compilation by Yap Yen
IN LINE WITH our recent issue, we are relaunching Canvas - a curated page dedicated to original artwork based on a theme.
With Wander, we went beyond the physical aspect of traveling overseas - seeking works that spoke more about the metaphysical aspects and anecdotal nature of moving beyond our own borders. We asked a broad question about traveling, and what it means to wander, and here are the answers we found.
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.
– Pico Iyer, on why we travel
I took these two images during my trip to Hawaii last December. Both show views overlooking the vast ocean with a clear scenery of the sky and mountains. These were taken during my 2 hour hike up 2 different mountains (I can't remember the names of the mountains!).
I woke up at 5am on Christmas morning to catch that beautiful sunrise (pictured, right). The hike was unforgettably difficult, with the route nearing the highest point being the most steep and challenging that I've encountered. The other image of an azure sky and ocean had a slightly easier trekking route, and it overlooks the Rabbit Island portrayed in the picture.
It is always the trekking journey that teaches us. Whether it is the journey on a holiday or throughout the different phases of life, there is always a need to acknowledge that hardship should be experienced in order to make the beautiful moments worthwhile.
Meet ???, age ???, presumably German with the ability to speak some English. Enjoys crosswords and murmurs while at it.
This is what I appreciate about travelling. You meet people you never knew existed and established some sort of bond with them. I was his travel companion like how he was mine for 3 hours. We shared a pack of Nutella on the go and talked about plays and snowing briefly.
I left mid-way for a change of train, he wished me good luck and we probably won't see each other again.
Every travelling moment is fleeting and temporal, although brief but always, always precious.
#ansengohsabroad #Munich #Basel #Lucerne
So where do you go when the days close? Only the forest knows.
I painted this as an ode to moving on and moving to another phase in life.
My feet padded through the open space of the airport, sunbeams streaming in from the numerous sky lights above. I pass by the arrival hall, noticing the waiting crowd as I moved closer to the gates. I watched as streams of people poured out, many of them into the loving arms of their beloved. On the other side of the spectrum, there were those who strided towards the stony faces of their chauffeurs, all holding paper signs with names haphazardly scrawled on. Some constantly glanced beyond the glass walls, giving sheepish looks to their family members as they struggled with their luggage. The lucky ones gathered their belongings within mere seconds, grabbing them and walking out to their family with a wide grin.
Then, there were the solo travelers. There were those who walked past the loving families and couples without as much as a blink, while others bore sad smiles on their faces, glancing at all the reunions surrounding them. A friend of mine, who was a frequent flyer, revealed that his family never waited to greet him at the arrival hall anymore. They became tired of constantly going to the airport. At most, it was just a phone call after he landed just to say, “Hey, I’m home. I’m safe.”
As I left to make my way to the viewing gallery, I began thinking about the peculiar dissonance between reality and unreality in this place. You have the reunions, the homecomings, the tearful or joyful departures. Real people with real emotions on display. This sincerity however, exists within the same space as falsehood. The sheer pageantry of air stewardesses, with their perfectly coiffed hair and flawless faces, dressed in their immaculate uniforms as they glide across the marbled floors. Then, there is the ever-present advertising of numerous tourist traps across this island, the poorly designed brochures screaming for attention, with gaudy colours and lousy fonts. Heck, there’s even waterfalls and greenery confined within the glass and metal. A contradiction, a paradox – mere pretences of utopia.
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Learning our place
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.
– Hermann Hesse
Some friends and I planned our two week trip with opportunities to hike, climb and bask in the natural goodness of the Pacific Northwest. Coming from a claustrophobic small island in Asia, my soul felt starved for vastness and the bluest hues of the skies and seas.
And this is what I found:
We must learn our place in this world. But we also must learn our size in this world.
Relative to the natural giants that withstand time, weather and history.
We must learn to live and dwell humbly in the vastness of things.
I’m not adventurous person – I hate rollercoasters, I fear backpacking and I don’t like fast cars (among other things). Somehow that fear of the unknown, the dislike of speed and the feeling of helplessness seeped into other areas of my being. I felt like I was constantly facing a brick wall with my personal pursuits, and I became immune and numb to the things going around me. I was becoming apathetic to my own problems and I was sick of being that way.
Thinking travel was the answer to my problems and remedy to my lack of bravery, I bought a ticket to Tokyo for a week. Oh I was excited – I had grand plans of filling it with days of writing and photography, surrounded by Japan’s rich culture and her pulsating city life. Maybe a quiet walk through her gardens should it get too noisy. Who cares if I can’t speak Japanese? I was going and no one was going to convince me otherwise.
