Last month, I did something I hadn’t done in ages – I went on a road trip. Sure, I’ve been on motoring events in which there would be long stretches of driving involved before reaching a destination, but they are usually quite comfortable.
This was different, however, as the whole idea was to take in the joy of getting behind the wheel, and enjoying where the road takes you, which in this case, was Kuala Lumpur to Phuket, Thailand, for the 2019 Evo Enduro Drive.
It brought back memories of when my uncle, a Swiss man, would drive for hours to different states to explore the country when I was a child.
Most Malaysians travel regularly back to their hometowns or visit other states for short holidays, anyway. But usually there would be a relative’s house or a hotel booked beforehand.
We, on the other hand, never really knew where we were heading. When it got late, my uncle would look for a guesthouse or small hotel for the night.
All six of us – my three cousins and I, together with my aunt – and sometimes seven, if my mum came along, were squeezed into a Ford Escort. My youngest cousin, who sat on my aunt’s lap, was barely three years old then and the rest of us not much older, but till today, I don’t know how we all managed to fit.
Frankly, I don’t remember much of the places – Ipoh, Penang, Kuantan and even Singapore of that period – but I still have a vivid memory of us four girls in the car: singing, laughing, sometimes squabbling, grumpy and weepy.
Mind-boggling, but that was what people did on road trips before the Internet age. We all have children of our own now, and some of them are even married; it was that long ago. But those memories are forever etched in our minds.
That’s the beauty of a road trip. It gives one a sense of adventure and flexibility as you can choose to stop wherever, whenever.
Stuck together in a small space, you’re forced to make conversation. You also learn to be more spontaneous and adaptable, because anything goes on a road trip. And it all makes for memories of a lifetime.
It was probably all of the above that made me say yes when another cousin invited me for this long drive. And probably the same reason why son No.2 thought he would come along. On the way there, it didn’t seem so long as we broke the journey and stayed overnight at Satun, Thailand.
The ride back took close to 18 hours though, as we made quite a few stops, drove within limits and took in some sights along the way.
Made some new friends, caught up on family gossip, and my son realised he could survive for a couple of hours without WiFi, by just looking out of the window and enjoying the passing scenery. We spent precious time together.
Something is in the air and it’s contagious, because my friend Mel Lee and his wife are currently on the Trans Mongolia 2019, covering 20,000km, 11 countries in 65 days, from Putrajaya to Paris.
Yet another group of people set off on a 16,000km road trip from Singapore to London, in the spirit of recreating the first Overland Expedition of 1955.
Another friend, John Cheong, is doing it on two wheels, cycling from Penang to Hat Yai, Thailand. His posts are tagged #celebratemalaysia, commemorating a similar cycling tour he did around Malaysia 12 years ago.
Fiercely passionate about this country, this time round he hopes to capture and celebrate again “that which makes us who we are – Malaysians” and along the way, raise some money for the Children’s Cancer Fund (NCSM).
This trip may be crossing borders, but he brings with him a strong sense of Malaysian pride, and strives to promote Malaysia whenever he can.
You might have heard of US President Donald Trump getting upset at not being able to buy Greenland from Denmark. Never mind that the Danes don’t own Greenland, but the very notion of buying another country in this day and age is preposterous, offensive and even scary.
Apart from the legalities involved, surely the people, small though the population may be, should have a say in this and what the country means to them.
Likewise, we Malaysians may have our problems but I am certain we are still proud to be Malaysians. Made up of different races, cultures and religions, we are one country. When it comes down to the crunch, we will fight to keep our identity as Malaysians.
That being said, I wish the bickering would stop so that those in charge can concentrate on the business of rebuilding, and not be sidetracked by inconsequential issues. With Merdeka Day recently over, and Malaysia Day around the corner, we should remind ourselves that we have so much to celebrate.