Flight to Kuala Lumpur (photo by Irina Stelea)

January 23, 2016

10:00pm local time at departure airport. 3:00am local time at destination. When you fly at 11,000 meters, time is only defined by the routine of the flight attendants. I don’t yet speak the language of long-haul flights, so I glance furtively at the freckled young girl sitting next to me to figure out what to do with all the airline branded objects surrounding me. She slides gracefully into her role as passenger and I try to copy her movements and her replies to the flight attendants. A man in a Hawaiian shirt sitting a few rows ahead takes some time to react when the staff repeatedly asks whether there is a doctor on board. Maybe he was on vacation mode already. I look at his shirt and at the flowered shirts of other male passengers and wonder how similar their holiday photos will turn out.

Travels just have to start and this is the most important thing about them. You simply leave on the day you set for this. I left on a freezing cold January afternoon and boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur, with only the next 10 days or so planned out. During the flight I jotted down some ‘rules’ for myself on how to make the most of what is to come. Besides going someplace new, I wasn’t fueled by a grand idea and, switching between pragmatism and a certain fear, I didn’t feel any of the exhilaration described by the travel(er)s I had idealized. Ahead of the great unknown I only had a lump in the throat.

The following is an account of how, over the next four months, I got to tame a bit of this great unknown. It is based on the daily entries in my journal and on the records that my irreplaceable travel companion (my photo camera, a Leica D-Lux 109) has helped me keep.

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