From Sept 2016 to September 2017, I visited 12 countries. In one speedy year, my life didn’t drastically change. I still live mostly in Paris, my lifestyle remains to be just as nomadic as it ever was and I don’t plan on settling (both regarding destination and men) anytime soon. Despite the lack of change in my lifestyle, I have shifted dramatically. It seems the more I’ve moved around, the more steady I’ve felt. Every experience was an education about culture and people, who in turn, altered a refreshing way to view myself.
I hope by sharing my travel lessons from the past year, you can be inspired to sink in restrospect. There are certain materialistic travel lessons I’ve learned as a thirty-something that I think many can relate to. For example, I can no longer stay in hostels. Or, I prefer to solo travel. Even better for laughs, I would choose sleep over partying in a new city. Lame and old, right?
Whatever you may think of my travel lessons, know that taking flight to discover weaknesses just as well as strengths is a sign of bravery. The world is here to test us with teachings, but are you ready to learn?
What a blessing it was returning to Bali after 30 years and to celebrate my 36th birthday with the entire family. I remember embarking on this family vacation after several fallouts with extremely close friends in Paris. I was bombarding my head with endless questions: Am I too sensitive? Have I been an awful friend? It was such a relief to spend a week on the beaches of Bali, enjoying long meals with my family, engaging in conversations that wouldn’t be used against me later. I remember thinking: How lucky am I to have such an incredible family to fall back on. I learned: my family love is unlike any other kind of love. It is unconditional. It doesn’t fall out.
Work brought my second trip back to Indonesia in the same month. Jetset Times was invited by Gran Melia Jakarta to stay for a few days, meanwhile Nadia Cho (JST’s Communications Associate) and I had a blast exploring Indonesia’s capital. As the hotel pampered us with executive suites and access to their top floor lounge, spa service and free meals, I remember submerging in appreciation. Did I really do this? This little company which I’ve created is of value to other companies? I learned: when I’m thankful, I have the ability to transform appreciation into motivation. I deeply wanted to accomplish more for the new year to come.
A mother/daughter trip that couldn’t have been sweeter. It turned out, my mom and I possess similar travel styles: laid-back, not much planning. We indulged in the best street foods in town, we shopped and bought far too many pairs of shoes, we adored an art museum, we walked and chatted through the botanic garden. I learned that as each day goes by, we have one day less with our parents. It is an honor to be in the presence of my mom’s wisdom and her kindness. I’ve been aspiring to be just like her since I was a kid. In Singapore, I learned that I’m still in deep awe of her but there was a different sense of pride in a new desire to taking care of her. I liked that I was in charge most of the time, so she could sit back and enjoy the ride.
I went to Budapest for Fashion Week to meet with local designers for features on Jetset Times. It was my second time in a city that I absolutely adored the first time ‘round, so I was thrilled to be back. On this trip, I was busy attending shows, conducting interviews, and left a few days to explore on my own. Little did I know, this would be the last time I would solo travel in a VERY long time. I learned: the balance of work and personal travel is possible, and I seemed to be mastering it.
Nadia and Wendy, Round II. We met in Bangkok for video production, more interviews with local chef and hotel. The two of us discovered the city’s massive Chinatown, the mind-blowingly awkward (for us, at least) Nana Plaza’s red light district, and the glory of $1 street food. This was my second time back in Bangkok, though I had forgotten much of it since childhood. When we were terribly late for an interview with a high-profile chef, I learned: always plan an hour ahead. Bangkok traffic is worse than a nightmare!
Every year, my family organizes a huge trip. Since my parents are avid travelers and international entrepreneurs, “annual tripping” has been a family tradition since my sister and I were little. This year, our big trip was crossing through 10 Moroccan cities, from the northern capital of Rabat to a small southeastern village called Merzouga. Again, I had been to Morocco before, but this trip included many villages I didn’t visit during my previous trip. Since I spoke French, I acted as the translator between our guide, the locals and my parents. It’s funny how one never appreciates multilingualism until traveling. In France, I’m always under the impression that my French isn’t good enough. In Taipei, I feel like I’m never caught up with the latest lingo. But in Morocco, I learned: the ability to speak multiple languages equates to having superpowers. And it feels pretty kickass.
