I always say this … if I can travel, anyone can travel too!. I will be 54 years old in September, have 3 kids (age 23, 20 and 15), married to an awesome guy and was involved in the food business (effective 1 Jan 2015, I have stopped doing it).
I am so blessed that I could travel all these years and I intend to continue travelling. First and foremost, there is an adventurous streak in me that will not allow me to stay in one place for a long stretch at a time. Secondly, I always believe that if we want something, then we have to get off our butts to get it. Thirdly, people in my lives who love me unconditionally to let me be who I am and not to be who they want me to be. I want to thank my dearest husband who wholeheartedly and generously encourage me to indulge in my travelling passion and also to all my siblings who have in one way or another contributed to & supported my travelling pursuits.
Travelling is life-changing and it has benefited me in more ways than one. So, what do I benefit from globetrotting around this world?
1) RESTORE MY FAITH IN HUMANITY
I have often been reminded over and over again to be extra careful when I travel alone. Me, being female makes me physically vulnerable and my petite size also does not help me in that aspect of vulnerability either. Yes, I don’t deny that when I travel alone, I must be more alert and be vigilant all the time. But offhand, I can tell you countless experiences of many people who go out of their way to help me on many occasions – with no ulterior motives.
Once, when I was on Mykonos Island, Greece, I had lost my way and could not locate my guesthouse. Earlier, the owner of the guesthouse had kindly offered me a lift to the town. I was so caught up talking to her daughter that I didn’t pay attention to the route she was taking. As I was walking back, I realised that I couldn’t remember which road I should take. I stopped a guy on a scooter for direction and he was also not familiar with the name of the guesthouse. He offered to fetch me on his scooter and also stopped several times to ask other people. In no time, he deposited me on the doorstep of my guesthouse. With a wide smile and a wave of his hand, he wished me a good time on Mykonos and took off in his bright yellow scooter. So, do not be afraid to accept help because not everyone is out to get you. Do use your discernment though because unfortunately wolves do come in sheep’s clothings.
2) I HAVE FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD
When you stay in a backpacker’s hostel, it is so easy to make friends regardless of gender, age, nationalities, etc. Sometimes, you will be thrown together with some of your hostel mates on a tour offered by the hostel. Very quickly, you will bond with them as you will be practically spending the whole day touring together. On my Erg Chebbi Desert tour in Morocco, I met some students from Bristol, London and Hong Kong. We spent three days together and when we came back to Marrakesh, we had dinner together and exchanged social media contacts. Two months later, James and Alex came to Malaysia and we had dinner a couple of times. I was promised a warm bed and a big welcome if I do go to Bristol, England. After travelling for so many years, I have friends in every continent.
3) I BECAME A FREER PERSON
It is very natural for us to measure up and meet expectations imposed upon us. I was frowned at, criticized, gossiped about and even questioned by my so-called “friends” as to whether my marriage was in trouble?!!. They could not understand how a mother of 3 growing boys, a wife to a very busy man and a woman who runs a business can travel. When I am in my home country, I wear many hats to cater to the needs of my loved ones and other commitments. But the moment I put on my backpack, walk out of the door, board the plane and land on a foreign land, it’s all about me from then on. From that moment on, I only wear one hat which is Ean – or “the girl with ants in her pants” – a tag my dear husband fondly labelled me as because according to him, I couldn’t sit still for long. If you still cannot figure out why he gave me that label, you should try to put some ants into your pants – red fire ants usually ensure that you catch on the meaning very, very quickly! …. When I am travelling, I don’t expect anything from anybody and nobody should expect anything from me. I am free as a bird and will roam wherever I feel like going. doing whatever I feel like doing, without a care in the world …..
