Live it. Love it. Own it.

Queen of traffic Priscilla Patrick’s thirst for the unknown has taken her to 76 out of 195 countries in the last 25 years.

May 13, 2022

By Gwen Manickam

Queen of traffic Priscilla Patrick’s thirst for the unknown has taken her to 76 out of 195 countries in the last 25 years. She has also visited the seven continents of Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Australia on one Malaysian Passport (five years) – a feat the Malaysian Book of Records believes nobody else has yet achieved.

Malaysia’s pioneer Hitz FM announcer to report traffic on-air and later, the first to be on board a police helicopter on its Eye-inthe- Sky programme to monitor road traffic, was bitten by the travel bug after meeting a bunch of Western backpackers at a Full Moon Party in Thailand in 1997. “They quit their jobs temporarily and were travelling across south-east Asia. It was something we didn’t hear of in Malaysia, nobody here quits jobs just to travel,” said the intrigued, former Vice President of Content and Development, Impact Malaysia.

Since then, the globetrotter has crossed five oceans and slept on the Sahara Desert, visited five mountain ranges, frolicked with wild animals, been duped in a Macau scam, and survived the 2004 Tsunami.

“I am a woman who has lost everything and has nothing to lose,” Pris, as she is known to friends, told the HERALD.

“I have been stripped down, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. How do I keep going? I have no idea, probably my parents’ prayers and my mental strength. It’s a horrible feeling to be stripped and to start over, but I realised everything materialistic is replaceable.”

Miracles happen
The Assunta alumnus, who was vacationing in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck said, “It’s true that when you are about to die, you see a white light, and your life flashes before you. Being tossed around as wave after wave hit, I couldn’t hold my breath anymore. I knew I was losing consciousness when I suddenly felt a tap on my naked shoulder (my T-shirt had ripped off), I struggled to open my eyes, and found nobody around me. I spotted a coconut tree and clung to it, managing to keep my head above water long enough to catch my breath before the next wave hit. Miracle after miracle happened that day. My mum thinks it’s my guardian angel who tapped on my shoulder during those final seconds.”

In the aftermath, as Pris was walking around bruised, hurt, confused, and broken, a hotel employee came up to her and presented her with her locked bag pack that contained her wallet, passport, and flight ticket.

He told Pris, “My wife said Buddha, tells her this is your bag, and she made me walk four hours to bring this to you.” Relating the story 18 years later still brought on a flood of tears. The seven-continent explorer emotionally exclaimed, “The bag was locked, how did his wife know it was mine, and for him to find me in that chaos …”

Pris still carries a piece of that wallet, with a picture of her favourite saint, Padre Pio. Every Dec 26, regardless of which country she’s in, Pris lights a tea candle at 9.25pm local time.

“On a good day, I am glad I am not part of the tsunami statistics, on a bad day, I wish I was part of the statistics.

“I've realised I live life on my own terms. I often go back to that experience and draw a lot of strength from it.

“I tell God, “I don’t know what You want me to do after surviving this, I just want to help people. I don’t know who they are, so You send them to me, in my travels or my career. And boy has He sent people. I also realise the journey isn’t about me helping them, it’s their journey and our paths just cross.”

Keeping it real
The more Pris travelled, the more she realised she didn’t like cities and first-world countries. “I like third world countries as people are real, geographic visuals are real and untampered, especially when you are with nature.”

Africa is her favourite continent, and she’s visited 10 of its 54 countries. India is the wanderluster’s preferred country. “You either love India or you hate it”. Pris has been to the Himachal Pradesh region twice and has gone from Kashmiri to Manali. In 2017, she spent two months in Kathmandu, Nepal, and worked out a trip to Bhutan. “I entered from the southern entry point after a 35-hour bus ride. Looking over my shoulder was the chaos of India and before me was the amazing and serene beauty of Bhutan.

“On my return trip, I sat next to goats and tied up chickens, endured 16-hour traffic jams ... Will I do it again? …. Yes! Because I believe when you are with the locals, you are safe. One of the mantras I’ve come up with over the years is, ‘panic when the locals panic – if they run, you run’.

