Whenever you plan a travel, usually you plan with a certain expectation. Most of the time this expectation comes true and you have had a very nice travel but also, a couple of years later, you forget about it till you see the pictures back again. A more memorable travel is when the experience exceeds expectation big time and a travel (or a part of the travel) can utterly fail when reality is very different than you expect which you cannot overcome to enjoy anyway.
I think you can relate with at least one of these examples, right?
In the above examples one thing is in common: your comfort zone. Either you stay in it, extend it positively or fall out of it being unable to extend your comfort zone to catch you when you are caught by (negative) surprise.
But what if I told you there is another way of planning a travel? My biggest travel secret is to plan purposely going out of your comfort zone! To plan the unexpected to happen, to enjoy the unexpected to happen, to be amazed by what life can give when you stop mainstreaming.
I only have 3 rules:
- I always know where I am for my own safety.
- Always have a safe place to start from and going back to (I do have a comfort zone somewhere near as in home or a hotel/resort/AirBNB/tent or guide)
- Use your common sense and don’t be reckless or ignorant.
Our ‘National Geographic Day’, which I will talk about now, is a perfect example of this. So exciting!!!
Jom! Let’s go to the docks of Kuala Besut!
After the amazing swim, I wrote about in Malaysia’s East Coast series Pt 2, we followed the coast line walking on the road. Me in my wet undies and a couple of minutes later, of course, also wet pants with sand in my butt. Now I remembered why I so dislike beaches. Anyway, big machines were moving even bigger rocks to support the entrance of the harbor and functions as wave-breaker for the fishing boats to enter and exit safely. High Tide combined with monsoon often is a bad combination!
The road, thus, stopped, so we walked to the edge trying to make some pictures of the sun that slowly was on its way down. Looking at the left we saw the main bridge to the main side of town and on our side were some docks and a fish auction. The views already were amazing and the silhouettes of the boats and dock were getting near perfect! Blue skies, lowering sun, slightly clouded and the deep dark shades of the objects on the foreground, it was a lust for the eye.
The boats, however, were not deep of color, no, opposite!, they were very colorful with the perfect color combinations. Blue with red, red lines and big green surfaces. The barrels in blue, the nets in green and the locators in white. From a distance it looks so disorganized but I’m sure the organization was effective for the fishermen.
The place was a little bit too far away to make good pictures of those colorful boats that were there resting before their next trip. There was no entrance to the dock, no path, no nothing from our side as the main entrance was on the other side. Just a big concrete corner of the dock was nearest where a man was trying to catch some fish with a simple rod.
Looking at him I wondered how he got there and then I saw a tiny walk way, from wooden planks, half loosely over dirty water, with rotting fish, and plastic, but still, the attraction of the docks grew and in my excitement I really wanted to go there!
But urgh.. no, looking at that that kind of water I thought ‘you. do. not. want to fall into this stinky muddy sewer like water with fish heads floating around’. With rather baby steps I did cross the scary-see through-loose-planks-walkway and was relieved when I was on land again.
Hadie? She no care lah, big steps, poof, crossed it and she tapped on my shoulder like, bro, dude, come on…
Hesitant me was doubting whether to walk further on the docks or snap some shots and go back as exactly at this moment I felt being out of my comfort zone. Suddenly I was on a fish auction, with people I totally have no resemblance with, tough well trained guys who are living life on the ocean under conditions I do not want to know about. But on the other hand, there were no people right there and then as all the boats just were there doing nothing.
Once again, Hadie saved the day, she stepped forward started walking on the docks and I followed and…….
It was an amazing experience! I was completely blown away and my excitement hit level 1034 on the scale from 1 to 10.
Now I got to see those boats up close, the, sometimes, cracking wood, the colors and the huge lights on the side. I noticed how high those boats are and imagined that the fishermen quarters cannot be narrower and must have been uncomfortable on an instant vomit scale (I’m seasick…).
From dock to dock we went with the camera right in front of my eyes trying to capture that atmosphere. Then I realized this is what is featured in National Geographic magazines, that this is what photographers see when they make a series about fishermen on Malaysian’s East Coast! This is what their journalists see and write about. This is what is so attractive to read for people wanting to know more about this kind of life far far away from their own beds. And I am in the middle of it!
It is the same thing as being a foreigner who never has been to the USA, watching Die Hard with a Vengeance, with its subways, and then actually visiting New York, sitting in the same subway going under Wallstreet, hearing and seeing the same vibe as in the movies (only…. no Bruce Willis who saves the day as nothing happened).
Now I have a glimpse of the life on the most colorful boats, the repairing of the nets in day time, the catching up sleep in the afternoon vs. catching fish when it is dark. I can imagine interesting stories of foreign men, not being able to speak the local language nor English who are miles away from home, from their wives and children.
It was awesome to have at least sniffed around, having had a peek in their lives, having seen such a boat, making pictures of it, feeling the atmosphere and this gives me a much better understanding of our human diversity. Something diving to coral reefs never can give.
This is what I mean with planning to purposely getting out of the comfort zone. Exactly this. Of course we could have gone to dive, of course we could have made a jungle sightseeing tour, of course.
But we didn’t. Who goes out of the mainstream, sneaking in on a dock from the back on such a small wiggling “bridge” to get amazed by such life? We did!
We were so out of place, a white man and a woman walking on the docks, thus the same place was so out of us too and that made the difference in the depth of a life-experience; making a National Geographic walk.
The final chapter of Malaysian’s East Coast series will be about ‘Kampong (village) Tripping’ and why I cannot see myself living in the East Coast of peninsular Malaysia
See you there and please do enjoy the pictures too!
Click on a picture for full screen view; pictures are mine