They exchanged a minimal amount of text messages in his six weeks of travel. The Californian was 90% sure his fellow Californian friend, Robbie, was waiting for him at the pre-determined hostel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. He rang the buzzer and climbed the stairs to find a familiar bearded grin waiting for him in the lobby. “Sup man,” a phrase he hadn’t heard since departing his beach town.
With less than twenty four hours before their flight to Langkawi Island, moves were made. “Let me put down my bags in my room and I am ready to head to the Batu Caves.” He entered his four person, two bunk bed windowless dorm and was greeted by a groggy tall shirtless man sitting up on a top bunk, clearly just waking up at 2:30PM. “Hey, I’m Nick,” he said with a handshake and a Belgian accent.
“Want to come to the Batu Caves with us?”
“Um, sure. Why not? Let me just get dressed and find something to eat.”
At that time they didn’t know that Nick, the friendly and funny guy with a personality that clicked with their own, would join them for the next week of their Malaysian adventure.
Taking a Grab (a ride share company that bought out Uber of Malaysia days prior), they headed to the iconic landmark. Assending the stairs they passed monkeys pleading for food and tourists willing to feed the creatures. They went on a 45 minute tour of the dark cave, filled with 100,000 bats above and layers of guana below, luckily to the side of the pathway. They learned of the unique insects and ecosystem present in the cave.
That evening they made there way to the coolest bar destination the Californian has ever attended: a helipad on the 34th floor of a skyscraper in the city center of Kuala Lumpur. The 360 degree view showed skyscrapers all around them and a city stretching for miles in every direction. He contemplated the massive scale of modern society as he sipped a cold Tiger beer.
Following watching the transition of night to day, the group viewed a light show, reminiscent of The Bellagio n Las Vegas, at the base of the Patronas Towers. After a quick walk later that evening through the market of Chinatown it was time for bed. The next morning they were off to the airport to head to Langkawi Island.
Traveling alone is great. But traveling with someone, especially a friend whom you see in daily life, is even better. Creating memories together makes the experience more vivid and the bond between you more unique and by extension better. After seeing couples walking arm in arm and lads stumbling after each other he realized this is something he had felt missing in his travels.
One Week Later
The Californian returned to Kuala Lumpur alone after the trio parted ways. One was destined for home and the other for northern Malaysian islands. The Californian booked a private hotel room with strong WiFi and a desk because he had decided his next step: applying to work at camp for summer 2018.
This trip is not about “finding himself.” This trip is not about departing reality. This trip is about adventure and exploration. It is about finding more reality. Along the way he hoped that he would clarify values but there was no singular destination, mental or literal.
One of these realizations was acknowledging the importance of camp in his life. 2017 was the first summer in six years he did not work a summer camp. Reflecting on his travels thus far, and his desires moving forward, he remembered and realized one particular thing: he thrived at camp. The energy and atmosphere are familiar, regardless of the program. On top of this, he was good at camp. And it is fun to be good at something. So that was a reality he was craving next, after some more time traveling. He was enjoying this immersive travel experience so why not continue the idea of total immersion by working at a traditional sleep-away camp on the East Coast of the US?
Over the next couple days he worked on one application for a camp that had everything he was looking for in terms of staff size (large), facilities (bountiful, including a lake), and values (emphasis on the individual and creating a better person while having fun along the way).
When taking breaks from the application he wandered the bustling streets of the Bukit Bintang area of Kuala Lumpur. On his way to grabbing food he passed a block of massage parlors insistent on his attendance, some with employees blocking his path with flyers advertising foot massages and others with women grabbing his arm attempting to lure him in for a “very good” massage. He passed illuminated advertisements and 24 hour McDonalds and streets with as many Starbucks at New York City. The malls were six floors tall with all types of consumer products and clothing, and stores underground offering even more fashion options.
The advantage of this metropolis was the availability and ease of access to a variety of foods. The Californian is not a foodie but he did have the most delectable item of his trip thus far: Malaysia’s number one ranked cheese tart. It melted in his mouth as he devoured the treat, and he turned around and walked the half block back to the store to purchase another.
After finishing his camp application, binge watching Money Heist on Netflix, and walking around a bustling city, he was ready to depart the country for his next destination: Siem Reep, Cambodia.