Instead of fulfilling my plans and expectations, I fell back into my old habits – shopping, eating and Internet-surfing. Solitary activities that left nothing to chance or spontaneity. I was fine with being alone, and I enjoyed those activities, but I had no real encounter with anyone. I was back to square one – being by myself and circulating old ideas in my head. What did I get away for?
I’ve always thought myself as an independent person, but travelling alone proved how proud I was to think that way, that I was independent from my fears. I gave myself far more reasons why my ideas wouldn’t work than what they were worth and it crippled me. Some say that the creative life is really about discipline, but it’s also about fighting yourself sometimes – we’re our own worst critic and enemy.
Travelling didn’t unblock my creative blockage, but it gave me an answer to a question I didn’t realise I was asking. For me it was a disappointed and lonely realisation that I was holding myself back – I was stuck creatively by holding myself back from experiencing. How would I know how good I was if I was afraid of just trying?
Travelling itself doesn’t always change your mind. It won’t automatically give you an epiphany that leads to your most creative and fruitful endeavours; change starts in the mind. I’m still fighting the fight of my old ways, but I won’t let that stop me from travelling.
Travelling presents the opportunity to break out from our routines and to view a place with a fresh pair of eyes. Some of my favourite moments on the road are when I am wandering aimlessly alone: wether in a forest on Jeju Island or through the streets of Utrecht. There's a certain satisfaction that spontaneity affords and the joy of discovery is undeniable for me.
Deliberately placing yourself in an unfamiliar setting can be unnerving, but the sense of displacement is usually accompanied with a greater cultural awareness: not so much about the Other's culture, but your own. Meeting new people, tasting new cuisines and doing new things is always refreshing.
These somewhat disparate images represent moments and associated feelings I wish to hold on to, taken from various travels around the globe: from Stockholm to Sri Lanka.
Students of Nature
If one were to look up into the sparse darkness at 4am in the morning, only to be greeted by the sheer magnificence of the multitudes of stars that lay scattered across the canvas of the night skies, one would encounter an epiphanous experience that arises from the core of his inner being: the realization that our minute essence comprises of a larger whole -- the glimmering masses of atoms and molecules in which the world is constructed from dwells within us as well.
It dawned upon me there and then, that we are ultimately larger than who we think we are.
By then, I reckoned that we were about 3000m high up in the Ghorepani mountains, bracing the 5 degree cold. The harsh morning wind was beginning to find its way through our heavily blanketed bodies, gnawing at our skin and chilling our bones. With our trembling hands buried within our jackets, ever so desperate for warmth, we embarked on our final uphill trek. The extent of our three days expedition had proved to be debilitating to our sullen bodies. Each step was beginning to weigh heavier as our movements were stifled by exhaustion and obligatory breaks to catch our breath. Coupled by the thickening fog and the lack of sleep, our vision was heavily obscured. There were no other sources of light apart from the flashlight emitted from our smartphones and the faint, ethereal glow of the stars that stretched across and above us.
In the distance, a hardened man of Nepalese nativity stood stoic with one leg planted onto a large boulder as he cast his gaze outwards into the distance. His posture spoke of perseverance and a patient temperament, his face revealing no signs of apparent fatigue. Kazy, our trekking guide, then beckoned for us to keep up and pointed further up into the dark.
“There! Straight ahead!” He shouted to us from afar.
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I travel to distance myself from the anxieties of my own familiar landscape.
New surroundings and cultures allow me to lose myself and to be immersed with the moment.
My sketchbook is my most reliable companion during travels; sketching allows me to transcend to ‘another place’ and internalizes my experiences.
I am in the midst of publishing a book titled 'in-transit' which will feature all my travel and commute sketches.
Val & Evans
We didn’t just find skeletons in our closet, we found secret love stories. We weaved in and out of facsimiles over lifetimes. So when we wandered into 100%, we chose it forevermore.
Everyone has a love story, what’s yours?
WE HAVE ALWAYS had a knack for exploration. From the dawn of eternity, driven by survival and curiosity we have moved forth into the unknown.
What lies round the corner? What is there? How different is it from here? What wonders are there ahead? The wanderluster seeks the next great adventure. In our own backyard or the great unknown.
A tunnel at the top of a mountain, an abandoned hotel surrounded by clouds, or accordion music playing against the great him of the city. The great experiences to last a lifetime.
