Tag Archives: travel

YOLO and Happiness

YOLO. You only live once. It is a popular phrase in North American society among the 20 somethings. Often yelled out before undertaking audacious actions which express the spirit of youth – after all, this phrase is said to remind you that you only live once and therefore must live to a fullness without regrets – this phrase represents a mentality for the generation. What better can    represent this generation who is on the lookout for happiness? A generation who actively seek out new experiences for the semblance of fulfillment? YOLO has caught on for a reason; it touches and impresses deep into the heart. YOLO is not just a catchphrase. It is the affirmation of a lifestyle.

After being caught up in YOLO North America, I was given the chance to move away and examine YOLO while undertaking a YOLO trip in Asia for a year. In the process of a gradual de-YOLOization, I started having thoughts about YOLO and the happiness it represents.

When I was in the “Spring City” of Kunming in the Yunnan province of China, there was a clear blue sky and sunlight and some friends to get drunk with in the hostel, so I stayed for a week to restore my energies after a 20 hour train ride to the city. I studied Chinese during the day and drank beer and baijiu (Chinese white wine) at night, and in the midst of this routine I came across Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ by Nietzsche in the hostel library. One sentence I distinctly remember remarking upon was this one, “… for him (Nietzsche) the only happiness worth having is that which is the by product of strenuous efforts in various directions, effort without a thought for the happiness they might produce.” Upon reading a brief history of his life, in which the latter part was marked by illness, solitude and a lack of success or recognition, it seemed that this phrase described his own life pretty well.

A month passed in the sunny Yunnan province, and I went through various conditions, from the warm tropical town of XiShuangbanna in the Southwest to the cragged snowy Tibetan mountain town of Shangrila up 3200m in altitude in the North. It was time to move on to the next province, to Sichuan where I made my homebase the provincial capital of Chengdu, a city that was humid and cloudy in contrast to the sun. From this ancient city famous for its spicy cuisine and “spicy” girls, I made a trip to the neighbouring city of Leshan, which held the monumental Leshan Stone Buddha.

It was still the period of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and the whole of China was on holiday. Many Chinese people had the same idea as me and there was a three hour line up to see the Buddha. Slowly the line crawled, from behind and around the massive head of the Buddha, snaking down to the feet, as the immensity of the Buddha revealed itself. In the line I felt increasing reverence to this figure, which was 70 metres tall and made the worshippers below seem like clothed ants.

Once at the bottom I looked up, craning my neck to see the whole figure. Carved into the mountain facing a flowing river rushing past, the Buddha seemed as though it was a hidden extension of the mountain that found expression. I leaned back on the railing which blocked the river, and stared up for a long time at its head, which seemed to be a part of the ceiling of the darkening sky. The eyes were in a placid meditative state, staring across the rapid river and far beyond the city and through it, resting its gaze past the world of smaller sentient beings to a world of mortal incomprehensibility with fullness and compassion behind a knowing smile. Sitting straight on its humble mountain throne, as it had done for centuries, weather worm but without a hint of cumbrance, there was a feeling of naturality in its deportment, as if it was comfortably waiting for the right moment to awake from its age long meditation. I felt humbled and although I am not Buddhist I felt compelled to bow down to this great figure before me to express my veneration.

I then imagined the building of the Buddha from the point of view of its constructors. It took almost a century in its making and its makers toiled assiduously, removing morsels of stone at a time, meticulously chiselling through rock over decades and generations of man. The end result: what was once a wall of stone, now a towering Buddha. What an inexpressible feeling of delight one must have felt at its completion! To look up, exactly as I had, toward the Buddha, up to the head that seems to be a part of the ceiling of the sky, looking to the same tranquil, meditative eyes that I had stared at. Examining every detail of the limbs and body and understanding, with the process of work deeply impressed into the body, what exactly every inch of the Buddha meant. What a feeling it must have been to have one’s existence tied with this creation, which will be admired for centuries to come. All out of a lowly and insignificant being with human flaws and a weakly mortal body did such a manifestation of grandeur appear.

The YOLO mindset could not have built such a marvel. Focused on fleeting instants of “happiness” and momentary gratification, there is no ensuing fulfillment in the YOLO mindset. All that results is a hollowness and growing anxiety, mounting as the years mount on the physical body. Perhaps inside all of us there is a Great Buddha that lies in wait, waiting to be revealed. Unworked on and only with brief flashes of its true figure, we may pass over it while living for the moment, scrambling after quick “hits” of “happiness.” But what if we started this slow arduous process of sculpting? Working with patience towards an End, with care and painstaking effort? I think it would be marvellous to look back (and up) at personal creations, and feel warm waves of contentment emanating from deep within. After all, you only live once.

