I’m done for now
It’s been 8 months of travelling. Roughly 240 days on the road.
It feels odd to have so much time passed by in such an unstable way. Over the past few months, I think I’ve done well by myself. I seized adventure when I see it. I Couchsurfed wherever I can. Explored abandoned houses in Zagreb. Worked on a farm in Romania. Experienced beautiful coincidences in Poland. Met several new people throughout Europe and reconnected with plenty of old ones. Hitchhiked a couple of times throughout the journey. Received a lot of kindness along the way. I’ve seen the most beautiful places and ugliest places I’ve seen so far. Got a few weird things happening to me a couple of times. I’ve cried and laughed so much throughout the journey. It truly was a good ride.
But I’m exhausted
Despite the fact that I’m not bound to a desk anymore, but I definitely felt like I was bound by circumstances, albeit exciting ones. It felt like I simply fell into situations that brought me the most amazing stories. I’m not complaining, but it didn’t feel like I pursued any of this. It didn’t feel like I was actively participating in a lot of my adventures. I’m done with ‘going with the flow’ and ‘seeing where it takes me’. I want to be in control again and wake up in the morning knowing I have shit I have to deal with.
One morning, when I was walking past a storefront with a beautiful display of stilettos, I thought about buying a pair. It was shocking to me, seeing as I’ve never owned a pair of stilettos in my life. My hypothesis is that it’s a manifestation of my subconscious– I’m so sick of living from a suitcase that I’m starting to go to extremes to make myself aware of my needs. It goes against every fibre of my minimalistic philosophy. And yet, I found myself needing stuff. I need to have my own space again. I found myself caring way too much about wearing the same yellow jumper four days a week. Something had shifted in my mind– I wasn’t living on bare minimum anymore; I was in survival mode.
Basically, I’m just tired of feeling like I could have done better by myself– treat myself better, live better or just do something better. It wasn’t even as if I know what’s better for me. I was just really sick of feeling like I could have done better.
Then go home!
Right around Chinese New Year back in February, a particularly strong bout of homesickness hit me. Friends and family back home were making plans to reunite while I’m stuck in winter wonderland. I missed the food back home– the wantan mee, the claypot chicken rice, nasi lemak, roti canai, curry. The little Malaysian restaurant in Dublin that once satisfied my cravings fueled my seemingly insatiable for Malaysian food as time went by. I honestly thought I’d just go home.
But, deep down, I knew going home wouldn’t be right for me.
So I persisted. I moved to the one place I kept coming back to: Budapest. I came here thrice– first for a certificate, then for a man, then for a job. This time, it’s going to be for me.
I live in what must be the most happening apartment in Budapest ever. My roommate, Sri, a fellow Malaysian, initiated me to Budapest in the most Budapest way ever. In the first two weeks, I was here, it was just a blur of partying. We went out almost every night of the week and most definitely every weekend (it’s still happening now). When things started to slow down and the documents-collecting phase is almost over, I started doing rounds to the immigration and government offices. It was hectic and frustrating, but frankly, masochistically enjoyable. Even with all the issues I was facing with the visa– and God, were there many!– it felt like I’m making headway in my life; I’m becoming an active participant, instead of merely observing. I can’t wait to be officially living here.
So, what’s next?
Moving to a new country is not easy, especially for a non-EU citizen. The notorious Hungarian bureaucracy sits at the top of the list of things that frustrate me. The classes I teach are still barely enough to cover my living expenses. It’s tough to deal with the underbelly of Budapest sometimes. Bundle of blankets and mattresses at the metro stations, hopefully covering up a live human being. The uncertainty of everything– from buying groceries since I can’t read Hungarian to whether I’ll be granted my work visa.
There’s nothing I can about these though, so I grew a pair and started learning Hungarian. I walk on the prettiest little avenue to work from Tuesday to Friday. Even when it was cold and I’m sleepy, the feeling of gratitude has always managed to creep up on me. I walk with a spring in my step most of the time, because I simply couldn’t believe how lucky I am. It’s going to wear off someday, but until then, I’m riding this beautiful adventure out.
People always say that travelling is the best thing you could have done to enrich your life. I think that’s true to a certain extent. There’s much more to life than just travelling. Relationships. Connections. Money. All these are significantly more important than being able to wake up in a different place every few days. I needed to stay put and form more meaningful relationships with people. One of the best times of my travels was when I was settling in a city for a month. I got to know people I worked with in Zagreb, which made me really happy then.
A lot of people forget that travelling helps a person be more aware of their needs and that travelling is not some one-dimensional cure to change your life. At the end of the day, we have to learn the things that made us happy. Travelling long term doesn’t do it for me anymore, but that doesn’t make me less of an adventurer. After all, I think moving to a new country is pretty ballsy if I may say so. I’m just being more aware of what I need. Isn’t happiness the end goal to all of this?
And I’m happy now.