July 7, 2016, by Danny Bav
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”
So its 3:23am, perfect time for a blog post right? So I’m sat here in bed, armed with my phone and my tiny keyboard – 가자!
Through a combination of talking about my travel experiences with a friend, and reading another blog* which had been recommended to me, I was inspired to finally write this post about my travels. I had the idea of writing about my study abroad experience for a while now, something to summarise all of my experiences combined, or just something to show how much I’ve grown as an individual, but I found it difficult to craft my thoughts into words.
Throughout my travels I’ve had the opportunity to see some amazing cities and landscapes, but deep down, seeing all those things wasn’t the reason I wanted to travel. Sure, it’s a part of it, but the thing that I enjoy the most is sharing experiences with new people. It’s amazing how travel can bring together strangers from different cultures to share moments of exploration together.
Meeting different people, learning about difficult cultures and listening to travelers’ stories – that for me, is what made my journey worthwhile.
South Korea (韩国)
Sitting alongside the Han river, we ordered chicken and beer to be delivered to the riverside as we sat alongside hundreds of other students. In my eyes, it felt like something that was really special – everyone around us sharing stories with their friends, catching up after a busy week, or even just to sit together to eat and drink. It was a community that we’d become a part of.
I sat with my friend Max I’d met at UNNC, my girlfriend Georgie from the UK, and our newly found Korean friend Eunice. We’d all been brought together by our love to travel and explore other cultures, and it was lovely to have an evening just immersed in conversation and embracing our surroundings.
Taiwan – (台湾)
We travelled through Jiufen village to see the inspiration for Spirited Away, followed by Houtong Cat Village (where it rained so much, urgh). We took shelter from the rain in a nearby shop and managed to send off a postcard to my friend Michelle in Amsterdam. As I watched the rain run down the glass door, it reminded me of a phrase I’d swore by on my travels – “when it rains, it pours”. It was metaphorical in the sense that when something went wrong, it went wrong pretty bad ? But hey, I guess it’s never an adventure until something goes wrong.
An amazingly coincidental moment happened during our travels though. We’d met a Swizz girl at our hostel in Taipei called Aline who we’d explored a night market and ate dinner with. At the end of our time in Taipei we said our goodbyes and parted, and my friends and I head towards the South of Taiwan to 台中. On the day we were going to Sun Moon Lake, we saw Aline in the morning waiting for the bus (roughly 200 miles away from Taipei!) It was an amazing coincidence, but we spent the day exploring the lake on bicycles – it was awesome.
China – (中国)
Oh China, how we have a love hate relationship. I miss China a lot, whether that be the friends I met abroad (s/o to Nichole from America that we stayed up
drinking all night with you on the last day to see you off in the taxi at 6am), or the immense experiences and vast environments I faced while travelling.
I remember one time on a 26 hour sleeper train (it was really, really long…) I was busy trying to catch up Mandarin work from classes I’d missed while I was travelling. People started to walk past and stare at me writing Chinese characters. It’s rare for them to see foreigners on a sleeper train, most foreigners opt for high speed rail or at least a soft sleeper cabin. However, since we’re broke students we travelled on a hard sleeper. In the process we met and spoke to many Chinese people on our carriage which was a great way to exchange language – we even had a security guard who read my homework and offered us food out of his lunchbox!
Another Chinese friend of ours was Sue. She’d never been travelling much before with friends and she’d decided to join us on some of our adventure. I don’t think she was prepared for what we had to face: being hassled by taxi drivers, getting dropped off a 6 hours walk away from our hostel and having to spontaneously find a new place to stay, or getting caught in a rainstorm. Despite these hiccups, it was a pretty awesome experience. We all grew closer together as friends, but in the end we had to part ways. ?
In the end…
From all my travelling experiences, people have asked me questions like ‘oh, so did you find yourself out there’?
Maybe I didn’t exactly find myself, but the realisation that really hit home was the fact that everyone has different stories to tell and experiences that they have been through. I’ve learnt to appreciate how people from all over the world, speaking different languages, can come together and share something amazing even if it’s only for a short amount of time. That realisation is what has kept me travelling and exploring new cultures.
So, if you ever get the chance to talk to internationals – talk to them about their experiences, if you ever get the chance to visit another country – go and immerse yourself in their culture and finally, if you ever get the chance to study abroad – you better take it because you will have realisations along the way and grow as an individual.
anyways, goodnight for now. ?
** Title quote – Tim Cahill