I stopped using the car on my trips to my hometown some years back. My preferred mode of transport these days is the bus.
In the first few years when I first moved down to Kuala Lumpur, I would go home regularly, taking the night bus from Puduraya to arrive in Penang in the early hours. Occasionally, I take the night train.
Before the North-South Expressway was built, the bus driver would navigate the main trunk road and stop at strange places for us to eat roti canai or nasi lemak in the middle of the night.
The journey was long and, by today's standards, uncomfortable.
I am writing this column on a bus that commutes between Penang and Bandar Sunway in under five hours.
There is on-board entertainment and power points for notebooks. At the lower deck, there is even a toilet.
The driver fancies himself a pilot and makes announcements as if he is one. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, it does feel like I am on a plane.
I do miss the colour and variety of the trunk road route, but for convenience and short trips, the highway is definitely the better option.
I am now somewhere between Tanjung Malim and Slim River and beginning to reflect on the view outside.
I am tempted to say, "same old, same old" but I find that if you appreciate the purpose of a journey, everything is actually new.
The hills of Cangkat Jering up ahead remind me of God's creative touch and that His blessings are new every morning.
It is sad that many of us go through life without a sense for the journey because we are too focused on the destination.
When we have too much on our plate, though we may be rich, we will suffer from a poverty of time.
We live in a time-poor culture and yearn for a chance to slow down.
Yet, when given the opportunity to do so, we sometimes are at a loss as to what to do with our time.
I guess writing this column on the bus is symptomatic of this.
Shouldn't I just be looking out the window, enjoying the scenery, or striking up a conversation with a fellow traveller?
Actually, there is much to talk about, even with total strangers.
What do we see of our country as we traverse through it? What is life like for our fellow citizens who live beyond the main highways of life? How does one view citizenship, beyond casting the vote come the general election?
Does our social conviction and political awareness only show up in season, or is it very much a part of us in our day-to-day interactions?
The North-South Expressway connects one end of the peninsula to the other, but few would make a detour to explore the little towns.
For my trips back to my hometown, it is about leaving the busyness of Kuala Lumpur and emerging into the busyness of Penang.
What lies beyond the exits that I have never taken?
I have seen a fair share of the world through my travels in my younger days and now, from the comfort of my living room in all its high-definition splendour. But I have not seen enough of my own country.
Taking a bus puts me in a melancholic mood. Maybe it's time to drive the next time I head home and take the roads less travelled.
Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin was given a most fantastic piece of news about his health last Monday. He thanks the many readers of this column for their prayers and support.