The English Backpacker

I watch a backpacker angmoh ask for rice from a nasi campur stall and pick his lauk like a pro. He must’ve done this a lot, I guessed. Maybe he can speak Malay. Maybe he’s lived here for some time!

I didn’t watch him eat, but by the time I turned again he’s done. He sent his plate back to the makcik (wow, good manners) and paid for his food. We had our first eye contact then.

“You seem like a Malay expert,” I said.
“Oh no, I’ve eaten similar kinds of dishes in South East Asia. Ooh, cockles! I had cockles in Singapore.”

We proceeded to talk some more. He’s been living on his backpack for nine months now. It gets tiring, he says. I know how that must feel – just two months without my mom I fell sick already. Singapore was relaxing but boring, Myanmar was a hassle etc. Then I ask the question I’ve always been shameless about:

“How do you afford it?”
“I have properties. I rent them out.”

How do you have properties? He was an English teacher. His father gave him money. He used the money to buy properties.

“I’ve been in and out of relationships. Married a couple of times,…but no kids.”

I looked into his ocean-blue eyes. They’re so deep I could swim in them. He smells like a backpacker would, and he said he’s “embarrassed by this shirt.”

“I want to see your passport.”

He showed me his passport.

“You could be my dad,” I said, calculating his age.

That thin Great Britain passport was also where his Visa card was. It was filled with numerous dull-coloured stamps from many different countries. Countries I’ve never dreamt of visiting.

He found a hostel nearby that’s only RM15 per night.

“I tried staying at a hostel once. But I’m far too conservative. Saw a white man walking in his boxers down the hallway. I said no more,” I told him.

And we walked downstairs together and we parted ways.

I wish I had the opportunity and money to travel alone around the world. But then I remembered I have commitments at home.

And maybe I’ve had enough of self-walkings that it’s time to travel with someone else.

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