[ PHOTO: the view I had when leaving work the other week, sunset and flags over Country Garden]
I’ve been at a loss for words recently, blog wise anyway. Despite having gone through the festive period and New Year’s, I don’t feel like I’ve got much to report on. My last post was a pretty big and it talked in depth about a kind of ‘light bulb moment’, so I’ve not wanted to just tap away meaninglessly about my monotonous daily life as a teacher for its follow up.
I feel like people often expect my life to be so much more than it is. They expect each week, each day to be filled with crazy experiences and adventures that will produce even crazier stories; whereas in fact, it’s not that at all. I don’t even know if I’d want it to be that, it sounds tiring in all honesty. Yes I live away from home, but I’m not travelling, I’m not living on the road, I’m not exploring new places each day and meeting new people. I’m working… I’m living in a small cosy apartment. I have a small group of friends. I have a fridge I try and keep stocked. I have a bus commute to work. I have laundry to do, dishes to wash, bins to empty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m thoroughly enjoying my life out here. But at times, it doesn’t really feel too “out there”. During the work week, when I barely have time to cook my own meals or get home before dark, I could be anywhere… I could be living in some remote town in England, Germany, America, Wales… anywhere that I don’t have family or childhood friends. Anywhere that I don’t know the backstreets or the roads like the ones I do in Abergele.
Speaking to family and friends over the last few weeks has been amazing… but also a little disheartening… People have been off visiting relatives, boyfriends, out on day trips, sorting out their homes, spending time together, and generally having a nice time. I know I know, all (most) you guys at home have had some time off and that’s what you’re supposed to do over the Christmas period! I know I’ve only had 1 and a half days off over December and January for festivity fun, but I feel like I’ve let myself down by not doing more. I’ve found myself in this amazing opportunity of living and working in a foreign country, but am I making the most of it? Sadly, I fear the answer to that is a solid no.
When I moved here in August I told myself that I would spend my weekends off exploring, taking trains and busses to near and far, going to new and different cities and towns each week, or at least each month. I’m in a part of China that has been labelled the easiest to travel and get around. There are so many commuter buses that travel long distance, so many speed trains or regular trains that take you off into the wild, and I’m only a few hours away from Hong Kong as I’ve mentioned before. The possibilities for travel and exploring new places are almost endless… but I’ve done next to nothing. And trust me; it’s not from lack of wanting to. It’s just, as I said earlier, I’m working. I spend 40 hours a week at work, so by the time Friday night rolls around, I barely have the energy to go meet my friends at the BBQ place on the corner, let alone get a bus, metro, train, taxi to a new location and spend my weekend wandering around. I know, I know, poor Charlie, 40 hours a week… I know that hundreds, thousands, millions even do this for the rest of their lives and millions have it twice as hard. But, just give me this once chance to moan and throw a pity-part for one okay? And then I’ll move on. I’m only 23; I’m allowed to moan about my work/life balance…
I feel like I’m taking China for granted this year. Last year, being in Suzhou, I had traditional and modern Chinese culture right on my doorstep. All I had to do was ride my bike down the road, and jump on the metro… within 20 minutes I could see lakes, canals, ancient gardens, amazing side streets, huge buildings, cityscapes, museums, galleries etc. etc… For all I know, I could have all that here too; I’ve just not found it. Guangzhou is a huge city, with a crap load of shopping malls and buildings… but is there much else? I’m sure there is, but it’s not exactly easy to find. One of my friends, Mickey, is leaving Guangzhou area to move to Shanghai this month, and he’s only just realised how little he’s seen around here (he’s been here for about 2 years). He said he saw the most when his friends came to visit… Isn’t that always the way? Tourists see more of the city than the residents? If you live in a place, you tend to take it for granted, you think; hey, I live here, I’m not going anywhere for a while, I’ve got time, no need to rush to see the sights… and the next minute you’re moving on and you’ve seen only maybe 5-10% of what your (once) home has to offer. Alice, Hannah and Ryan, may be coming out to visit in April (excited is an understatement: UPDATE- they have booked their tickets!!!!) and that’s the once chance I get this year to show people around. I know I shouldn’t wait and use them as an excuse to go out and about… I know I shouldn’t need an excuse. But… the way I see it is, why would I go to all these places now, just to go again in April? I’m better off saving my money and not tiring myself out to the point of a breakdown, and saver it for when I can do it with them.
