Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Taipei, Taiwan: why I stayed 55 days in the same place

with 6 comments

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The answer? To focus on writing.

I have been here 53 days and I leave the day after tomorrow. I’ve been here almost two months, which was not part of the plan. Originally, I had intended to travel around Taiwan; heading to the central mountainous region, the food meccas of the south, and a smaller island where I was hoping to take pictures that I could potentially sell. After that, I had hoped to go somewhere else — the Philippines, most probably — on the way to Beijing, which is where I need to be at the end of this month, to cover a business event for a US magazine.

All of that came not to pass. I stayed in Taipei. I learned that June is a terrible month to travel around Asia, as most everywhere, excepting northern parts, are in rainy season. Oh well. And so, I’ve spent all of the time, apart from one Sunday, in Taipei, where it has been hot, rainy, and mostly overcast.

(Pictured: That one time I left Taipei. Thanks Rei Rei for taking me!)

But that’s just how life is sometimes — it pulls you to places you had not planned on being pulled. In my case, I’ve followed my desire to be productive; to create, rather than to consume. (Like I said in my previous post, travel is another kind of consumption.) Instead of traveling around Taiwan, I decided to dwell in Taipei, and I have not even left my neighbourhood much, so I can concentrate on creating.

Over the course of my stay, I’ve finished writing a nonfiction book proposal. This entailed completing a 10,000-word sample, a synopsis, and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. It’s quite a lot of work but I got it done, and by staying in one place, not venturing far and doing routine things — such as eating sweet potatoes for breakfast bought at the convenience store around the corner; going swimming at the local sports centre; walking around nearby gardens — it has helped my productivity.

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Me chowing down on sushi. Thanks Linda!

Not that I haven’t done anything fun these past 53 days. I met up with a friend from Beijing and we talked about everything over bubble tea and beer (not drunk at the same time); met with local journalists and writers; met a visiting journalist from Hong Kong who is half Swedish and half Chinese with whom I had great conversation; met a Japanese friend who I encountered last year while traveling in Malaysia; and other stuff that I wrote about already.

I even met a Taiwanese fan of this blog; the first time I’ve met a fan who isn’t a writer or journalist. Just someone who follows me because she likes my blog. She has taken me out for dinners and has shown me great kindness and endearment.

Overall, it has been a rollercoaster eight weeks. I’ve had periods of utter loneliness and isolation, feeling bored and miserable. But I’ve come out the other side of that and I feel good; content. I will miss Taiwan and I am grateful to the people I have met along the way who have made it so much better. It really would have been a much emptier and hollower an experience without all of you. So thank you.

*

If there is one thing I have learned from my time in Taiwan, it is that I should be less anxious about the roads not taken. I should worry less about what it would be like to have more money; what it’s like to have more stable living conditions, more regular friendships and familiar surroundings; a more set career.

I should, instead, just lean in to my writer’s lifestyle. Focus fully on living this life I have chosen to its extreme. To hell with balance. I’ll live unevenly and with passion.

I enjoy it more than I can say: the act of writing, expressing myself, tackling those writing puzzles, and thinking about writing; reading articles, books. It has been the one  constant in my adult life. So why not use it as the fulcrum around which my days are arrayed?

To do more of the things I genuinely enjoy. These things include swimming, hiking, photography, reading, exercising, being in nature.

There was one afternoon where I spent a couple of hours outside, in a park just nearby, where I watched the light change from a flat blue to an intense yellow, and I walked around in the sultry heat taking pictures, listening to music, and I got caught in the flow, I forgot about my hunger, my thirst, other people, and was fully lost in what I was doing and what I was looking at. At the end of it, I got heatstroke, and stumbled slowly up the steps to my hostel, felt lightheaded and had to recover by sleeping in the next day until 2pm.

But what an intense afternoon that was. I realise I am embracing an aesthetic philosophy.

We like to think of our beliefs, and disbeliefs, as founded on reason and close, thoughtful observation. Only in theory do we begin to suspect the power of aesthetics to shape our lives.

Winter Light, by Tobias Wolff, The New Yorker (June 2, 2008)

That I value aesthetics. 

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Thanks tree!

6 Responses

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  1. Feel delighted (and inspired?) receiving your updates. resonate with the create/consume and anxiety part.. I’ve long tried/wanted to live up to the idea”create more consume less”. But I’ve never thought of idea that “travel is also another kind of combustion”. Well, after thinking twice, yes it actually is, and traveling consumption is no holier than buying material stuff.

    Reading your article is a pleasure, it feels authentic, natural, free, like the tree! Travel safe and have fun in your following adventure. Looking forward for the book :)!

    lilyyapinglang

    July 6, 2019 at 4:12 am

    • Thanks so much Lily! Really appreciate these kind words. It’s so great to have your continuing support 🙂

      Lu-Hai Liang

      July 9, 2019 at 7:11 am

  2. We just returned from a 2 week holiday in Taiwan and have also stayed most of the time in Taipei, contrary to our friends’ recommendations of visiting other parts. We loved Taipei so much, we couldn’t even do everything we wanted to do there in 2 weeks! And just like you said (or rather wrote), it also helped us to bring life into perspective and to focus more on what daily things really bring us joy, the things we should do more.

    shanghaiskies

    August 6, 2019 at 6:56 am

    • That is wonderful to hear, Shanghaiskies. It is a remarkably easy and convenient place to live, and I’m glad to hear you also enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

      Lu-Hai Liang

      August 9, 2019 at 10:29 am

  3. Amazing post on Taiwan, Taipei. I am traveling there for the first time next month.

    mathtuition88

    October 11, 2019 at 9:07 am

    • Thanks! It is a great place. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Just make sure to eat all the things!

      Lu-Hai Liang

      October 11, 2019 at 11:00 am


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