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Another City

 

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The plane landed in the Incheon International Airport, but I did not feel as if I had yet arrived in a new location. I got out and took a bus to the city of Seoul. Inside the bus, there were people speaking Korean, and I soon fell asleep. I woke and I took a look outside, at the Korean lettering on the store signs. They seemed familiar but foreign. I reached my destination, got off the bus and looked at the wide structured roads full of cars which were not the alleyways of Taipei. I tried not to let my tears overflow as children walked past.

Another city with its own personality and people has gone by already. In the short five months there had been many experiences that built bonds between me and Taipei. I left pieces of myself there, in the alleyways and streets where motorcycles motored by. I left pieces of myself in the people I met as well, although I know beautiful friendships slowly disintegrate with time. I feel as I left less than whole, the price I had to pay for a life in Taiwan.

Will I continue to go leaving pieces of myself in the future like this? I still feel restless, wanting to go to new places to see new things with nice companions. I want to embrace the world and know it. At the same time, I want to return to the places where I left pieces of me, perhaps to try to collect them to make myself feel more whole. What a process this is, being fuelled by the glimmer of a future with distant locations while continually reminiscing of a golden past.

Where will the future take me? Will I find somewhere suitable to settle down? What will happen to my memories, as I lose contact of the familiar? Without the continual reinforcement of my external environment, my memories will quickly fade. Many dreams have past, leaving disappearing residues. The past disappears and leaves me without a sense of belonging.

But I’m only 22 years into my life, so maybe there is no use in thinking so much about this when I have just exited the gate. I still have long ways to go before the end of the race. Perhaps memories do not disappear, they just hide below the surface, waiting for the right occasion to come up and impart warm memories. Instead of losing pieces of myself, perhaps I give and take to create a different whole.

The Dream of Taiwan

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Today was the first time I felt the feeling of an unmovable helplessness. There was a great dark hole within me, one that could not be filled. It suddenly hit me that I was to leave Taiwan in three days. Biking through the happy and crowded Saturday streets, I felt a desperate need to capture everything around me, for the world in front of me was soon due to vanish. It was like I was biking through a movie, as the scene before my eyes was one that I could no longer participate in. Biking through the void and surrendering my movements to simpler instincts, I rode slowly and observed. I was nearing the end of a dream.

It has already been over four months in this miragelike island of Taiwan. It was at two in the morning on February the fifth when I boarded my plane from Toronto, not knowing what to expect. Over several time zones and nameless countries the plane travelled all through the night, while inside the plane, an unlit and quietly rumbling interior gave me the feeling that I was travelling through a vortex. When I finally landed and stepped outside the airport, a new world greeted me. I left the cold deathly weather of Toronto, one in which an unrelenting snow silently lay ubiquitous, to a land where life existed endlessly unacquainted with the chill of winter. Waiting for the bus, a moist and cool morning breeze greeted me with a slightly drizzling rain, giving the early morning the feeling full of a fresh spring. The existence of the Taoyuan International Airport did not daunt the vivid greens of the trees and plants, which continued from the airport to the view past the windows of my bus to Taipei, as the greenery rose and declined with the whims of the mountains. And thus my dream of Taiwan began.

The next months plunged me further into the world of my dreams. I lived in this new world naively and wholeheartedly, gradually forgetting about the world of reality I came from and would have to return to.

Deep in my dreams I started to become acquainted with the city of a thousand winding alleyways, Taipei. I started biking to move around in my new fantastical surroundings, immersing myself with the unpredictable traffic which followed only unwritten rules. Everyday as I biked, I became used to the unfamiliar laws of these automobiles, who fought for every inch of space available to them. Motorcycles weaved through and about the traffic everywhere, and it was possible to hear their rumbling during the day in any alleyway in Taipei. Often there were one or two riders, but a family of four with a pet dog on one scooter was also not unheard of. Off the road it was a completely different story. Biking through my dream, pedestrians with their languid pace were often a nuisance to me, as they were always taking their sweet time to head to unknown personal destinations. As I passed them by, catching brief glances of these inhabitants of Taipei, it was always the old and feeble men and women that held my attention, the spectres with unwashed dark faces wearing dirty rags riding worn out vehicles from a past generation, going through garbage bag after garbage bag to separate trash for livelihood. There was one such old man who I saw a couple of times in my neighbourhood when I came back home late after a night out. Looking of retirement age, with a mound of garbage spread on the floor and an antiquated automobile beside him, I imagine he laboured all through the night in his work unknown and unseen, while the rest of Taipei faded.