Ok, so, this is going to take an unplanned or expected turn… I’m going to veer way off track and may never get back to where I was originally going with this post (that I started writing dayyss ago…). Me and Kyle have finally booked our hostels in Tokyo and Seoul, and as excited as I am, I can’t help but feel a little down about my Chinese New Year/Winter Vacation break… I guess this is sort of linked to where I started in this post. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. This is the only holiday I have this year, so the amount of pressure I’m feeling (all from myself) to fill it jam packed and get as many things ticked off as I can, is insane.
Being surrounded by other people who have a passion and life of travel is sometimes really hard. You’re constantly comparing your own experiences and plans with theirs, and honestly, there will always be people who have a “more awesome” plan than you. Me and Shelb experienced this in the summer when we did our little stint of travel, everyone else seemed to have so much more freedom, a bigger number of destinations, a longer amount of time, that sadly, sometimes, we both were left a little disappointed or less pleased with our own efforts. I’ve tried so hard to shake this notion, get rid of it and accept that my own plans and path are perfect – for me. Meghan is a big traveller and adrenaline junkie. She loves hikes, climbs, dives, jumps etc. It’s just who she is. I love hearing about her plans and her past adventures, but, again, it makes me revaluate the value of mine; which is an awful thing to do. No one else’s life should make you question your own; especially when travel is involved. Everyone has different budgets, passions, bucket-list items, time frames and end goals. You just have to make it work for you; no one else’s itinerary will tick all of your own boxes. After listening to more plans, tales, watching videos and looking at maps regarding other people’s travel plans, I decided I needed to alter my own.
As I said, I am super excited to explore and experience Tokyo and Seoul with Kyle. He’s my best friend over here and it will be nice to share it with him, especially as it’s his first time travelling! I feel privileged he’s trusted me to be his travel buddy! There’s no doubt we’ll see some incredible and crazy things over the two weeks (ish) we’re away, and I’m so looking forward to taking my camera out and getting some shots. But, at the end of the day, it’s two cities. Two very different cities; yes, but two cities none the less. We arrive back into Hong Kong on Monday the 30th January, 11 whole days before I need to be back in work. There is no way I’m wasting those 264 hours in Country Garden, or even China (sorry, but it’s not too fun here over the Chinese New Year period…) I decided I needed something different, something other than cities. My choices were Thailand or the Philippines. Now, the Philippines is having some issues at the moment, plus I’ve never been there, so I wasn’t too keen on that one for my first solo trip. Thailand. Oh Thailand… the place that everyone wants to go and thousands of travellers traipse through each year. Back in June I went with the interns to Bangkok and the Full-moon Party. A week or so later, me and Shelby spent some time in Chiang Mai and Patong Beach. This time? I want to see the islands, the ocean, the white sands, the beaches. This semester has drained me. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so tired, and after 2 weeks of city exploring and jumping on and off of crazy packed metro cars, I think a break in Thailand is just what I’ll need.
So, in the space of 2 hours, I’d discussed this with Meghan, talked about a possible route, looked on Skyscanner, had lunch at the amazing veggie buffet, watched 2 episodes of the IT Crowd, and then, booked 4 more flights to add onto my travel plans! I broke it to Kyle that I won’t be returning back to Shunde with him on the 30th, and BAM it was official. My Chinese New Year plans now look a little something like this:
[bus, ferry, metro, walk from Country Garden to Hong Kong] 18th/19th January : Fly from Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda arriving at 04.50 [adventures around Tokyo with probably a lot of café visits] 25th January : Fly from Tokyo Haneda to Seoul [adventures around Seoul with maybe a trip to the boarder] 30th January : Fly from Seoul to Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kong to Bangkok [a sleep at the airport] 31st January : Fly from Bangkok to Krabi arriving at 08.00 [taxi & a boat to have some chilled time on one or two islands] 7th February : Krabi to Bangkok arriving at 21.40 [another sleep at the airport] 8th February : Bangkok to Hong Kong arriving at 10.15. [walk, metro, ferry, bus back to Country Garden ready to start work on the 10th February.]