Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some reflections on traveling

On the Great Wall with new friends.

I've been having some technical difficulties with Blogger this evening, so I'm just going to type away and hold my breath.  I need to get better at using Blogger.  Good thing I'm a writer and student--they are very low-tech kinds of jobs.

Beijing was wowza awesome.  I met people that for the first time in my life I clicked with intellectually and were also incredibly fun to be around.  I talked about politics and economics and culture from morning until night and then went clubbing with my new friends until the wee hours of the morning.  I visited schools for migrant worker children and China's top consulting firm, and attended lectures on art, NGOs in China, health care, and the economy.  Nearly every moment was saturated with provoking questions, deep thoughts, and stimulating conversation.

This year, I lived in Taiwan and visited Hong Kong and Beijing.  These are very different places with people who speak very different Chinese from each other.  The first few days in Beijing were overwhelming as I adjusted to listening to Chinese spoken with an accent that was a world away from what I had grown accustomed to.  The first time I visited China in high school, I had much less of a problem with the accent than I did this time around.  I guess it shows how fast you can get used to doing something one way, only to find that you can get just as used to doing something another way over time.

Things were very different for me a year ago.  I took some very big risks and ventured way out of my comfort zone, but look where I wound up!  I found a wonderful and supportive community of writers, I have lived abroad, and am taking writing more seriously.  I have gained enormous perspective and insight and learned a ton about myself.  I know I'm going to look back on this year as a big turning point in my life, because this was the year that I realized what I am capable of.  And you, my dear blog followers, have played a strong supporting role in that revelation.

But I should warn you: traveling is not a cure-all, nor does traveling in and of itself make you an interesting person.  The experience of travel is merely an opportunity, and it's up to you to make the most of it.  I say this because traveling can also be inconvenient, expensive, aggravating, and even disappointing.  Flying for more than twelve hours and missing your connecting flight is no fun.  A week of jet lag is a pain in the ass.  Culture shock can be daunting, and homesickness is very real.  The excitement can (and does) wear off after a while.  I'm pretty happy to be able to park my butt in one place for a substantial period of time.  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'm living the life I always dreamed of right now, not at some fuzzy point in the future.  Traveling and writing has helped me understand that when you're on the move and spilling your guts across a page, right now is all you've got.

I think that's enough for now.  I'm gonna turn in.  Thank you all so much for your support.



  1. Exactly! Please tell people that take a gap year and think they're important because of it that traveling doesn't make you an interesting person. However I'm sure you're a pro now at interesting small talk ;)

  2. Your one year away was definitely more interesting than my one year here. Heck you got to see the Great Wall of China. That's just so cool.