To think that my last post was last year, on the first of November, days before I took off on my final trip of 2016. Seems like a world away, doesn’t it?
In fact, my trip began on Election Day. I figured that a self-imposed news media blackout would help with any anxieties. No newspapers, no TV, no coughing up dough for in-flight Wi-Fi—just me and my thoughts all day, several miles above ground. Ballot was in the box. I did my part—didn’t I?
The itinerary was hopeful, ambitious—and, in hindsight, naïve: a moveable feast through Malaysia and Thailand, focusing on the myriad cultural influences of what was arguably one of modern globalization’s nascent centers along the Strait of Malacca.1 Delicious food, Instagram-worthy architecture, beautiful beaches, warm smiles. It was all going to be so perfect.
Then I caught a glimpse of election results on someone’s laptop.
When the plane landed in Narita Airport for its scheduled layover, crowds gathered in front of airport lounge TVs as the election results were announced. The initial shock was palpable. With that, my motivation to push on with this grandiose trip had dropped. The moral of the story seemed to be to go in with no expectations whatsoever.
After shuffling onto the next flight to Malaysia, I loaded up Shin Godzilla and watched the world burn. Bumbling bureaucrats scrambled, not so much to contain the walking nuclear disaster, but to protect their own political power.2 Kaiju battle aside, there was little joy to be gleaned from it. It was all too real.
But the time for self-loathing was brief. After all, how lucky was I to be on this trip in the first place? The objective, then, was simple: to enjoy the moment and find beauty in this most imperfect world.
First stop, Penang.