It’s only been ten nights since I last slept in my tent, but it seems like longer. I felt so tuned in during almost all of the 450km of my solo trip from just two weeks ago – each experience was vivid and deep, every moment full of joy, every encounter friendly and natural. I was so into the traveling, and particularly the sleeping al fresco, that I distinctly recall falling asleep in my Couchsurfing apartment noting the absence of cicadas. Something about the silence felt wrong. And something about it feeling wrong felt right.
That consciousness has faded over the past ten days, so much so that I almost forgot I was traveling. So frequently leaving and then returning to the same Beijing apartment (friend’s friends Jonathan and Meiqing’s place) gave me the impression of being home, of being settled. Thus, telling others that we were headed to Taiwan and beyond once again began to take on that hazy, even stagnant sense that it carried in Korea, like I was just saying something for lack of something else to say, like I was hedging my bets, like it wouldn’t happen.
But now things are returning to their new normal. I’m in my tent, amongst the trees, under a half moon that was a fingernail just five nights ago. Better yet, I feel like a new leaf has been turned over. The first five weeks of the trip were almost like learning how to walk. And also how to pack, ride, talk, eat, and camp. Now that we’ve made it to and through our first big destination, though, I’ve found my stride. My body has adjusted and seems to function better – and even on less fuel – when I’m riding 50km or more a day. I’ve figured out what goes in what bag and what order the bags go on the bike; what a good camping spot looks like, what order to unpack my gear in, what goes in the tent, what stays outside. How to walk barefoot on the tarp to make sure there’s nothing sharp underneath. Then how to leave a little strip of tarp outside one door of the tent so that I don’t have that awkward problem of trying to step out of my shoes and into the tent all at once. How to get drinking water without buying a new plastic bottle. How to wash off in my tent in the dark with less than a cup of water and no spillage on the tent floor. How to keep my food pannier mounted on the bike at night so no ants crawl into it. I even remember to walk around swinging a little stick in front of my face so as not to run straight into a spider web. Oh, and how to pee without even getting all the way off the bike. All of these things that used to require deliberation have settled into routine, leaving me with more mental space to figure out the bigger things, like: where are we going? How long do I want it to take? What do I want to happen along the way? In no particular order:
Develop my harmonica skills. It’d be nice to have something non-electric to do in the dark, and also to have some sort non-verbal way to interact with hosts, kids, and other random people along the way.
Stretch and exercise and do yoga and meditate in the forest in the mornings.
Visit some old villages and some places of extreme natural beauty.
Get more use out of my hammock.
Watch all the movies and listen to all the music that are sitting around polluting my hard drive.
Devote some more time to thinking about Green/Ethical travel.
Ok, that’s that for now. Here are some pictures of the good times Mingyu and I had with Meiqing and Jonathan, who so kindly let us come and go and sleep on their couch and floor whenever we felt like it for nearly an entire three weeks, and who joined us for many a great meal and helped us accomplish a number of bizarre missions in Beijing. May we meet again somewhere.
Note: I'm mooching a verrry slow connection at a super cheap hostel ($7 for a private room with 3 beds) up in the mountains. The photo uploads will have to wait. Apologies...
Update: Got 'em!