Toh Ee Ming
Time of my life
When I was first accepted to a six-month stint at a newspaper in Kathmandu, Nepal, this year, I was torn.
It was either missing out on the local experience, or losing an amazing overseas opportunity. And to be completely honest, I was afraid of being out of my comfort zone.
But then I came across a quote, which said: “The choices you make in your youth define the kind of person you will be in the future.”
That’s when I made up my mind.
It’s always different when you live in a foreign country for a period of time. For my three Singaporean friends and I, it was a little disconcerting having to get used to scheduled power cuts, water shortages, and bouts of food poisoning. Nothing could have prepared me for it, living in a world so far removed away from this comfortable Singaporean life.
In the first few days, I took in the city’s sights. Women hanging their saris outside to dry. A gathering of stray dogs outside the butcher’s shop. Schoolchildren weaving their way through while motorbikes whizzed past them.
Ordinary scenes, but to this foreigner, it was filled with so much colour and life.
A few weeks in, I began to discover that being a reporter was unlike any other job. I could be doing anything from one day to the next. For this self-confessed introvert, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this unpredictability.
The job took me places, and forced me to come of my shell. And with every assignment covered, it taught me a little more about this beautiful country.
One assignment involved traveling to a nearby village and meeting Mr Dayaram, founder of Apanga Sewa Sangh, a school that takes in disabled children. We spent our morning learning sign language from two deaf girls. ‘Music’. ‘Happy’. ‘Home’, we tried to say. I remember their fluttering hands, and their encouraging smiles as our clumsy gestures tried to mirror theirs.
Other moments: Finding myself under a huge starlit sky and covering the concert of one of Nepal’s biggest bands, Nepathya, while the youths around us danced up a frenzy. Traversing into the mountains on a bumpy jeep to catch a glimpse of wild vultures feeding. The city drenched with an explosion of colours during Holi. Or being swept up in the madness of Nepal’s biggest chariot festival, where hundreds heaved the 60-feet tall structure through impossibly narrow alleyways, amidst a racket of drumming and exhilarated yelling.
I even had a chance to do all the adventure sports I’d never dreamed of doing. Paragliding, bungee jumping, trekking, white water rafting– the sloth in me would have balked in fear previously.
There’s a marked contrast between Kathmandu’s haphazard urban sprawl and its natural surroundings. I remember sitting on a low stonewall in a tiny village called Pame while our friends raced each other in the rice fields. Later on, we sat around eating freshly caught fried fish, while the rest sang, or caught fireflies in a bottle, and told us to make a wish under this big fat moon half shrouded in clouds. I had never felt further away from the world.
It’s only through moments like this when I experienced Nepal’s fierce, rugged beauty for myself that I understood why people would come back again to brave these mountains.
And of course, it’s the people that make the place. We stayed with a local family of musicians, who made us feel like we were home.
Looking back, our nights seem to have been coloured with a dream-like haziness, marked by the staple of booze and impromptu jam sessions. On one of our last nights, we sped along the silent, dark city on our friends’ motorbikes, feeling the rush of cold air in our faces. When the band played the classic ‘Farki Farki’ by local band Albatross, we sang along with the other Nepalis at the top of our lungs. All that mattered was this heady abandon of youth, this universal love of music, as if we were unstoppable somehow, just for that window of time.
Had I stayed in my own country, I wouldn’t had the same wide-eyed wonder, or felt so alive, or free.
I came to Nepal wanting to be challenged, to have a completely different experience, to grow in my skills, and to be stretched in every way possible.
I learnt how to make better photographs, and to be a better reporter. I learnt how important it was to actively read up and educate oneself. You needed to crave adventure, to be open to wherever life took you. How to be comfortable with striking up conversations with strangers, and most importantly, having this genuine curiosity for people’s lives.
Nepal has given me so much- moments of indescribable beauty, unforgettable adventures, newfound international friends, and a renewed perspective of looking at the world.
It taught me to live in the moment. Nothing can ever replicate that.
Nomads was birthed after five months of exasperation and seeming hopelessness. Inspired by ancient nomadic tribes who wandered in the desert in search of real rest and a permanent home, Nomads takes you along this same journey of life, which everyone must take.
Dusk. From the Rockies to Aspen, you drive downhill drive for 4 hours, the decline a reminder of the grandeur you would have seen and were leaving behind. Somewhere along the interstate we started to smoke a joint, and I put Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here on.
