On 13th December 2018, I conducted a travel workshop for IGNITE, where the participants were asked to write about their favourite travel memory.
These are their stories.
Georgetown, Penang / by Vicki Lai Yee Tong
It was a perfect Saturday morning. I woke up anticipating a day of excitement because it’s finally here – some me-time in Georgetown.
I started walking through the streets around my hotel, without a map or set directions, just wanting to enjoy my surroundings.
I saw three-wheeled cars pass by and foreigners chit-chatting, pointing to the historical buildings happily.
There were hawkers stalls everywhere selling different types of traditional cuisines. The smell reminded me of my hometown which drew me back to my younger days.
I took out my phone and started clicking and clicking. I told myself; “this is something I’ve been longing for”.
Walking along the busy and noisy road was like meeting a complete stranger, I was so scared but I wanted to know more. I wanted to find out his name and unravel his story.
I spotted a coffee shop with a vintage sign-board, where its walls were made of wooden piles, with milky white fairy lights hanging around the door like a rainbow. I decided to go in.
I ordered their icy Matcha cheesecake and a cup of smoky hot Hojicha milk tea. Everything was cute, aesthetically pleasing and calm. My order was perfect.
I took out my unicorn-shaped pen and just started drawing. I drew and drew, letting the seconds slip on by.
I watched as families come in, parents trying to lower down the volume of their children, couples feeding each other French fries with their affectionate eyes and another girl that came alone, like me. She ordered a cup of coffee, writing on her notebook with a Muji pen.
So many stories were happening at the same time, I couldn’t help but read and read and read.
When I paid at the counter, the waiter, Megan, said thank you and gave me a candy and told me they were having their monthly promotion. At that moment, I just wanted to thank everyone in the coffee shop, for making my day, for making my first outing with myself so special. Simple but so special.
I then wondered to myself, where will my next-stop be?
Greifswald, Germany / by Stella Eng Chia Yin
It is a long journey from Nottingham to Greifswald, and while this would be my second time joining an international student festival alone, I still couldn’t help but feel anxious about this trip.
Would I be able to connect to my workshop teammates? Would I meet a nice host? Would I be able to step out of my comfort zone and speak up more?
Dozens of questions ran through my mind during my flight and bus ride to Greifswald. Little did I know, this trip would enable me to meet a new friend who not only opened her house to me but also exposed me to first hand local experiences in Germany.
I remember the first time we met, I was anxiously waiting for my host to come pick me up from the student association. Soon enough, a young lady in her early 20s with dark hair and brown eyes walked in calmly as she asked the people in charge some questions in German.
She was later introduced to me as my host for the week and I immediately heaved a sigh of relief.
She appeared to be very calm and collected yet friendly at the same time; I knew then and there that we would get along just fine.
On the way back to her apartment, she shared her life story with me.
Behind her quiet demeanour, the stories that she shared to me showed me a courageous and adventurous woman from Berlin who lived life the way she wanted.
During her gap year before university started, she had visited Ghana for a medical traineeship for several months to gauge whether the medical field is something she would like to further pursue.
I recalled her saying how these few months had completely changed her life. By the end of the traineeship, not only did the experience reaffirm her decision to pursue medicine, it also empowered her to embark on a long distance relationship with a boy she met in Ghana.
They are now happily married and share a cute little apartment in Greifswald. It was definitely not easy, she said, but if it is with someone worth the time and effort, anything is possible.
Her story left me in awe as I was so amazed by not just all that she has achieved at such a young age but also her vulnerability.
In today’s generation, being vulnerable to a friend is no easy task, much less to a stranger. Our long walk back to her apartment was 30 minutes in total and yet I felt like I knew so much about her already in such a short period of time.
Upon arriving to her apartment, she introduced me to her husband, the different areas of her apartment and welcomed me with a heart-warming Rinderroulade (beef roll).
I remember calling my parents that night gushing to them about how happy I am to be in Greifswald at that moment. It was right after my stressful examinations had ended and this was just what I needed: creating genuine connections with people in a peaceful city like Greifswald.
The rest of the week was just as amazing as the first day. Till today, we are still in contact as we share the different facets of our lives with one another.
Every chance that I get, I’d always share this story of a young city girl from Berlin who overcame all barriers to becoming a prospective doctor who married the love of her life through a short traineeship in Ghana.
Compiled by Ashvin Singh Tiwana