Life in downtown vs in woods

Life in downtown vs in woods

I have always been quite well protected by the comfortability of metropolitan life. In the past five years in Singapore, everyday life revolved around travelling from one well-constructed metal box to another in air-conditioned subway trains or double-decker buses. It was not the case that I could not see any greeneries. On the very contrary, the garden city got its name precisely because of the large number of trees that were planted almost everywhere. It seemed that the city was offering everything one wanted for a comfortable life.

However, comfort is only a part of life, but not life itself. Despite my appreciation towards the Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s policy which turned the bleak land into a garden city, the sense of disconnection between me and the nature still lingered on. The artificially planted trees inherently bears the notion of being “unnatural”.

Therefore, every time I boarded on a bus and stared at the scenery outside, I recalled the very special time on the nearly uninhabited Pulah Ubin island. 5 days of isolation from the “civilized” world allowed me to observe the wilderness with zero distance. Trekking with a 40-pound backpack and kayaking for 8 hours on the ocean to get to campsite sounded like torture. Challenges in deeded surfaced and discomfort surrounded me. Mosquitos and other insects posed a constant danger, animals of which I only saw pictures on encyclopaedia book could suddenly disappear, and it was always possible that waves suddenly hit the coast. However, it was also precisely the time on that island when I took a close look at the natural flora and fauna on the planet which remained largely unspoilt. It was in the woods or on the ocean when I purposely lost myself and all my ego and self-centredness. I learnt of my identity—an insignificant part of the larger world. However, it is precisely the aggregation of the action of every “insignificant self” that could cause a significant change to the environment we live in. This realization pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and explore the larger world. While I enjoyed the comfort of life in downtown area, such comfortability does not entirely shape my value. It is the discomfort set by the woods that drives me to reflect on my values.

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