Sabah: Left and leaving

Every time I leave a place I have come to love, it throws a tiny lasso around my heart.

This usually occurs on the last evening I am there – while still basking in the afterglow of all I had seen and done, tiny hands slip in, quiet and unnoticed with the falling dusk, and fasten a dead knot that never comes undone.

I never notice it until the next day, when leaving becomes real, when I throw the  last of my belongings thrown hastily into my luggage, turn my back to go, and feel like I can never express all I feel for this place in a last wave goodbye. Then it is the roar of an engine pulling away swiftly, headed for a new destination, the old one already a part of the past as it recedes into the horizon.

It is when I am first aware of the twinge in my chest as this imaginary rope constricts, and I know I will always be bound to a place by dint of my experiences there, and the conversations I had with friends of the road.

Herein lies the conundrum of travel. Most of the time, the rope is left slack, when the pressures of reality dominate and travel becomes a distant memory. But sometimes there is a tug, when wanderlust calls and I am brought back to a better time and place, and what follows is a potent cocktail of nostalgia and wistfulness and reminiscing, and a desire to go back and reunite with the part of myself I have invariably left behind.

We went to Sabah and I never expected to fall as hard as I did for any of the places we visited. But sleepy, backward Mabul Island, with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, won me over with the wonder of nature. And I am certain I will be back.


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