MALAYSIA — Kuala Lumpur.
At this point in my journey, after two months and nine countries, I was operating on borrowed funds and becoming just the slightest bit panicky about where the next cash infusion would be coming from. The original plan had been to have enough money stacked to hang out in Brazil for a few months without having to work full-time in order to bang out a few chapters of a novel. Very quickly, zat plen vent kaput.
Meanwhile, I was still on the dream tour, passing through the Kingdom of Malaysia for a couple days en route to Hong Kong, and crashing with a gangly CouchSurfer of Chinese parentage named Dan. A writer and web designer, Dan took a day off of work to show me around his city, peopled with a mix of Asian ethnicities and served by a modern and extensive transport system. Accustomed to giving tours of KL, Dan had a whole itinerary planned, involving mosques and markets. Our first stop: KL City Centre to check out the Petronas Towers, those twin silver, Islamic-inspired spires of Entrapment fame and one-time tallest building(s) in the world. We knew we wouldn’t be able to go to the top, since tickets had to be procured first thing in the morning. In the end, though, we never made it out of the park and shopping mall at the base of the towers.
See, what had happened was, I had found a few teaching job leads online; a couple in Brazil, one in Berlin, and another back in the States. I needed to get my CV sent out to each school, pronto. Immediately. Right away.
There were two Starbucks beneath the towers, both with painfully slow wireless Internet, both chock full o’ foreigners trying to access said Internet simultaneously. What started out as a quick five-minute email ended up takng an hour. Then. we decided to get some food and as we were finishing, it began to rain. I felt like I could squeeze in another couple of emails and a Skype phone call or two. And after another almost two hours, Dan let me know in his calm, measured manner, that most of the places on our sightseeing list had closed. I was in town for only two days and had spent five hours in a mall, most of it hunched over a laptop at Starbucks. Talk about misplaced priorities.
Dan had been gracious enough to take off from work and drive me into the capital city of a country to which I had no clue when I’d be returning on a continent I’d never been before. And because of a very American sense of single-mindedness and goal-oriented-ness, I missed out on who knows how many sights, sounds, and other random and beautiful experiences stressing over something that could have been taken care of during one of my many pending airport layovers (especially considering all major East Asian airports have free or cheap Internet access).
Work-related stress without even having a job, while on vacation. Ain’t that a…?!
Here’s to trying my damndest to never make that mistake again. Cheers, Dan!