Staying Alive: 2018 edition

In between the events that inspired my first post on this blog and 2018, I took up a job in Changi Business Park. Daily, when I walk from my office for lunch along a stretch of industrial road, planes fly over me to land at one of Asia’s busiest airports every two minutes.

Sometimes, it can be torture to have a place of escape, a gateway to travel, so near to drudgery of office drone life.

Sometimes I sit back and enjoy the planes as they engage their landing sequence, trying to guess the airlines from the colours on the aircraft.

These low-flying planes are a constant reminder to me that, despite the slow pace of change, my life’s heading somewhere.

Coming & Going

I think of the planes – like ideas coming and going – because it’s high time I admit that I’m not cut out to be a travel blogger.

Travel does strange things to one’s mind, including making them assume ambitious identities. Prior to my 2013 trip to Vancouver, I imagined the entirety of my travelling would be to head overseas and compete in international running competitions. I had done Phuket in 2012, Taipei in 2013 and was planning on Istanbul in 2014. Instead, that Vancouver trip upended everything.

Successive forays to Turkey, Spain and Oman in the years after made me think: I travel so much, into such weird places, so why not blog about it. For several years, I had ambitions of getting a domain name, monetising the content, and submitting work to websites. I read up on travellers who quit their jobs for permanent nomadism, tweaked my writing, and planned what, when to post for maximum impact.

But somehow, I lost steam. In the daze of repeated post-travel blues, I’d head back to work and these ambitions would evacuate in the haze of cubicle-driven career hell.
Five years on, this blog is a haphazard collection of random thoughts and travel memories.

I still think that I have valuable information to share with fellow travellers. But most of the time, I just post it factually on Thorntree and struggle to rewrite it into something compelling.

Mardin, my fortress
Mardin, Turkiye, in 2014. Planning & executing this trip from scratch made me believe I could do anything.

Neither here nor there

At the same time my interest in travel took off, I had been exploring a side-career freelancing as a writer. In 2013, I had my fiction published. I felt that if I worked on it hard enough, it could support me if I wanted to go for a season of extended travel.
That fell through as well. As with many things, work and life got in the way.

This leaves me in a neither here nor there situation. I love writing and travelling (big cliché here). But am unable to find a footing in either as anything more than an occasional hobby – my travel blogging is sporadic, and my published fiction has dwindled.

I’ll admit I didn’t put in as much effort as I wanted to. Partly because I’m lazy, and partly because work nowadays is so intense all I do is crash after returning from it.

Eight years of full-time work later, I realise no one ever masters their work. Work, the I’m-here-to-pay-bills-and-loans kind, eats you up from the inside, digesting one’s dreams while shitting out mediocrity.

Now what?

I’m dissatisfied with my paltry output and exhausted from building a career that’s leading nowhere.

While I know that quitting to travel full-time is overly idealistic, I can honestly say that the stable salary of my 8-6 job is making me uncreative, unproductive outside working hours and increasingly jaded. It’s a psychological crutch: I don’t take risks, because that flow of cash is too lucrative to give up.

The travel I crave, where I drop everything and go, is increasingly difficult to achieve. In this world, at best, it’s an indulgence. At worst, it’s seen as irresponsible.

Why whine about it, people tell me, change yourself. So what if you feel claustrophobic? Big deal. Deal with it.

Monachil in 2015. I have a fascination with quiet, wild places.

Slouching towards somewhere

I refuse to deal with it. I refuse to settle for mediocrity. I refuse to lose myself in idealism.
Instead, I will start with the things that I’m grateful for – being born in Singapore, having a generally non-crazy family, a understanding and brilliant partner and possessing a truly kickass passport – and I will work out a third way from there.

There are no easy answers or no nice conclusions. There are only more questions, mixed with a niggling restlessness and energy to create. Sometimes these are burdens. Other times, these are the most powerful forces in the world.

For now, I continue to watch the planes as they land.

Sooner or later, I’ll be able to identify each one, where they come from, even in the dark during my evening runs.

Sooner or later, I’ll board a few of them, going towards somewhere yet unplanned. And when I’ll look down, I’ll see the roads where I used to watch them.

I may never fully shed my disappointment. But I will no longer be a spectator. I’ll go on a route of my own.


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