I have been away from this blog way for way too long.
What started out as a one-month break from writing to “collect myself together” after somewhat traumatising few months has turned into a ten-month long case of a writer’s block.
My last post was 1 January this year.
In my defense, I did try to come back at the one-month mark. I have an unfinished draft from February as proof – and by “draft” I meant that I clicked on the “new post” button and failed to come up with a title nor a single word to write. I even tried writing about my writer’s block in May, which was supposed to help writers get the words flowing again, but that didn’t help either.
I have even travelled to London (and Birmingham) in the meantime, but even they didn’t inspire me to write again.
It took a trip to my most beloved city Copenhagen to get things started again. The moment I landed at Kastrup Airport, I was miraculously already itching to write.
I have lost count of how many times I have been to the Danish capital. Yet, every single time, Copenhagen still finds new ways to charm me.
I came right at the end of the summer. Or as some people told me when I was there, summer returned for a few days just to greet me.
Some of the best things in life come when you least expect it. The same goes for travelling. Sometimes some of the best places may not be listed on a Lonely Planet guide – you just happen to chance upon it while being lost on your way to somewhere and voila! you couldn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would care to listen.
But if I keep relying on that philosophy in life, I would never have discovered Norwich, a city in Norfolk, of which one travel journalist has labeled to be “on the way to nowhere”.
It sounds harsh, but there is some truth to it. Norwich is located in East Anglia, that little bump in the east of England. It is not easily accessible from any major cities, and there is nothing but barren land between London and the place. Moreover, train prices in Norfolk are generally more expensive than the rest of the kingdom, which only further discouraged people from visiting the place.
So my decision to visit Norwich had to be completely deliberate (there is no other way I would have ended up there otherwise) although it did take me almost a year to board that Greater Anglia train from Liverpool Street.
I never doubted that Norwich was going to be lovely, but the comments by some people about the place kind of got to me…
“What is there in Norwich?“, “Why would you go there?”, “I mean Norwich is lovely, but why?” and a few more things along the line.
… that when I got off the train, I was wary and wanted to take the next train back. I was even hiding behind a pillar at the station, trying to hide from my host but he somehow still managed to find me.
And it was a good thing he did, since I proceeded to have one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.
I fell in love with the city right at the first stop, an area at the outskirt of the Mousehold Heath. It was a hill overlooking the whole of Norwich, and I took to calling it the “Prison Hill” since it was located right across the street from the HM Prison Norwich.
It was wise of him to bring me here since I love hills with a view.
Apart from the stunning view, there is something else to be said about the prison: a lovely cafe called Cafe Britannia located at the former Britannia Barracks, which is now part of the prison. It served affordable brunch (and yummy-looking desserts) that I wished I got to eat more. But the most amazing thing about the cafe (apart from its cosy atmosphere and good food) was that they employ offenders. I couldn’t remember a much better feeling than eating a cheese scone and drinking tea with a great company while contributing to a good cause.
If you think I love travelling, you need to look no further than my parents to understand why. I grew up in a family where travelling is an annual ritual (we would have a big family trip for two weeks every year) that I have no idea how to live my life any other way.
Now that the kids have grown up with two of us living abroad, my parents seem to bear the torch of our family tradition very well. They would be in China one day, Thailand next, some other city in Indonesia afterwards and Singapore probably a few weeks after. Sometimes I lost track of where they are, and would wake up to a constant stream of pictures of them posing with some landmarks that were definitely not anywhere near our home in Jakarta.
So, really, I could just blame it on the genes that I am spending so much time (and money) travelling, all in the name of satisfying my sense of curiosity. Not that it is a bad gene to have, I have been having the time of my life for the past few years exploring new places around the world.
However, it is a bit ironic that the very thing my parents have inspired me with, this unwavering sense of wander, is what makes me unable to be with them on this very special day. Today marks the 30th year of their journey together as man and wife, and here I am, way up north in a different continent and very much wish that I could be there with them today to celebrate.
My parents haven’t just been parents to me, their (slightly rebellious) daughter. They have been my role models in life, work and relationships. They are the rare example of how long-distance relationships can work (they spent several years in different countries and continents before getting married to each other), they teach me the meaning of being with each other through thick and thin, and simply how you can make things work if you have the will to.
Their humble journey started from their hometown in Medan, before eventually moving to Jakarta where they started to build a family while still trying to make ends meet. Now when they can afford to live comfortably, they have decided to spend the time conquering city after city with each other.
Even though things haven’t always been easy for them and my family, it is heartwarming and refreshing to see their determination all these years through the hardship in life, and learning together to overcome their differences to be where they are today.
One of my favourite travel quotes comes from one of Malaysian Airlines advertisement campaigns (before their reputation went down due to the missing planes saga). I remember stumbling upon it on my way home from work and just stood there thinking that this pretty much sums up what I wish for in my life.
In a society where girls are expected to stay put, learn how to cook, dress up and hone skills to be a good wife, frequent travelling is certainly not the conventional thing to do. What with the many horror stories that befall on girls who travel, it takes a certain courage and sacrifice from a mother to let her daughter roam and discover the world.
I bet it is hard for her to understand, the mother who spent most of her life at her hometown and only after she got married did she move to a different city, to have a daughter who is only 25 but has lived in four different countries and travelled to a lot more.
It must be hard for her to comprehend, the mother whose life after marriage has always been to fulfill her duty as a wife and mother and spend every single waking moment with the family, to have a daughter who is still flighty as a bird and always dreams of living at faraway places.
It must be hard for her to accept, the mother who left her job to be able to spend more time with her kids when they were young, only to find that when they grow up, they all live away from her to pursue their education and career.
It must be hard for her to appreciate, the mother who never spent a single cent on herself, not on expensive bags nor clothes nor even on good food in cafes, to have a daughter who spends considerable amount of her savings on flight tickets, but never once has she ever questioned her on her use of finances.