It’s a tale as old as time.
Some people say they find themselves when they travel, some people say it takes getting lost to find direction.
Travel for me never came as a result of a desire to break away from a monotonous 9 to 5 office life.
Travel for me didn’t start off as an anticipated thing I only experienced when I became of age.
I’ve always been incredibly blessed that I’ve been travelling since I was young, which naturally built a love for travel.
2018 though, was life-changing in a way I didn’t think travel would.
Mind, moving to Spain on my own to live and work at 19 did change me monumentally, yes, but I did not expect just travelling last summer to bring about another series of changes.
It started as a dream to head to Flores, a little island located east of Bali and Lombok.
I’d seen some surreal pictures the year before on Instagram, of a part of Indonesia I’d never been to despite the fact I was only a couple hours away by plane.
I made a promise to myself I’d make it out there someday.
I finally did in May last year and it was all I dreamed of and more.
It was the first proper trip I took with a group of friends.
We made it through endless plane delays, missing a flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo, and scrambling for accommodation in Bali at the last minute because we were stranded as there were no more flights out headed to where we wanted to be.
Once we finally got on the plane headed to Labuan Bajo the next morning, we got on a tiny plane with propellers on its wings.
I’d never sat in one before, and looking out of the windows I saw some jaw-dropping formations rising out of the sea.
Where we were going to be in Flores was a small port town of Labuan Bajo, and we used it as a base to take sailing trips out everyday.
We visited the surreal Padar Island, came face to face with Komodo Dragons, and parked ourselves on some of the finest powdery white and pink sand beaches in some of the most stunning bays featuring waters of the clearest azures, greens and blues.
I previously always thought I was a city boy through and through.
There was no way I could spend 2 whole days on small islands in the middle of nowhere, never mind 10.
I needed to be near big city amenities.
I needed to be where the action is.
I needed to be where life doesn’t stop and the city never goes to sleep.
But Indonesia taught me to let go of all those notions, and just be.
We shared boats with different people when we went sailing everyday, and we’d never know who we’d be sailing with till the mornings we met at the boat trip company’s shopfront.
I shared memories and experiences with strangers I’d never have been able to do before this trip.
On this trip, I felt wholly like the best version of myself.
And it was after Indonesia that I realised how much I love summer.
I grew up on a tropical island all my life, but growing up in a city-state that looks characteristically more like Manhattan and less like Bali means I never really grew up the island way.
It’s always summer in Singapore, yet I was raised to dislike the heat and stay indoors in air conditioning.
But there I was baking in the sun everyday and hiking in the heat in pursuit of some surreal views.
After Indonesia came Thailand.
After a week in Thailand came a few days in the Philippines.
After the Philippines, I headed back to Spain for my first proper Mediterranean summer.
Summer feels more like a state of mind now than a season.
Summer feels like freedom— the long days encouraging adventure and experiences.
Summer is the smell of the sea and the feeling of the sun on your bare skin.
When summer ended, I headed to Hong Kong for a week before I was due to start school again.
Being thrown into the rush of a city like that again after 5 months of being drawn to small coastal towns bathing in sunshine and watching the sun go down on cities with not a high rise building in sight was a shock to the system.
Crowded city streets that used to make me feel like I wasn’t alone now felt like I had no room to breathe.
The abrupt service felt jarring and unfriendly, completely at odds with the hearty and delicious food being served in the most humble of eateries.
No one stopped to smile or say hi.
I realised then I was a world away from who I used to be.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve reached a certain age where I feel more restless, but more than ever do I crave adventure.
I don’t need creature comforts the way I used to and the way I’m sure I probably will in the future.
I want to drive around in a van and sleep under the stars, hike up waterfalls and scale hills on islands in the middle of the sea just so I get to see what the seascape looks like from above.
But most of all I want to live.
And if that means getting a sunburn the next day, that’s all good.
If that means getting a cut from a rock on a beach, I can deal.
If it means I’m not going to be the most caught up on the latest films in the cinema, that’s fine too.
I realise that it’s natural for us as human beings to be constantly learning and growing as we make our way through life, but perhaps removing ourselves from our comfort zones and completely new environments acts as that catalyst.
And like I’ve always said, there’s so much of the world we need to see.