Sunday, 20 May 2012

LIFE OVERSEAS : Wonders of going it alone

HAVE you ever travelled alone? Boarded a bus, a train or an aeroplane independently? Reached your destination on your own or perhaps with the aid of a map or the GPS (Global Positioning System), a more modern option?
Or have you always depended on another person for help to reach a certain place? Perhaps it is a parent or a close friend who has always guided you through life?
I had a taste of independence recently. I had to travel to London by myself to sit an examination. As I wanted to save costs, I bought a return ticket on the same day as the outbound flight. This meant that I had to precisely plan my schedule. I had to be absolutely certain that I reached my examination centre on time. I have been to London once with my mother but I have no knowledge of the transport system.
I did a lot of research into the number of trains, underground lines, the cheapest and quickest routes from the airport and in the city itself. I had to walk to the examination centre from a train station with the help of Google Maps.
On the day of my examination, a blast of adrenaline ran through my veins when I realised that I had only 10 minutes till the start of my exam and I had just arrived at the train station.
Oddly, when the challenge emerged, so did the ability to conquer it. Thankfully, I reached the college and completed my exam in good time.
Later, I wandered the streets of London, hopping from train to train, experimenting with new things and, of course, snapping photographs like a tourist.
I was exhilarated at the freedom. There was no need to consult another person. I decided to eat freshly made sushi in a Japanese restaurant.
As a Malaysian, I enjoy discovering new food! And the best fare is at roadside stalls. I am concerned about hygiene but have been blessed with a strong stomach. So I wandered around a market and surveyed the shops and finally decided on a Mexican lunch.
I learnt that the cook is a Malaysian! What are the odds? He is of Burmese origin and is from Penang. When he found out that I was from Malaysia, he piled on hot Tabasco sauce all over my tacos. I sat on an unusual motorcycle seat while tucking into my meal.
My food expedition continued and my mouth gawked when I came across a shop which sold blended durian colada smoothies. As I have not eaten a durian since my last visit home, a blended version of the heavenly fruit sufficed.
Henna tattoos available at the market resembled the designs from Malaysia. It cost RM25 for a simple motif on my hand.
I doubt that I would have accomplished all of the above in a day if I were with another person. This solo trip taught me the wonders of independence and how it can build character. So if you have yet to have such an experience, stop being mollycoddled and take a step forward.

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart.

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: Wonders of going it alone - You - New Straits Times

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