The reason we travel with our children is to show them that beyond the English countryside is an entire world, waiting to be explored. We want to introduce them to the creatures that we share our planet with and to help them understand how important each and every one of them is. We want to show them different cultures, religions and ways of life. Our hope is that it will help strengthen their understanding of the world we live in. Our hope is that it will strengthen their understanding of their connection to nature and the importance of protecting the natural world. Our hope is that our travels will teach them that regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality that all people are equal. We hope that by seeing the world, they understand they are not just British citizens. We hope that by seeing the world they understand that they are global citizens and that regardless of borders, we are all connected.
When we decided to embark on our adventure, I thought about all of the wonderful things the boys would gain from our journey and yet I never thought about what lessons I would learn while on the road. Something I’ve learnt about travel though is that, when travelling for such long periods of time, it becomes more than visiting far off destinations and getting a glimpse of a different way of life. It becomes a journey of discovery and more often than not the lessons on the road often come from the most unexpected of places.
We have recently spent some time in Malaysia, where we explored the capital city of Kuala Lumpur before heading north to the quiet fishing town of Teluk Bahang in Penang.
Kuala Lumpur is a fascinating city, with it’s modern skyscrapers scattering the skyline while nature weaves itself through the city streets. On first impressions we found ourselves believing it to be just like any other city, but as we made our way to local markets, we found rich Malaysian culture embedded into the veins of the city. The more time we spent in Kuala Lumpur, the more we found it to be a metropolis where people of different beliefs live together in harmony.
We met a variety of people during our time in Kuala Lumpur, who taught us so much about the connections of all people. We laughed with the taxi driver who spoke with such fondness of his wife and children and told us funny tales of their travels through Europe. We felt such gratitude towards the street food vendor who through broken English helped us avoid a meltdown because of our misjudged timing of dinner and took his time to help the boys choose the food they wanted from his stall. We felt inspired by the patience and kindness shown by children at the park, who waited patiently as Monkey took his time climbing some ladders instead of rushing past or hurrying him along.
As we moved on from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur and found ourselves in the quiet fishing town of Teluk Bahang, we found ourselves immersed in natural beauty. Teluk Bahang sits peacefully between the Andaman Sea and Penang National Park. Aside from the fishing boats coming in with the day’s catch, a few street food style restaurants and some stalls selling tours to the handful of tourists passing through, it is a relatively peaceful, quiet town.
During our time in Teluk Bahang we found ourselves without sugar for our morning cups of tea and so we ventured into the town in search of some. After looking in both of the two convenience style shops in the town, we realised that we could only buy it in large bags and considering we only had one day left before our time in Malaysia came to an end, decided we could cope with no sugar for a day and left with two small ice creams for the boys instead.
As we sat on the curb, waiting for the boys to finish their ice creams a man came out of the shop with half a bag of a sugar. We quickly realised he was the local barber, who had a shop across the street. He saw that we didn’t need a large bag and so shared half of his with us, four nomadic strangers sat on the curb eating ice cream. After much debating and negotiation, the barber eventually accepted two Malaysian Ringgit (the equivalent of about 37 pence in the UK) and we parted ways.
Our experience with the Malaysian barber was one of those unexpected moments while on the road that I will never forget. It was one of those moments that taught me such a monumentally important lesson and altered the way I see the world around me. I looked around me to see a restaurant with plastic chairs and worn tables sat underneath a weathered canopy. I took in the apartment block that was in need of a lick of paint and the slightly beaten up motorbike perched on the roadside.
I became extremely aware that this man, who shared half of his sugar with some foreign strangers, probably had much less than most people we encounter day to day when back in England. Yet he was happy to share what he had with us, without question or motive.
Malaysia is such an interesting country to explore, with it’s bustling, diverse cities and raw natural beauty, but it is the kindness of the the people of Malaysia which is what has inspired me the most. The people of Malaysia have taught me that all acts of kindness, no matter how small, have the power to inspire people in ways they would never have imagined. Imagine a world where everyone in it showed the same kindness to their fellow man as the barber who shared his sugar with some strangers on the side of a road. Imagine a world where people are less focussed on their material accumulation and instead pour their energy into small acts of kindness. That is a world I would love for my children, that is a world that we can all create together and that is a world I will work towards, one small act of kindness at a time.