"Why do you travel?" Such a common question isn't it? I try to avoid this question as much as possible and usually it always ends with a shrug, "Let's not get there, you wouldn't want to hear." or just a simple, "Oh because i love traveling." Period. But those whom are curious, tend to delve deeper. Its a very personal question of which only one with the same understanding as i do can come to a conscience of my reasons or at least, piece it together. So why make it sound so complicated?  Here you go, this is why i travel.

For me, it wasn't enough. Once was not.

I mean, how do you know when enough is enough? People go through the same routine everyday and when they got fed up - they put up a white flag,"Ah! I can't take it anymore. I had enough of this." And yet, they did not do anything to change it. They still continue doing whatever that makes them feel content. 

Questions like "When are you getting engaged/married?" lessen and shifted to "Where are you going next?/When are you leaving again?/When are you going to stop moving and saved up for marriage?" Honestly, it was a question i am happy and ready to answer rather than the former. It was not a question about my choices of THE life partner but a question of my spoilt choices of destination.

So really, when and what is enough? 

Let's rewind decades ago in the late 90s (woah there, i'm not that old), my family would bring me to Indonesia and Malaysia a lot. I was an excited little girl, curious about everything - the people, the language, the nature they had that Singapore are lacking. About 10? years old, I remembered when i was in a theme park in Jakarta, i was not able to play the rides because it cost money for every single ride. So i sat there watching all the other kids play. Not upsetting at all because i know my family couldn't afford a luxurious holiday, come on - i wasn't born rich! I thought to myself, yeah, you need a lot of money to travel or you can't enjoy yourself as you are limited to do the things that you want to. My mindset was clocked. Don't travel when you are poor. 

Fast forward to the early 2000s, I had a few opportunities from school to travel to Sydney for choir and China for a school immersion programme but my parents couldn't afford it. I shut down all thoughts about travel thereafter. But it wasn't meant to be. I started reading books a lot - books from the author, Jacqueline Wilson always sets my imagination on fire as she tells her stories of Victorian houses in the heart of England - The popular Mary Kate and Ashley Series/ Chloe & Riley So Little Time were set in New York, Roald Dahl's classics set in magical fantasy worlds that is too good to be true, Science Fiction series that leads me through different planets. Movies were revolved around the Harry Potter series. I watched the first one and was in love with the location. Then Lord of The Rings came into the picture but i was not that interested (now i'm obsessed!!!!). Home Alone(s) makes me dream of a white Christmas. Lion King, Cusco the Emperor's New Groove and Princess Anastasia was also one of the few reason i wanted to see Africa, Peru and Russia. I was in awed over books and movies that riled up my imagination. Before i know it, i was obsessed over places - all this before the internet was the hype and everyone was using Yahoo! or MSN. 

As i got into my teens, i took a different kind of obsession. I grew interest in Paris because of a movie starring Hilary Duff "The Lizzie Mcguire Movie", geography subject and dreaming of managing my own hostel at the back of Haji Lane in Singapore. At that point of time, Paris seems romantic - i have to be there, geography was an amazing piece of art on nature - i have to visit every craters and mountains and relate it to the theories i learn in school and opening a hostel on an empty streets (at that point of time) at a heritage village sounds very unique - i have no idea how or why i got into this idea. I don't have anything except that it was just a teenage dream of which i couldn't understand why i was feeling all this need. 

At 18, friends and colleagues invites me on their holidays to "exotic" places i have never heard of. It usually rings with either Bali, Bangkok, Phuket or Batam. It was a typical MUST-GO getaway for every Singaporean. That is also when i realized, the world was not just about Paris. There were other places to see. 
Every time i asked my mother for permission to leave, she won't let me go. I don't even have a passport at that time. So there i was, at work, slogging myself off and friends going on holidays. I was not jealous nor do i feel peer pressured. I can understand why i was not allowed to leave the country. Coming from a strict Asian family, my mother control a lot of my time and freedom so i could be raised up as an obedient and responsible eldest among my siblings. It doesn't really help when i am also the only rose among the thorns. 
BUT - being obedient may be the best thing i could do though i know deep down that i am a very daring, rebellious and curious person. 