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As I continued to dream, I got to grasp the vast scope of this land. I rode on imaginary trains which took me to different areas in this illusionary reality, with the passing scenery and the trembling train the only things confirming my physical displacement. Outside the windows of the train, sights I had never seen in my waking world revealed themselves to me. Green plains of tall grass and shrubs rushed past, occasionally rotating with sparse forests of green trees that were leafy near the North and turned into palm trees closer to the South. At other times the world outside my window showed imprints of human activity, with wide pastures of crops on flat lands stretching out for long distances, and the lonely plain boxlike houses with roofs in solid colours, sitting wholly weatherworn. But no matter how far the flatlands went, there were always the looming presence of mountains in the distance, full of green trees and looking like mossy rocks when they were close, and changing into bluish waterpainted objects of illusions when further away. Only when beyond the window lay the Pacific Ocean did they disappear. And on the East coast, instead of the bulges of mountains there was a variety of pure blues which grew darker and bluer until they touched the sky at the flat and endless horizon, leading across the Pacific Ocean to the tedious world of reality that I lived in when I was awake.

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In every city of my dreamland there was character. Every building and every street and sidestreet held a story and a community. At first glance, every alleyway looked generic, with short stunted buildings holding family owned businesses on the ground level, while just in front there were badly paved sidewalks under uneven arcades while vehicles motored by. However, as I got to know my area better, and my daily routine brought me into contact with the same people over and over again, whose businesses were an extension of their lives, I felt the existence of a deep personal connection to my area. The 7/11s and Family Marts were not family owned, but they still had a special role to play in every alleyway community. I don’t think Taiwan would be Taiwan for me without them.

Sometimes, these alleyways turned into night markets in the evenings. At these times the sleeping streets burst with life and activity, and completely transformed, as people from beyond the neighbourhood would gather together with friends and family to wander around the streets for tasty treats. There were always so many lights and so many vendors calling out to the interested looking customer. Some were not successful, some got the occasional customer, but there was always the snack stall or diner that for unexplainable reasons always had a long line. Although I was never sure how great the actual quality of the food was at the end of the line, there was a feeling of anticipation and then happiness when you got the snack in the end. With food in the hands and in the mouth, lights and people everywhere, sounds of happy chattering while enjoying a cool evening, I would often get overwhelmed. However, the most overwhelming sensation came while walking to other stalls and suddenly smelling the putrid sour stench of sewer water. This smell would be the stinky tofu. Crispy on the outside, soft tofu inside, served with sauce and pickled cabbage to neutralize the taste of stink, it indeed could be a marvellous treat, despite the idea disgusting me in my first few weeks. And these environments would last often until midnight, slowly losing their dreamlike qualities as groups of walkers gradually vanished out of the collective consciousness of the night market.

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Along the way, I was able to meet other dreamers. Coming from different areas of the real world and finding themselves in the dream of Taiwan, together we explored this world and created a Taiwan with a special meaning for us. We created memories of Taiwan, and formed bonds with this land and its wonderful people. There were many strong relationships fashioned through the adventures and the parties and the unique experiences, but these relationships were temporal in nature. As the dream comes to a close, and as the birds start chirping to signal the start of a new morning, many dreamers have already woken up, travelling back through the vortex to the land they came from and finding themselves in their own familiar bed and outside the window, a familiar sight under the clear morning light. And as the real world drags on and on, and the dream of Taiwan starts to disappear, will we still be such good friends as we once were when we were dreaming? Perhaps we will always have the unbreakable connection of Taiwan.

