When I was a teenager, I came across a book that my aunt almost threw away. It had such a mystical illustration as a cover, that I decided to read it. That book is now a world best seller and it is called, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho. At the time that I read it, I was enthralled by its story, a shepherd boy who followed his dream to seek a treasure in a far-away land. He sold his sheep, which was everything he had, to follow an unknown treasure. By doing so, he understood the language of the world and eventually became an alchemist. He also teleported and became the wind for a few minutes, which was totally cool too.
I am not too sure if that book was my inspiration in pursuing my masters degree and of course, i don’t think that I will teleport after this and go to destinations I want to without an airplane (which sounds so fantastic). However, I realize that I am, in a way, discovering my hidden treasure.
In the last 18 months living away from the comforts the familiar Asia, I have discovered somethings about myself and the world that I live in, as if I am having an out-of-body experience. Living in Europe taught me that I can thrive in any environment as long as I remain true to myself and be focused with the desire to discover new meanings with new experiences. I strive to learn in and outside of the classroom to come up with realizations on how the world works and what it means in my context. With the aid of technology, friends and family are with me all the time, virtual angels that help me navigate my day and keeping me company even in seeming solitude. I have left Singapore thinking I already had a great experience in my professional field and learning a master’s degree will only improve my knowledge of urban design. However, I discovered that there is more to life than designing, that I can be involved in shaping culture, preserving traditions, defining national identities and understanding the complexities of this very politically driven world. I am coming out of this journey with a deeper understanding of a world I only knew in a certain way. I have grown as a person and I have made global connections to people I never thought I will meet and I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.
Maybe this is the beauty of embracing the uncertainty of the journey – that life will give you an experience totally different from your concept and reality which forces you to find new meaning in life. I don’t know where my future holds but I do know that it will be good.
Today I will book a 10-hour bus ride to Brussels, I will be living with my sister for a few weeks, I will also fly to Spain with my partner to do maybe a last road trip in Europe and then I will come back to Singapore to work on my thesis. I will then go to Manila because I can’t stay in Singapore for more than 30 days (which by the way is such a strange feeling because Singapore is my second home and it seems that I am being kicked out from my own home). I will eventually fly to Qatar for an important heritage conference then go back to Brussels after. At the third quarter of the year, I will have to come back to Germany to defend my thesis and really say goodbye to my life there. Lastly, I will go to Portugal for a conference on the development of European cities – maybe the one and only that I will go to wherein I will be presenting something. After that I don’t know. I wish I knew but life is pushing me to a direction where I can no longer decide for myself but I am letting the wind take me wherever it believes I should be.
I would not have imagined doing all these activities if I didn’t decide to take time off from work and do a master’s degree. I can’t even imagine how I am doing all these traveling with such limited funds, but it seems that as Paolo Coelho said in his book, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” I may not be a shepherd, nor will I be able to turn myself to the wind after my masters degree but what I know is that is that I am discovering the ‘language of the world’. I don’t know my part in it yet but I am embracing the wind and letting it take me to places I have never imagined.
To learn a bit more about heritage, see this video: English Heritage and its meaning to people