In an age where success is measured by your bank balance, Nooraini Mydin, is defining her success in a very unique way.
The 60-year-old, former New Straits Times veteran decided to throw caution to the wind by embarking on an epic train journey from London to Kuala Lumpur.
“It didn’t start out as something as huge as that. I just wanted to do something spectacular for my 60th birthday”, says the modest London-based Penangite.
“One of the reasons was because my sister had passed away at 57 and so did our older brother,” she adds.
The loss of her brother and her younger sister had jolted the then 59-year-old into conquering certain deep-rooted fears.
Despite being a seasoned traveller, Aini is no stranger to the challenges of travelling alone. “My biggest fear was loneliness,” she shares.
“This loneliness that you feel in the pit of your stomach. You have nobody there and you are in another country. Nobody on the same wavelength to talk to.”
While Aini knew that she was bound to confront the same bouts of loneliness on her journey, her ‘spirit of adventure’ propelled the petite Malaysian into facing her demons.
I looked at the mirror and said ‘No, you are not going to do that because you would defeat the whole purpose’. So, I carried on
“I tend to worry a lot too,” she admits. “I knew I would be facing a lot of problem but I still wanted to do it. Once I decided to do it, there was no turning back.”
“It’s like you take a gamble. I was betting on this iron horse (trains). I’ve placed all my bets. I’ve got to go. Whatever happens, I’ve got to carry on.” Certainly, a decision most of us would not take so boldly.
Hence, off she ventured into unfamiliar territories, despite having to wear a prosthetic knee.
Hopping on the Eurostar from London, Aini boarded over 10 trains. Her vibrant odyssey took her through Germany, Russia and China, in the carriages of the Trans-Siberian. From China, she continued on through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand before arriving in Kuala Lumpur.
She admits that there was a point during her voyage that she decided to throw in the towel. It had been the eve of Raya Haji and after mistakenly checking-in to a hotel that doubled up as a brothel, Aini had wanted nothing more than to take the next flight home.
“I hit rock bottom and I said I wish I could fly home. It would just be like that,” she says while snapping her fingers, “To just book a flight home.”
“But I looked at the mirror and said ‘No, you are not going to do that because you would defeat the whole purpose’. So, I carried on.”
Aini battled scammers in Beijing, got bullied on her Trans-Siberian trip and was cheated by hagglers on a number of occasions, she seems to always find a silver-lining; she recollects her journey to the tranquil Lake Baikal, admitting that it was all the remedy she needed after her gruelling experiences.
A romantic and journalist at heart, Aini’s passion for writing did not wane. For many years, she worked as a university administrator in University College London but her interest in writing was once again fuelled by her one-year stint as a content developer.
“I worked for six professors but it wasn’t really fulfilling. I knew there was something missing,” shares Aini.
“So, I thought, okay. I want to get back to my favorite line of work which is writing.”
I want to inspire people who age themselves too early. Look we have a Prime Minister who is 94!
Following her stint as content writer, Aini took odd jobs inspecting bags at the Royal Albert Hall to selling baguettes at Harrods but soon realised she needed something more.
And write, is certainly what Aini decided to do.
Aini’s Railway Odyssey that chronicles her 18,200 km London to Kuala Lumpur adventure - complete with memorable – is currently on sale.
She disembarks at each destination wearing a Harimau Malaya t-shirt; she very much remains a proud Malaysian despite her London sojourn.
“I want to inspire people who age themselves too early. Look we have a Prime Minister who is 94!”
“Age is not a factor,” she adds. “Anyone can do it. You just need to be determined and have faith in yourself.”
So what’s the voyager’s word of advice to those thinking of embarking on an Odyssey of their own, regardless of age ?
She chuckles, “Don’t carry too much luggage!”