What do you hope to experience when traveling? During class this week, I learned vocabulary relevant to travel, like “experience,” “taste,” and “broaden one’s horizons,” which led me to consider this question.
I believe the best plan is no plan, so an immediate answer eludes me. When I travel, I’m hoping to experience whatever that community has to offer; I try to keep my expectations and plans to a minimum.
Last weekend, my roommate and I booked a train to Chishang (池上) Township on a whim. The advisor for the fellowship funding my time in Taiwan sent me an email saying, “I think you would enjoy going to Chishang.” I believed her, so I went.
When I arrived in Chishang, my host greeted me and let me know the hostel provided bikes free of charge. He recommended I check out Mr. Brown Avenue before sunset, famous for its namesake Mr. Brown Coffee and an Eva Air Ad in 2013. Like Takeshi Kaneshiro (the Japanese actor featured by Eva Air), I too biked along Mr. Brown Avenue and Paradise Road, basking in the expanse of yellow rice fields and foggy mountains.
Biking on Paradise Road near Yushan National Park (left) and a field of rice just before harvest (right)
For the evening, my host invited me to an open mic night, where folks spontaneously gathered to sing folksy songs and sip tea (specifically 冷泡茶). Since I only have one Mandarin song in my arsenal, The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心) by Teresa Teng, I sang that albeit with little fluctuation in tone.
The following day, I explored Dapo Pond and a garden at the base of Yushan National Park, which gave me ample opportunity to enjoy one of the landscapes that makes Taiwan so beautiful. It also helped me reflect at the midway point of my Taiwan escapades.
Me at Dapo Pond
When I arrived in Taiwan, I just hoped to experience whatever it had to offer. Particularly relating to landscape, religion, and people. In Chishang, I got to take in all of these aspects (along with the near-insufferable heat) and did my best to make the most of my time here.
Oftentimes, serendipitous moments coalesce to form a life worth living. Which is why I believe we don’t need to answer my introductory question. Perhaps no plan, except to have an open mind and to meet cool folks, really is the best plan.