in tribute to the universe – part #3 (infect me with the travel bug)

When I was a kid, I wanted to travel like crazy. It was always a childhood ambition. My biggest dream was to travel to the US. I’d always ask my parents , “When are we going to the US?” , and they’d reply “Ask God. Just pray.” Despite their intentions to get me to rely on God, I hated the reply. It seemed like there wasn’t a desire to make it happen. I wanted to see all these grand and majestic sights that they’d show on the television and internet. I wanted to see the same places my friends were visiting. I didn’t appreciate then how difficult it would have been for a family of my size to afford trips to countries in the West ; but I also knew I wanted to make it there as soon as I could.

With a mix of grace, fortune and a good head , I found myself in Boston when I was 15 as a result of being shortlisted for a programme to Harvard. We went as a school group, but because of the uniqueness of the programme, we ended up having as unstructured a programme as we could have. It gave us the  opportunity to see a bit more of Cambridge Town, and Boston – and that was when I was enthralled to study in the States. Fast forward to when I was 17, and I was shortlisted to travel to Hong Kong University by myself to see the University. Again, being by myself, I saw Hong Kong and was dazzled by the difference in culture. I wanted to learn, and be fed with stories.

When I finally got the EDB scholarship, I knew my dreams were being realised. I was going to be able to study in the States. I had played the game, and I was winning , but I also knew the craving to discover could not be limited to the States any more. I wanted to know what was in every corner of this world – what had God built , and what had people made out of it? How did people live , and did they face the same issues as us back in Singapore? Are we truly the same, or are we unique beyond resolution? I gave myself significant goals this year ;  but the most significant of  them was to travel at least once every two months. To get out, discover, and most importantly apply myself. I wanted to use the stories I had gained and make new things – I did not want to be a passive consumer.

So I did exactly that.

I visited Vietnam in January as a Post-ORD Trip with Ding Hao. Thanks for being exactly the kind of travel buddy I need, fun and not rigid ; and most importantly adventurous.

I had tons of fun meeting people like Bradley (who would  have thought when we met at the Burger Bar, we’d find out we were actually room-mates) , Angus, Megan , Sadie, Ronny  –  right in my hostel.  Thanks for making our time in Vietnam as enjoyable as it was, and being great hostel-mates. You guys were our first hostel-mates, and it definitely encouraged me to stay in hostels in the future. Again, if you guys are ever in Singapore, give me a holler and we’ll hang out.

The next major trip was to Cambodia with Ivfen , Luke, Leon . The trip started off with an adventure in itself with Ivfen missing her flight because of a miscommunication between the airport and us. This was probably a defining trip simply because of the level of adventure I experienced on the trip . Thanks guys for being such sporting companions and definitely making the trip an exciting one. Also I was really grateful to Sokpier, Reaksmey and everyone else in the village we visited for hosting us, taking care of us and showing us authentic Cambodian hospitality.This was probably when I discovered the need for authentic experiences – not just tragedy tourism, not just commercial tourism but a discovery of everything the country is .

There were a lot of trips in between, with the Gushcloud gang to FMFA in KL, with my church to Cameron Highlands and a bunch of others with my family to neighboring cities but the next defining trip was the one to Europe.

EDB has a programme in which it offers to sponsor its scholars a language programme while waiting for school, and a trip to the country of practice to take a course there as well. I had been taking German for a while and so  used the opportunity to make a whole Eurotrip of it all.

I start in Berlin where I meet my host, Marina ,who was the sweetest person ever. She helped me practice my German every morning, and did not withhold any sense of German experience from me (she taught me how to be environmentally friendly too) . I also had the best housemates, but I’ve misplaced their names (I don’t want to spell them wrongly) who cooked authentic meals and showed me places they already knew.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with amazing classmates Patrick, Henrique, Suleiman,Aliz, Jean Sebastian, Domingo, Thea, Albert, Ivana, Anja, Martina (2), Elisa, Andrea ; my friends outside of class : Patricia, Catarina, Guillermo, Quentin, Charles, Martin and everyone else!

Special thanks to my hosting group of friends, who made the trip everything it was. Thanks for showing me around the cities when I was there, for providing important travel advice, for being friends; for being companions and for helping me fall in love with Europe. To Jer (who showed me London and reminded me what how exciting it was going to be studying in a foreign country) ; my aunt, uncle and cousins in Falkirk, Scotland ; to Martina in Milan for being probably my favorite companion on the trip – the conversations and time we shared always stay close to me (and Silvia for being so helpful and fun too, you’re not old at all 😛 ) ; to Coral (and Pol) ,for taking care of me in Barcelona – I always laugh when I remember the silly adventures we had (both in Berlin and Barcelona) ; to Atte, for the amazing amazing time I had in Paris – it definitely ended on a high with you (I still remember dancing on the streets of Paris man…) . We definitely need to make this annual trip a thing.

To the friends I made along the way – Shana , Jessica, Julia, Malik, Arthur, Elsa, Amen, AnneCha, Emily for making this adventure exactly so much more magical.

I grew up so much on this trip. I had to take care of myself and absorb so much information that I could help but come back a different person. I became overwhelmed by the grandeur of creation that had occurred across all of Europe, and the range of history created by people , both horrific and splendid. If so much had been possible, so much more can be possible – and that was what ignited the fire in me.

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When I was in college, I enjoyed myself a lot but there’s was a longing in my heart that I couldn’t initially understand. Life was good in college, but I wanted to continue discovering and being uncomfortable. I wanted to dance on the streets again, I wanted to fall in love with Baroque architecture, I wanted to climb mountains and overlook beauty. And I felt like I spoke a different language. I had seen so much, and while people had probably travelled more than me, there simply was a difference in the experience. So I knew I had to travel again. As much as I missed home the break was too short and so I decided to use my Winter Break to revisit Europe – focussing on central Europe.

This part will probably be updated towards the end of my trip because I’m only one week into the trip but I’ve made quite a number of friends already.

I have to start by thanking profusely Igor and his family for hosting me in Olomouc and making me feel so welcome ; for cooking homecooked food for me and for taking the time to care for me. To Anna, Zuza, Nick, Martin, Tomas, Lucie, Vojta, Jan, Martin, Tadeas for showing me Brno, Prague and making me feel like a local for the time I was here.

Makoto, Li Han –  Meeting Singaporeans anywhere in the world has always been thrilling, but you guys were especially fun to hang out with in Prague, and Vienna.

Istvan, Julie, Barna, Dodo, Anushka and the rest of the gang – for making our first night in Budapest such an eventful one ; we truly felt like locals.

(Space reserved for adventures i Budapest)

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You can’t be the same after you see so much. I’ve shared a lot with my team back home on stuff we could explore bringing back to Singapore (e.g. Train of Dreams), based on what I’ve seen around the world.  No trip of mine has been short of unexpected twists and turns, but I’ve embraced the spirit of change and challenge , and have become excited by the notion of the unknown. Oh what a life.

Life is too short to  leave dreams and ambitions for when we’re older. The time is now, the adventure is ours to make.

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“To travel is to take a journey into yourself”

Danny Kaye

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geronimo

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