How my 2016 adventure happened
Shortly after resigning from my first job as a social media executive-cum-copywriter, I went on a 5 week adventure. During the time my late cousin was ill, I had cancelled many plans to travel. In fact, there were many short getaways and weekend events that I turned down so that I could be in Johor to see my cousin especially towards the end of his life. Working in the advertising industry is tough enough as it is; not having quality time off to recuperate made it even worse.
I took many unpaid leaves to travel to Johor to see Lil and I don't regret any of my reduced monthly salaries. God is Ar-Razaq (The Provider), He can replace any lost money but time is not something He has promised to give us back; once gone it's gone for good. Shout out to all compassionate bosses and colleagues out there! Me and two other colleagues at that time had family members with cancer and we were helped out SO much.
Fast forward a few months after my cousin's death: I went through some super busy periods at work. I was leaving the office past 9pm everyday to wait for client approval for weeks on end. This pace at work remained all the way until my last day at the agency. I'm not gonna complain, it was my source of income and a good distraction from grief. To any copywriter reading this: hang in there, I feel ya pain. Whenever the workload felt unbearable, I would start fantasising my holidays. I had yet to buy any big ticket items with my savings so I thought you know what: I deserved a holiday!
Deciding on my travel destinations was a bit of a mind game but in the end, it was fated that I would step foot in the bustling souks of Morocco and Egypt. London was my base as I travelled to Dorset and Marrakech (Morocco), while Egypt was my final destination before I headed back home to Malaysia. I also visited Paris for a day-trip but it was a less 'new' experience for me as I've been there twice before this. Visiting England was a no-brainer because I missed my friends from uni so much and we've a tradition of traveling somewhere together every year for our reunion.
A lot of people actually commented and DM-ed me on my IG saying that they were surprised by my travel choices because they weren't 'typical'. Not sure what that even means because they are such remarkable countries to visit; I was blown away by their food, culture AND people! That aside, I realised I've never ventured onto the African continent and thought I'd start with North Africa where both Egypt and Morocco are located.
Here's a little story on how I decided on Morocco and Egypt. Something you must know about me is: my heart has a mind of its own. If it wants something; I will magically be pulled towards it. That's the thing about life, you really have no control over it as much as your ego would like you to think. In 2015, my best friend brought me to the Moroccan pavilion in Putrajaya for a girls' day out and I became so intrigued by not just Moroccan architecture but Islamic architecture as a whole. It even pushed me to start reading Rumi again because I can't help but think of colourful tiles and tapestry when I read his poetry.
Then I thought, how AMAZING would it be to go to Morocco itself? How dreamy would it be to visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa and be surrounded by rainbow tiles? But the biggest pull factor of all was the idea of me stargazing in the desert; it is a dream of mine to gaze at the stars in the Sahara Desert which I sadly didn't end up doing. I also wanted to go stargazing in Egypt but that too, didn't happen last minute. Allah knows best and I still had an unforgettable time.
Aside from my fondness of stars since I was a little girl, I was attracted to very pretty things during the months that I grieved my cousin's death. I constantly wanted to be around flowers that I loved, I had this strange urge to always paint because bright colours would calm me down, I craved the sight of blue skies and fluffy clouds and when the night skies were clear enough for the stars to be seen, I would just stare at it and it would give me relief. In some ways, whenever I see something that's really beautiful, I think of Allah and whenever I think of Him, I'm reminded of my cousin who's with Him and it makes me feel like he's close.
When I reflect on my late cousin's legacy, I'm often left in awe. He must have done a lot of things right for hundreds and thousands of people to only associate him with wonderful attributes. I mean, for me to heal myself I had to surround myself with beautiful things, just so that I could be reminded of his essence. MashaAllah. How many people have had that kind of impact on others? How many people think of beauty—both zahir (outer) and batin (inner)—when they think of us? May Allah be pleased with Almarhum Tunku Jalil, I can only hope I can be half as good as him.
Funny thing was, the week all the bookings were made, I actually took out my phone to dial his phone number. I wanted to tell him about my trip and in the middle of dialling, I stopped abruptly when I realised what I was doing. In that few seconds, I genuinely forgot that he was dead and when I remembered again, I broke into tears. It was the first time I cried in months, too. All those hectic months at work have helped me to suppress my grief.
Whether we realise it or not, we all have an objective before doing something and for me, I desperately needed to be away for a while to revive my tired soul. Despite what people may think, I'm not a well-travelled person compared to loads of other people. My parents don't enjoy flights so I didn't get to go overseas much as a child and the times I did, I was less than 5-years-old so I can't remember a thing! My cousin's demise made me realise life is far too short to not go out there when you've the means to and believe me, I was more than ready to go on an adventure.
... My travel entries begin after this post so stay tuned!
Image source: Cliff Williams @ Flickr