Inside My Head, Malaysia, Solo Travel

Not so Sweet Dreams – Langkawi

7 Comments 12 October 2007

Stormy days

Stormy days

For the ‘best of’ Langkawi Photography – click here!

For all snapshots of Langkawi – click here!
I’m enjoying a perfectly relaxing serene week on a sunny beach in Langkawi Malaysia with my family. I’m taking a vacation from my traveling. I write, catch up on reading, work on my tan, brainstorm on ways to make a living, play games with my nieces – yet I awake in the middle of the night overcome with a feeling of despair.

I’m having nightmares. Not the kind where someone is chasing me with a machete through a dark, deserted forest in the pelting rain. Nor am I dreaming my normal reoccurring anxiety nightmare where I am trying to drive up a steep hill in my old Ford Escort and I am still spinning my wheels as I loose ground in 1st gear and start rolling backwards down the hill.

Instead, I dream of being back in NYC seeing my old friends. I look around at the familiar faces and places and have no idea where I fit in any longer. In NYC, people define themselves by their job, their neighborhood, and where and with whom they socialize. However, I no longer have these markers to define myself. bethany Instead, I have a depleted savings account, millions of words in a website, and thousands of photographs. How does my new year of experiences define me? In my dreams my friends busily rush around me as if I’m standing still – they are busy and caught up in a world that is foreign to me. I wake up feeling deeply sad and unsatisfied. This is why I still haven’t bought my plane ticket home. I suppose going back is as scary as leaving was for me 15 months ago. I’m scared to go home.

Regardless of the restless nights, I try to tell myself to push on – live in the moment – enjoy your last two months. Have fun hanging out on the beach in Malaysia, hanging out with my nieces, and drinking booze by noon every day. After all – that’s what the Malaysian island of Langkawi is about. It’s this little oasis near the Thai border. The southern Thailand border is not normally where I would want to be – however the island of Langkawi is perfectly safe. We have been staying at a little 3 star resort, Mutiara Burau Bay Resort with our own beach bungalows. The kind where you can hear the waves crashing on the beach at night while you fall asleep. We’ve been dodging the monkeys, and hopping the waves. In fact – we’ve barely left the premises for the last 5 days as the beach is so perfect and lazy.

lindseyDuring the few moments we did actually leave our resort, we rode the cable car in order to get an aerial view of the island and neighboring Thailand. One late afternoon we hiked to a waterfall, and one day my father and I went sailing. The boat was about 40 ft, and well stocked with booze. In fact, one might simply call it a booze cruise as opposed to a sailing adventure! While on the sailing adventure I realized where I get my sense of adventure from…my father. I watched him socialize with everyone on the boat, talk to them about where they are from, talk to the crew, talk to the captain, drinking beer, laughing, and making other’s laugh. I was a bit awe struck at his ease of communications. This couldn’t be the same man that kept to himself my whole teenage life – could it? This happy-go-lucky man couldn’t be the same person that I was terrified to tell that I wanted to major in Business and not Engineering in college. Apparently, time does change your perspectives.

fishOur sailing day included eagle feeding, boating through mangrove forests, fishing, and kayaking. I thought I would give fishing a try – after all – it looked pretty simple. There was no fishing pole – just a fishing wire with some weights at the end and a hook to put the bait. You simply lowered the wire into the water until it hit bottom, pulled it up about a foot and waited to feel a nibble. Then the real fun began! I ended up catching 5 fish…granted – there were no big ones…but they were good enough for our crew to take home to their families that night for dinner I sat there on a bucket – with a beer in my hand, and the fishing wire in my other hand…I felt like I was getting back to my Midwestern roots! Yet, I never did figure out how to muster up the guts to take the floppy fish off the hook and put it into the ‘catch bag’. I failed at that skill!

jacuzziNext – thanks to pressure from my Dad, I ended up trying out the great new adventure sport that’s sweeping the world…Jacuzzi Sailing. This basically included the crazy process of jumping off the high bow of a moving boat, surfacing quickly and reaching onto a rope while the boat was passing you by. Once you had a hold of the rope, you could pull your body up onto the big rope net that was connected to the side of the boat. Once in the net – you could lay back and relax…well…except for the fact that you toes were clasped like a leach around the rope trying to hold on for dear life! The whole process was a bit daunting. I walked the ‘plank’ out on the bow, took the leap (thanks to the ‘no fear beer’ in my system), as I was under water I realized there was no time to worry about my bikini top that was twisted as I had to surface quickly before the boat passed me! Once I crawled up the netting, clasping onto the net for dear life as the current of the moving boat tried to leave me in the dust, the crew threw me another beer…perfect. Now I had the added challenge of trying to drink a beer while laying in a net with my feet wrapped around the ropes like a monkey refusing to let go. Waves came crashing around the boat as we broke through the open sea sending my net undulating and me with it. I held my beer up high trying to keep it from getting consumed by the sea, but it was nearly impossible to avoid the salt water from getting inside the can. That was ok though – it then just seemed as if you were drinking beer and eating salty peanuts at the same time!

