There was that one moment when I rode a train for twenty two hours, crossing the Thailand-Malaysia border. I’ve always wanted to do an overland crossing and I didn’t mind the long hours on a train. I had no internet connection and almost no conversation with anyone. I was alone, and yet… I didn’t feel alone.
I spent the journey lost in thoughts, taking out my leather journal from time to time. I wrote every hour or so, documenting even the most mundane: how the willowy trees seemed to dance as my train car passed by, the Thai auntie who kept throwing me curious glances, the rolling of the train wheels beneath me: cranky, harsh and if I was being honest, a bit scary.
Most of the time I wrote down things raw and unfiltered, just so I could take some of the edge off. The processing happens later on, a thousand miles and a hundred days from when it actually happened.
I’ve never been good at a touch and go kind of travel. It feels stifling, and I don’t know how to deal with it. And while I will always be the one moving and leaving, I’m one hundred percent present when I do arrive at my destination. I breathe it in and let the place seep into my bones. I own it and make it mine, like all the other travelers who set foot in the same path before I ever did. I take it with me, the kind of souvenir I get to keep forever.
And yet, somehow, these places have the power over me. They settle inside the splintered cracks and open spaces of my heart, and whatever was broken or lacking becomes mended and whole again.
The artistry in Penang’s street art and in Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers. The intricate walls of Banteay Srey in Siem Reap and the majestic palaces of Bangkok. The quiet strength of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem and the vibrant energy of Hong Kong.
And like a little girl hoping to find her way back home, I leave little pieces of my heart everywhere.