I just found out that Tourism Selangor is running a competition surrounding What Travelling Means to You. This is just as I am compiling an account of a family trip to the East Coast of Malaysia. While timing is extremely tight, I am nevertheless intrigued by the question.
Despite being a pedestrian all my life, I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel quite extensively, being allowed to share space, breathe in new surroundings, learn about people and have them change me in return.
It is rejuvenating as it is humbling. It is a reminder of how I am a citizen of the world and yet how little I am.
The meaning of travel has changed for me personally throughout the many years.
Travel is putting myself out there and saying "show me. I am here to learn".
It started as unadulterated awe of being able to bear witness to monuments that only seemed to exist in dog-eared Sejarah textbooks. Let me tell you a secret. I actually felt woozy when I stumbled upon the Hammurabi Code of Law at the Louvre, a long long way from Taiping, Perak. It was awesomeness overload. Plus a confirmation of my geek-hood.
Yet looking back now, my best memories are those simple, unexpected and emotional connections to places and people encountered along the way.
My best recollection of Seville is having the bar patrons laugh when I professed that my future profession was to be an Avocado as oppose to an Abogado thereby reducing my legal ambitions to a pear. From maneuvering a gridlocked roundabout in Dhaka to feeding eagles over an emerald sea in Langkawi, the emotional associations are so palpable, they remain surreal and larger than life, long after the Polaroids have faded.
Which brings me to the conclusion that when I or anyone else for that matter travel, we don't just visit, but we bring the location and our hosts back with us - the joy as well as the heartbreak, the beauty and the tragedies. It demonstrates our capacity for compassion, it allows us to understand and it spurs our aspirations, so we end up learning about ourselves as much as we do our destination.
Upon my travels end from abroad, I absolutely love coming home to be greeted with the cheery "Selamat Pulang ke Tanahair". More than anything, travel never fails to remind me of where my heart truly is.