“There’s a season in your eyes…
And a fever on your breath…”
– Almanac, The Acorn
These fourteen months I am in Malaysia for fieldwork will be the longest time I have spent back home since we last lived here between 2002 to 2003, after returning for good from Accra, Ghana and before relocating back to West Africa — this time to Conakry, Guinea. Since then, I’d only been in Malaysia for maximum nine months, a time spent preparing for the next move (applying for visas, renewing passports, cyber house hunting, continually revising my packing lists), and always in anticipation.
So many people thrive being back home, but while I love being close to family (where “home” — or whatever you want to call it — really is), I get occasional relapses in which I can feel my soul wandering to other parts of the world, and I find myself gazing longingly at the oceans and the mountains in my mini Atlas that I keep on my bedside table. When my wanderlust is more intense than usual I’d go for the large hardcover one or my ‘travel bible’ — Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book, which contains the profile of every country on this planet. I treasure this book not only because it contains so many promises of adventure within it, but because it had been a farewell gift from my Indonesian housemate back in Perth. I’d say it truly is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received; she must know me so well to have chosen a gift that speaks so well to my passion for traveling.
Truthfully speaking, I’m not entirely sure this helps in lessening the wanderlust mounting every second within me; in fact, I feel myself missing out even more on what’s happening in the world out there. While I’m stuck in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, I could be freezing my ass off in Astana at the moment, or having coffee with my French class buddy from UWA in Melbourne. So many things to do, but so little time; as it is, fieldwork and family commitments consume so much of my time that I could hardly commit to both with much fairness. I am also scheduled to return to Cambridge by the end of September, which means time is running out.
But as my French prof in high school always told us, Il y a un temps pour tout. There’s a time for everything. It’s all a matter of prioritizing. Speaking of Cambridge, I have begun to miss this extraordinary city terribly. Yet I cannot deny that when I was there, I’d enjoyed every minute while also planning where my next getaway will be. My bedroom wall in my previous apartment on Glenalmond Avenue was plastered with maps — of the world, and also of Cambridge from the 16th century, a reprint I found in G. David’s Bookseller, one of my all-time favorite bookshops in Cambridge. During my travels I also always look for postcard-sized maps of the city or the country I’m in. I enjoy exploring maps in general because it requires a special skill to find your way from Point A to Point B on a map, and it’s even much more of a challenge trying to apply these navigational skills in real life. In this photo, I had an illustrated postcard map of Cambridge and London on the wall. The bookmark was a gift from a friend after his short stint in Salamanca to learn Spanish. I also put up there a postcard (“Rug Life”) I received from my friend in Singapore, whom I’d kept in touch with via snail mail pretty frequently when I was in Cambridge.
I look at these maps and I constantly envision myself in another time and in another place. However, I always keep next to my maps a family photo (this particular one taken during a punting trip down the River Cam when my family sent me off to Cambridge in 2013) to anchor me somewhere in this world. Even if I don’t feel like I belong to a particular place or a physical location on this planet, I do know for sure to whom I will always belong.
This is what a lifetime of moving does to you; I am only in my early 20s but I cannot see myself settling down in one place for the rest of my life. This world is just filled with amazing opportunities everywhere — if you stay put, you won’t ever get a taste of what’s out there. I plan my life in 5-year blocks; the previous one centered around getting my Bachelor’s and Honours in Australia. Now I’ve temporarily placed my anchor in Cambridge for the following stage in my academic career. Next? It doesn’t really matter; wherever the future will take me, I’ll go with soaring spirits.