Bruce Chatwin and his Patagonia. Annie Proulx’s Wyoming stories. Paul Theroux catching train after train on “The Great Railway Bazaar”. San Mao’s wild tales in the Sahara Desert. Jack Kerouac traipsing across America, cigarette and beer in hand. Allen Ginsberg, journaling his way across India. Then there was Chet Lam, writing melancholic songs about New York and Vancouver and other places he’d been to…
“This morning I’m leaving New York / A place of letting go / A place of moving on / Here’s to New York… / Don’t matter where you’re from / Just matters where you go / No one clings for long / New York…”
So I did. I traveled. Tokyo, Sapporo, Taipei, San Francisco, Boston, Portland, LA, Copenhagen, Munich, Budapest, Prague, Dubrovnik, Oahu… Further and further away from home I went.
And I’m still on the go.
One reason I love traveling – especially alone – is that I fall into a zone that doesn’t seem to exist when I am home. An alternate universe of sorts, you might say. The things I see, the people I meet, even a random walk down a foreign street can cause my brain synapses to connect in a different way from usual. My awareness is heightened. New ideas bubble up easily.
Traveling has become an important part of my creative process. It allows me to escape into a pocket of peace, and in this pocket I can think and hear myself more clearly. I can write and plan and brainstorm with little disturbance. Then I bring these ideas back home and see how I can execute them later.
Traveling alone also fulfils a strange desire of mine to be apart from society. Just another stranger in a foreign city, doing my own thing. Zero attachment, no obligations and nowhere I absolutely need to be. And to be away from the daily drama and hustle and stress of being in Singapore.
Last year I spent a few weeks in Boston. I had no agenda for being there. I had a friend in the city who was there studying for her PhD. I bunked in her bedroom. I spent the days alone and did whatever I wanted to – lying under a tree in Harvard Yard, sketching and people-watching; visiting bookstores; walking along the Charles River; writing in cafes. At night I’d meet my friend and her housemates for dinner if they were free.
I have come to love and relish that feeling of being both apart and a part of something.
Now I’m in Hong Kong, just for the weekend, typing this in a Starbucks in Lan Kwai Fong. I first came to this Starbucks maybe ten years ago. I remember it was my first time overseas. Hong Kong was rainy and grey that time. One cold afternoon I found this particular Starbucks and found some unexpected warmth in this crazy city. Today I came back here again in search of that long-lost feeling, that tiny memory of a place from ten years ago, and Jeff Buckley was singing “Hallelujah” through the speakers.
I was just listening to the same song yesterday.
I take that as a sign from the universe that I am at the right place at the right time.