The beauty of imperfections – by leesan

Our columnist looks forward to a new year filled with renewed hope and confidence.

INTERNATIONAL tourism in Malaysia has been on hold for more than 20 months now due to the coronavirus. Even though Malaysians are now allowed to travel overseas, and the Langkawi International Travel Bubble began about a month ago, the sector is still not actively operating as many people are generally hesitant about travelling.

However, many of us in the business do believe that everything will reopen and restart one day, hopefully soon.

While we wait for that miracle, let’s just remember our fond memories of past travels, and perhaps plan for future ones.

I am actually curious to know what you think about travelling today, and whether you are prepared for the borders to reopen.

Urban Malaysian travellers who found their ‘wabi-sabi’ momentum during an eco-tourism trip to Sabah.

In the past, some people travel as a way to express their moods or feelings. Some follow the same journeys that other travellers took before them, while others travel without knowing where the roads will take them. What’s more important to them is that they enjoy the experience.

There are also folks who look at travel as a way to spend precious time with family and friends, creating new memories and cherishing every moment with them along the way.

Of course, when you work in tourism, you will always come across folks who grumble non-stop during a trip and will always find fault with everything. Occasionally, they will say something nice about the food they’re eating, or when they come across a place they like.

Very, very rarely will they praise the tour guide.

Everyone has their own travel personality. For me, I think travelling gives us a chance to explore the future and the unknown.

Usually, before we set out on our journey, we may already have some idea of what to expect. But like everything in life, the journey may not go exactly as expected, no matter how careful you’ve planned it.

Wouldn’t things be monotonous and uneventful if everything went our way, with absolutely no surprises in between, anyway?

We’ve only learnt to appreciate everything that we used to come across in our past travels – the things we saw, people we met, stories shared with us and even our travel buddies – when our travel privileges were taken away from us because of Covid-19.

Post-pandemic, we should really try our very best to be more appreciative of our opportunities to travel. Perhaps, some of us are even praying for another chance to rectify all the bad things we did and the petty complaints we made during our previous travels!

Travel buddies support each other during a wet journey into the forest of Kinabatangan in Sabah – Photos:LEESAN

There is a quote that I love by late the 19th century British philosopher G.K. Chesterton, which says, “The traveller sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.” It is a very simple and straightforward quote, but it is reflective of the attitude required of a traveller in real life.

Another quote I love is by the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin who once said, “Beauty is everywhere. It is not that she is lacking to our eyes, but our eyes which fail to perceive her.”

I think these quotes remind us of what kind of attitude and respect we should have while travelling. I would like to add that we must also have a magnanimous heart when travelling.

I believe that if we have a broad vision and a generous heart, we should be able to experience many good things in life.

One of the columnist’s favourite quotes.

The true value of wagyu meat lies in what we can’t see with our eyes: All the special care and attention given to the cattle by farmer, and the creativity of the talented chef who prepares your food. The mystery of the pyramids is derived from the committed belief of the Pharaohs and his craftsmen. The visual and mental impact of the Roman Coliseum is the symbol of a great bygone era. The love story behind the majestic Taj Mahal touches our hearts, while the resilience of Oshin of northeastern Japan makes a powerful motivation story for modern people.

All these constitute building aesthetics, precious cultural legacies, and unique culinary characteristics we have learnt from people from across the globe. They have not only enriched our journeys but have also helped shape our distinctive world views.

Travelling provides a lifetime journey of endless explorations.

In Japanese, the wabi-sabi aesthetics is a simple, practical philosophy of Zen whereby everything in this world has its imperfect aspect, and we must learn to look at them with an accommodating heart and accept them as they are.

In view of this, each time we set out on a journey, think of it as a chance to practise the wabi-sabi philosophy, as we attempt to visualise the beauty of a world full of imperfections, experience things which are weird and unusual and spend time with strangers who have lots of stories to tell.

Along the way, we may come to realise all the little things about life and perhaps even “upgrade” ourselves.

Let’s appreciate all that we have now, confront a world of new normal, and value the philosophy of life with a genuine heart. If we can do just that, then our future travelling life will become wholly fulfilled.

Let’s face the New Year together with true confidence!

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.

Published in STAR 2, 18 Dec 2021