Why wait?

At the peak of Mt Kinabalu on April 28, [Left to Right]
Emily D., Florence Liew and Tan Hong Jiun with
Alvin Th'ng [Back Center]
Last year I heard my friends discussing the challenge to climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Malaysia and I encouraged them to do it while they still can.  Several years ago I had the thrill of climbing to the foothills of Mount Kinabalu but since I had no desire to be a mountain climber, that experience was enough for me.  But for this group of young adults, it was a major project to take on the mountain and they knew they should get fit for the physical challenge. 

Very often we put off what we can do now for later and by the time we think we have the time to do it, circumstances may have changed or our health may not permit us to pursue it.  In this age of modern technology, our lifestyle is mostly sedentary because we are spoilt by too many things that can be done remotely or by the touch of a few buttons.  In fact, so many young people have fallen into this laid-back lifestyle that they have to be challenged with a stint at National Service to get them to experience the great outdoors.

At the peak of Gunung Ledang on May 24,
[Left to Right] Alvin Th'ng, Cailin Ho, Gerald Tan,
Emily D. and Sunny Tan
My friends were so determined to achieve their goal to conquer Mount Kinabalu that they committed themselves to a regular exercise regime, as often as a few times a week as the date drew closer.  From brisk walking, stairs climbing and frequent treks up nearby Gunung Pulai in rain or sunshine, I saw how serious they were about getting fit for this mountain adventure.  They also changed their eating habits to a high protein diet and when I was invited to enjoy a burger meal with them, I saw how they devoured chunks of juicy meat without the bread!

By the time this team of six climbing enthusiasts were packed and ready to leave for Kota Kinabalu, they were fighting fit and pumped up to scale their way to the summit.  They set out with the added confidence that one of the guys has some climbing experience in Nepal and that they could stay in touch with modern technology.  This they used to their advantage by posting regular updates of their climb with photos when they set out from Mesilau to Laban Rata on April 27 and on April 28, we shared their pride when they reached the peak of Mount Kinabalu at dawn!

That's me [Far Left] cheering on the team as
we splashed down the rapids in our whitewater
adventure in Gopeng, Perak in 2007
After descending from the summit, they were understandably still feeling “high” from their exhilarating experience and already talking about their next climb.  While Mount Everest may be the ultimate goal for serious climbers, they agreed that they should gain more experience from exploring local peaks and it did not take them long to decide on trekking up Johor’s own legendary Gunung Ledang, also known as Mount Ophir.  Enthused by tales of their climbing adventures, a few more friends joined them and successfully completed this climb on May 24.

I can relate to how it feels to have achieved something extraordinary and then encouraging others to have the same experience.  After some of my travel writer friends and I thrilled to our white-water rafting adventure in Gopeng in 2007, I was so unbelievably keen about it that I encouraged my family members to have that adrenalin-pumping experience at least once in their lifetime.  Two years later when my English niece and nephew came for their Malaysian vacation, I did not hesitate to add rafting into our itinerary and to this day, we still fondly talk about one of our most unforgettable outdoor adventures ever!

That's me [waving!] with [Left to Right] niece Amanda,
my brother Kenneth and nephew Aaron, rafting in
Gopeng again in 2009
I'm not suggesting that we start climbing mountains or swimming across oceans but to set short-term achievable goals and aim to achieve them, one at a time.  Your goal may simply be to speak and write better English, learn a second language like Mandarin or Tamil, to swim or play a musical instrument or visit Legoland Malaysia and Hello Kitty World.  It may be difficult or seem like a challenge at first but with sheer determination and proper planning, you may just achieve another goal and add another feather to your cap!

These goals are not just for youths or the middle-aged but also for the seniors because after my dad retired, first from Government service and later from working with visiting doctors at estate clinics, he learnt to play the piano.  He only attended a basic music-reading course with Yamaha Music and through sheer commitment and a love for music he practised often to learn to play several of his favourite pieces.  We only had a second-hand piano at that time but he derived such pleasure from playing and stunned everyone when he even played without the aid of notes!

My dad's English-Tamil dictionary [Right] and his
Tamil language text books
My dad, who will turn 91 this October, started learning to read and write the Tamil script several years ago and was the most regular and probably the most hardworking class member until they changed the class time to Sunday morning.  After dropping out from the class, he acquired an English-Tamil dictionary from India through a cousin who frequents India for work, and spends countless hours practising writing the Tamil script on any available piece of recycled paper at home.  Having added more Tamil words into his vocabulary, he is now having fun impressing Tamil-speaking friends as well as staff in Indian restaurants, with his command of the Tamil language!

My sister Ruby [Seated Left] and I walked the Great Wall of China in April 2013
 I was welcomed to Hello Kitty Town by
Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel!
So is it complacency or sheer laziness that keeps us from stepping out of routine or our comfort zone to do something different?  
If it is your dream to walk on the Great Wall of China, swim with the dolphins or meet Hello Kitty, don’t wait but do it now.  And then live with no regrets!
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 12 June 2013

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