This week, it will be exactly a year since I got back from my six-week trip to Malaysia. So a full twelve months of being back home.
So it’s also a year since I’ve travelled anywhere internationally, which judging from my usual track record, is quite a long time for me.
While it might not have been one of my longest trips, a year later I’m still thinking about it, so I decided to write about all of the things I’m still thinking about.
Thoughts on Being Back Home in Pretoria for 12 Months
1. My left ear is still feeling the effects
I was so excited to get back home this time last year, for many reasons, but mostly because I was so happy to get away from intense South East Asian jungle humidity.
But a year later, my left ear still hasn’t fully recovered. In fact, a few months ago had another ear infection, months after it got totally blocked up after lying with my head back in the Borneo sea last September.
So maybe a year just isn’t long enough to really recover from a trip. Even though I was just away for six weeks, apparently my body still hasn’t fully bounced back, which is quite insane.
Or maybe my inner ear canal is just permanently altered by whatever was floating in the Bornean sea (probably some kind of micro plastic).
Whatever caused it, I have to say that this inner year discomfort/obsession/complex has definitely also affected my willingness to travel.
So a year after getting through two Qatar Airways flight via Doha, the thought of getting on a long haul flight via the Middle East, or anywhere else, just makes me cringe. Which is a definite first for me.
2. I’m still obsessed with trees and plants
I don’t think I’d ever been surrounded by so many giant old rainforest trees and different kinds of plants in my life as I was in Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. I saw them everywhere, even though the people around me didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for them.
(Being a weird tree nerd, this happens a lot, and I get it, not everyone always notices or really cares about trees as much as I do, or keeps a tree identification book next to their bed to browse through before bed at night).
What really gets to me though is how many of these trees there must have been when there wasn’t any city, or any high rise buildings. It’s quite mind-boggling to think about all of them, and how long they must have taken to grow.
(I’ve also just started reading Circles in a Forest for the first time, so that’s definitely encouraging a lot of thinking about forests, and trees).
In fact, reflecting on the trip this week, I remembered that the trees were the one thing I knew I’d really miss about being in that part of the world.
Apart from the trees, I also really appreciated seeing all the kinds of plants growing freely that here I’d have to keep in a pot indoors and have to remember to water.
3. I’m still obsessed with tea
(While giving myself some time to prepare for getting a Malaysian SIM card so I could find out from my friend Brendon how to get to his apartment in Mount Kiara).
I’m sure everyone has their own olfactory triggers with other kinds of (hopefully mostly pleasant) smells, but the first time I inhaled that carbohydrate-rich smell of roasted rice mixed with green tea, I knew I would have to bring some of it home with me.
And I did, even though I actually brought home a slightly different kind and was initially disappointed but then fell in love with that variety too. (So much so that I still keep the tin in my cupboard, along with ten plus other boxes of tea, from green to rooibos and everything in between).
I think I might have fallen in love with Genmaicha tea because I was really just taking time out at that moment to really appreciate it, but whatever the reason, that smell just takes me back. Maybe to the feeling that I love so much about travelling.
The feeling of an adventure about to begin.
4. I still think about Asian food often
I love so many things about being back home, and there’s so much I don’t miss about travelling around with a ridiculously heavy (and cheaply manufactured) suitcase.
But I do miss the food in South East Asia, and particularly the accessibility and affordability of freshly cooked, warm, soupy broths with noodles in them. Or just any kind of dish where you can see it being made right in front of you.
(This week, I also happened to finish my bottle of Gula Melaka, a palm sugar syrup that I bought in Malacca, which has a deep but mellow taste, unlike cane sugar. So I’ve been processing the last of my remaining Asian souvenirs too).
Overall, I think there is just something soulful about eating very simple but delicious “home-cooked” food and noodles, especially if they’re cooked by someone else, and you don’t have to wash the bowls and utensils afterwards.
It’s lazy, but it’s true. I love cooking at home, but having to wash pots and pans after doing it does hold me back from recreating all the dishes I loved so much over there (and the fact that it’s a challenge to find a lot of authentic Asian ingredients so far away from where they live/grow).
Not having the right crockery also doesn’t help (I need some flat soup spoons), but I am planning on checking out the newly opened Panda Supermarket on Lynnwood Road sometime soon, so maybe I’ll be more inspired after that.
Have you travelled anywhere that you enjoyed so much, and still think about, often? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.