Green has always been my favorite of colors, and for the last week I’ve been surrounded by everything green. Exploring the highlands and jungles of Malaysia has taught me to see this color through fresh eyes, and to truly feel green. It is the color of life, health, and growth. So it’s no wonder that after a week engulfed in emerald fields, mossy forests, and lush rainforests, I started to realize myself fresh and anew. I felt born again, a traveler. I’m embracing this place that I find myself in, and realizing that I’ve reached the next level of this trip.
Sometime after my friend, Joe, had come and gone, I felt myself slipping into a state of solitude. I forgot about the things around me. I forgot to be creative. I started examining time, both past and future, forgetting the present. I started to question everything. I left Penang and headed to the Cameron Highlands. I thought, “At least I am seeing new places, while I sort out my dysfunction.” I made friends at my guest house in Cameron, without thought. I spent a day with three new friends, hiking to the highest peak in the Cameron Highland jungles, and then on to an amazingly green tea plantation. That day it smacked me in the face how changed I have became without realizing.
I was traveling with no attention to the road, but rather on myself. And I was the only person holding myself back. I wasn’t homesick or alone. I was letting my mind tell me that I was these things and more. But in reality I was full of life. Without thought, I was meeting new people, moving down the road I knew so well. So by not needing to pay as much attention to my feet moving, I was forgetting what was actually going on in the now.
Down the road again, in Taman Negara, the oldest rainforest in the world, in the heart of peninsular Malaysia. I made more friends on the boat ride there. After my first day, exploring the canopy walkways and vantage points over endless valleys of rainforest, I remembered reading about this place. A little less than a month ago, I was in my hostel in Bangkok, looking at a Malaysian lonely planet. I looked at Taman Negara. I had always wanted to go there, but anyone who examines a map can see that it’s a massive beast of rainforest with no major roads going near it. As I read, I thought, “How would I even know what to do? How would I get there? Would I have the right gear? Would I get snake bites, some kind of crazy poison ivy, or fatal bug bites?” I told myself it was out of reach.
Low and behold, I found myself in and out of Taman Negara, no harm done. I was breathing the freshest air in the world. I hadn’t even realized the point when I threw away my travel worries and went to this unreachable place. This happened because I’ve been learning as I go. Not only was I not paying attention to the road anymore, but I woke up one morning a traveler. When did this happen? The things I’ve been living have became ingrained in me. I know which hostels to avoid. I can smell a scam cooking. I remember to pack my bags the night before I leave to avoid packing while everyone sleeps in. I never leave my computer unlocked or exposed. No matter what day it is, I’m weirdly always aware of when it’s laundry day. I know which clothes to pack for whatever activity. I know what I need to do to avoid car/bus/boat/train/plane sickness. I wasn’t a rookie anymore. I had made my way into the brotherhood of backpackers. I felt as green as the hills and jungles around me.
The result of this new phase of my trip is that I have less need to focus on screwing up and more time to question this experience. I have more time to question myself. I feel green in thought now, and I need to keep reminding myself to focus on the now. I am becoming more creatively invested into this lifestyle of being a traveler, and hopefully it’s for my own good. As I continue on to Melaka in a few days, I have no idea what’s in store next. Singapore? Burma? Indonesia? Maybe I’ll just skip them all and head strait to Australia! When I left for Japan, I wouldn’t make a move without the next step planned. Now I cut it down to the wire, knowing that plans can always change. Feeling fresh, and ready to keep going, I am seeing this trip from new eyes. I just needed a little green to remind me that we are always growing.
You see I’ve been climbing stairs but mostly stumbling down
I’ve been reaching high always losing ground
You see I’ve conquered hills but I still have mountains to climb
And right now right now I’m doing the best I can
At this point in my life
-Tracy Chapman, At This Point in My Life
* To see more pictures of Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara, click on my Photos Page.