“I need to explore”

I have been slacking on my posts again. It has been a tiring few weeks since I’ve been on the go since leaving Kyoto where I hop between places without a home base. I am typing this in a café in the Dulan, a sleepy town on the east coast of Taiwan. It is a spot easily overlooked by travelers unless you are keen on surfing. There is nothing special here and it has a similar landscape to other parts of the country. When I asked what there is to do in Dulan, everyone’s response would be ‘the beach and craft beer’. This is a place people would stop over briefly for a night or as a quick rest stop. In a way, this is the ideal atmosphere for me to relax – to be in a town where there is nothing to do. There is no pressure to “explore” and do something “exciting”. Everyone here just sits back and relax.

“I need to explore” or “I need to do something productive” are common thoughts that often run pass my head while I travel. They are self-inflicted pressures that many travelers put on themselves when they reach a new destination. Often, we feel the need to ‘make the most out of our experience’ when we are in a foreign place. Many times that translate into ‘be active and experience as much as possible’ whether it is sightseeing, sampling new food, or going on adventurous excursions. These presumed expectations weigh me down and wear me off day by day. I started this journey to ease my mind so I can think about what my next big steps should be, but nine months in and I have not had the chance to do so.

Why do we have to fill our travel days with activities? Sometimes when we travel somewhere, it may be the only chance we have to explore the area. We might never go back to that quaint town of Lambertville or the charming city of Berlin again. There are so many other places in the world to check out. The idea that the time of visit may be the only time you will be in that part of the world encourages people to explore it thoroughly. For short term traveling, this is a viable mentality and travel attitude. It is extremely exhausting in the long run. To begin with, this is not the experience I am after. I am not as interested in seeing all the major attractions or seek out the “cool” path less taken. I am interested in getting the feel for how it is like to live a different lifestyle in a different place, different culture, and different identity.

I would question myself, “Am I doing enough?” What is ‘enough’? Would that be defined as to seek out riveting experiences for stories to retell and blog or to find beautiful things to take Instagram-worthy photos? These concerns may even seem silly when you have it laid out on paper. Despite acknowledging these are just societal expectations, in which no one would be immensely disappointed if you failed to meet them, sometimes you cannot help but feel the need to fulfill them. Speaking to many locals along the way, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to travel and learn about other cultures first hand. Many of these people I have spoken to have not left their home country or have not traveled far. Because I do have this chance, I want to be a window for others to see how the rest of the world is like. It is a conflicting feeling of wanting to see more, but also to sit back and pretend I am a local.

Nonetheless, I still intend to post backdated entries to document my whereabouts for the past weeks.


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