Life After Travel: What’s Next?

A phone is important for someone who is away from home. Your phone tells people that you are okay and having fun, even if you are in the middle of an overseas crisis.

“Where are you?” People would ask. Hong Kong. Malaysia. Taipei.

I picked destinations that were the most rewarding with the lowest empty-hype factor; I was tired of hearing about Beijing and Thailand and the Philippines. I love that people started picking their travel destinations based on mine.

Malaysia, for example, is just another metropolitan city unless you get to the islands and start driving jetskis and diving. I stayed away from Thailand and the Philippines because those were too talked about did I mention that I am anti-trend on principle?

In any case, people started visiting Kota Kinabalu. It is the anti-trend, safer, and quieter version of Thailand and the Philippines, with the night markets. No elephants, though.

What Travelling in Asia Does to You: Culture ShockWhat Travelling in Asia Does to You: Culture ShockYou fall in love with the idea of the place. You will hear stories, see photos, and form expectations. For example, I am a big fan of National Geographic and my idea of open water is a shark’s feeding ground. Although I have been across the world and haven’t encountered a shark yet, I am still wary.

My photos and stories capture one instance in time; if I have been able to make anyone happy for me, or envious, then I have done a good job of conveying the magic.

But, travel is not all magic. I guess what I want to say is that we often form expectations based on someone else’s success story. I did that, especially when viewing travel photos on Pinterest; although I have no regrets, Asia was vastly different from the image developed in my mind. It is a lot more commercialized and modern, for one, than travel photographers let on (because wannabe Westernized culture is boring to photograph; we already have that at home).

This is the same in music, where you have to be careful of someone else’s interpretation of the sheet music and how it might influence your own playing. Are you really listening to your own playing, while you play? Or are you falling in love with someone else’s interpretation of the piece and forgoing your own hard work, wishing you played like that?

It’s true, though, that the magic is the best part.

What Travelling in Asia Does to You: Culture Shock
You will pick up where you left off
 with friends at home, for the most part.

Kat and I are making her design portfolio from our laptops at a cafe in Vancouver. She shares photos of massive kangaroos and a thick cobra hanging from her neck, in Australia.

“What is your best travel tip?” I say. I won’t repeat what she says, but I tell her, “I’m not going to write that. This is a PG blog.”

“Okay, let me think,” Kat says. After a long pause, she says, “Always over-budget.”

When you are halfway across the world, you might as well try every food and activity on the horizon.

You can only tolerate rough shoestring travel up to a certain point in life; that window is different for everyone and mine is shrinking, I think. The for-profit temples start to blend together, the gorgeous beaches start to seem breathtakingly similar. So do it while you’re young and able.

It’s an experience.

Next time I want to stay at hotels that don’t have spiders nor stalker staff.

What Travelling in Asia Does to You: Culture Shock
April 2015 – The day I shaved half my head (you can see some fuzz on the left)

The disease will catch you. The travel disease. It hits you, then you will feel suffocated until you move to a new place, and another. The sparkle wears off after a while and you will search for pockets of stability, but by then you might be too caught up in the momentum; like, if your flight to Taipei is already booked and all you want to do is sip tea at a cafe.

Right now I am looking for stability. I haven’t stayed in one city for more than three months, for the past year. I want to lay on the beach while someone plays guitar for me.

At the same time I crave adventure without the hard work — flights, scramble for IDs, lugging around luggage.

I am looking at photos of the Northern lights; I’d like to travel in Canada and see the stars and step in fresh blankets of snow.

The world is huge and wide and I have not seen nearly enough. After the sights and travels of Asia, I am more open yet more wary than ever — almost jaded, but not quite. Older. I feel older. I am proud to share that I am a Canadian girl with Chinese roots, of which I now understand better.

If you are brought up in a mix of cultures, you slowly realize that you don’t fit in anywhere but that is fine. Because at the same time, you realize there isn’t anyone quite like you or me out there in the world. Travel itself isn’t going to solve your identity crisis nor help you “find yourself,” but it can sure speed up the process.

A few days ago, someone across the world texted, “Where are you?”

I said, “Home.”

What Travelling in Asia Does to You: Culture Shock
Feb 2016

All photos taken by Grace Lam. 1. In Hong Kong; 2. Guangzhou; 3. Malaysia; 4.-end Vancouver

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2 Comments

  • Reply Felix May 2, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Great read!

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