4) NOT TO BELIEVE EVERYTHING OTHERS SAY
There were very strong objections from my family members and good friends as well who actually meant well when I told them I would like to visit Syria. They gave me 1,001 reasons why I should not go and that it was an extremely dangerous place to visit. That was in 2011 before the civil unrest and the ISIS threat. I just looked at them straight in the eye and asked whether they have been there before. It was just hearsay and I was very glad that I didn’t listen to them because Syria was a beautiful land filled with beautiful people. (Read about my post on Syria here.) Syrians touched me like no other race did. When I was there, never once did I felt threatened, unsafe nor insecure. How to? … when you were always surrounded with smiling faces and ever willing hands that were always extended to assist. When I asked for directions in Syria, each and every time, they brought me all the way to my intended destinations. There was no need for words. Anyway, I couldn’t speak the Syrian language and they couldn’t speak English either. But we spoke the international language of love, of giving, of helping and gratitude … There was no hiccups wherever I went from town to town because help was everywhere. Nowadays when I read about the forlorn state of present day Syria, torn apart by war, violence & destruction, my heart bled as I fondly remember the beautiful Syrian people and the once beautiful country of Syria that had enriched my life because I went. So, do not be deterred by those people who have not set foot on the foreign land but heed the good advice of those who had. I had a fabulous time in South America and yes I was advised strongly not to go there too. Did I listen? Nope. I shall judge and experience for myself.
5) BECOMING MORE FLEXIBLE
Once… I was a perfectionist… everything has to done in a certain way in a certain duration of time. As my children used to say, ” Mum, when you want something, you want it now!”. Yes… those were the structured times and all hell would break loose if things didn’t fall into their proper places. Travelling has broken down my stiffness and taught me to bend whenever the situation calls for it. You see … things are never the same in other countries. When I was at the Balkans, buses do not run on time and even tourist information centres can’t give accurate information. Many a time, I found myself going the opposite direction because the agent gave me the wrong information. I didn’t get flustered but chose to take in the sights along the unplanned route. The common showers for ladies in the guesthouse I stayed in Tallinn, Estonia only had transparent glass cubicles. This means that everyone could see me stark naked and vice versa. Westerners may find this nothing out of the norm but back from where I came from, Malaysians by & large, including most Asians do not routinely see each other naked in the showers like it was an accepted norm or custom like drinking afternoon tea or having a stroll in the park. So the “nobody knows me here” kicked in and I showered without a care. Yes … indeed I am no longer the same. The old me would have just rather not bathed! Just… let it go, let it go!!
6) BECAME A BETTER PERSON
Each time I travel alone, I had more time to think and to reflect on the past, the present and the future. Without distractions and constant disruptions, I was able to look back at the events that happened in my life, my family and my work. Somehow, when I stepped away, I was able to see better and gained more wisdom. I could see that each time I come back from my travel, little by little the way I manage my children changes and my relationship with my spouse becomes more and more meaningful. I found out when we are constantly around the people we love and the circumstances surrounding us, we are like using a blunt axe to chop down trees. It seemed like we hope to achieve different outcomes even though we are using the same methods over and over again. Travelling has broadened my mind, made me more sensitive and had led me to see life in different & various perspectives. Life is too short to take offense of unimportant stuff. Let it go over our heads and treat the people closest to us better so that we do not have to live with regrets. Indeed, life is also too short for regrets!
7) I FOUND THAT NOTHING IS TOO DIFFICULT
It is just so human that before we even attempt to do something, we already find it too difficult to do so. Travelling has taught me that nothing is too difficult to do and no destination is too far to go to. There are people who only dream of going places. I too had dreamt of visiting exotic faraway countries before but I had gone one step further and made that dream happen because I knew it was possible. I have done that and I am still doing that. Russia was one place I had so desired to visit. Due to visa problems, it looked like I could not enter Russia even though I will be in Helsinki which is very near to Russia. Doggedly I searched and searched until I discovered that I could actually visit St. Petersburg for three days without a visa if I take the cruise ship from Helsinki. And I did it ….. I was in St Petersburg and it was what I had expected and beyond. I had never cooked for my family before due to my previous heavy work schedules and also when I was running a restaurant. Four months ago, I left the restaurant business and I picked up cooking like the way I handle my travelling ….. ‘gung-ho’ style with a ‘never say die’ attitude. My family is still alive from eating food cooked by this newbie chef [ yours truly ] and at the risk of being accused of “blowing my own trumpet”, whipping up a few dishes nowadays is really not that difficult anymore. [ Ahem! … was the trumpet sound that loud? … ]
Of course, there are many more benefits but these are my top 7 benefits which had and are still shaping me to be a better and bolder person. We can conquer the world!!! … by travelling of course! Cheers!