So, summer happened and now I’m back in Taipei, and it’s winter. It’s okay. Much like I remember. Not too hot and not too-too cold. Dumplings and noodles. Trees and parks. Catfish and pig blood tofu. Markets. Motorbikes that stop at the red lights.
[Don’t talk to me about the Kiwi summer. I am here now. Here is nice.]
I’m living in the centre(ish) of the city in a small room that costs slightly more than the studio flat I used to have in west Auckland . My room here is literally that, a room. There’s a microwave and a bed, and a bathroom and a desk. End of. But it’s clean and right in a good part of the city, and it’s well-stocked with lint removers and rubbish bags, so, apparently, I did okay.
I do like Taipei. It is, definitely, my favourite Asian city. The high cost of accommodation (maybe five times that of SE Asia) is justified by the infinitely better climate, the cheap(er) food, the adherence to road rules, the neatly swept streets. If you want to shop at Gucci and eat at at Michelin restaurants, you can. If you want to wear socks and Tevas and eat instant noodles, you can do that, too. I may or may not be this kind of person.
I love that it’s cold enough to wear socks (and Tevas). I love being able to run around the park and not contend with heat/humidity/fuckwits on scooters. I love the food. Oh, the food. Taiwan, you invalidate every calorie I burn on the elliptical! The night markets are dietary suicide. One must exercise restraint (and I rarely do). I will be diabetic within weeks.
There’s other stuff to do here, I think. Hikes, bikes, language exchange-y things. I might try them someday. Right now, I run, I work, I walk, and I eat things.
And y’know, that’s fun. I’ve done it for two years in oh, 12-odd countries, and it’s been fun for two years. And it could probably still be fun if my heart – with the greatest of inconvenience – hadn’t suddenly decided that this lifestyle isn’t the most meaningful way for someone (i.e., moi) to eke out an existence.
Annoyingly, I didn’t become aware of this until well and truly after I had booked my return to Taiwan. And while it’s not like I’m on a crusade to find enlightenment or save the dolphins or end world hunger, and I haven’t been reading Eat Pray Love or chanting ‘om’ in a temple, I do still – apparently – need some meaningfulness stuff happening in this otherwise highly-privileged life. Possibly because I went home for Christmas and it was so, so great; mad and shouty and hectic, yes, but so, so good to be around people who not only spoke English but were family, and family, it turns out, are the goddam love of my life. (Yes, family, for reals.)
See, one thing about this gypsy lifestyle is that it’s a life of nobody-ness, a permanent sense of impermanence. You stay in a place two days, or ten, and, fine, you know you’re not going build lifelong relationships. Stay a few weeks, or a couple of months, and that’s just long enough to want the company of others, but, too bad, because few people want your company in return. Human interactions is reduced to polite banter over a few beers (or Tinder.) Because who wants to hang out with someone who will be gone in a month? Life’s too short, too busy, too expensive to invest time in a drifter.
(Tinder would say otherwise, but this isn’t Tinder.)
There are feckloads of apps and sites and groups to remedy this problem. As I type, my Couchsurfing app is bleeping that some dude from Seoul wants to hang out. Which brings me to the next problem: I don’t want to hang out with drifters, either.
I blame this current riddle on Black Friday and its irresistibly low flight deals, and myself and my perpetual flightiness.
Because now I’m sort of kinda little bit wondering if I maybe should have hung around in NZ for a wee while longer…? Long enough to get sick of the sunshine and the beach and driving a car and clean air and $1.99 Scotch Finger biscuits. (I love those biscuits. Please, someone, send me those biscuits.)
But, well, hindsight and all that. You gotta go there to come back.
So, rant over. I’ll keep wandering and eating things, and I’ll wait for eastern Europe to thaw out so I can hop another plane and box-tick a few more items on the list, have a few more breakdowns in a few more airports and then come on home. Hole up somewhere in good ol’ (wet) NZ, drink some good cabernet sauvignon and unpack my head.
Til I leave again.