Every year when December rolls around, I get on a plane and fly to Malaysia with my parents for a couple of weeks. They insist. This trip has sort of become an annual pilgrimage to my parents’ homeland, an occasion where we spend time with one another and rush around making the most of the time we have here visiting relatives, shopping and eating.
I always feel agitated a few weeks before each trip because going overseas during this time of the year means missing out on a number of things in Melbourne for me: New Year festivities with my friends, turning down that hard-to-come-by office summer job I was offered, quietly reading the book I want to finish and so on.
This year, for a number of reasons work and health related, I won’t be making the yearly trip back to Malaysia. And you know what? I feel sad.
I don’t know how to explain why I’m feeling this way. I mean, if I actually went on Malaysia trip 2013 I would be doing the same things as per the last few trips – visiting relatives whom I’m not close with, shopping and eating. And I should be happy finally I get to spend New Year’s in Aussie land, right?
Last week, one of my friends suggested we go to the Night Noodle Market – eating the street food dished up here might cheer me up. We ended up going last Saturday. There were hawker-style stalls galore at the Market on the lawn beside Federation Square, smoke billowing from hot works tossing flat rice noodles and old Asian aunties reserving seats for their families by draping their belongings on chairs.
The day-before-summer sizzling sun that radiated down upon the hordes of hungry folk made this food festival seem something like one hot and sticky outdoor hawker eating experience. Walking past long queues for food and hearing incessant chatter in a mish-mash of Asian languages, I felt so…comfortable.
I’m a proud Asian Australian living in Australia yet I long to be a world away on random occasions. I could be on a tram, lining up to buy sushi for lunch or in between shuffling papers at work and suddenly, my mind flits back to the times I’ve spent in Malaysia and Singapore – and I wish I could pop back over there at the sharp snap of my thumb and middle finger.
Why? Maybe it’s the atmosphere, the hustle and bustle of Asian life that my adventurous self longs for? Or the ruthless dog-eat-dog working lifestyle in Asian cities that my personality-which-likes-a-challenge craves? Or perhaps the warm weather which I so love?
I don’t know and it’s confusing. Is Malaysia “home” to me? I can’t entirely say yes to this. I have set up a stable life in Melbourne – I have a roof over my head, a small group of nice friends and transportation wherever I want to go around the city. All of which I would think twice about giving up in a split second. Is Australia “home” to me? Well, obviously I can’t say yes either.
Pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. The free-spirited travelers among us are always happily on the move and find solace in the little things around us, for instance a familiar face or the crystal clear blue sky. To them, “home” is the world and the world is their oyster.
I envy those who confidently call the town where they grew up “home” and don’t struggle to answer “Where are you from?”. At the same time I’m very thankful for all the experiences I’ve had living in Asia that I would never encounter in Australia. That’s the trade-off for being a citizen of many worlds, I suppose.
So year after year of complaining about wanting to stay Down Under in December, this year I’m getting my wish. Although I’m not exactly jumping for joy about this, there really is nothing I can do about it except accept what is meant to be and be positive about what lies ahead for me this month and beyond.
I’ve come a long way from learning to confidently call myself Asian Australian and embrace who I am: I’m an Asian Australian living in Australia, but no one can take the Malaysian out of me.
And that’s the way I roll. I’m sure I’ll have fun this silly season.
Where do you like to travel or feel at home, and why?