An Excerpt from WanderLOST: tales from the winding highway towards significance


 By J. Daniel Sims

I say goodbye to Australia and board the flight for my first leg again to Kuala Lumpur. I’m flying a Boeing 777 on Malaysia Airways, the identical airplane which, simply three years later, would disappear over the Indian Ocean en path to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 employees onboard.

This flight arrives safely, however simply barely.

Lights are flashing on and off. Individuals are screaming. Air masks come down a number of occasions. I’m pretty satisfied we’re going to die at quite a few factors through the voyage.

Fearful, immature religion recommitments and rapidly forgotten guarantees to God ensue.

We arrive at Kuala Lumpur Worldwide Airport at 9:00am, and my subsequent flight doesn’t go away till 6:00am the next day. I’m completely exhausted, having already been awake 21 hours. I’m nonetheless, nonetheless, actively searching for my subsequent travel-induced metaphysical excessive.

This morning, my common jonesing is compounded by an intense, quick want to squeeze each inch out of life. Such compulsions are usually the extra highly effective “religious” ramifications to emerge from perceived near-death experiences just like the one on my inbound flight.

With elevated motivation in hand, I resolve to enterprise into Kuala Lumpur.

KLIA is about 40 miles from downtown. There’s a bus that takes you into town for about $6. I purchase a return.

Not wanting to hold my baggage with me – and, clearly, having realized precisely nothing in regards to the significance of spare money from my current Australian misadventure – I test every part besides my ticket, passport, and $20 in native forex onto my subsequent flight.

I board the bus round midday. After I de-board an hour later, I’m given a schedule for the return journeys: each hour on the hour till 10:00pm. Ought to be loads of time to discover, return, and take a nap within the terminal.

Wandering round, I’m struck by KL. The Petronas Towers, the world’s largest twin buildings, are a powerful wall of glass earlier than me, true temples of opulence. I’m drawn to the spectacle and stroll as much as them, now lower than 300 toes in entrance of me and over 1,500 toes excessive.

Turning 180 levels, I see a slum. Malaysia is essentially the most unequal nation on the planet and the visceral actuality of the distinction is on full show right here at its financial epicenter.

I seize a late lunch close by for a couple of {dollars}. I sit there, pondering what to do with my privileged disappointment at such staggering inequality. Turning round once more, I see a luxurious health heart which appears to be like immediately out on the towers, this makeshift slum in its shadow.

I understand I haven’t labored out in a couple of days. Maybe a jog whereas taking on this scene a bit extra deeply will assist.

I am going upstairs and faux to be an expat transferring to the realm with a view to get a free “trial” day go. This has turn into a daily schtick after I want a exercise in a brand new metropolis. I like to consider it as a heroic second of kinds; taking a bit of one thing from the rich and hanging out the place I don’t belong make me really feel like I’m beating the system by some means.

As we speak, I see such rebellions as misguided, however within the second, I believed my trigger noble and my motives pure.

I hop on the treadmill and look out over town. The sundown behind the towers is beautiful, virtually inspiring. I discover the slum once more and instinctively flip away, the hypocrisy of my egocentric  little revolt nonetheless failing to sink in.

It’s 9:30pm earlier than I’m sauna-ed, showered, and out the door. I stroll the quarter-hour again to the station and see a bus taking off.

Nonetheless a bit early, I’m unconcerned. I wander as much as the station, sit down and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

At round 10:20, I ask somebody.

“The final bus all the time leaves from right here quarter-hour earlier than 10.”

This is senseless. My schedule says 10!!

I ask two different folks and get the identical reply. The final gentle rail (which fits 80% of the way in which to the airport) has additionally departed.

Panic units in.

I’ve $9.30 cents left, a US passport, and half a bottle of Gatorade. My flight takes off in 7.5 hours 40 miles from right here and I’ve now been awake for over 33 hours – exercising the final 2 hours plus.

I hail a cab. $30 he says. No approach.

I hail one other. $28. I haggle a bit and get to $25 however then have to inform him to depart as properly.

Now, I stroll over to the group of taxi drivers, and ask them how far somebody is prepared to take me for $9.30.

Even in my desperation and with a bunch of opponents, the most effective reply I get is “the E6/AH2 intersection.” AH2 is the highway which runs into the airport. The intersection is 15 miles from the terminal. I’ve no different choices and hop in.

