Malaysia Travel Diary

Feb. 5, 2020 – Mar 3, 2020 | Experiences, musings, and curiosities that I will chronicle throughout my trip to Malaysia ~

PHOTOGRAPHY | FROM MALAYSIA:


MARCH 5TH, 2020 | Malaysia & Movies:

So, Safa and I watched a lot of movies and tv in Malaysia. That was a great part about being in Malaysia: 1. spending lots of time with the Arshadullah family and 2. having days with Safa where we’re just chilling around the house and drinking good tea, snacking, and watching tv. One night, Safa was like “Want to watch Dear Zindagi? I’ve only watched a little of it. It has Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in it.” And I was like “Lol I don’t like Alia Bhatt, but okay, let’s do it.” And so we watched Dear Zindagi (2016) which translates to ‘Dear Life’ and I unexpectedly resonated with it. Kaira (the main character) moves back home to Goa after her life comes to a standstill with her career and love life and she seeks the help of a brilliant and eccentric therapist who is ofc played by SRK, haha.

One of the themes was essentially that it’s okay to choose the easy path for yourself among all the difficult roads you could choose to go down. Something about that resonated with my life right now and the way that Kaira is simply existing: working through her challenges by going to therapy and trying her best to reconnect with herself. Experiencing a lull in my life has been difficult in many ways but also so grounding. If you have the chance to simply exist in whatever way that resonates with you, especially after graduating college, you’ll find that it can be really beneficial. Also, I have a little more appreciation for Alia Bhatt now, lol. 

On the plane ride home, I watched Eat, Pray, Love (2010) because I’ve always referenced it with a side-eye without actually having watched (or read it). I wasn’t surprised to see that Italy was depicted so differently from India, which was depicted differently from Bali. In India and Bali, the main character Liz encounters marginalized people crafted in a stereotypical way that plays to the western fantasy of these countries, while in Italy she meets people her age who seem well-off and just living their lives. For my trip to Malaysia, I also had expectations v. realities grounded in projected ideas and slowly redirected them by listening. 

Externally, I wanted to have new experiences and learn about a Muslim-majority culture and internally, I was looking for stillness—to relax and rejuvenate in a way that I really haven’t been able to since graduating college. I can say that I achieved the surface of these things and am still reflecting & learning about the things I’m curious about, while unlearning western-centered conceptions of life.

What are ways that I’m challenging the things that have constructed my perspective so far in my life?

Traveling, even my trip to Japan in 2016, has actively required me to listen to what I truly envision for myself and take a step or 2 toward that. I’m truly grateful for my experiences and the privilege of being able to travel. 


FEBRUARY 19TH, 2020 | SOME RANDOM REFLECTIONS:

  1. I love the more laid back and down-to-earth energy of Kuala Lumpur. The food is amazing; the cafes are very aesthetic and halal food is so accessible
  2. The Bay Area is a bubble of pressure and stress and 9-5 jobs and long commutes and gentrification and high costs of living and I’m sure this list is stressing you out too LOL. I love the Bay Area and I’ve lived there for 21 years, but truly spending time away from there, in a totally different country and different way of life, has been so so important to me. Let’s face it: the South Bay isn’t conducive to people who are in the humanities. I’m constantly thinking about how my writing can adapt to the job market and content development and it can get really tiring.
  3. I absolutely love the diversity of style and beauty in Malaysia. Especially its focus on modest fashion. I see clothes that I really want to wear and fit my style, which is super exciting. Even brands I’m used to in the States that have a different variety in Malaysia–I love it.
  4. There’s definitely a pressure I feel to see everything and have a variety of experiences, but I’m also reminding myself that my month-long trip is for a reason: I can wake up and do whatever I want. So far I’ve had a mix of productive days, touristy days, and chill days where Safa and I just watch Netflix lol
  5. THE MIX OF NATURE & ARCHITECTURE. I’m always staring out the window in awe during car rides because wow there’s so much to see. So many colors and tropical plants and animals. The architecture and interior design is innovative and sometimes has a touch of whimsy. It’s such a welcoming change to the lackluster new high income housing being built in the Bay Area
  6. shout-out to the radio stations in Malaysia for their great music selection and for their PSAs about getting off our phones and enjoying life. I see u!

A question I’ve been thinking about:

What does it look like to live intentionally?

More to come! – S.A.


FEBRUARY 5TH, 2020 | TAKE OFF:

I am all packed up! I leave for Malaysia tonight and I am so, so excited to spend time with Safa and her family. My therapist and I talked a lot about what I hope to do and take away from this trip, and I think above anything I want to feel inspired and energized–and perhaps a sense of clarity on what my next step in life looks like. I am excited to explore mosques and nature, go on long wandering walks, eat yummy (halal!) food, and go coffee shop-hopping with Safa. I’ll be working on some personal and professional projects, as well, and I hope to develop a creative project with Safa, because we’ve been meaning to do that for years. I am excited to simply live and experience things. Since I will be there for roughly a month, there’s so much room to explore and listen to my wants & needs every day. At a time when I feel this pressure to have things figured out, to have a full-time job, and be an “adult,” I am ready to take a break and listen to myself.

A question that’s been on my mind is:

What does it mean to be a storyteller?

As I’ve been exploring content creation and my own novel, I’ve been wondering more about the essence of my storytelling. Not only what kinds of storytelling I want to produce for the world, but how I create stories in different mediums. I want my storytelling to be whimsical, innovative, and to connect with hearts & minds, while also exploring real challenges & issues. I think the only way to really explore that is to be prolific in my own capacity–to write often and to not be afraid to get it right the first time.

With what’s been happening on the news and the daily reminders of America’s imperialism and militarism, it’s easy to get closed off in a bubble. I want to break that bubble and learn about people, cultures, and ways of living in a respectful way, to not be a “tuned out” American. What does it mean to be a Muslim woman living in Malaysia? What does it mean to have cultural roots in a variety of places?

I also decided to take a lil baggy of my favorite teas to remind me of home: earl grey, english breakfast, ginger-pear, and jasmine. It’s very on brand, HAHA. More to come! – S.A.

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