Fearless Wanderer


Some of you may have noticed that, lately, my blog postings have been ‘crawling to a pause’ in a rather inconsistent fashion.

I do apologise. I had not expect to be so busy and exhausted, at the same time. 

I have been travelling a great deal, and it is not your usual ‘jet-setting around the world adventure’ travel. I know it may look that way, but it is quite different.

Truth is, I have been travelling with my parents – it is all part of fulfilling their Bucket List.

More than a decade ago, I helped my father draft a Bucket List. It started as the places he wanted to visit before he reach that age when his legs would give way. So, he wanted to explore the world while he truly could – viably fit enough to climb mountains, that is. 

At that time when we were drafting the Bucket List, I was still working with my dad – yes, meaning I was working in his company. I was his Personal Assistant, Tea Lady, Concierge of sorts, Driver at times and etc.

Mind you, it was not always easy working with my father. Namely, because I had a stubborn streak and very strong opinions. I enjoyed opposing him a little too much in the past. So, our relationship was ‘challenging’ at times – my dad challenged the way I thought my life should be lived, and I challenged the way he thought of how my life should be lived. Sometimes, we got onto each other’s nerves and then some! However, through it all, I understand that he just wants the best for me because he loves me. He is the same with all my sisters.

Needless to say father and I differ in many ways, but we share the same great love for travel and adventure. After all, it was my father who first instilled that sense of fearless wander in all of us – my sisters and I, that is.

He was the one who took all of us to the most fascinating places around the globe. He taught us how to look beyond our tiny little worlds, and even set us out to explore on our own. To say that we have been conditioned to be independent since young would be putting it mildly. As a result, we learnt so much more beyond the ‘classrooms’ of life in our travels.

Travel 2

Many of my most memorable ‘First Experiences’ in life were orchestrated by my father.

We took our first 747, went on our first cruise ship and train journeys all with my dad. He was our first and foremost fearless ‘Adventure Planner’.

I even remember the very first time my dad took us all to a proper ‘western’ fine dining experience. We were all dressed to the nines, and thought it was such an absolute treat to be dining out in a grand way. Bear in mind, I was 12 then. The most luxurious restaurant in Kuala Lumpur at that time was ‘Melaka Grill’. It was located inside the old Hilton Hotel. It was our very first experience eating ‘escargots’ as well. Prior to that, none of us had even thought that it was ‘kosher’ to eat snails. There were strange-looking forceps placed before us, and my father tried to teach us how to use them before our plates of escargots would arrive. It could not be that hard, I thought. So, we practised a few times, clutching that weird device until the plates of snails were set in front of us, with the shells intact. I scooped up a snail with the scissors-like tong, and smiled confidently. But those snails were such slippery buggers. It flew out of my tong and landed into a bowl of soup at the table behind me. It even made a ‘splashing’ sound as it landed. The man sitting behind us was not pleased at all. The garlic drenched escargot had totally ruined his consomme. He probably cursed under his breath that kids should never be allowed in fancy restaurants ever!

Of course, these days I eat escargots with slightly more grace. And thankfully, most restaurants serve them without the shells. Much less hassle 🙂

As I grew older, and acquired more independence, it became almost too easy to forget where all my very ‘first education’ in life came from. At one point, I thought I was my own original composition – meaning, everything that I am is engineered solely by me. I had forgotten that I was once a small little kid who knew nothing, and owned nothing. I was ’empty’, no different from a vacuum. Everything in me started from my parents, namely my dad. Through his time and efforts – be it at work or personal front, he gave me a lot more than I could ever dream of. My parents gave me a grand beginning in life. In fact, much of who I am today – including that ‘fearless wanderer’ which is the very heart of me was nurtured by my father from the day I was born.  

The truth is, not every child has a perfect relationship with his or her parents. I am pretty sure there were days when my dad wanted to strangle my neck and vice versa. In life, every of our relationships have their ups and downs, rough patches and good patches. As we grow older, we do get disillusioned by our parents when we begin to witness their flaws and weaknesses. We start to see how our parents can make mistakes, and that they do not have all the answers. However, we need to bear in mind that we are no different. WE, too, are just as human as our parents – with the same propensity for mistakes and greatness, with similar aptitude for love, learning and forgiveness. After becoming a parent myself, I realised that I have judged my parents too harshly at times while excusing myself in the process.

In reality, all of us are just trying our very best to give the people we love what we believe is the best for them. I am certain as my daughter grows up, she too will judge me in many ways, and it may take a while before she comes to understand that her mother may give imperfection a new meaning. Parents are just humans who are struggling to be better versions of themselves, while trying to inspire their children to become so much more. And the cycle will continue, until a higher understanding occurs from both sides.

It took me a long time to truly appreciate my parents without judgement and expectations. It took me an even longer time to adjust myself in order to spend quality time with them so that we do not have to waste precious moments over trivial petty matters. I do not always accomplish any of it well, but I know I would truly regret not trying. Hence, this was one of the many reasons why I chose to dedicate some time in fulfilling my parents’ Bucket List.

This year, in particular, I have been travelling a great deal with them. We travel almost every month, to places far and near, marking new territories and savouring novel adventures together.    

While my work, writing and blog may suffer for the time being as I check off some items from my parents’ List, I know I am creating priceless new memories with them. This is something I know I would treasure for the rest of my life, just like the countless memories they have given from the day I came into being.

Travel 1

Sometimes, being a fearless wanderer is coming back home and learning to accept the people you love as they are, and not as how you wish them to be. Forgiveness is also a beautiful thing. It frees the heart to revolve around love, and not grasping on anger or sadness 🙂

To date, my father has been to the North Pole, went up the Machu Picchu, seen the Northern Lights in Norway, did the Trans-Siberian Crossing, marvelled at the awe that is the majestic Potala Palace, survived the remotes of Africa, brought back cigars from Cuba, and so much more. I think my dad has more than a hundred stamps in his passports. Yes, he had to ‘renew’ his passports several times over the last three years, as they ran out of pages due to his vast travels. My parents’ next big challenge will be the Antarctica come February 2014.

Together, my parents and I have flown on the A380 from Kuala Lumpur to London, sailed on the Queen Mary 2, braved through Nepal and Bhutan, to list a few. We recently returned from the Rocky Mountaineer Train Journey. It was truly magical. For me, the adventure continues even after we get back home – photographs to develop and frame, stories to share and re-tell. Above all, special memories to cherish for an eternity.

As this year comes to a close, my parents’ Bucket List will get shorter and that is a GOOD THING 🙂

I will try to blog about my travel tales as much as I can, but no promises.

For now, I am more focussed on fulfilling a promise I made many moons ago when I sat in my father’s office, and drafted his list of places to visit. 

As always, start your own brand of fearless living and travelling.

Love the life you live, and the people around you while you still can, while they are still around.

May peace and joy be with you wherever you go 🙂 





Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

  • Simon Woodward
    October 30, 2013

    That’s a wonderful post Shirley. Your reflections on being an adult child are very moving. It’s something that challenges me also.

    • shirleymaya
      October 30, 2013

      It is a constant learning and work-in-progress, Simon. It is funny how I alternate between the child and parent as an adult. Sometimes, they all converge in a comedic manner. But I shall always keep trying – if nothing else, I’d like to retain good memories of the people I love 🙂

  • lesleycarter
    December 10, 2013

    Beauty quotes and story.

    May the world be at your doorstep,


    • shirleymaya
      December 10, 2013

      Thank you, Lesley. I wish the same for you 🙂