On our last night in Langkawi we sat around the resort lobby, had ice cream sundaes, and played cards. To our surprise, we were also treated to a real piece of history. The first Malaysian astronaut was launched into space. It was all televised live, everyone was singing Malaysian songs, and full of Malaysian pride. It was a fun thing to witness as an outsider, and a historical moment for all of Southeast Asia. Malaysia apparently struck a deal with Russia to join on one of their launches and send a doctor to the International Space Station. Not only was it the first Malaysian astronaut , but he was also Muslim, therefore they had to determine which way he would face in the space station for daily prayers towards the ever-moving Meca while in orbit. I take space travel for granted these days – but this was a momentous occasion for the country and Islam, and I was really happy that I witnessed it.

Yet even with all of this relaxation, family, fun, and beer in Langkawi – I still wake up in the morning uneasy from my disturbing dreams of returning home. I believe that spending time with my family and having an end of my travel within view has intensified my feelings of fear and confusion. I had a lot of free time to sit and think on the beach…maybe too much time as evidenced by my ‘not so sweet’ dreams. Why is it that when I’m in my travel groove interacting with other vagabonds and travelers all of my small business ideas and future plans seem normal, do-able, and exciting. But when I talk about these same ideas to my family or in the context of life in NYC – they all seem like a silly, childish dream?

Time will tell what will really happen when I return to NY sometime in December (no, I still don’t have a ticket home) – but for now, I’m trying my best to simply enjoy the beach, and a beer with family.

Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. Lynn Nill says:


    You are experiencing the same thing that I will experience one day and so will Cindy. Its different, because we’ve both lived overseas instead of traveled, but its the same. We’ve been changed by our experiences and we’ll go back to places where we may not fit very well any more. Cindy and I both have the added twist of spending our time in Asia not working. For Cindy, will she go back to work? And what will that be like for her? For me, I’m retired, and I have no intention of working anymore if I can help it. But what will it be like to be retired in the US? Will I be able to stay as busy and happy as I have been in Hong Kong?

    I’m sure I will be watching your return to the US with interest. After reading your blog for all these months I definitely have ideas about what I think you could do…so it will be fun to watch and see what you really DO end up doing!

    My advice – don’t lose that sense of adventure!!

    Hugs, Lynn

  2. Brian says:

    Sherry-why the rush to come back to NYC? You sound like you’re having a blast in Langkawi. My situation is the mirror image of yours–I’m working in NYC and I’m looking to get out. The pace is too much, people are too status-conscious, and its insanely crowded. I yearn for the days I can travel for months on end. I guess I have a vagabonding heart!

  3. Sherry says:

    Hi Brian! Thanks for reading the blog and leaving comments – I love to hear from people. You ask a good question – why am I in a rush to come home….well – I’ve been gone traveling the world for over a year now, and I feel like I need to check in for a bit. Check on my apartment, see my friends and family for the holidays, etc. However – I do refuse to go back to the status-conscious, overworked, fast pace of NYC completely. I’m not sure how long I will stay or what I will do next – but I would bet that it will be something to do with travel!
    I hope you can get off the roller coaster of NY and enjoy some long term travel…it’s been the best decision of my life so far!

  4. Craig says:

    It’s normal to have this “culture shock”. Painful, but normal. Unlike the normal pop-description what you describe sounds like the real thing. Making such big changes is hard.

    In terms of work and travel, why don’t you consider a TESOL or CELTA and teach English as you travel?

    We have a job that sends us to a different city in Europe or Asia every week…That’s a decent travelling job with short contracts. When you want to settle down for a bit, just choose a city and find a 6-12 month contract.

    The pay isn’t great, but the freedom is.

  5. Janelle says:

    I guess I wonder if everyone feels this way. By that I mean, does everyone else come up with crazy ideas, plans, and want to change their lives? Maybe it’s just a few people who actually DO. you’re a doer. I believe that many people can’t understand doers. We are all dreamers, to some extent. But the doers amaze us all. They seize life and we envy them. Others may not be baffled by your ideas, but rather envious. Perhaps they see them as completely impractical, as pipedreams. But you must always know differently. Maybe you can even help those people realize they can work on their own dreams.

  6. John Hunter says:

    Great post. I’m hoping to do the same thing myself and visit Langkawi.

  7. nanahanah says:

    Check out Redang Island! It’s better than Langkawi.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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