Taiwan. A Fresh start and more importantly, a new challenge.
I recently went back to the UK after spending a year in Australia to attend my mother’s wedding, an incredible event which reconnected me once more to my family after a long time apart.
The first few weeks were quite nostalgic, being surrounded with familiar faces and venturing off to local places that I haven’t been able to enjoy for many years was very fulfilling. The feelings that were flooding my thoughts were pointing towards me staying in Plymouth for the foreseeable future. But why?
Family and friends always play an important role in one’s life but there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for your own independent happiness and well-being. Moving to Australia took so much courage. Leaving a good job, a good lifestyle in London and more importantly, routine, in order to start again on the other side of the world wasn’t an easy thing to do. The more time I spent at the home the more I felt and saw the direction in which things were heading. Finding a job, another place to live, I was back in the same scenario that I left behind a year ago. It simply didn’t feel right. As much as I wanted it to be the case so I could stay with family and friends, I just knew deep down I wasn’t ready to be ‘home’.
I always like to think of life as a linear process, you travel in one direction, moving onwards and never back. There are good and bad moments that you learn from along the way which helps define what kind of person you are and where you want your path to lead. Always remember, you and you alone, when you break down all the barriers of work and everyday life, are in complete control of where you go and what you do. So upon hitting this state of equilibrium once more (and having a partner in Australia) I knew that being back home was going backwards and that a new adventure was out there waiting for me.
Fast forward three weeks and I feel like myself once more.
I decided to take a job in Taiwan teaching English as a second language. Why not right?
I believe teaching is such an important role for a person to undertake (ironic coming from someone who was far from the model student). It’s taking on the responsibly for the development of the future, ensuring that you guide the next generation along the way with the correct tools so that one day they are ready to explore life for themselves. I managed to find a great setup courtesy of posting my resume on ESL Cafe, an essential website for any of you reading this thinking you may like to give teaching English as a second language a go yourself.
Before my start date I had the opportunity to get acquainted with my new country of residence and more importantly, Asian culture. I landed in the capital, Taipei, after a gruelling flight which included luxury accommodation on a bench in the waiting area of Vienna Airport for 12 hours overnight. After clearing customs and immigration I was able to get the MRT service into Taipei main station, a super convenient train that runs from the airport to the most central station with some of the most amazing views of countryside and city along the way.
I spent the first day sleeping and trying to rid myself of the inevitable jet lag that accompanies any long haul flight but in the evening I awoke with the buzz of being in new surroundings and the desire to explore. I picked up my camera and away I went.
I didn’t have far to walk before I came across my first major site and what a sight it was, Chiang Kai Shek National memorial. A homage to a former president of the Republic of China of the same name.
I was left astounded. The vastness of the area and size of the temples left me speechless. I have always had a real interest in Asian architecture and to experience it in person was a liberating feeling and reinforced my decision to come away. Travelling, for me, whether it’s a two week trip or a year, is the most exhilarating feeling in life. To experience new cultures and new countries really helps open your eyes to what is out there and the way in which you perceive your own ‘reality’.
The more days that passed and the more local sights I explored, the more that I fell in love with this amazing little country. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, yes the lack of Chinese or English doesn’t help, but this still doesn’t stop anyone attempting to interact with you. It’s such a bizarre but uplifting feeling. Of course at the same time this can be quite frustrating and sometimes even isolating, but still this is part of the authentic travelling experience.
My final day in Taipei offered one of the best experiences I’ve had in all my time travelling. I spent the afternoon hiking the Elephant Trail, which at the summit, provides the best panoramic views of the city.
As I was climbing I wondered if it was called the Elephant trail because you seem to slowly climb due to the steep incline. It felt at times that I was climbing a ladder to reach the top, on top of the suffocating humidity. Thankfully there are benches along the way to the summit which allows for a quick rest. With each step made I felt a little closer to the Gods due to the sheer scale of the incline. The views along the way were a constant reminder of the height relative to ground level. Thankfully I don’t suffer from a fear of heights… Hmm!
FINALLY the summit was in sight and my reward was about to be claimed, the sweat pouring from me and my short breath was a friendly reminder that it wasn’t a straight forward task. But once I looked out on Taipei from the viewing platform, every drop of sweat was justified.
I had timed it just right, the sky was in twilight and the sun was about to set. This was the perfect setting to sit and reflect on my decision to come to Taiwan. Let the next adventure begin!
For more pictures of my travels check out my instagram feed! Search for danielrcutforth or hit the link at the top of the page.