarments - my only clothes for a month.

What I felt I saw x3 (source:
They say it takes 28 days to form a habit, and it has. It felt almost obscene to have so many clothes. Even as I typed this, I feel an unease in my stomach. I did think of giving away a majority of my clothes but there's a nagging thought of... what if I need this later? I am suffocated by them, and yet I can't let them go. Sigh.

And gosh, to have so many clothes, it's a massive doorway luring you to laziness. My laundry basket could pile up for nearly two weeks, and it's fine because I'd still have something to wear. But while I traveled, it meant that every two or three days, it's laundry time. Sure, after a long day, I'd rather chill or talk to my hostel mates than to hand-wash my shirts, but the thought of smelling like a giant walking armpit is a greaaaat motivation to get to it. Sounds like a hassle, doesn't it? But surprisingly, it became something small to look forward to. A little joy to claim whenever my clothes are thoroughly dried before our next move, or getting a chance to wash like the locals do (which I did in Kampong Cham; hauling cool water out of the well and into a large metal basin).

I realised I loved how 'light' I felt throughout the trip. As if my possessions had weighed me down in an invisible way, and I didn't realise it because it was a gradual weight loss. Until it came back in full glory, that it.

I would love a minimalistic life like that. Life is still good with so little.

     The second strangeness is that I'm on my bum most of the time. Pretty sure that it is a common affliction. Walk 3km in a foreign country and it's nothing; my friend and I would look at the map and be like, "Oh, it's a little less than 3km. Let's walk there." Here, the first reaction will be like, "Whuattt, are you cray cray?" I mean, hell, even the guy at my neighbourhood guardhouse offered me his bike once he heard I was walking to the mini market, which is 800 metres away.

Okay, to be fair, sometimes it's not the distance that Malaysians worry about. The first reactions of Malaysians if you tell them you're walking would be:

"Don't la, dangerous wei. Summore you're a girl...."

"Har? Wanna die ar??? Nowadays you don't only get robbed, they might slash or stab you also!! Dun siao, go drive your car. Ehh eehhhhh, car also be careful you know! There's this new tactic--- "


Prrof: This street art hits a relevant note to us
(source: & Ernest Zacharevic)
 But in general, we're just lazier in our own country. When PY and me went to Bangkok, we joined some British folks and they were sweating like pigs. Eventually they saw that we, the South East Asians, were too, which is funny, because, "Hey... aren't you guys supposed to be used to this?" The thing is we're not used to the heat like them either. Better off, but still not used to it, because back home, we stay in air-conditioned rooms, offices and malls. We have the convenience of personal transport and personal chauffeur (*cough* parents).

Granted, partially the reason that we walk more in foreign places is because we rather not deal with the tuk-tuks or because we didn't want the hassle of a language barrier or spending the mental energy trying to figure out if he's legit. And the bit on saving money too. But most of all, we don't feel the distance because everything is still new.

I do wish KL is a little more safer. It's not a hotbed of crime, but we have to be aware. I love walking; there's something about, well, being on the ground as opposed to being encased in metal and glass. Like how motorcycles allows you to be closer to life than a car ever would. A sort of sensory pleasure to it.

Coming home, I tried keeping the walking momentum going, via a nearly 5km roundtrip to the pet shop. I relied on my pants' awesome deep pockets, and wore no bag.

     The third strangeness was subtle. The night as my friend and I parted ways, he mentioned that it felt weird not having me around. I'm a little slow with feelings, so the absence didn't hit me at first.

... Until today when I was hesitating to go to an event alone. By norm, with or without people, I'd just go for it if I wanted to. So, I was startled by this. Like, shit, I'm needing people now?? What's the deal? But there has been a void when I went out recently... like something should be there, but isn't. There's no person watching my back, and no one for me to look out for. Like, I have a Concern and No Damned Idea Where To Put It.

Even though we've been mostly quiet, his presence still slipped in under. We traversed across more than nine towns in two countries together, which meant a lot of shared experience; lugging our bags from place to place, deciding where to stay or eat, walked/cycled/bike a shitload of kilometres with, suffered diarrhea around the same time (HAHA) etc. The only time we had a good break from each other's face was the one day I asked him if he was interested in museums and he was like, D: ... so I suggested that we go our separate ways and I had fun chasing after a public bus (and gone to two museums! Wheee.). But seriously, talk about hardcore hang-out, wei.

Plus another fact is... I've gone a little dependent on him, because I knew he'd have my back, in case I slipped. It's a relief to not be the sole person deciding, because in case of things going wrong, I'm cool with playing the angelic forgiving travel buddy (unless it ends in my death wtf, but you'll have my mom to deal with then, so good luck )

So yes. While my solo days are far from over, I veer towards having company now.


I haven't shaken this new skin off yet. For now I have my awesome sandal tan on my feet to remind me of our explorations and exposure to the sun.
Half Chinese, half Exotic
The tans are deliciously still there. I wonder if the strangeness will go away, as this tan will eventually do.

Oddly, I hope this feeling of strangeness will stay.