One lunchtime on a Monday, I met someone who just got back from a 30 days’ trip to some exotic places in South America. Her happiness was infectious; she had arrived that morning and report to work straight away as she had maximized her leave. She appeared exhilarated after a long haul journey and if there was any jet lag, she had not shown it. When you return from a vacation, you are still on cloud nine, that is what going away does to those who like to take a break every now and then to travel. Before travelling to a foreign destination, one’s adrenalin gets all pumped up with the anticipation of a new experience. Since the world has gone virtual, there are travel blogs, reviews by Tripadvisor and printed travelogues that help us plan our trips ahead and thanks to modernization and connectivity, most countries have been made accessible whether by road or air.
On my work desk, there is an old planner and the quote on 21 November 2006 was by Dame Freya Stark : “ To awaken in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.” Malise Ruthven who was Dame Stark’s godson, wrote this about her in his tribute, “Traveler Through Time: A Photographic Journey with Freya Stark” : “Freya never lost her passion for acquiring fresh knowledge and new skills. Writing, like travel, she saw as the pursuit of truth.”
In many ways, our individual lives have chosen us. We have our aspirations but very often we succumb to social expectations in living a life that see us fulfilling our domestic responsibilities and work commitments ; whether we acknowledge it or not, we unwittingly let our lives choose us . As grown ups, we have settled into the lifestyle that we have landed ourselves in. When I was a student, I had asked : What do we want to achieve and what do we want from life ? Four decades on, the same question resonates. Seemingly we are doing the things as we are doing and we carry on doing the things as we have been told or expected to do. When we feel restless and adventurous, we take a vacation or we take up new hobbies and if we are bold, we change our vocations and even our lifestyle. But more often than not, what we probably should do is to adjust and find the equilibrium by changing our mindsets.
My line of work involves litigation that means unresolved conflicts and you get the dreaded call, your client is wondering what has happened to their matters and despite the judgment and awards, they have not seen the fruits of their judgments or they want to take further legal action. Indeed, litigation can be a long process. Changes happen everyday but there is no progress in some areas. Sometimes you feel rewarded when you get the results you feel your clients deserve, other times you feel the futility of the whole legal chase and most of the time, it is about finding ways to reach a compromise between all the parties. While art imitates life or life imitates art, somehow lawyers are portrayed as cool, glamourous and powerful in the television legal dramas. Not that lawyers cannot be all that, perhaps only a very small percentage is.
I read a lot of fictions and stuff that interest me. 1Q84, the fiction written by Haruki Murakami was one trilogy I thoroughly enjoyed and was completely taken in by the intrigues and the complexity of the story which is based on a simple love story. The following passage from 1Q84 struck a chord with me:
“ …Aomame sat in her reading chair by the window and stared at her right hand for a while. Long, slim fingers, closely trimmed nails. Nails well cared for but unpolished. Looking at her nails, Aomame had a strong sense of what a fragile, fleeting thing her own existence was . Something as simple as the shape of her fingernails; it had been decided without her. …”
In 1Q84, the landscape is metaphysical . Aomame, one of the main protagonists could have just gone along with whatever happens like it or not, but she often had to contend with her inner voices to struggle between reality and fantasy and as a highly intuitive character, she was fully aware of her surroundings and coupled with her strong-will, she fought the world she was landed in with courage and she met her actual life head-on. Fiction remains fiction and while the events surrounding the main characters are cult like and bizarre, they have human feelings. It seems to me that 1Q84 is nonetheless a tale to tell us that we can go along with whatever happens, like it or not and somehow find the world we like to live in.
Quite often some of us romanticize a place far away only to be disappointed when we get there while others still hope to realize their dreams of seeing the places they have always wanted to see. Indeed travelling is definitely a good way to recharge and energize our spirits. However we can also find new perspectives when we are not travelling. It is a state of mind. If we have the presence of mind to create the kind of world we want to live in, our incredible minds can juggle and still be set free if we choose to. When the travelling bug bites or when we have an opportunity to take a holiday, we make the best of it. When we are not travelling, we shall bask in the memories of our travels by looking through our photo albums or reading our jottings with blurry eyes or simply thinking about where we have been and what we have encountered. It is apparent that we have come a long way from the time of Christopher Columbus and early explorers who had travelled with a view to colonize and not merely for leisure.