On the day I marked the fifth anniversary of this itinerant life, I went out for a long walk late at night and left my keys in the door.
This being Singapore, and us living on a floor where no one save the neighbours goes to, nothing untoward happened. Only Mum coming home later and getting a scare – keys dangling, no sign of errant child (who is getting forgetful with age).
The past five years have been ephemeral, and my memories of them, while vibrant with colour and movement, also place-time-event indistinct. Not having anywhere to call “home” is a destabilizing, as much as it is delightful. Geographical and temporal markers completely awry. Physiological and psychological lags of time and space. Too often, the me in Denmark takes too long to swap over to the Singapore-appropriate one. Vice versa, hemispherical spiral, rinse repeat.
Five years ago, I bid Perth, Western Australia, home-of-a-kind since 1999, goodbye. I’d called it quits at the desk job some days before, and spent the remainder leading up to departure, trying not to get too green around the gills.
The plan was that I was going to figure myself out, attempt the the rah-rah traveling thing espoused by people who look good in swimsuits, and can see laptop screens in bright sunlight.
(Despite being neither. But you know, one can hope.)
It was going to be a year’s experiment, after which I’d return to my job, address my broke-ness, and hopefully be refreshed enough to power through another couple of years in banking to save a bunch of money, quit my job, and move away from Perth.
As you can probably guess, that didn’t happen.
Instead, I fell in love with a Danish nomad, and oddly, here I am, back in the bedroom my 17 year old self lived in, mum outside, counting days till Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen. Who knows where it’ll end.
I haven’t found much of myself. The 45 voices in my head assure me that bits of myself are still wandering around out there, head-in-cloud, unaware that the rest of the Charlene is in some other cloud layer. I may never come together. I’m not sure it matters. If one believed in that sort of thing, it is amusing to think that the ghost of a ligament is tripping people up somewhere in Mexico City, a buggered tendon’s apparition haunting klutzes in Tangier. There’s a decent amount of my skin flapping around Copenhagen too… gods, there was an incredible amount of falling over for a while there. At least it’s not too hazardous in Singapore, and we live near the hospital, which still houses the spirit of that anterior cruciate ligament that carked it some years back. The trail of mishaps is intercontinental.
Appropriate to be observing half a decade of a traveling life, back at the roots, with travel for the foreseeable year entirely family related. There are a lot of things I don’t have now that I did, back in Perth: a place to call my own, a car, a job, money in the bank. But what I do have now, precisely because I don’t do have a job that gives me all the rest in exchange for my time, is my family. It’s a trade off I doubt ever so often (because damn, i miss the money part), but eventually conclude is worth it in the end.
Balik kampung, is what we say here (in Malay). Going home to your village.
A few days ago I went to hang with my friend Lei. We talked for hours, walked down the breezy banks of the Kallang River, made pictures, talked some more.
Lei is an artist whose medium is photography, and it is always refreshing to spend time in her company. Lei knows who she is. Aside from connecting with a bonafide ally, it is also uplifting to watch her use a camera. The camera is a thing I have come to understand that I must revere for technological supremity, something I must make images worthy of, to live up to, rather than the other way round, as it should be. I use a very good camera, but it’s been a long time since I’ve really remembered that a camera is just a camera. Something to use how I want, to make what I need.
We swapped cameras (so all the pictures in this post are Ricoh GR II shots), and for a while there I was enchanted with this tiny box and how free I felt using it.
But really, it wasn’t the camera. It was the company that gave the camera its magic.
Muchismas gracias Lei.