ONE of my most memorable adventures took place in Kars, Turkey.
Kars is a small town near the Turkish-Armenian border, at the far east of the country. There was only one bus available each day to Kars and for six hours, we journeyed past snowy valleys and mountains to get there.
I arrived at this small town late in the evening, and the weather was a piercing minus 8 degrees celsius.
The bus stopped next to a gas station and all the locals got off, with family and friends already waiting to pick them up. There were no taxis around and it was getting darker by the minute.
I had no idea how to get to my hotel. Eventually I hitched a ride with a friendly young girl and her father, who kindly drove my friend and I to our hotel.
It turned out that both she and her father were musicians and with the help of Google Translate, we were able to have a short conversation during the drive.
My stay in Kars was filled with adventures, from visiting the ruins of an ancient city to experiencing the utterly cold weather, while walking on the frozen surface of a lake.
The rental taxi we managed to find drove across icy roads and past vast fields of snow, an environment so far removed from home. I took long strolls down the streets of the little town and no one knew who I was, which somehow felt liberating.
I savoured every moment of the freedom I felt in Kars. I was in my element, wandering around and getting a little lost here and there, meeting interesting strangers and learning new things about new places.
And like many other similar moments in my life, it reminded me of the choices I made in life, and why I made them.
For as long as I can remember, my daydreams have never been about domesticity. Perhaps it's my upbringing or maybe it's just who I am, but I've never dwelled on wedding plans or how many children I will have.
When I was a child, I declared that I wanted to be an explorer. As I hit 30, I slowly began to soften towards the idea of marriage, which is considered extremely delayed for someone of my background and culture.
By this time, all my female friends were already married with children, while I, on a wagon way behind them, had only begun to think about settling down.
Over the years, you wouldn't believe the price I had to pay for having different life expectations from everyone else — from aunts who wanted to bring me to a bomoh to cure me of what they felt was my strange mindset, to colleagues who kept asking if I wasn't lonely, and to every dreaded wedding I attended, where I had to endure endless interrogation about my lack of interest in the conventional path of womanhood.
The truth is, I did not and still do not have the answers. All I know is that there are different things that I value more in my life and, looking back, I realise that all my choices have subconsciously been a result of these values — this idea of what I want my life to be.
Despite constant social pressure, I seem to drift further and further away from these conventional goals.
Instead of worrying about finding Mr Right, I am more concerned with trying to publish a book. Instead of pondering about my peak fertility period, my mind is occupied with where I want to travel to.
I have never had "baby fever", instead I have "freedom fever". I want to see the world and try a million new things and see what else is out there for me.
YOUR LIFE IS YOUR OWN
These days, I sometimes get approached by young women asking me about choices in life — in particular, my choices in life.
Is it scary to carve a different kind of life from what people and culture expect of you? Is it lonely? The answer is yes and yes. Most days are great, but of course, some days feel a little blue.
But that being said, if my married girlfriends are of any indication, having kids and settling down early in life doesn't mean you don't get scared or lonely, either.
It is clear that making life decisions based on fear will never be the solution. You make up your mind about what you want your life to look like, not based on what everyone else is doing.
And then, you move forward with faith, finding what fulfils you and doing it with the best of intentions.
This will always yield a life worthy of living.
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