It was an ordinary day for me. Suit up, wait to get on the packed subway train, make my first cup of coffee at work, attend meetings that I do not want to be a part of and then back home again. It was mundane, sometimes a little stressful but easy. I have been doing this for the past five years. From a fresh graduate who had no idea what it takes to work in a corporate environment to an apprentice who is gradually groomed to fill my supervisor’s shoes along with a well-respected career path, everything seemed to be cruising. However, there was a voice that kept haunting me from within.

“Am I going to do this for the rest of my life? Is this what life is about?”

Deep inside, it felt hollow, as if I was living in a simulated universe with a deluded sense of free will.

I needed a break – a remote place where I can go to and isolate myself from the city life that I have been accustomed to.

And so I found Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang, the furthest islands away from Peninsular Malaysia. These islands are so remote that there are limited mobile signal and no internet coverage.

As I arrived on Pulau Aur, I was awestruck by the stunning landscape and serenity of the island. The place was quiet, peaceful and filled with a gentle scent of nature.

Pulau Aur

I was given a warm welcome by Sebukang Bay Resort staffs. Unlike other resorts, the staffs here are more like your local villager friends – no uniforms, no standard protocols, just friendly and down-to-earth people. Getting along with them was so easy and natural. Stripping down my suit and tie, I was supposed to be a nobody on the island, and yet somehow I felt this sense of worthiness.

Under the Night Sky

As the day came to a close, I took a stroll by the beach and was dumbfounded upon the starry night sky. A humbling sensation hit me as I watched the night sky in awe from the wooden jetty of Sebukang Bay – from pondering upon our insignificance in this vast universe to wondering if we are alone. Sometimes we can be so caught up with things happening in our lives that we become egocentric – the perspective that everything has to revolve around us.

Beautiful night sky captured at Pulau Aur by Javin Tham

In reality, we are just specks on Earth, struggling to find happiness and purpose in life during our short spell on this planet. Our Earth, a stage where thousands of civilizations had flourished and vanished, as the late Carl Sagan put it, is nothing but a pale blue dot in this vast fabric of space-time. I thought, Vincent Van Gogh probably came to a similar spiritual awakening when he painted the Starry Night, a painting which was famously named after the background of the night sky.

Pulau Dayang

On the next day, I went on a guided trip to Pulau Dayang, a small rocky island located just opposite Pulau Aur. The pristine blue sea at Pulau Dayang was so soothing to the eye.

There was a hiking expedition to Letak Semalu, the peak of Pulau Dayang which promised a spectacular view of Pulau Aur. Having zero hiking experience under my belt, I was very hesitant to join the hiking group and was thinking of just chilling by the beach. Suddenly, I felt a gentle pat on the back of my shoulders.

“Hey young man, you already know what you will be getting by staying on the beach. Why not try something different? I’ve been to the top, and I tell you it’s going to be some view that you will not want to miss! I know it’s a bit heavy to say this during a vacation, but life is about having no regrets!”

To the Peak

It hit me. What she said was right. I have been living in my cocoon, and God knows how many opportunities I have missed! I felt this urge to step out of my comfort zone and do whatever my heart tells me to. I picked up my backpack and joined the hiking team. On route to Letak Semalu, we encountered a series of obstacles such as huge boulders and vertical climbs. To my surprise, I was able to overcome them one at a time and was eventually rewarded with this breathtaking view at the peak.

Yes. Life is about having no regrets. You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Never had I expected that this trip to Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang would be such an awakening for me. I reflected every second of my eventful vacation on my 2-hour journey back to the mainland and said to myself, “It is time to venture down the road not taken.”