Dear Malta

photo of St. Julian Bay at Mlata
St. Julian, Malta

I came to know you from Paul, the Apostle Paul to be exact. Reading the verses that mentioned you in the Book of Acts, there was something that was pulling me to you… 

In retrospect, I needed to see you. You gave me the space and time to breathe again. You led me to my refuge amidst my very own shipwreck. 

Oftentimes, I’m very good at compartmentalizing between my personal life, work, and my inner thoughts. It’s one of the reasons why it may shock some people when I say that I’ve been feeling anxious, in pain or sad. They don’t see past the smile, where the pain and disappointment like to dwell. But when things got too much, Lisbon taught me that it’s okay to sit in that moment. It’s okay to feel sad because sadness is as real as feeling happy.

Riding around the island on your rubble roads and steep hills, I saw your most protected ruins, vibrant fisherman village of Marsaxlokk, eclectic city centre, and fields of fertile farmland. Everywhere I turned was the crisp blue Mediterranean Sea sparkling and endless. There was always something about water that gave my heart peace. And you, Malta, are surrounded by it in every corner. 

photo of woman sitting above a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea
Hagar Qim & Mnajdra Temple, Malta

Taking a few moments to myself before getting back to the sightseeing bus, I sat cliffside in awe and hope. The kind of hope that I didn’t have much left of before landing at your footsteps. You see, I had a vision of a future life I thought could happen. It wasn’t a life of extravagance or incredible success. In fact, it was a simple life with very ordinary ways, nonetheless I cherished it dearly. Unfortunately, that life disintegrated right before I booked my plane tickets and hotel accommodations. Seeing the vastness of the Mediterranean Sea as I sat down by rocks and overgrown weeds reminded me that I have absolutely no control of my life now, in the past or in the future. Much like how the water has no choice of which beaches its waves crash onto. The water just goes with the flow yet somehow it has the power to move through mountains. How is that?

Malta, you taught me that having no control of my life does not mean that I should lose hope. Quite the opposite actually. You taught me that my life is guided by someone far greater than me. Someone who knows me better than I know myself, and has planned out a life far more fulfilling that I ever could. You led me to my refuge by faith. 

I couldn’t fathom how Paul continued to have so much trust and faith despite being shipwrecked in an unknown island. It would have been easy to be persuaded with fears and anxieties. Afterall, he was human. And, I’m not saying that going to Malta has helped me gain a full understanding. Although, I do know this. Hope is not wishful thinking. Truly hoping for a better tomorrow means having the confidence to expect a better tomorrow through faith and trust that God has already created it for us. That’s the refuge He has given all of us. 

Always, 

K

P.S. For we walk by faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Dear Lisbon, Portugal

I had a lot of reservations before landing at your front doors as a solo traveller. English is not your mother tongue, and I knew very little about you. In fact, all I knew about you were: great sardines, coastal region and somewhere in Portugal. In some odd way, it felt liberating to know nothing yet nerve racking that I knew nothing. My expectations were nonexistent. With my bright green backpack, comfy running shoes and a heavy heart, there was no turning back.

Walking along your uneven mosaic tiled streets it felt like something was missing. I don’t know whether it was the abandoned buildings with new grass sprouting in between the concrete slabs or the empty Moorish castles once adorned with the finest of furnitures. It all felt sad. Fortunately, somehow I found solace amidst the melancholy floating like dense humid air on a summer’s day.  I was forced to sit in the sadness. An experience I never had before. It didn’t feel right at first. I was used to bucking up and not letting sadness phase me. Sadness used to be like an enemy I had to conquer. Not anymore. 

Going to Lisbon taught me that it’s okay to feel sad or angry. Lisbon, you taught me that feeling anything else that’s not happy or positive is as much part of our human experience as joy is. You taught me that just like those little broken tiles, everything comes together in the end somehow. All the cracks and distress between the edges are just earmarks for stories of people’s lives once lived. No tile is perfect. No life is perfect.

The culmination of our imperfect lives is what makes it real

Truth be told, going to Lisbon forced me to sit in the sadness I was feeling long before my trip began. The same sadness I carried across the North Atlantic Ocean with me. I thought that if I kept burying it with work it would eventually fritter away. Boy, was I wrong! It actually grew, and grew over time until everything just couldn’t be soaked in anymore. Sitting at the foot of my hotel bed, I started to weep. Lisbon, you taught me that it’s okay to feel sad for a moment or two or more. It’s okay to feel loss…to feel grief. 

