Flight Back to Hong Kong
I had only been gone for exactly one month and yet in that short amount of time I already felt like a changed person. I knew who I was more than ever before, I had been dissuaded of the naïve thought that just being on the road would make me instantly happy with myself and life, and I had slowly adjusted to having my whole life and home on my back. The idea of spending more than 2usd on breakfast made me balk and I was already in fresh awe of Hong Kong’s incredible efficiency after leaving crowded Indonesia and perpetually time confused Philippines.
As the plane descended into the thin cloud of yellow haze that covers Hong Kong when the winds blow from the Chinese industrial north, I could point out and name every mountain top that rose out of the fog and recognize the skyscrapers which stood like sentinels over the harbor. In many ways it felt like I was coming home.
I knew this place, its style, and its social mores. For the first time in a month, I wouldn’t be landing in terra incognita, not knowing which color taxi to take or what the currency conversion is or what is a good price for a meal. I didn’t have to worry about making a faux pas or be concerned about looking like I’m new to a place and therefore an easy target.
In twenty minutes, I had passed through airport security, customs, and was already in a taxi towards the ‘Frigate’ (a large houseboat in Kwun Tong) in which I had spent my last months in Hong Kong and am treating as homebase. I spent the day sleeping, sprawled out on a large bed rejoicing in not having to throw toilet paper at anyone snoring in a bunk bed nearby. I spent more time than I thought I would cleaning my things, repairing, and drying damp rain covers. In Bali there were constant heavy rains which brought flash floods, fatalities and left everything soaked through and then perpetually damp. Nothing dried, not clothes or shoes or the wound on my knee which looked like it too could fester soon.
I had the time to repack my bags and to pack what I actually needed this time, dropping at least ten pounds of unnecessary things I was carrying around South East Asia and restocking on more useful supplies such as a working head torch, better warm gear for plane rides, a pocket knife, etc. I also had the chance to exchange my big bulky laptop for my sleeker lighter one since I quickly realized while traveling that I wouldn’t be doing much programming as I combated the burnout from the last four years of corporate life.
Most importantly I got to reconnect with a few friends. Not as many as I would have liked, but I am thankful I am coming back in December to see the friends I couldn’t see this time around. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for when I first began my solo travels was the loneliness that I would face. I enjoy my own company, but it had been a long time since my *only* company was either complete strangers or my own thoughts, and there were a lot of thoughts that wanted my attention that I had pushed deep down and ignored while living an overstimulated city life in Hong Kong.
I had gotten pretty good at numbing behavior such as drinking, socializing, and constant Instagram scrolling to make it through a day’s work for a job without particular meaning to earn money for no particular goal. I started my travels staring forlornly at all the happy couples and groups of friends in the Siargao beach resort, bemoaning my own boredom and loneliness until I slowly reintegrated into my own habits and patterns, fell in love with good literature again, and slowed down to enjoy the feel of the breeze tousling my hair or the rays of sunshine that would warm my heart. And as I slowly began to love myself again it must have reverberated out of me and I soon began to truly meet people, to have real conversations, and expand my world view.
Solo travel: it forces you to trust yourself, question yourself, and in turn, trust yourself even more
There’s some real value to solo travel and my goal was not to have ‘a great time’, but to rediscover meaning in myself and in life, and to push my comfort zones. Saying that, nothing can replace the feeling of love and companionship when reunited with close friends and people who either are family or feel like family. They ground you and hold you accountable – making you a better person in ways strangers never could. Sometimes it takes leaving everything behind to realize how special you have it.
Being around my loved ones has recharged my batteries before I once again head out into the unknown.