On a normal basis, I visit China approximately once a year. Nowadays, the destinations have been more remote since I’ve already been to most major cities. Guilin, known for its gorgeous karst topography, is also considered a countryside town. Meaning, hygiene went out the window. Bathrooms didn’t necessarily come with toilet paper, and toilets were replaced with squatties (ceramic holes on the ground.) I got in the habit of dipping utensils in hot water prior to using them for disinfection. So here’s to China, it’s always an adventure. But I learned: once a year is enough.
A memorable weekend with fellow JST contributor, Alex Baker-Brown, began with a bang by meeting a group of Danes at a bar. They treated us to a night out at a club where I was sure I was the oldest person there. Then we grubbed on late night sandwiches and went to one of the guys’ apartment for drinks afterwards. Both Alex and I fell in love with the Danish culture which was equally proper as it was kind. The Danes couldn’t have been more welcoming while Copenhagen’s perfect size allowed us to easily bike around so we could check off every site on our list. But I was tired. I had been traveling too much and I couldn’t keep up any longer. I learned: I, too, have my limits. My mind said GO, but my body screamed NO. Staying stationary doesn’t necessarily mean stagnant. It just means recuperating for an even longer run.
After Copenhagen, I stayed in Paris for a few months without any ounce of traveling. I had been so disappointed in friendships lost in the year before that I was determined to form a new Parisian circle. How the hell do you do that when you’ve been hanging out with the same people for 10 years? And how does one make new friends in her mid-thirties? Fortunately, I did! Even now, my new Parisian life is far more exciting than before: picnics by Le Seine, art auctions, soirees on boats, soirees for a dog, soirees in a diplomat’s home. I learned: when one door shuts, God certainly opens another door for those who are ready to welcome…anything and anyone.
I chose Scotland because I didn’t want to see London, yet again. The day I arrived in Edinburgh, it was pouring rain and the doors to my hotel were shut. For hours, I felt so lost and confused that I was certain my trip had been ruined for good. Thankfully, the hotel manager came through and he felt so awful that he took me to a nearby pub to satiate my empty stomach. The pub is where I met a group of local Scottish boys (and an Irish) who kept me company when the rain kept me from visiting famous landmarks. They told me where to go in Glasgow, and got dressed up for a night out with me at Edinburgh’s best cocktail bars. I learned: hanging at a pub alone isn’t so lonely. In fact, it’s always where I meet the best locals. Even if the cost is barely seeing the city at all.
Croatia had been on my bucket list for a long time, so it was a longer trip covering 4 cities: Zagreb, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. Along the Adriatic waters, I drank the loveliest wines produced in small quantities but flourished under enormous sun. I ate delicious seafood doused in Italian flavors but cooked with immense Dalmatian passion. We met the most beautiful souls who shared their intimate memories of the Croatian War of Independence and their challenges during the aftermath of wartime. I loved Croatia and vowed to return soon. I learned: I’m a traveler who thinks deeply about cultures and history. Some folks may not respond to my hunger for sociological philosophies and quest for worldly impacts, some folks may even think it’s a waste of time. But that’s the kind of traveler I am. I don’t skate through the surface of life, I prefer to dive deep into the core for answers.
In Dubrovnik, my friend and I visited Bosnia for a day. On the way from a church in Mostar to the market, we saw a little girl begging for food on the street. Even if we expected to encounter homelessness in Bosnia, we were moved by her tiny figure crouched on the ground. After ordering too much food during lunch, we decided to pack up our leftovers for the little girl. But rain started to pour, so harsh that we sprinted and hid from shed to shed. All the while I guarded the lunchbox with my life only to find the little girl was gone. Where did she go? Was she safe? Is she staying dry? I learned: some things you’ll never know.
My other home
It had been 7 months since I returned home. I was starting to miss it dearly. the food, the languages, my family. I learned: the further I’ve gone, the more I’ve acknowledged my roots. One simply can’t move forward without knowing what defines his or her foundation. I’ve always known that I’m a Taiwanese. I’m proud of it, and don’t you dare talk s*** about it.
What’s your biggest travel lesson? Share with us in the comments.
As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and Russia because they were all so different! St. Bart's was pretty amazing too (wink)!