Somehow, most of the major turning points in my life happen during summer holidays. In summer 2018, I left my first full time job which I was in for four years to relocate to Sabah. Before that, I went on a long vacation – summer camp in the UK, then to the Balkans, then to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, then back to London via the west coast, passing by Lake District and Wales.
I rarely compose music while I travel. I’d rather not be distracted by the “need” to compose, instead be fully immersed in the journey. “Bittersweet” was an exception. I started writing it while I was on the train in Wales. Perhaps it was because my long vacation was coming to an end, and the urge to express was strong; or I might have been inspired by the beautiful landscapes and the melodic Welsh accent; or both. Fun fact, Wales is a bilingual country!
One of the reasons I visited Wales was to take the steam train. I went from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. With almost 200 years of history, the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway is the oldest narrow gauge railway in the world. I love travelling by train, especially slow paced ones, as these would often pass through routes that no other vehicle can. There’s something about the atmosphere and space in the train that I find rather therapeutic. Also, I enjoy the view that is positioned similar to walking.
After Porthmadog, I was supposed to travel on a regular train, but for some reason it got cancelled, I had to take a bus instead. The next bus, which was also the last one of the day, was a couple of hours away. Since I had nothing else to do while waiting in the green bus stop shown above, I tried to complete the lyrics for “Bittersweet”.
Wales is truly a hidden gem. Apart from the capital, other towns still keep their rawness. I met some locals and travellers who wish for it to remain this way. They even suggested that we should keep this place to ourselves. One of them was a solo woman traveller in her 70s. Her life was pretty interesting. She was sharing how she recently rejected a man who was pursuing her after her husband passed away, that even though she liked him, she decided to pursue her own freedom and dreams, one of which was to travel. She asked if she would see me the year after, as she travels once a year every year, even if her children were concerned about her safety.
I was pretty uncertain about the future after I resigned, because I didn’t have a solid plan in Sabah yet. Her story made me think about my life, dreams and happiness. I guess a balanced life is bittersweet after all.