Travel is a funny thing. When planning a trip, we tend to focus on the destination(s) we have in mind. And rightly so.
But as I’ve come to discover, where we go is only part of the journey.
Soon after my friend Jessica accepted a four-month assignment to work in Singapore, she invited me to join her there at the tail end of her contract. The idea was that I would spend a few days on my own exploring some of the highlights of Singapore while she finished up her work, and then together we’d puddle-jump to somewhere near Singapore, like Thailand or Malaysia.
I distinctly remember what I felt back in December when Jessica first proposed the idea.
I felt fear.
I hadn’t been abroad in six years. And then, it was to Mexico.
I had never been to Asia.
I had never traveled with Jessica.
14 days off as an independent contractor is a daunting prospect. In my work world, there is no such thing as vacation pay.
What if I fell and broke my ankle? Or worse?
What about vaccinations? Travel insurance?
I felt myself heading out of my comfort zone.
All of these thoughts – and so many more – flooded my mind.
And so did this one.
I had to go.
Jessica’s invitation could not have been more perfectly timed. By the end of 2017, I felt empty, sad, disappointed, demoralized, angry, all to varying degrees and for different reasons. I needed to “get out of Dodge.” And because I have been fortunate in my life to have traveled enough to know what it can do for one’s soul, I knew this trip was the medicine I needed for what ailed me.
I think I can safely say that I’ve never taken my opportunities to travel for granted. I have savored and appreciated wherever I’ve gone, having built a solid archive of vivid memories with every adventure.
So I said yes.
And once I did, everything changed. Now I had a focus, something to look forward to, something to plan for, something I was excited about into which I could pour my energies.
Not unlike a wedding, actually.
Jessica had some ideas for where we could go, and they sounded great.
Because it was all new to me.
We shared the tasks of booking flights, accommodations, and tours. With each booking, I got more excited because it got more real.
So how was the trip?
My 15-hour flight on Singapore Airlines from SF to Singapore was smooth and comfortable. Singapore Airport – state-of-the-art – is actually beautiful.
I got to swim in a 60-yard lap pool every morning in Singapore and fell in love with its gardens and – yes – its public transportation system.
Mulu National Park on the east coast of Borneo is a rainforest Yosemite. Green, green, green, thick with sounds of frogs, birds, insects, and God knows what else. Its cave system is one of the most extensive and awe-inspiring in the world.
Borneans are gracious, kind, and humble in a way we could all learn from.
It rained at all the right times (and thundered with lightning). The kind of rain we don’t see here in Northern California.
I didn’t want to leave the rainforest.
For a brief time, I forgot all that I had left behind.
And that was just enough to start again.
To quote an Instagram philosopher:
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”