Wed. 20.11.85
On the waterfront
Waiting for 2pm bus to Butterworth.

I’m sunburned, a little sore and very tired – kids have no respect for sleep!

And the rains start again – pause to find shelter.

Lumut waterfront

I’m more than surprised, therefore, that I lasted four nights at Pangkor. I’ve served my time with kids’ holiday camps. (Note: this is a reference to my last job back in London.) A little effort though and one could hide away. Yesterday a group of us rented a boat to an offshore island to laze on a deserted beach littered at the tide line with detritus, and to cool down in the warm sea. The cloudy haze still allowed enough sun through to turn my skin three-tone, a pink overlay on a white and brown background.

And Sarah proved to be another a congenial companion. In her thirties, similarly spending a year-plus on exploring the world as an ex-lawyer seeking a new direction, our motivations were/are similar.

Our interests, ideals and physical limitations coincide at many junctures. From Denver, Colorado, she had heard Caravan and Soft Machine. Whereas I’m prone to ankle sprains, her pitfalls are scrapes and abrasions. Yet while I wait here for my transport, she has bussed off to the Cameron Highlands. We may yet meet up again in Thailand or Burma, but it is sufficient that we have met and shared time together here.

We were agreed on ‘Why Travel’: basically there are three types we have encountered, four if we include package tourists.

There are those who travel for the first time.  Young and energetic, they are often recent university graduates so their outlook is not yet informed by experience, This allows them to overthrow the structures and conditioning of childhood, schooling et al. The shock of discovering that one’s expectations are not to be realised can sometimes be very traumatic. It is this group which asks such fundamental questions as Is God an Artichoke? (Answer: Yes, She is.) the search for a guru and an acceptable lifestyle does not preclude having a good time.  Ah, the exuberances of youth.

Another group we’ve encountered consists of those men who set out to explore the world back in the 60’s and early 70’s (like me) and couldn’t find their way back home (unlike me). Their initial curiosities and motivations have atrophied. Travel is about self-survival, and in the face of constant contacts and communication crises, one develops techniques of defence. With this group, it often appears as selfishness, bigotry and a seen-it-all therefore know-it-all attitude. They usually know where the best bars and girls in town are so if that kind of entertainment is sought, they are ideal company. I rapidly tire of their company.

I place myself in the third group, along with Sarah and Kees, a Dutchman I explored Malacca with. We are purposely limiting our travel time to maybe just over a year. Our finances won’t stretch to much more so a return to home base will become vital. At that time, our future life paths will be re-evaluated in the light of out travel experiences. Our local and national perspectives will be more global. Truly we should have learned more about our tolerances, but the very fact that we decided to travel is less an indication that we are seeking a guru than examining ourselves in a different context.

My journal, which is more a commentary than a litany, seems to bear this out. I have come to learn much through observation, a passenger on my own train of thought.

While it remains amusing to note that Pangkor islanders ride around on Japanese 70cc motorbike, with one hand holding aloft an umbrella when it rains, I am more concerned about their lack of awareness of pollution control. Plastic rubbish lies everywhere to everyone’s disadvantage. Was it like this before tourism?

Caveats and criticisms aside, there is little that I can or wish to do. Any involvement would be presumptuous. So my travelling companions and this journal become valued friends. The oft-expressed hope is that we will meet again. If not, no matter. It is sufficient to have coincided and perhaps changed our lives and perceptions a little.

My valediction remains “Happy Travels”.


About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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