They say that time heals all wounds, but what’s left unsaid is that wounds also leave scars. A tangible reminder of what was lost and what is missing. 

Always, 

K

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to a dear friend. Thank you for being a part of my life, then and for always. 

Though she be but little, she is fierce!” -William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Dear London, U.K.

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You were not my first choice. In fact, you were not on my list of places to visit-ever! Frankly, I’ve heard many wonderful tales about you and your beauty but it has never enticed me to make the trip across the pond. So, it was as much of a surprise for me when I felt the sudden urge to visit you without reason. Looking back, I think I had to. I had to make up my own mind about you, based on my own experiences and not everybody else.

The fog blanketing the city streets brought a manageable melancholy that made the littlest joke funnier and my heart lighter. Amidst one of the busiest cities in the world, I walked in peace. Isn’t that ironic?

Surrounded by art, culture, and history, it was no surprise to bump into fellow visiting tourists in every corner. Wide-eyed and amazed by your vast beauty, this might seem all too romantic for you, because underneath lies, well, the Underground. Each station is a modern complement and convenience to and from ornate palaces, preserved houses and iconic landmarks. Perhaps, this great balance between history and modernity is what sprouted our love affair?

Or perhaps, it was walking along the cobble stone alley diverting from Marylebone Lane and finding a gem that served a delicious French Onion Soup. You thought I was going to say Fish and Chips, didn’t you?

Unexpectedly, I fell in love with you piece by piece. A gradual kind of love that left me wanting more as I board my flight home…

London, my unexpected love, I have to cut this letter short but rest assured that you’ve given me something I didn’t think I needed.

There’s no need for me to say that I’ll be back.

I will, in time.

Always,

K

P.S. Thank you for reminding me that, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” –William Shakespeare

Re: 9 Travel Planning Tips

IMG_4681After months and months of slaving away in front of your computer or in class, a relaxing vacation may just be what you need! Now, I happen to be a pretty big planner when it comes to travelling. Let me clarify that, I’m a big planner before travelling. Getting the best deals for packages, tours or flights is a must, especially if you want to splurge on a nice getaway. Below are my top tips on travel planning:

  1. Do you have a travel bucket list? Bitten by the travel bug at a pretty young age, I’ve been lucky to check off destinations from my travel bucket list. Pinterest, however, has made it easier to add on to that list. Create a travel bucket list on Pinterest and explore destinations you may want to go to or have dreamt about going
  2. Set a budget. As much as we would all like to go on an adventure around the world, our wallets may not match that dream (not yet anyway!) Set a budget that you feel comfortable with without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to factor in the duration of your trip. It’s not a pretty feeling to go back home broke!
  3. Take your pick! Revisit your Pinterest board and pick destinations that may fit your budget.
  4. Process of elimination. You may or may not have to do this if you end up finding a package or tour that incorporates your preferred destinations. But if you don’t end up finding a package/tour, pick 1 or 2 places to visit. I know this may sound a little small but I find that travelling to multiple cities/countries in such a short time frame is not always the best. By picking 1 or 2 places, you get a chance to explore different parts of the city/country and actually experience what it may be like living there. If you plan on just laying on the beach 90% of your vacay, Sunwing has many all-inclusive packages for you to choose from
  5. How are you getting there? Airfare can cost a pretty penny especially when you’re going halfway around the world. There are a few websites online that will aggregate and compare flight deals, hotel deals and packages for you. Kayak, CheapFlights.ca, FlighHub or even TripAdvisor, just to name a few
  6. Just book! After loads of research and email alerts about the latest deals, it can get a little tiresome. So, really, just book your tickets already
  7. Old school but still effective! Print out directions and contact info to your hotel/hostel just in case. Getting lost in the beauty of a city will become a lot more fun when you know that you have a place to stay for the night and how to get there
  8. Divide your cash. Most travel destinations accept credit, debit or cash now. Preferably, divide your money between a disposable credit card that you preloaded before your trip and physical cash. It’ll help you stay on track with your spending and it decreases the likelihood that all of your cash will get lost or stolen
  9. Make friends! One of the best parts about travelling to different places is meeting different people. Whether they are locals or fellow travellers, we all have stories to share so why not share it with each other. Besides, it gives you more reasons to come back for a visit!

Always,

K