My version of “Eat, Pray, Love” – Part 1

Part 1 - The start of my journey & Milan

For years, I’ve dreamed of hitting pause on the whirlwind of work—a break that goes beyond the typical vacation stint. I longed for the chance to recharge my batteries, reconnect with my roots in Malaysia, and soak up some quality time with my aging parents. But as life hurled its usual curveballs, I found myself perpetually waiting for the “perfect moment” to take the leap.

It wasn’t until the loss of two dear family members—an aunt and an uncle—that I realized waiting for the stars to align was a fool’s game. The truth hit hard: there may never be a “right time.” Sure, worries about money and job security gnawed at me, but the thought of missing out on precious moments with my parents as they approached their twilight years was a weight too heavy to bear. So, in October 2023, I set out on a journey of self-discovery.

Leaving home at 19, I rarely had the chance to spend more than a fleeting moment with my parents. Life got in the way—college, kids, career. Sometimes a few years passed without seeing them at all.

My itinerary read like a dream: three weeks traversing Europe, from Italy to Spain, with a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, followed by a soul-searching month in India. Then, back to Malaysia for a long-overdue family reunion, with plans to stay until after Chinese New Year or until my parents begged me to leave.

As I woke up on that first day of freedom, with Milan awaiting me that evening, I made a promise to myself: to savor every second of this unpaid, precious time. It struck me as funny—as if time only truly became valuable when it stopped being paid for.

The flight to Milan was smooth. I landed in the morning and took a train to the hotel. I quickly checked in and couldn’t wait to explore Milan and to have my first taste of Tiramisu in Italy. Since I only have half a day, I decided to just cover the Piazza del Duomo area and visit the Milan Cathedral.

As I stepped into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping gallery, the realization hit me—I was standing in the fashion capital of the world. However, as I prepared to indulge in the benefits of the European VAT refund, a sudden reality check struck me. With no income in sight for the foreseeable future, I swiftly shifted gears. Despite the allure of Chanel, I head straight to the ticket counter and purchase tickets for the Milan cathedral rooftop instead. Disaster averted.

After a five-hour stroll and an hour spent atop the cathedral’s roof (where I had to wait patiently to descend because of the long queue and only one staircase), I finally treated myself to a delicious bowl of Pasta ai Funghi and indulged in a heavenly Tiramisu. Just as I had hoped, the tiramisu exceeded my expectations—it was simply delightful.

That evening, my friend from Georgia arrived after a layover in London on her way to Milan. We were excited knowing that the next morning, we would embark on our adventure aboard the Bernina Express – a dream I’d been eagerly awaiting!


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