I started to understand the meaning of traveling in my first moments separated from my host. As I wandered through an early morning market in the Three Lantern District of Macau, everyone around me stared up with curious focus and the Cantonese whispers of “How tall.” I felt tense. I could trace the path home, but nothing was familiar. I peered through the kitchen wares, clothing, and fruit stands searching for something to buy so I could connect with the shop attendants; prove that I am closer to the culture than my physical structure suggests by communicating in Mandarin.
And then I spotted youtiao. The golden brown Chinese doughnuts lined baskets of a modest street corner stall. As the woman in front of me chose from the range of pastries, I thought back to my first encounter with youtiao only weeks before in New York. A sense of comfort descended.
In the uncanny moments of travel, exploration, and adventure I was forced to latch to morsels of familiarity: recognizable foods in overwhelming marketplaces, Mandarin speakers in mixed communities and bits of researched knowledge that helped to make sense of maps and tips from friends and travel companions. But, with each second I was gaining new knowledge and expanding my familiarity.
On a perfect day in Bali, between exploring the waterlocked temples of Tanah Lot and discovering the Kecak Dance in Uluwatu I began to write in my moleskin:
Traveling isn’t about memories to record in pen or on film, but experiences that prepare you to journey further on your next pass. Arming you with familiarity that brings you enough comfort to move forward. I don’t want to write about my experiences or share my pictures because they cannot capture the essence or the beauty of the place, the warmth of the people or the welcome they extend to travelers. Guide books only offer glimpses of information forcing it down your throat; encouraging you to regurgitate the experiences of the writers – or allowing you to believe that’s possible. It is never possible to take in all the sites; visit all the places…
I had realized that traveling is not at all about how much you are able to see or do; but how much you’ll want to see or do next time. Traveling is about returning.
For three weeks I vacationed through Southeast Asia. First meeting up with Deysy, a college friend on fellowship in Macau, I then traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Singapore, the Philippines and, later, Hong Kong. I carried my journal everywhere and took detailed notes to fill out this blog with stories from my trip. It was a rare opportunity to Taste the Globe.
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