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Johannes Holmberg

UI developer & designer

A silhouetted Singapore was safely locked in place at the back of my head. Even if I hadn’t allowed it to come out in full light yet, I felt it was the next step to take.

After trekking south through Thailand, and after two weeks spent in Kuala Lumpur, it was just the logical next destination. The meeting of a new friend changed all that. After discussing the possibilities of the beautiful Tioman Island in the east, we were soon on our way.

We got on the morning bus and made the six hour trip to Mersing, the little fishing town on the east coast of Malaysia. Effortlessly, we got our tickets to the last ferry for the day and so far everything went as smoothly as we could ever hope for.

When we got down to the harbor, the sea was of a sallow shade and it was almost difficult to determine what was water and what belonged to land. Everything was plain yellow. Out on the pier, the wind randomly blew up some strewn leaves in minuscule whirlwinds. It obviously wanted to make itself present.

The ferry was of medium sized nature and swallowed around 100 people before it closed its doors. As soon as we left the dock I knew it was gonna be a bumpy ride. The water started rolling and its shade of yellow gradually transformed into dark blue. People started twisting a little bit uneasy. The funny thing is that no one really knew how long the boat trip would take. Some people mentioned around one and a half hour, others said three.

Fortunately, I was seated next to the window and saw some islands distributed a bit further out the sea, and I was trying to guess which one it could be. My friend had told me it should look like a dragon resting in the ocean. I saw the contours of something reminiscent to a chameleon and hoped that was the one. The waves were rising higher and higher. There were many of us secretly praying that our destination was going to be among the visible islands in front of us. The ferry passed them all.

When the boat steamed ahead with full force out to the open ocean—it was like pulling up the plug from a bathtub, all hope wastefully going down the drain. I’ve never had any problems with either boats or being on water. I was brought up next to the sea. But these waves were clearly making me uncomfortable. Now we just had the unfathomably dark and endless ocean in front of us. People all over the boat started vomiting, which increased that uneasiness of a feeling I had. My mind began to tremble. Pulled by the unrelenting waves I was being led into a rocking cradle. For the first time ever, as far as my memory takes me; I started catching a real seasickness.

My head refused to accept what was about to happen but it was like my body didn’t respond. It had its own way of reasoning. Water was splashing ruthlessly over the windows and the only thing to see between the splashes was an empty horizon with ominous clouds floating on top. Nothing to hope for. I had no idea when we would get there, and I had no idea how much longer I could withstand my body’s wishes. It was a struggle against time.

We were climbing on the waves and for every peak reached; the bow of the ship dropped uncontrollably 2–3 meters. The sequence repeated itself perpetually. When there was nothing to hope for I had to create something. Something to hold on to. Out of sharp edges in the dark clouds I made outlines of land. Telling my mind to hold out for ten more minutes. In ten minutes we’re closer. In ten minutes there may be news. Just ten minutes. I could do that. Through the passing of time I was in yet another state, and that feeling alone was what kept me going. The variation between states. The knowledge that in a couple of minutes I may feel different, something unlike this, maybe a bit more relieved. My spirit clung to that as if my life depended on it.

My world became framed between the rims of the window. I payed attention to nothing but an undefined, distant point hanging in the air. Focusing on it was all that mattered. The rest of me just faded away and seemed to not belong. All the while, the waves just kept rolling and flushing foam over the windows. After what must have been an eternity, my made-up outlines outside the window turned into a stable mass of land. It was like my body jumped from the seat. Oh, the sight of land!

I quickly got back to focus though, we were still far away from shore and the heavy introduction of rain outside didn’t help. I knew we had in mind to get off at the fourth stop but I didn’t see that happen anymore. When the boat moored to the dock, I was half crawling my way out to fresh air. My friend asked me if I was able to do another stop. There was nothing at this beach but highly expensive resorts. Getting back on the boat in that moment, in the state I was in, as a complete and wasted wreck, drained of energy and sense, was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. I had the chance to get off, to leave my dreadful condition once and for all. Still, I made it back on the ship and was able to do two more stops before we got off at a place where we could easily find cheaper accommodation.

Two and a half hour since we first got on the boat, I was wobbling my way off the dock and noticed the strange sensation of revivifying energy finding its way back to me. I couldn’t help but to feel a tiny bit proud over had been able to conquer my awful state and make it the whole way through, and as those thoughts ran through my head, we were slowly entering the gates to a new and undiscovered island.