I bow down to pray
I try to make the worst seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one to stay
~ A Million Reasons by Lady Gaga
Travel has very much defined my life in the past few years, having embarked on numerous ‘big’ travels (self-defined as one month or longer) spanning 4 continents, approaching 40 countries and an estimated 100 cities. Each ‘big’ travel has coincided with various milestones in my life: exchange semester in Europe, graduation from university, leaving my first job in Singapore and selling my stake in a backpackers hostel.
After stepping down as a business owner of the backpackers, I decided to move to Melbourne and begin a new life overseas. 2016 has been the first full year I spent in Melbourne. Primarily due to the lack of any major happenings in my life, 2016 is also the first time in the past few years where I had not done any ‘big’ travels. Inevitably, I begin to reminisce on my past travels and my mindset following each milestone, which could be described in the following words: exchange in 2011 (inspired), graduation in 2012 (hopeful), quitting my first job in 2013/14 (idealistic) and ceasing to be a business owner in 2015 (thoughtful). If I were to chart the positivity of these ‘one-word’ adjectives over time, it will be on a downward trend. Likewise, the pattern has persisted into 2016, for I will use the word – confused – to describe my current sentiments.
Perhaps my nomadic lifestyle over the past few years had lulled me into a false sense of security, one where I envision myself to be highly adaptable, only flourishing on changing environments; for I had moved to Melbourne with high hopes and expectations, confident that it’s as simple as pushing the reset button and everything will start anew. However, it has been particularly jarring, as reality has fallen short of expectations. Nonetheless, with a hint of foggy clarity, I believe that living in Melbourne is still the right way forward for the time being, resulting in a mixture of emotions and inner confusion.
One of the emotions experienced is disappointment, especially when I question myself if I had truly integrated into this new city. Superficially, I reckon there are aspects of the Melburnian culture that I have bought into – obsession over the weather, love for coffee, soaking in the many events and using some of that Aussie slang, albeit with a Singaporean accent. However, if you were to probe further, I have to admit that I do not belong in Melbourne as yet. Not when I still feel the need to build a wider and deeper personal support network. Not when I still crave a sense of ease and familiarity in going about daily life. Not when I am still struggling to fit into the workplace. Not when people still do not perceive me as a Melburnian.
Recognising that the move to Melbourne was a conscious decision to better my life, my thinking progresses to the next stage – rationalisation. Having to justify my move, I search for the plusses in living here. The biggest reason will be an independent lifestyle – possessing the freedom to make decisions without interference and judgment. It is also exciting to be responsible for all aspects of my own life, ensuring that I am kept on my toes at all times; whereas back home, it is easy to slip into old habits and rely on other people. In addition to the lower overtime hours, I prefer how audit is less of a ticking-and-checking exercise over here, and there’s more flexibility to exercise professional judgment (which arguably might be a fancier word for laziness).
Prior to my move to Melbourne, I wrote about the common ground amongst all my varied experiences – which is the elusive pursuit of happiness. After a year in Melbourne, I still picture myself as a cat chasing its own tail, endlessly chasing the illusion of ‘happily ever after’. Getting dizzy from prancing around in circles, another type of emotion creeps in and this is disheartenment. Notably, in the past few years, despite being discontented with the status quo, I always had an idea of what I was to do next. Jaded after returning from exchange, I knew I only had another year till graduation and starting work. Exhausted from late nights and the monotony at work, I was fixed on resigning after receiving the end-of-year bonus. Discovering that owning a business does not gel with my perception of life, I prepared for my move to a new country. However, right now, I am beginning to feel like I have exhausted all plausible routes in life, and the options of crafting out a perfect life – if it even exists – are running out. Or perhaps, have I actually grown timid and lost the guts to venture into yet another new beginning?
However, deep down in me, I know that aspects of life back home – if Singapore is even home – gnaws away at my ideals, precipitating my move in the first place (which some might consider to be “running away”). Hence, one last thought now pulsates through me: realisation, or an epiphany if you prefer. I realised that if I were to return to Singapore, I will still be plagued by the same problems as before. I realised that having left Singapore (a ‘circle country’) for many different locales around the world (‘square countries), I am now neither a ‘circle’ nor a ‘square’; instead, I have shape-shifted into a ‘triangle’ that might not fit anywhere in the world. I also realised I have not a single regret in making the move, and I will not trade this Melburnian adventure for anything else at all.
As the lyrics of the Lady Gaga’s song goes, “I’ve got a million reasons to move away” from Melbourne but all I need is “one good reason to stay”. Although I am still searching for this “one good reason”, I have concluded that to merely satisfice is enough at this point in time. Melbourne might not be the eventual place where I put my roots down, but the attempt to find some form of stability in an unstable environment is enough of an excitement to remain in the city for the near future.
Going forward – as cliché as it might sound – who knows what the future might bring. My future voyage might be towards uncharted territory, or returning to the comforts of lands past explored; wherever it may be, I have deliberately chosen to remain blissfully unaware of the direction my ship is sailing. For me, the only imperative is to perpetually retain my fervour in living life. Ignore the naysayers who are convinced that I have been “running away” in the past few years – if anything, life isn’t about heading forward in one direction all the time, it is about having fresh eyes in the walk back and forth, yielding a different perception each time.
To end off this post – 2017 is the year that I am welcoming the Big 30. While backpacking in Australia in 2013, I promised myself that before my 30th birthday, I would set out on a travel journey ‘larger than anything I have ever done before’. Ironically, I am in the very same country at the moment, unsure if this idea will materialise within the year. Regardless if it occurs or not, I know that travel will forever remain an integral part of my life. I will be righting the wrong of 2016, as I have plans to return to Europe in June 2017 for a month-long travel (remember, self-defined as a ‘big travel’). Although it is shorter in duration and less exotic of a location than planned, I am looking forward to the trip with an equal amount of anticipation and excitement. After all, it has been 6 years in the waiting, having left the continent then after my exchange semester ended, knowing I will return again some day. Whether the return is 6 years too late, or 6 years too early, does it matter?