Back in Old Country

"Whether or not you find your own way, you're bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it's quite rusty."

Reflections

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~Mark Twain

I’m still a little sad it’s over. A month ago I landed back in The States from my 30 day trek through parts of Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. I’m back in New York now: back to the old rat race.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it culture shock, but whenever you come back from a long trip there’s going to be little realizations about where you call home – similar to living in New York City and then going back to Maine, or on a smaller scale, moving away for college, and coming back home. There’s a verbose linguist named Bruno della Chiesa who has a good saying, “A fish doesn’t know what water is.” Hence, when you leave the fishbowl, your world, your perspective, opens up.

The bulk of my time was spent in Japan, so a majority of those realizations and comparisons that pop up in my head stem from that experience, but of course also to a certain extent Korea and Hong Kong. I won’t go into a long list, but there’s a lot we could do better at here, from infrastructure projects, to public education, societal politeness, etc…

And that’s not to paint New York or America in a bad light. Returning from such a trip also broadens one’s perspectives on what they appreciate about their home. Our country certainly enjoys greater liberty. In New York, the diversity, depth, and concentration of culture is a special conglomeration and chaos that’s hard to find anywhere else Earth. The definition of beauty here is broader than anywhere else because of it. There is more at your fingertips here than anywhere else because of it: food, art, experiences, people, you name it.

I managed to unplug from American politics while traveling. Unfortunately political scandal and criminal justice failures in Trumpistan, U.S.A. have been running at full-tilt since I’ve gotten back, and it’s exhausting. To avoid a long political diatribe, I’ll repeat the Mark Twain quote I led off with, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

To me that quote embodies a large reason why I travel, but preceding even that is simply curiosity. What’s it like in a another part of the world? How do they live there, and perceive their world? There’s a fatality in closed-mindedness. An anti-intellectualism leading to rugged individualism has spread across a large swath of America and is doing real damage to the world we live in. Travel, can be part of the antidote. I’m hoping my generation, as it grows in this globalizing world, can do better.

I’ll leave it there. I’ve still got hundreds of photos to sort through, and a healthy portion of my brain filled with excellent memories. I’m feeling creatively rejuvenated now that I’ve gotten that out of my system too. There’s just one itch I need to scratch, and it’s, “When do I go back?”

There's a reason they call it the #goldenhour in film. New York and a rainy, hazy sunset. #nofilter

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Final Hours in Hong Kong

I’ve mentioned before that Hong Kong has a beautiful skyline. It wasn’t until the 90s and 2000s when most of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers rose high above its land. One of the best ways to appreciate the architectural jungle of steel, cement, and glass is from the Star Ferry that runs between Kowloon and Hong Kong. The historic ferry dates back to the late 1800s and is a classic way to travel between the two islands.

When the sun sets, the cityscape transforms into a galaxy of lights. Speaking of which, nightly, there is a light show involving more than 40 buildings on the harbor called, “A Symphony of Lights.” Allegedly it’s the world’s largest permanent light and sound show.

I’ll be honest, the show isn’t terribly spectacular. The music it’s set to sounds like cheap midi ripoffs from video games, and the light show itself will probably leave you murmuring a resounding, “Well, that was nice.”

The cityscape lit up at night, looking at Hong Kong Island from the edge of Kowloon, is beautiful, not to mention you’ll see the Star Ferry, and probably a couple junks lit with colorful, ambient light. A gaudy light show is unnecessary, and doesn’t improve it.

I had a final dim sum dinner with a couple of people from the hostel I had only just met on my way to the light show: Taewoon and Sherri. They were both nurses coincidentally. Taewoon had served his 21 months with the Korean military and worked largely with troubled psych patients after getting his nurseing degree after that. Sherri had recently quit her precious position and was on her way to a development summit in Kuala Lumpur. Nurses are always in demand.

I had thought about going to Ozone afterwards, The world’s highest bar, located in Hong Kong’s tallest building. But I still needed to pack for my flight the next morning, which had been bumped up an hour in time, and so I’d get precious little sleep. I opted to pass on it. It’s always good to leave something for next time. I also felt a tickle in my throat. One of the guys in my hostel room had been sick and coughing in the night. I hoped he hadn’t infected me.

I woke bright and early the next day to quietly exit the hostel and make the hour long trek to the airport. Now that it was daytime I was able to really appreciate the surrounding beauty of Hong Kong’s airport. Surrounded by tall, lush, green mountains the modern structure was spacious and easy to navigate.

I gotta say, in relation to New York, the airports and public transportation were far better in Japan, Hong Kong, and even Korea. New York’s transit systems are old, and run 24 hours a day, but in terms of reliability, facilities, customer service, and ease of use, it has some major upgrading to do.

As we taxied on the runway and took off, I felt a wistfulness over me. My journey was coming to an end. I knew it was time to get back to business in New York, but one month had gone by too fast and part of me wanted to keep going. I had a layover in Japan. I could jump ship if I really wanted to, but no, it was time. I can go back to New York and plan the next one better than jumping into it on the fly and improvising.

I took a deep breath, sighed it out as the plane rose above the clouds and Hong Kong disappeared below, and settled in for the long, long journey home.

So long Hong Kong

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