At 11:30, we pull as much as the intersection and my driver slows to a cease.

“From right here, simply stroll straight. Don’t flip.”

I’ve nothing left to supply the motive force. I can’t give him my passport. I would like the 16 ounces of Gatorade to face a protracted hike within the humid Malaysian warmth, nonetheless properly above 80 oF in the course of the evening. He doesn’t need my footwear or shirt. Imagine me, I supply.

The signal on the facet of the highway says, “KLIA 25km” (15.5 miles). I begin strolling.

That is about essentially the most bodily exhausted I’ve ever felt, however the preliminary panic has long-since subsided. I by some means discover myself elated on the adventurous hits which simply hold coming.


“If discontent is your illness, journey is your medication.” Jed Jenkins, To Shake the Sleeping Self

The “medication” I used to be taking with mounting frequency by way of memorable, depressing, self-inflicted little jaunts like this one in Malaysia was curing me – and it wasn’t.

This string of spontaneous adventures was progressively therapeutic me from a lifetime within the bubble of safe American affluence because it pressured me to wrestle with the large unanswered questions and the contingent nature of actuality. The wrestling was starting to rework the route of my life.

But the irony doesn’t escape me. This self-medication was creating a frantic, determined, egocentric sample of more and more reckless experiences: a rising have to put myself in such conditions with a view to really feel entire.


In response to my watch, it’s 1:30am after I go one other signal which reads, “KLIA 15km” (9.3 miles).

I’m long gone any lingering reservations about night-time hitch-hiking, however not a single different particular person or automobile is out on the highway. I feel I see issues transferring forwards and backwards throughout the freeway, however I’m undecided. I’m too drained to be scared.

It’s 4:00am after I see the 5km signal (3.1 miles). My Gatorade bottle is now empty.

Thirty-nine hours with out sleep and my mind is full mush. It takes me the higher a part of 10 minutes to calculate my tempo and understand I’m reducing it approach too shut.

I begin to run. Granted, it’s not a lot of a run, however I’m transferring quicker now and my blood and mind are responding to the shift. It’s nonetheless pitch-black outdoors and I nonetheless see the phantoms leaping throughout the highway. Not folks or animals or something discernible, simply amorphous shapes. I start to query if I’m hallucinating.

Simply then, I discover the lights of the airport. I hope I’m not hallucinating.

At 4:40am, I arrive on the airport, totally exhausted, dehydrated, and delusional. I’m additionally now, surprisingly – pathologically even – completely in my component.

No time or cash for a drink although. Within the zone, I dash for safety.

A lot of the evening was a blur, however I’ll always remember that second. I put my passport on the conveyer belt and start to stroll by the scanner. Simply then, I hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Membership Band enjoying over the airport audio system. I search for as I stroll by safety and see, I child you not, I see the music coming from the audio system. Not the phrases, the music itself. I can’t describe it in another approach, however it was lovely and disorienting.

This “medication,” the ragged edges of this factor which was meant to launch and free and treatment me is beginning to reveal some disagreeable unintended effects.

I shake my head arduous, seize my passport, stroll as much as a water fountain, and submerge for a socially inappropriate size of time.

It’s now 5:20am, greater than 41 depressing, sweating, hallucinating, striving, self-medicating hours since my eyes and physique and soul final rested.

I crawl into the stomach of the airplane – this contraption which just about killed me a day earlier – and fall right into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Wanderlost is out there on if you happen to click on right here.

Concerning the writer

J. Daniel Sims at present serves as Nation Director of Worldwide Justice Mission (IJM) Cambodia the place he leads a group of investigators, legal professionals, social staff, programmatic and operational employees within the combat in opposition to violent labor exploitation. Concurrently along with his function at IJM, he serves as a Non-Resident Fellow at Duke College’s Heart for Reconciliation, a number one institute bridging the worlds of analysis and follow within the world peace-building and justice house. Sims is steadily drawn upon for skilled commentary on varied human rights and world growth challenges. His evaluation has featured not too long ago in The Economist, The Guardian, Forbes, The LA Instances, Al Jazeera, VICE World Information, Sydney Morning Herald, ProPublica, The American Curiosity, Plough, The Hill, and World Information Group amongst many others.


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