In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take — Lewis Carroll
My name is Mei. I was born in Malaysia, brought up in a Chinese family household, and I have lived in Australia my entire life. Today I am 31. I have lived a rather stock-standard life in terms of studying, working, saving, dating and going on the occasional holiday here and there. I’ve always dreamed of living abroad and seeing the world since I was 16. But that dream never really has become a reality until recently.
My dream surfaced when I was 20 and went on a trip to China for two weeks for university (to assist students learn English). I had the most amazing time and bonded with a great group of people. I learnt a lot about my mother land and got to see some beautiful sites. China was a ‘culture shock’ to me, but in a good way. It taught me that I absolutely love going to countries where the culture is completely different and the place has so much to offer you in terms of what you can learn just from being in a place. I came back inspired to travel.
December 2007 – me with some of the crew eating toffee fruit in Hangzhou, China.
After coming back from China, I was determined to move there for a year or two to study in a masters course so I diligently started learning Chinese in preparation…and then I met my ex-boyfriend. We initially shared the vision of moving to China together but our plans suddenly changed to study law. Ever since we made that decision, my life changed forever. The plan to move to China disappeared…and we chose to move to another state in Australia (from Perth to Melbourne) to attend a better uni instead.
Since we made this decision, my life became studying and trying to establish myself in Melbourne. It took over my life and certainly took a toll over me…and ultimately over my relationship. I only had time to eat, sleep, work and study. Eventually, the person who I thought was ‘the one’, walked away and left me in a rut.
I must admit that even though university consumed my life, it actually gave me the opportunity to fulfil my dream of living abroad. I went on what you could say was an exchange program in Italy and lived there for 2.5 months. But the experience was given to me in the wrong circumstances. I was going through a breakup from a 7-year relationship at the time, so I couldn’t really properly enjoy traveling as much as you normally do. I didn’t get to go with the flow, soak in the sites, and meet the amazing people you do when you travel. I was stuck with this one person who could barely even look at me or speak to me throughout most of my journey and I had the added stress of trying to finish assessments.
August 2016 – me traveling in Sicily, Italy with my ex (you can see just how happy I am here)
When I came back to Melbourne after 3.5 months of being in Europe, I forgot who I was, I was homeless for about five months (living at friend’s houses while looking for a place) and I was jobless. I had barely any money and I was not sure I was going to make it. But I eventually found a job, continued my studies and found a place to live on my own. Most importantly, throughout this process, I found myself again.
I am so glad I persisted with life because it led me to have this ‘light bulb moment’ last year.
Last year, I made another life changing decision – I decided to study a subject at a different university. I met one of my greatest friends there, Surbhi. We immediately clicked with each other and supported each other throughout uni. There were a lot of calls, whinging and comforting each other (not to mention trying to stay up together via social media – thank you Facebook!). We bonded so well that we caught up after the subject finished – we toured to an attraction in Victoria and there came my light bulb moment – I realised that I have always wanted to travel by myself and that I am still young and single, so there is no better time for me to do what I have dreamed of doing since I was 16. I kept on thinking to myself – “I’ve read that most people regret the things they don’t do, not the things they do, and I know if I don’t do this now, I will get stuck into my career and never have this opportunity again. I know will regret it for the rest of my life.” I initially started toying with the idea that I would work hard in the legal industry for about 2-3 years and then just drop everything and travel for just as long. This has now changed – I am not sure when and for how long I will go (it depends on my funds). But my journey indeed started very, very recently.
2017 – Me touring Victoria with Surbhi (bottom right) and her partner Ashish (top right).
At this stage, I was lucky enough to be working as a legal assistant at an awesome boutique law firm. I initially thought I had long-term career prospects. But I was on a temporary six-month contract from the beginning. Eventually, I realised there was no long-term prospect for me. When I was told my contract wouldn’t be renewed, I figured it was the perfect opportunity for me to go on a holiday.
I bought my ticket to Malaysia for a family holiday for Chinese New Year to surprise my grandma. My brother hadn’t visited home for 13 years, and I hadn’t for 8. It would have been a nice reunion (and it was indeed so nice to visit my home town and catch up with family – stay tuned for my posts on my holiday to Malaysia and spending Chinese New Year in Malaysia).
Then I really decided to begin my journey when I made the decision to go to India from Malaysia. The second part of my journey began from when Surbhi planted the seed in my head to come to India. She invited me to her wedding!!! At first, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to go, because I had my plan to travel the world and going to a wedding in the middle of it would take a lot away from my plans. But then as I started to think about it…I thought, Malaysia and India are so close to each other…I might as well go to India.
So there it was, I booked a flight to India and the rest was history.
At this stage I knew NOTHING about India. I only knew the country existed and it had a huge population with a lot of poverty. I also knew it was very polluted and stank apparently. I started looking at tours because I felt planning a trip would be too hard, and then I saw the cost and knew that India was cheap and thought – no, I think I can do this myself for much cheaper. But this meant that I had to actually research and plan my trip.
And then the research started.
I started reading lots of articles and books as well as watching a lot of blogs and looking at maps of India. And then I realised that India is HUGE and confusing. I also realised during my research that India has a lot of publicity about sexual abuse and crime. I then started getting really scared. I couldn’t help but think to myself… “what have you gotten yourself into now!? F*&^!”. I wondered “of all places to pick to do your first solo trip, you picked India???” This was the first proper trip on my own where I wasn’t going to stay at a friend’s house and they were going to show me around. There was no group or person organising things for me. I had been used to someone always organising my trips for me, so for me, this was a big deal. India was a land full of the unknown and so much to worry about. The more I researched, the more I worried about my health, safety and being scammed. Because India has everything – theft, violence, rape, scams, malaria, etc… It’s a place where you can get really sick from eating the food or drinking the water (or ice cubes). But I had already committed myself. There was no backing out now. As frightened as I was, I was determined to make it happen and succeed at traveling in India.
I did extensive research over two or three months, booked all my tickets and accommodation and before I knew it, I was on my way to India.
I have now returned from India and I must say that I am so glad that I went. I fell in love with the country and wish that I could have stayed for longer. Despite getting Dehli Belly at the very end (I have been ill for over a week now), I would go back there in a heartbeat. I initially planned to go for two weeks so I could rush back to Perth for a wedding, but I decided to extend my stay to three weeks (giving up the wedding in Perth) because after researching, I realised that India is a HUGE country with so much to see. It would have been impossible to do what I want to do in two weeks. Now I wish I stayed for the whole two months which the visa permitted. I wish I didn’t buy a return ticket home. (I only bought one because I read that you can be refused the granting of your visa if you don’t have a ticket out of the country. But now I know that they rarely check this and I could have gotten away with buying just a one way ticket to India.)
I am proud to have gone and to have survived the trip. It’s not as scary as I, or my family perceived. And I’m already planning (in my head) to go back before I run off to Europe.
March 2018 – Me conquering Amer Fort Top View, Jaipur, India.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading my first blog post. More writings on Malaysia and India to come – stay tuned!
Feel free to comment to provide your thoughts or general feedback. Would love to hear it!