“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir
When I was much younger, I remember visiting the province and stepping into a river for the first time. I planted my feet firmly and stood still, cautious that the current might cause me to fall. Instead, the river decided to greet me with comfort. The movement of the water felt purposeful, almost as if it knew me and carried away all the petty worries I had as a youth. It’s still one of my favorite memories. That encounter with nature left me feeling connected and cleansed – and all it took was for me to show up.
As the years went by, my encounters with nature became rare. Modern life presented itself, and any yearning for the wild was put on hold to make way for other important responsibilities. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found a simple remedy, which still works best for me to this day. In rediscovering the bicycle, a beloved object from my childhood, I am finally able to explore and wonder at my own pace. It’s a tool to open up a city I thought I already knew, yielding forgotten pockets of green that have revitalized the way I experience nature at surprising proximity.
By braving a bit of sun, the choice to be surrounded by trees within a matter of minutes is easy. A wrong turn gives me permission to aimlessly wander and be curious about places I’ve never set foot on. I sometimes glance at the satellite view on Google, and wonder what lies beneath this patch of trees on the map. Should I lose my way, the consequences are not mired with frustration, there is only joy.
I’m thankful that this fast-changing city is still dotted with lush parks, meandering trails, and quieter roads. In the ongoing push for preservation of what natural heritage we have, perhaps one of my favorite is the Former Bidadari Cemetery. There’s a rewarding sense of isolation when you go beyond its paved pathways. As blades of grass make their usual microscopic cuts on my calves and my toes are wrinkled from morning dew, I am assured that I’ve made progress.
For a small country like Singapore, it’s understandably challenging to completely escape the sound of busy roads. But there are spaces where its volume can fade. What replaces that noise isn’t an absence of sound. It’s a different kind of silence filled with bird song, the breath of trees, and the steady hum of insects. Much like the river I stepped into when I was younger, I pause during my biking and allow the environment to gently recalibrate my senses.
I’m not sure if I know anyone who hates nature. There might be those who don’t enjoy spending time within it because it can be truly uncomfortable. But it’s hard to find a person who isn’t affected by its beauty. I spend a lot of time fixated on screens; it’s easy to forget that within my own backyard, adventure is still possible and can be invigorating. The methods and motivations for discovery vary from person to person. For me, it’s simply about a commune with nature, coupled with the sheer joy of riding a bicycle to reach a destination.
And though this form of travel is short-lived, the essentials remain: to lose oneself and see the world anew. All I have to do is be willing to show up.
Words & Photos by : Jean Paolo Ty