Or perhaps we will not. After the last among the dreamers awakes, the dreamworld will still hold and continue to exist on its own. And it will rain, for God how it rains in Taiwan. It will rain in light drops as a pleasant hazy shower and it will rain fiercely and suddenly and disappear like a flash of lightning. It will rain for days and nights on end, clouds relieving themselves of their heavy burden, as sleepers in Taiwan hear the pitter patter of the raindrops on the rooftops of their homes. The rain will pitter and patter and wash the streets and buildings of Taiwan, and fall on every single part of the mountains and plains from the North to the South, the East to the West. Still pittering and pattering, the incessant rain will fall and wholly wash Taiwan of the dreamers’ existence, as the flowing rainstreams take with it the slightest imprints until not even the faint memory of once treaded paths remain in Taiwan.

Similarly, the constant rains of forgetfulness will rain upon our hearts, and as time passes, the dream of Taiwan will lose its vividity while a thickening fog will appear when we try to look into our experiences. Friendships made will lose their basis and the characters we met will slowly fade away from our hearts and from our memories, until photos show only smiling strangers with the image of a familiar former self. But I hope that as the rains fall and carry with it these memories, they will transport these memories to a deeper place in the heart, where they will remain and lay pure and undisturbed until the end of our time.

Delusions of Travel

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I might be unqualified to speak about the subject of travel, but since I’ve been on two exchanges and a lot of plane flights and train rides and car rides to different places as a result, I have had some experience and some thoughts which will be reflected in this post.

In this post I want to talk about the unrealistic expectations I think people have about travelling. Now the ‘people’ I speak of are probably individuals in their 20s living in North America, as a lot of my friends and Facebook friends belong to this category, and they are the people I get these impressions of falsehood from.

What I see a lot of the times is travel being presented as some sort of fantastical adventure in which only a few are able to embark on and where an individual will experience magical and romantic things while undertaking a plethora of fun adventures. I see a lot of posts coming on my Facebook Newsfeed about very similar stories reflecting these ideas. Sometimes it will be about some guy who had been travelling for a whole year and made a cool videos during the process, and at other times it will be a quote charged with idealistic notions about ‘how travelling is food for the soul’ or something else cheesy, accompanied with by beautiful instragramed photo of an exotic looking location. Maybe such a quote could be true in a vague way, and personally, I think that the guy who travels for a whole year is quite admirable in his tenacity. The only problem I see is that these things add fuel to the delusions of travel.

In my experience, (and of course, my experiences will not wholly reflect other people’s experiences; I might be a particularly boring guy) when travelling is stripped of all its romanticism, it is quite unremarkable. You have the highs and lows; sometimes you meet nice people, sometimes you feel lonely; sometimes you have a great day of adventure, sometimes you are completely at a loss and don’t know what to do. However, most of the time, you will just be walking a lot to get to from one place to another.

However, the best way to actually get to know what travelling is like is by travelling. It is really not that hard of a process to do so, although the mental preparation could be difficult. However, for the logistical process, it is as simple as buying a plane ticket, booking accommodation and finding activities to do. It would be better if you had some sort of interest in the location’s history or culture to facilitate this process. Language could be a tricky thing, but it is usually not exceedingly difficult to manage. In Italy, not many people speak English, but there were many fellow exchange students who manage without being able to speak at all. Also, I’m sure that the personalities in the stories about the guy who travels for a year don’t speak all the world’s languages either. If you are reading this post, you probably have a certain degree of fluency in English, and often English is enough to get by. Finally, buy travel insurance for emergencies.

In the end, I might have been a little too harsh when describing travel as being unremarkable. If it was so unremarkable, I would not have been doing so much of it. But what I want to do is provide a counterweight to the common perception of travel. You might not have a perfect experience or be doing interesting things every moment or be guaranteed to like your experience. Instead, you might be tired, homesick or bored. Realistically, it will be some combination of the two. But for sure, there will be a lot of walking.

 

Above is one of the five towns in Cinque Terre in Italy

The Grass is Quite Green on this Side

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As I travel, the more I learn about it. Travelling is a great way to take break while learning about different cultures. However, I think it is more than that. For me, travelling is also an all too effective method of escape.

It is one of the main reasons why I embarked on my first exchange to Milan. Unsatisfied with the greenness of Toronto’s pastures I wanted to find a place where I could go to find a more fulfilling and exciting life. Undoubtedly life as an exchange student provides ample opportunities for excitement, and my experience there is one that I will not forget in a while. However, in the last weeks of my stay, tired out by continuous travel, my heart looked forward to my flight back to Toronto. The last week of Italy was spent in Florence, and not even the beauty of that city was able to alleviate the continuous lethargy I felt.