The first time I listened to that album I was in Jon’s room. He put it on for me, and I sat there in between the speakers in awe as the music washed over me and in waves cleansed me, changed my life. I had listened to Pink Floyd before, but never in that setting where the music was all around me, wrapping me up in its arms, cradling me in its genius and at that moment I had thought then how amazing would it be if I had experienced that while high.
So in Cole’s car I pressed the button for CD1, and the magic of Pink Floyd washed over us. I was very high, my legs were numb and throat dry. Shine On You Crazy Diamond kicked in, and I started to feel fuzzy all over, like a prolonged shudder. The vibrations reverberated through my psyche, my being, my existence and uplifted me… Made me cry inside.
In front of us a huge mountain loomed, and as we drove on it grew bigger and bigger each second, ominous looking but so beautiful, as it is with nature and the way the world turns, so strong and powerful and unforgiving and occasionally cruel but always, always gorgeous, on a level that was vast beyond us. On either sides of us were dark shapes - we were driving through a canyon and because it was night, we couldn’t see what was around us. They were just black shapes flanking us, guarding us, watching us.
Speeding down the raised roads in the presence of such greatness of every element, I felt so small, in a good way, a feeling of respect and humility. I loved it, and I was grateful, and perhaps I do not know my role in this world, but I know I belong to it - this is my Earth and I am a citizen.
We kept driving down, through mountain bellies and tunnels and turns and past rest stops, and we kept moving, moving, moving through the magnificence of Colorado, basking in our high and the fact that it was legal.
Chen Zhi Lin
I find that despite being a small urban city there is a whole lot of things around us that we can explore - we just need to arm ourselves with a sense of curiosity in which we view our world. In this day and age, we are so tied down with work and the constant rush of being in a fast-paced society that we fail to slow down every now and then to appreciate the little things around us. For instance, behind the hectic and pristine shop fronts in Singapore, there is actually a quiet joy in walking through the winding back alleys that are also constantly changing everyday that no 2 moments are exactly the same.
In my series, I invite viewers on a journey with me as I document these little things that we do not usually notice on a daily basis because we might be too caught up in our paper chase as students and working adults. Though my photographs, I hope to impart this sense of curiosity and the ability to seek beauty in things forgotten.
My series consists of 10 photographs mounted silver gelatin prints shot using 120 film.
Travelling is not just about the journey or the destination. It's about the people. People whom you've shared moments with. Abeit briefly but carrying some story behind the encounter.
My project, 'Yesteryears', is a photography project where I wander around forsaken and abandoned places in Singapore and aim to capture the essence of each place or building. The photos are self portraiture, so I'm both the photographer and the subject in the photo. Jumping on the bandwagon of SG50, the project would capture 50 unique places in Singapore.
It feels like being a tourist in your own country; traveling through the city, searching for these obscure places, immersing myself in the environment and creating a moment in time which hopes to encapsulate the essence of the place.
A Desert of Endless Searching
I recently visited Abu Dhabi for reasons that are important but too hard to put into words. Perhaps when one day when I find these lost words I will pen them down. Like everyone else I always find myself in a desperate search.
At Abu Dahbi we visited the sand dunes, the desert, on the outskirts of the city. I was in awe. I don’t get to experience so much space in Singapore and I felt so minute standing and looking out to where the horizon hit the sands.
It was just after sunset. The view was sublime and I had to steady myself for fear of falling off the sand dunes. I find it very hard to put into words what I felt in those few hours. I could’ve been a giant lording over everything, but again I felt so small. It was the first time I could actually feel scale.
Its ridiculous really when you finally sit down
to think about it
its hilarious almost.
At least that was what I thought when I was on top
on a sand dune, with sand so fine it would hiss through the
slats between my rough fingers
I turned to someone,
but they were all on the far side, or
sliding down on their bums, their hands in the air
screaming and singing
that the sun had set and it was about
to get cold
I didn’t care
I didn’t care because when the sun set it was gorgeous
the sky was blue yellow orange and purple
All at the same time
I wasn’t going to move
I didn’t care I wanted to stay there till I froze and I they had to search for me
In the sand
I thought about the land
I thought about the sky
I thought about the sea
I let my mind empty
I let my head wander
free in the dunes that stretched and stretched
But I felt a tug,
when I was thinking about how infinite
this world was
Because it wasn’t
it wasn’t my heart told me no
so I looked inside and
I found everyone else looking back
and You, you of course you
in the iridescent shine of my eyes