Broaden your horizons

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  • Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015

Historic city: The author says he never gets tired of London as there is so much to do there. – filepic

IT TOOK a good friend to call it what it is – a binge.

Over the past few months, I have had the privilege to travel a lot, probably more than I have ever done in my life.

Most of them were not planned to happen so close together but circumstances – between friends visiting, treating the folks, travelling for work and personal holidays I had planned half a year ago – meant that I had been to five different countries in as many months.

Flying back from my latest jaunt to Japan recently, I had some time to reflect on the trips and all the travels I had done in my life.

I have mentioned before in this column how grateful I am to have the opportunity to see the world and how aware I am that I live a charmed life.

But I am also aware that this privilege comes at the expense of other people; my family does not see me for weeks at a time, colleagues have to step up to help me sort things out and once I return, my life needs some time to get back in order.

The friend who called my trips a binge was one such person.

Many years ago, when I travelled a lot for work, she was the one who had to pick up the pieces while I was away.

I have known her for 20 years now and so she knows me well.

Many see travelling as nothing more than a frivolous trip.

While I do not disagree that it can be extremely indulgent, I also travel because I love how much I learn when I discover new things.

My wanderlust developed as a teenager when my parents started taking us on short trips abroad when they could afford it.

We did not go very far and many of the visits were domestic.

But even on these trips, I saw things that were completely different from the bubble in which I live in and met people who I ended up keeping in touch with for a long time.

Soon, these trips extended beyond our own shores and at the age of 16, I took my first long haul flight to London.

Since then, I have returned to London many times – for work, holidays and studies.

I never get tired of London because there is so much to explore and do in the city – from engaging talks, eye-opening exhibitions and historical sites to great performances.

I discover new things in London all the time, no matter how familiar the city is to me.

It is this same feeling that I experience each time I go on a trip.

When I re-visit a place, it is usually because I feel there are parts of it that I have yet to see.

The wonderment of new environment, exchange of cultures and learning of different lives are what fulfills me more than merely taking a holiday.

What all these contribute to my being – and what I often crave so much – is the appreciation for diversity, the opening of minds and the constant shaping of how I view the world.

I truly believe that it is these opportunities that have made me the person I am and formed my opinion on issues that affect us all, not only as Malaysians but as global citizens.

My love for travelling stems from an upbringing to not only be adventurous but to always seek out that which is different from ourselves.

It is also a manifestation of how energised I feel when a new door is unlocked in my ever-expanding mind.

The Internet is a great window to these experiences but there is nothing like being right in the heart of it all –tasting, smelling, feeling the cool spring breeze, the beauty of natural wonders and the warmth of people who do not speak the same language as you.

For me, every mile, whether on a plane, a train, or bus, is a chance to learn what it means to be different, to respect diversity and to be more patient and tolerant.

But a binge is a binge and it is never fun being called out, but would I do it all again?

Absolutely, but perhaps with a little more restraint.

It is travelling that has taught me that too and again, the people you meet along the way to remind you of these lessons.

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