The Spring Break Series: The Girl Traveler.

I know it’s been 1.5 months since my spring break, but as promised: here’s the wrap-up.

This year I am doing the most traveling I have ever done in my entire life, no doubt. Edinburgh just last break, Eurotrip in mid-June that will last 2 weeks and cover roughly 10 relatively popular Europe spots (think Paris, Rome and the like), then I’ll be home-but-not-quite, fulfilling my scholarship-agreement with the sponsor via a summer internship in Miri, Sarawak in Borneo island before jet-setting back to Philly for fall term (as a senior, eeep!) and finally in December, another whirlwind of being in many places all in 3-weeks: back home for Third Bro’s reception, a little over a week in NZ for Eldest Bro’s wedding (10 years since I went there, amazing) and before settling back to Philly: a quick getaway in LA.

So far? Life is good, really good.

It’s funny, because if you’d asked me this 3, 4 years ago – could I have imagined this? Could I ever have guessed? Could I ever have thought that my passport would be stamped as proof of having been to these different countries?

My answer, genuinely, is just this: no.

At 18 – the Dark Ages year – I remember making a promise to self: no matter how far I tread, if I ever make it Stateside, I’ll remember to stay rooted … nothing will change this.

Of course, that’s exactly when the promise starts to break.

When I think of the girl I could have been: the life I could have led, the different situations I’d be in… grateful, that’s really all I can convey. Now fast-forward to 3 years later and suddenly I find myself with the opportunity to venture, sight-see, glimpse and the like at all these different places – none are particularly “exotic” (i.e. like the Amazon, for instance) – but charting miles nonetheless.

Plus the best part? Most of my trips are funded in some ways because I have an amazing support system so never had I been plagued with financial woes. Oh, so very blessed.

Edinburgh was the one trip that I had paid for completely on my own, save for things like food that Wendy and Philip paid for. I was adamant that everything was charged to my card and none to the supplementary credit card I have of Mum’s; the flight ticket, the entrance fees – everything. I am aware that this trip isn’t one of those life-changing ones people typically go through because it was not at all hardcore; no backpacking cross-country, no living on a suitcase, no spending nights in trains … honestly, it was quite the luxury, given my age and jobless state. However, I don’t think the perspectives I’d gained were any less meaningful had I experienced the latter.

I am a year to graduating and mulling back-and-forth at the expiration date of my stay here in Philly; do I extend it, being away, or is it timely I make my way back? Nothing is permanent, after all. My conscience finds it incredibly hard to accept the alternative of working in another’s country, truthfully. Yet this fierce thirst I have in wanting to continue being away is so hard to shake off. I mulled over this prior to the trip and even now, but when this trip took place – a solo one, a coming-of-age-celebration-gift-to-self, literally away and even more away … I saw so many beautiful things.

All while alone, basked in the sunlight and laughter of the passing crowd, slowly blending in and becoming just another nameless face. Anonymity, only of the most wonderful kind. Even with technology, I sort of went back to basics because while I could access the internet, it was only at certain times and obviously I could not even watch any dramas. Stripped off of all the excess, I simply enjoyed being in the company of an elderly couple and mostly, myself. It turned out to be exactly what I needed.

On my last day, as I made my way back to the home – walking this route for the last time, I thought as I made my way across the meadow, I spotted an empty bench and sat down. Everything about that moment was perfect: the day was gorgeous, sunny and warm, laughter and smiles everywhere as everyone enjoyed one another’s company and the fine day, I had no pressing matters to tend to, no urgency of any sort. Being away and away really distorted reality; such a thing just about did not exist. It was then, sitting there for 20 minutes that I had a revelation-of-sorts; simple enough.

I am not and need not be tied to a particular continent exclusively, nor do I need to limit myself between home or the States as if they are the only two places on Earth. The places, sentiments and principles I hold dear within myself will not change regardless where my feet are planted: the ideals I am rooted in will morph, evolve and take different forms but their inherent worth will remain the same.

Realizing all the above, I am also aware that I might break some hearts deciding this. I might foster greater distances, both physically and emotionally, being away. I might be continually seasoned, shedding skins all the time that the lapses between my 19-, 20-, 21-year old selves increasingly wider as time passes. I might find myself constantly alone; solo, an individual not attached to another. I might be this, I might be that. I might be everything and nothing; so much potential.

I have a feeling I will surprise myself, this same time next year – where I will end up.

To be 21 and charting the miles might seem a most ordinary confession. But to be 21, a young girl from a little-known country in Southeast Asia, easily a person who is any other person out there and living an entirely different life? Rezeki, this is what it is and most amazing of all: this is mine. Alhamdulillah.

With that revelation – so ordinary and yet so impactful – despite the increasing, ever-present uncertainties, one thing I now believe with conviction: for as long as I am able, I want to continue being the girl traveler. She who peeps, glimpses, sight-sees with not just her eyes, but with overflowing gratefulness to the Almighty for being here, now: the present – whatever and wherever that is at that given moment in time. She who looks at the most ordinary of things and finds herself so incredibly moved, enough to sometimes shed tears, most times mulling for days on end. She who is able to become witness to The World Out There – different continents, different time zones – but returns to the same conclusion every time: despite all the differences that appear – inherently, so much similar than anyone would’ve and could’ve guessed.

Most winning of all: Allah s.w.t in every space, every time frame, every beauty; MasyaAllah.

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