Hello from the Other Side

When nothing goes right, go left. One of my favorite decision makers. I used it when I realized that I’m not a professional football player as 12 year old Jiri aspired to be. However, when it comes to traveling my favorite is when everything goes west, go east. And since the Czech Republic is for me always in the middle then Asia means the other side. Hello from Taiwan.

The calendar says that it’s the beginning of November 2015 and it’s finally here. My big adventure. I’m going to spend one year in New Zealand on Working Holiday visa. Who knows what happens there and then. On the question What do you wanna do in your life? I’m now answering with a smile I wanna see the world. So it begins. My Trevolta idea is happening. I’ve decided to go left again…

But wait a moment. I’m not gonna go all the way to the land of Kiwis – either this means fruit, birds or people – flying over whole Asia missing everything. First, it’s a damn long way and second, being a nice folk sometimes I’ve made some friends over the years of wandering abroad from time to time. So, I need a stopover, I need a friend. And there is only one person who made me promise a visit of far far east. It’s my mean friend Alice and this is the Facebook proof.

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Airports never stress me out. Quite the reverse, most of the things you probably hate about airports, including waiting in the lines or all the people in rush, I like. It reminds me I’m on the way. But this time I have a shaky feeling. The destination is really new. My very longest flight was between Amsterdam and Bangkok. Two big sin cities. No surprise almost all passengers, mostly middle-aged men without spouses or kids, got out and left the plane nearly empty for Taipei direction. That somehow calmed me down…

Taipei. Very little I knew about it and about Taiwan in general. Except 101 tower, a spectacular palm tree looking skyscraper, and that the country has something to do with China. Well, I found out the official name of this relatively small island is Republic of China. Although it’s a free country with its own government. It kinda confused me and I’m still not quite sure why, when and how. I could copy some wisdom from Wikipedia but I don’t think that’s the purpose of writing a travel blog. So here is at least the link – Taiwan.

My big shock from all those unknown language symbols and new culture was moderated by the frequency of English translations but mainly by meeting with Alice. We first met each other in Wildwood where we eventually spent two summers working and one summer living together. Sharing the house together with other cheerful fellow student-workers became one of my greatest American memories. And Alice was a big part of it. Now, as my personal guide in her homeland, she took a big part in not letting me to get lost in this city jungle. Thank you for that.

We finished our first day with dining at some special place with Alice’s friends around the large table with the large cooking pot in the middle. My chopsticks skills were only a bit better than acquired new language skills as my Chinese was on the level zero. Though I enjoyed the night and felt involved again. I realized that on the other side everything is different.

People are eating (with their chopsticks) late at the night markets chatting with each other, streets are full of buzzing motorbikes getting to their destinations and all the lights around you make you think whether it’s day or night. The way of life just looks much faster and still you have a feeling that the time stopped. And every day is the same but different. Weird. The truth is that it’s the same story again. The story of traveling. The story of being at the place you haven’t been before. The story of New. Our mind is out of the comfort of what is usual, ordinary and normal in life we live at home and then it is careful and more sensitive. It’s now able to see these little nuances around us. In this state you don’t just go and pass that beautiful park, that interesting building or that delicious food like you would in the lethargy of your ordinary days. You go, see and feel much much more. Because it’s all new and ready to be explored. I think that’s where the magic of traveling comes from. And yes, from all those nice and happy and grumpy and funny and diverse local people, too.

We spent next two days full of little magical nuances in Taipei visiting the library and hot streams in Beitou, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park and lot of underground stations. At the end of every day I tasted different goodies from Taiwanese cuisine. Though to be totally honest I wasn’t the happiest hungry tourist and despite trying hard the cuisine didn’t become my favorite one. Expect Ramen soups. Unfortunately, those come from Japan.

I quickly discovered how is Taiwanese society extremely polite and cautious. Many times it made me laugh and finally I put together this caution signs compilation. Just forget about your dangerous crocs shoes.

For the time of my visit I stayed at JV’s Hostel, which I can happily recommend you. It is located just two underground stops from the palm tree tower 101. That’s why we hanged around the skyscraper many times also because it was Alice’s work place. She said she is happy working at the exchange office although she doesn’t count it as a success. Well, that statement was something for my wandering mind and it left me thinking about the success for the rest of the day.

To think it through, what is actually the success? The answer is that it really depends how you define it for yourself. Is it a million dollar bank account? Is it a dating the most beautiful girl in town? Is it a being at the front pages of magazines? I always like to go for such answers into the books. While ago I read one based on this topic and the author wrote something like the success is to create life according to your imagination. Even though I’ve found many success definitions, for me this one is just perfect. The thing is that what usually first comes to our minds is money or fame. I would even say that we believe that success equals money. Unfortunately, we don’t go deeper as often as we should to reject this irrelevant equation. Because you can measure success also according to your healthiness, family happiness, friendships, sport achievements, whatever. But it’s always the secondary thought. The other reason why such a equation is wrong is that the success, meaning to become rich, doesn’t happen too often. I mean look around you and think how many rich people you personally know. We struggle with this false illusion that everyone is rich and my first million still hasn’t come yet. What I want to say is that the most important question you should always ask yourself before the money thought pops up is: Is the first million product of my imagination or is it just the image offered by our society? Hell no, the second is right.

When I was younger I imagined myself playing football on the professional level earning a lot of money by doing what I really like. In this sense I failed because I gave it up. I gave up football in order to get education at the university as the football star plan was unlikely to happen in the nearest future. When nothing goes right, go left. So I went to study and it eventually turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in my life. Thanks government for free universities… It opened my eyes and showed me I could actually be whatever I want. I just have to get my ass out of the bed every morning and do what is needed to do. By the way I’m really glad that I understood this secret early in life. I no longer imagined myself as a football player but as a business man or a manager or just Someone. But then after some time it didn’t go right again. The breakpoint came when I was crossing borders of my little country more and more often during my studies. Then there comes the well-known travel story saying once you start you can’t stop. I was no longer a business man but a traveler. And although I liked the university and I even happily finished it, my heart told me that there is something more in going left. The brain agreed and I imagined myself traveling. It’s been one year ago I’ve been imaging myself traveling the world, discovering unknown places, living in different countries, talking different languages, meeting different people, eating different food and looking at different myself. No tie and suit, but shirt and Converse shoes. No computer and cinemas, but books and sunsets. No sick view of society, but freedom in no judging. I’m standing under the palm tree skyscraper in Taipei, Taiwan, on the other side of the world realizing it’s all happening. So what is the success again? It is to create life according to our imagination… Football, business, traveling, no matter where you want to shine, just keep imaging.

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In next two days we moved on as Alice asked for a car from her father to take me out of town. Together with her friend Eunice we explored hidden gems of the northern part of the island. We got lost on secret beaches in Yilan County, walked around geological wonders of Yehliu park and dined at the night market in Keelung City. All was accompanied with jokes, interesting conversations including culture differences, friendly memories and success imaginations.

Taiwan was so far the farthermost country I’ve ever been to but even farther culture I’ve had a chance to experience from the inside, mainly because of my local friend guide. I count it as a little tasting of Asia before I will come back on the way from New Zealand. At least that is the plan. This will (maybe) happen after one year from now because I’m going to be the lucky holder of Working Holiday visa in the land which I know only from The Lord of the Rings movies. Words like adventure, epic, hilarious come to my mind when I’m finally landing in Auckland turning my clock 12 hours in advance to my Czech time. First feelings and stories from this futureland I will bring next time…

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