Back in Toronto I felt a great excitement for life in the first few weeks. Everything seemed so fresh and full of opportunities. However the cold January weather of Toronto soon got to me and sent me looking for greener pastures again. I was accepted to Keio University in Tokyo but for various reasons changed my exchange institution to the National Taiwan University in Taipei. Regardless, the whole year in Toronto was marked by dissatisfaction. I disliked the cold and disliked the schoolwork and disliked the humble lifestyle I had to lead in order to save money. I unfairly compared Torontonians with whom I interacted with the people I met abroad. I found Torontonians for the most part dull and uninteresting and remembered the people I met in Italy with great nostalgia. I was unsociable and preferred books to people that one year. Nothing especially memorable seemed to happen as days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into unconscious repetition. Life was a blurred, dull picture in contrast to the vibrant colours of Italy. It was happening again and I was looking forward to greener pastures in Taipei. I made very unfair comparisons and did not behave stoically in facing my life in Toronto.

I remember my first day in Taiwan, when I got off the plane in the Taoyuan International Airport. There was a slight drizzle but the weather was a pleasant change to the cold winter of Toronto. The air was slightly humid and there was a fresh breeze in the air and an unending smile on my face. Passing by the mountains and the ceaseless green vegetation and watching them slowly change into the old and characteristic city sprawl on the bus ride to Taipei, It seemed that I was successful in finding my greener pastures.

Being a little over halfway through the exchange now, there are things in Toronto that I miss. There are the occasional Facebook newsfeed posts that I read about Toronto, which make me remember it in a different light. I start remembering the cultural diversity there, the downtown area and my friends. The lifestyle I was once hostile towards comes back to me as small bite sized (Timbit sized) nostalgic memories. The weekly work in the bank on Friday evenings followed immediately by outings with my friends followed by a hung over Saturday afternoon selling cheese in my mother’s store remind me of happy times, despite the inconveniences I felt towards the routine. The weekly Korean barbeque we ate at home along with soju make my mouth water. Walking down St. George to get to my classes and seeing the occasional friendly face and even all my hours spent in the peacock shaped Robarts Library are good memories.

Toronto isn’t the only source of greener pastures for me. I look forward to what will come after Taiwan. I can’t wait to visit all of family in Korea and spend precious time with my parents and my sister and my grandmother. I can’t wait to start the great China trip that I have in my head. Thinking of being in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Chengdu, all which await me, makes me think of the people I will meet and the things I will learn and the experiences I will have. All around me there seem to be greener pastures.

Greener pastures appear to me in different time periods as well. The latest book I have finished is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, in which he describes the few years he spent in Paris as a poor but happy and married writer. His Paris in the twenties is full of writers and artists that I have read and heard about. To have these almost mythical personalities brought to life by his pen makes me long for this legendary Paris in the twenties, a Paris marked by eccentrics, culture and art spread out through its cafes and worn out streets.

The Paris of the twenties was represented by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, in which the economically successful but creatively unfulfilled screenplay writer Gil Pender is transported 80-some years into the past to his place of nostalgic yearning. Here he is to meet all his heroes and falls increasingly in love with Adriana, a fictional mistress of Pablo Picasso. Ironically, Adriana longs for the Belle Époque period and thinks of it as the golden age in Paris. Near the end of the story, they are transported to this period in time and find that people there wish they lived during the Renaissance.

Just as what had happened in the film, perhaps it is just too easy for us to romanticize a lifestyle which is different from one which we are living. While we are confronted with daily realities in our current lives, the lifestyle we covet is surrounded by the façade of uninformed idealism. Just as how Gil Pender is able to come to terms with the modern era at the end of the film, perhaps we should come to terms with the lives we live. Instead of looking past our front lawn to feel jealousy for the lawn of a distant neighbour, we should start admiring what we have in front of us right now. You may realize that the grass is quite green on this side.

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(Picture 1 is of my house this winter, not much green though)

Tainan and Reflections on Change

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In order to make effective use of National Taiwan University’s spring break, I went to the city of Tainan. Tainan was the former capital of Taiwan in former times, and I heard that it managed to hold on to a lot of Taiwan’s cultural identity. Although living in Taipei has given me a better understanding of the Taiwanese people and their culture, I felt that going to Tainan would be able to show me perhaps another perspective on Taiwanese culture and help me see its form in an older time period.