“I am not the home-roller bag-taxi-roller bagairport- land-roller bag-hotel-swimming pooloh! I’ve been to Paris, traveller.

“I sit with the locals in their homes, slept on their kitchen floor in Peru, and partied with resident triad leaders on the Copacabana beach ...”

One Sunday after Mass, Pris told her parents that her next trip was to the Antarctic. “My father was excited, but my mother (who keeps candles burning while I travel) goes, ‘Is it necessary?’

“To which I replied, ‘Yes ma, it’s on the map, it’s necessary’.”

A few years ago, Pris bought a world map, laminated it, and stuck it on a wall between her living room and bedroom. “When it’s time to plan my next trip ... to create excitement within myself, I walk by with my eyes closed and randomly point at a place on the map. If I have already been there – I repeat the process until I hit a new spot and that’ll be my next destination.”

“To reach this level of freedom, there were a lot of sacrifices, a lot of letting-goes — like having a husband and kids. There’s no way I could conquer the world lugging them around,” the Arctic wanderer quipped.

“I am also a very logical person, I don’t have two pairs of the same shoe, but I do have at least 100 black T-shirts.”

In 2018, while on a break from work, the street wise voyager fell victim to a Macau scam and lost her life’s savings.

“I have no idea how it happened”. After the initial shock and gripping fear, she pulled herself together and made a police report. Friends from home and abroad reached out and helped her get back on her feet. “I re-joined the workforce and started saving again,” said the radio announcer.

“I also realised my passport, with stamps from six continents, was expiring in May 2019. I knew I had to tackle the final continent — Australia”.

As usual, flamboyant cities were not on her radar. Pris opted to land in Darwin and go through the desert region of Alice Spring to Melbourne. While waiting last in line at immigration around midnight, a female officer pulled her out and asked, “Where are you from and what brings you to Australia?” To which Pris gleefully replied, “Funny you should ask, you are my last continent. I have clocked six and my passport expires next month….”

After doing her due diligence, the officer took the passport back to her office for a few minutes. She returned it saying, “We don’t normally do this, as Australia only does electronic passport stamps, but here’s a physical stamp to complete your collection.”

Pay it forward
Pris strongly believes in paying it forward. She’s raised over RM8,000 for the tsunami victims in Thailand and Sri Lanka. On her travels, instinctively she’ll buy a family meal or a drink or pay for someone’s transport or accommodation. And she continues to see blessings unfold in her life, especially when she least expects it.

On her way to Ushuaia, before setting sail to the Antarctic, Pris, for the first time in her travels, dropped her money pouch with over RM4,500 in mixed currencies. “In the peak of winter, I was sweating. I didn’t have any cash on me, although the rest of the trip was paid up. After I pulled myself together, I said, it’s ok Jesus, I let it go. I hope the person who finds it takes the family out for a nice Christmas dinner, buys some beautiful presents and they have a little better time because of this money.” Long story short, a few weeks later, on her return trip, the money pouch was returned, untouched. The next day, a Malaysian friend called and asked to borrow RM4,000.

“When you surrender and put faith in it, the kapow that comes back is unbelievable. My strongest prayer is the Our Father and Hail Mary. I think of every sentence when I say the prayer and it is just so powerful. He has never, ever let me down.

“Every time I see something beautiful, I thank God for my eyes, my hands, my fingers, and the list goes on.

On road trips, before hitting the sack, Pris, who sleeps out in the open air, puts on a St Benedict necklace and says, “Alright St Ben, you are on the night shift.” And those are the nights she gets the most amount of sleep.

Post pandemic, Pris is afraid to see what it has done to humans. She has imposed a self-ban on travel till 2024, when she aims to start with Namibia, Africa, and, in Dec, revisit Sri Lanka for the 20th anniversary of the Tsunami. In the meantime, with her love for the outdoors and astronomy, she has opened a campsite in Marang, Terengganu, called Cosmic Campers —

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