Wherever I May Roam
Updated: May 14, 2019
"Tourists don't know where they've been; travellers don't know where they're going". This is what American travel writer, Paul Theroux once said and I believe it is quite true. Alright, it's notional and let's not get into semantics here.
When we go on holidays with tour groups or plan our trips around brochure itineraries, we would often faithfully (or blindly) follow a pre-determined plan. Somehow, the reason to visit a city, a monument or a restaurant is simply because it is part of that plan. We rush through each day to accomplish as much as possible to return with a satisfying "highest value" from the money spent, but sometimes with little impression or understanding of the places we have been. Through all the rush and sightseeing hunger, how many places can we truly recall upon return?
On the contrary, travellers do not follow or even have a precise itinerary. They move, explore, discover, and make plans and friends along the way. Certainly, they would likely have some form of broad plan, a sense of time and geography in mind. However, it is that spirit of "wherever, whenever" that is most admirable, exciting and rewarding. It is those "in-betweens" that stitch the entire journey together that are more significant than the postcard destinations. Why not make decisions along the way?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against packaged tours or well-planned holidays. In fact, I've been on some and have engineered trips with minute precision before. But sometimes, I seem to appreciate and truly enjoy more of that sense of uncertainty when I travel - getting on each day without a plan, making choices along the way, and moments where I could simply do nothing and watch time goes by. And at times, booking a trip on impulse and setting off (or driving off) the very next morning.
(Above) Wandering into Malaysia - the sky always seems bigger and the clouds prettier whenever I cross into Malaysia. It's hard to get such a car-less cockpit view in Singapore. The engine sounds livelier and the car feels happier. To me, it always feels like bringing a happy dog out for a good run in the open field.
Understandably, holidays should be a time to relax, letting others do the planning and taking the lead, while we simply enjoy the places and indulge in the experiences. But to me, it is most rewarding when one travels with a sense of ambiguity and adventure; when you realised that you're asking yourself where you should be going next while having your breakfast; when you take the local train out of the city with nowhere in mind but enjoying random stops and the scenery along the way. Or when you simply drive towards the horizon as far as the road leads you to wherever that would be.
With the privilege of owning a small car and living in the heart of beautiful South East Asia, there is no reason why I shouldn't be getting out of this 700 square kilometres of concrete jungle in search of some fresher air, clearer blue skies, and travel in the spirit of adventure.
If you have seen my earlier post on my road trip to Thailand, you would have realised by now that I'm a fan of road trips. To me, a meaningful road trip doesn't need to be of faraway exotic destinations or epic journeys. A day trip to our (sometimes) friendly neighbour in the north can be equally exciting and fulfilling to me, as you might have read from my Melaka post as well. Cheap thrill as some might call it.
The sky just seems higher and brighter every time I cross into Boleh land. The usual sense of emancipation heightens along with each mile as I floor the pedal, as the scenery of limestone mountains dances past in a blur, and as my favourite music plays out loud in concerto with the roar of the engine. Truly, this sense of freedom, of undisrupted voyage for hundreds of kilometres can never ever be experienced on this tiny island.
After all, if we have bought a car in a country where they are presumably the most expensive in the world, why not make full use of it by going further to delight our hearts, broaden our minds and uplift souls, instead of just using them as a highly polished family school bus or grocery truck?
(Above) Roaming into Tasik Sembrong, a beautiful lake off Kluang. Would not have seen such a gorgeous sunset if not for the bit of bravery of driving beyond fences and paved roads.
Over the past one year of joblessness, it had given me the opportunity to embark on some extemporaneous getaways up north. Some trips were to familiar places like Melaka to meet friends and make new friends, or just to have a cup of coffee. Some were simply aimless and solely driven by curiosity, wandering into Endau Rompin, the east coast, or getting up Cameron Highlands.
And for that Thailand road trip several years ago, the only certain thing was our date of return as we didn't want to be fired from our job back then. The finer details were all worked out each evening when we sat down for dinner, with refinements made over breakfast and lunch the following day. None of our accommodation was booked in advance. Thanks to my great long-time friend and Thailand road trip guru who had led the way and taught me much since twenty years ago.
It's not the destination but the journey that matters most. We learn about a place through its destinations but we learn about ourselves through the journey. The opportunity of leaving the tarmac and turning into unpaved tracks, driving into plantations, stopping by a roadside stall for a meal and chatting with the locals, or picking up a hitch hiker in the mountains, have all made my road trips far more exciting and enriching.
I guess it won't be a valid question to ask where and when I'll be driving up north next. There won't be detailed itineraries either. Sometimes, the less you plan, the more you'll learn along the way. As James Hetfield has written and sung, "the less I have the more I gain, off the beaten path I reign", hopefully, I can continue this wonderful journey of discovery on wheels, wherever I may roam.
(Above) The "road" ending at a cliff, offering a magnificent view of the Malaysian landscape. Wouldn't have seen this view if I had followed the road.
(Above) Not too worried when you have ALL 4 wheels working together.
(Above) A testimony to this little badge.
(Above) Always one of my favourite quick getaways - the Desaru beach. Just a short drive from home and I'll have the whole beach to myself, wherever I may roam.