In many ways, Tainan did not disappoint my expectations. There was a certain air about it that gave it the impression of a city less affected by the unavoidable transformational qualities of time. The streets were rugged and less ordered and there were no modern looking skyscrapers or apartment buildings. The result was a relatively flat city which was spread across a large area. As Tainan did not have a subway system, I was glad to be able to borrow bicycles from the hostel, as it would have been a lot of distance to cover on foot. So on the chaotic streets of Tainan, I was put under constant anxiety trying to avoid nearly colliding cars, rushing motorcycles and other cyclists. This was worth it in the end, as I was able to see more of the essence of Tainan by cycling through numerous roads and alleyways while going from destination to destination. I felt that I was able to see more than the average tourist.

The most impressionable sight on the trip was a Taiwanese burial rite. Passing by an alleyway I saw many people dressed up in unusual attire and heard the sound of firecrackers. Of course I decided to go through to explore. The alleyway led to a fairly remote, medium sized temple with around 8 people holding onto an elaborately decorated carriage with several more attendants around. I saw several ceremonies, and each was different in its own way, from the attire of the attendants to their activity to the number of attendants. The largest was one which was made of almost a hundred attendants for the procession, and thus filled up the temple courtyard. Each procession was accompanied by loud and abrupt firecrackers, which seemed to welcome to procession and signal their departure. Being a spectator in these unfamiliar rites along with the antiquity of the temple area made the experience seem surreal and transported me to a Taiwan of several decades ago.

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One thing that was noticeable was the age of the attendants to each procession. None of them were young. Even the ones holding to the substantial carriage were wizened. They were the preservers of their failing generation and protectors to their special hue of Taiwanese culture. With their passing the realities of the former present would diminish.

Previously, I always felt a certain animosity to the drivers of this change. This loss of cultural identity and cultural diversity for a more one dimensional Westernized cultural environment seemed to be a great tragedy. All of the rites and ceremonies, the way of thinking and the physical landscape (architecture) were at stake. I felt sorry to see all of the organic growth that took over a time period centuries collapsing in a matter of one or two generations.

The country that reflected this ordeal the most for me is China. Suffering a tumultuous recent history, with several wars, revolutions and movements, there was hardly a moment of repose for the Middle Kingdom. With the rise of Mao came a single political authority in the country, but came the Cultural Revolution which created an upheaval in Chinese thinking. In that age also came the destruction of architecture for the sake of modernization, an example being Mao’s destruction of a large part of old Beijing to create the Tiananmen Square. From my media influenced knowledge, this is a constant reality in China, as older areas are destroyed for the sake of modernization. With this physical destruction comes the loss of the inhabitants’ lifestyles and loss of a direct connection and physical representation with a people’s history. (Note: I am not an expert on Chinese history, as I have only read a few books, please let me know if I wrote any nonsense)

However, there really is no way to deal with change except to accept it. Over a long period of time, as situations change, challenges appear and new generations with new beliefs arise, and change happens. We may be affected and emotionally have a difficult time facing new realities, but objectively, there is little we can do except observe and ride along with the inescapable currents of transformation.

In a way, I am a hypocrite when it comes to this topic of change. Born into a Korean family with specific (and in my opinion, outdated) beliefs about the world, a large part of my late teen years was spent rebelling against my parent’s worldviews and the worldviews of the previous Korean generation. If some sort of cultural purity was retained, and my beliefs were a mirror image of the previous generation, it would be difficult to adapt to a quickly changing globalized world, in which different ideas are continuously pitted against each other. If we were to take this idea a bit further and suppose that there was no change in the Korean culture for the last 100 years, I would have most likely been a farmer or studying to become a scholar and suffering from a much lower quality of life.

The changes that are happening in China may be the same way. China’s rapid modernization and cultural ‘destruction’ is one which I find particularly regretful about because of my plans to do a large, encompassing trip to see with my own eyes the land with the “5000 years of history,” which the Chinese people claim. Personally, I do not want to be late to the party and see a country stripped of its time tested organic cultural growth and diversity. However, if this is the China I see, then it is the China I have to accept. As a traveller it is more exciting to see cultural variety. Perhaps if I was an inhabitant of a modernizing city, it would be better for me if creative destruction led to modern conveniences.

Furthermore, it just may be that our modernizing world will bring new areas for organic cultural diversity. An increasingly globalizing world connecting people from all around the world, who previously would never had the opportunity to meet can create new dimensions of cultural variety. Only the future will tell, and this is the future we will see.