When I think of travel, I think of my Mother.
From the early-2000s, my Mother and I travelled everywhere together. My dad has never been a fan of travelling, so my mom and I often travelled as a pair.
We went to Bangkok when I was 5, and that was the beginning of many years of travels. We went to the Killing Fields in Cambodia, visited an elephant sanctuary in Sri Lanka, rode in a hot air balloon in Turkey, when paragliding in Nepal, climbed the Great Wall in China and ate dim sum in Hong Kong together.
It may be commonplace elsewhere but where we come from, Brown women don’t travel alone. But my mother has in many ways, been a woman ahead of her time. She saved every penny and invested in travel.
That's why I give credit to her for inspiring me to be independent enough to travel on my own this year.
Travelling alone is a very sobering experience. For the first time in a long time, I had to truly be alone with myself and my thoughts, which allowed me the much-needed time and space to face my demons. But I'm slowly beginning to recognise that there is no point re-living our pain and multiplying our suffering, so I shall not belabour this point.
But it's also taught me a bunch of other lessons:
What we give out is what we get back. I met many kind people on my trip who went out of their way to help me, and who walked me from one destination to the next. In return I tried to be kind and helpful with those whose paths I crossed.
This trip also forced me to challenge my assumptions about the notion of a total Sino-Asian culture. When I visited museums and read briefly about Taiwan's history, I learnt that Taiwan is a nation that prides happiness over wealth-- when it comes to determining the success of its people. And I believe this. People didn't rush to work, they stopped to chat with others and they seemed genuinely content. In Singapore, there are to this day, very few notions of conventional success and they all invariably have to do with how much money one has. I had previously falsely thought of such a perspective as an Asian complex.
The very act of travelling alone in a country where you don't speak the language is intimidating. There are too many instances where I crossed the road, following the directions of Google, only to realise I had misread the map, and had to cross back to point A. But I've found that as long as I didn't panic, I would find the right way sooner rather than later.
Most importantly, I've learnt to be brave and that I can do anything, go anywhere and be anyone. And this probably the most empowered I've ever felt.
I think of the very real suffering and struggles of Brown women a lot. The freedoms I enjoy today were inconceivable even 30 years ago to my own Mother. So I am very conscious and grateful for the education of travel. It is a true privilege to be young and healthy, to be able to afford travel and to be brave enough to go ahead and pursue just that. What a joy this is.