At 19, i realized I wasn't pining for holidays with friends. I was eager to explore, more, i wanted to learn about the world. Like a bird ready to fly out of its nest. That's when i decided that i needed to make a passport. It was a split second decision, i took a bus to ICA, fill up the application - paid $70 for it and wrote my best-friend's address for the notification letter to collect my passport. I didn't want my mother to find out. OK! This was such a spontaneous and most stupid move that i will NEVER regret! HA! I walked out like a boss that day.

2 weeks later, the letter arrived but not at my best-friend's place. It delivered into my letterbox and straight onto my mother's hand. My phone rang like no tomorrow - i knew what was coming. She send me a string of angry Whatsapp messages of which i have nothing to reply to. As i got home, she gave me my letter - felt like i got a letter of acceptance into Hogwarts actually. She gave me a series of nagging and then instructed me to give her my passport so she could safe-keep it. Well, boys and girls, that day never came. She never asked for it anyway.

So then, i have a passport with nowhere to go. I couldn't sit still. One day, a month after i turned 21. On a cold December of 2013, after dinner at the airport - mind you, Changi Airport is really a food heaven for locals living nearby - i popped the magic question again. Ha! Sounds like i am proposing?! I was expecting her to rant on me but to my surprise she was all cool about it. Within the next 3 months, i was set for an adventure. Usually, people would go to their dream destination whilst me, i had a totally different take on it. I was not interested to go to Paris anymore - i went on a Mekong trail. Touching the Mekong river from all possible seas in Asia from then on i had a different mission. A mission to keep moving and seeing new places. I was constantly on SkyScanner and Kayak, looking out for the cheapest ticket, forming overland routes in my head and then when the bank account balance allow me to - i leave.

It became an obsession. From traveling with friends, strangers in hostels and solo - i was at the peak of happiness. I was crawling into countries, learning about their culture, language, economy, religion, nature and a few other random skills that i acquired along my trip. I became more outgoing, independent, open to options and more daring. I was addicted to being in danger - it was not a good thing but i can save my own damsel ass. I was not scared. 

That drew me into the life of travel even more. Every one i meet, every place i go, every moment spend, every (mis)adventures and the series of events that occurs became a story. I wanted to keep it, to remember it as my own with no association to anyone. I travel to learn about wars dated back to eons ago, chasing borders that separated two countries apart, cities that couldn't survived without people and even about little towns that goes unnoticed, to wake up in nature and appreciate it. I travel to bask in God's magnificent creation. I travel because of my own fulfillment, the sense of courage, motivation and independent. I travel not for the competition or just ticking off bucket list. I travel because it keeps me alive. Most of all, i never gave up on my dreams to explore. 

If i were to look back to my 10 years old self, i would hug her tight and say this: 
In a decades time, you will live your dreams. It takes patience, hard work and most of all the courage that you kept inside you. Save up and go but don't change your course of destiny. It has been written for you. You were meant to leave and never shut down those dreams. You don't have to be rich to travel, document everything, write a book about it. Chase it.

Not all those who wander are lost, some found themselves. Some times the things that happen in the past shape you up into the way you are now. There's no right or wrong - its how you have become you. Some people find home in a person, some people go out to find home in a place. Safe travels.


  1. like reading a story book title 'how i born to be a traveller'
    you start with different ways to see the world. Kudos anyway on your achievement.

  2. Liya you are very inspiring!!! Keep inspiring and have a blissful life :-)

  3. I would say the similar things to my 10 years old self. :) Adding, "There are so many things to look for and grow interest in this world. You are just living a very small percent of it. Travel, move around, meet new people. You can see how other people live in this world with varieties of ways. And most importantly, they survive."

    Hey, first time here I think, keep on writing!


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