It has now been officially one year since I left home to come to Malaysia and what an incredible year it has been. Over the past 12 months I’ve seen some amazing things, met some incredible people and experienced first-hand how differently a huge chunk of the world lives.
For the most part, I have tried to keep my blog positive, sharing the best parts of my time here, especially my travel experiences. But I’m not going to lie, this year has been hard. In fact, it has probably been the most difficult year of my life. Everything from finding an apartment to getting used to my job to making friends has been a struggle. Add to that the additional complications of language barriers, cultural differences and trying to cope without efficient public transportation or easy access to food you like, and it can get pretty frustrating.
Now, to their credit, Malaysians are very nice people. My co-workers, in particular, went out of their way in the beginning to help me find a decent place to live and have made a point to take me around to experience local food and customs. Others, in particular, have been there through the tears and frustrations to bridge the cultural gaps, clarify misunderstandings and guide me through the ins and outs of living in Kuala Lumpur, and for all this I am truly grateful.
Though I won’t go as far to say that I love Malaysia, I will say that I have learned a whole hell of a lot, both about myself and the world around me. Some things, like Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, I find completely fascinating and want to explore more in the future. Other things, like what it’s like living in a country without basic freedoms such as freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, etc. are completely mind-boggling and terrifying to me (and I’m not even in that “bad” of a part of the world). Though I love being abroad, I find myself more patriotic than ever and for the first time truly appreciate being from a “free” country.
So now the question I get asked most often is, “When are you coming home?”
Well, I will say this: if I came home now, I would be content knowing I have hit all the initial “must sees” on my Southeast Asia travel list. However, I would also leave with a sense of dissatisfaction knowing that I folded in the face of frustration instead of rising to the challenge to overcome it. So, I have decided to stay and do my best to finish my work contract, which ends after another year.
This past year, my 26th, I traveled to some incredible places and saw sights that many will never get to see. I am a bit ashamed to admit, however, that my frustration actually living in Malaysia often brought out the worst in me. So this year, my 27th, my goal is to focus on personal growth, to develop patience and understanding and achieve inner peace as well as pursue some pipe-dream professional goals I have been a bit shy to attempt.
So now, as I begin year two, I have a specific list of goals I want to achieve before coming home:
– Improve in my yoga practice, learn to meditate and spend some time in an ashram
– Volunteer, ideally working at an orphanage, women’s shelter or wildlife sanctuary
– Publish something and get paid for it: attempt my hand at travel writing, freelance reporting or as a fiction writer
– See as much of the rest of Asia as possible, especially India
Now that I have published this list to the Internet, I fear I must now be held accountable for my actions (or inaction). But in the end, maybe that’s a good thing ;).
In the mean time, I miss all of you at home dearly and know I do not keep in touch as well as I should. I’m currently toying with the idea of coming home for Christmas, but if that doesn’t happen, let me know if you’re ever in KL 😉 !