Closing of Adventure Chapter

Hello long lost friends (or it seems like),

It has been a long time since some of us have been in touch. I hope all is well at with you. I am looking forward to catching up with you in person as I have now returned to the “real” world. This will be my last mass email in this chapter of my life which I always liked to share with you. I promise this one will be shorter than the last one! (and less controversial) The last time I wrote I was taking Buddhism classes in the mountains of India. Since then, I traveled a little through parts of India, and then basically lived in New Zealand for over four months. As I sit hear trying to highlight my trip, I am frozen by the seemingly impossible task. How do I summarize a trip that has been so rewarding and meaningful in words that can’t come close to describing what one feels? Try! One must…..

I have returned home to Taiwan a few days ago, now wrapped in comfort of my own room, fresh clothes, home cooking and family by my side again. A vacation and a trip away from our familiar surroundings can change us. However, change is an understatement when considering the experiences encountered during a year away on a round-the-world trip -- some places being as far and different from home as one can imagine. Returning home, the familiar sights, sounds, people all seem much different. The simplest things that we never used to see become vivid; The things that we were so comfortable with now become foreign and unattractive.
India, a place I chose to avoid when I started this trip, I now have a greater appreciation for the country and culture after my few weeks there. After McCleodGanj, I traveled to see the infamous TajMahal and then further south to Pushkar for the annual Camel Festival. The TajMahal is spectacular, but I must say that it is not as grand in size as I imagined. Nevertheless, it is magnificent -- the grandness, the beauty and the thought of that someone would build such a monument to show his love for a person. The Pushkar camel festival was an experience of a life time. The festival brought nomadic tribes from all over the country to socialize, barter and compete in various sports centered on camels and horses. In the vast desert, one can see nomad tents, horses, and camels out to the horizon as the people came in for the festival. The small village is an oasis in the middle of the desert. The center of activity surrounds the holy lake in town as people crowd to the shores for their ritual washings. I spent the days playing with camels and horses and roaming the alleyways observing the lively local activities. When I left India, I was sad as I knew I only seen the surface of a very deep culture and enormous country. However, I was happy to leave without ever getting sick as almost all tourists do. But luck would have it I got sick the next day in Thailand probably from the things I ate at the Indian bus stop in a rush on the day I left. A very common description of India from travelers is “You either love or hate India.” I thought I would hate it and tried to avoid it, but turned out it was very interesting and comfortable once you learn the ropes. I look forward to going back someday.

I got a huge culture shock when I arrived in New Zealand after being in some of the most crowded and underdeveloped areas of Asia. The country appeared to be sterile and the people unnatural. I remember walking down a posh area of Auckland and looking at the fashionable people dinning in fancy restaurants and thinking how different and strange they seem. They almost seem manufactured or acting on stage. Things were so organized that it was sterile compared to Asia. People just did not seem to be alive. And I was shocked at the prices, although thinking now, New Zealand is must cheaper than the US. The first week, I constantly thought of Asia and missed the liveliness of the people. New Zealand seemed too sterile and I thought it was a mistake that I left Asia. But gradually, I began to see the beauty around me -- The scenery, the pristine nature and the overall quality of life that people have. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up living there for over 4 months. I often think that New Zealand is probably the closest to an ideal world that you can come – Nature is pure and vivid, quality of life is assured with sufficient resources and income, but yet the culture emphasize a balanced lifestyle. The government has done a great job as they are effective and efficient at providing to the masses. I was shocked when I was able to buy a $80US car in about 1 hour including searching, test driving and walking into the post office to register the car in my name. The transaction took no longer than eating at McDonalds. So efficient in fact, I bought a second car and sold them both without much hassles.

Well, somehow getting my private pilots license became my goal in New Zealand. I always thought about it growing up but never pursued it much do to the time commitment. But in New Zealand, I had the time and the flying tuitions are some of the lowest in the world. This became my obsession somehow. It started as a fun and casual recreation. As the hours in the plane increased, I realized how much of a commitment and serious sport it is. Next thing I knew I had was studying for 6 written tests, going up flying everyday, spending over 5 hours at the airport everyday and it was consuming all my time. One of the most memorable moments in my life was when the teacher stopped the plane on the ground, got out and said “OK now I want you to land this thing 3 time by yourself!!” He left me in the cockpit doubting myself if I was ready. I was scared shitless, but I had to pull my mind together. And when I finally finished my landings and got out the plane, my hands were still shaking from adrenaline rush. But I will never forget the feeling of being in the cockpit all alone, high in the sky when all the sudden things just become so beautiful and peaceful and you realize that you are flying! However the endurance test on the mind never ceased throughout the lessons. The lessons concentrated on emergency procedures. The instructor cuts the engine off, pulls it into a loop, flies it close to the ground, stalling (when plane drops out of the sky). It was one stress procedure after another. I thought that this was probably the greatest mental endurance test that I ever will volunteer for. I finally got my license after about 90 hours of flying (more than the average) and failing the final practical exam once. Believe me; I have lot more respect for pilots now. You can’t imagine how complicated flying is compared to driving a car. I look forward to flying over Vermont in the fall for the changing colors of the leaves and flying down to Martha’s Vineyard for a day trip during the summer.

The most enjoyable times in New Zealand was sharing it with family and friends who visited, while others I able to share through emails. My family came out to visit in February during Chinese New Years from Taipei for about two weeks. My Mom came early to Napier on the north island, I was able share with her the experience of living on a 1200 acre farm set in the hilly countryside overlooking the ocean with 4000 sheep, over 400 heads of Angus cattle and 20 free roaming horses and countless wild geese. I even got my mom to horseback ride at the farm, one of the most difficult terrains due to the steep slopes. But Mom was proved to be adventurer, almost falling off the horse and holding on without a yell, but smiling with her body almost on the ground. Nancy who is also traveling around the due to a dot-bomb closure, was able to meet us for the ride before we drove for 5 days down to Queenstown in my luxurious US$80 2-door hatchback. We picked up my sister and Dad at the Queenstown airport. Unfortunately my brother in the States could not make it out. From there we rented a six-sleeper camper and traveled the southern half of the island. It was truly a memorable time together. It was one of the few times that our family has totally been away from any schedule and worries back home, and surrounded by arguably the most scenic place on earth. We visited Glaciers, Milford Sounds, took my father and sister for a training flight, shared a cramped camper, shared in cooking meals, swam with dolphins, and rode horses through river valleys and mountain tops. Basically we all enjoyed the most beautiful scenery and happily shared the times together. Too bad my brother was not there as the experience would have been that much more meaningful and enjoyable. Nancy out ended up staying in New Zealand for an extra two months before taking off to Australia. We lived out daily lives sharing our experiences and freely pursuing our individual interests. She took painting classes, volunteered at the local Montessori daycare, while I took my flying lessons and met my addiction to fly-fishing. My friends from U. of Michigan came out for six day (yes, only 6 days). Ty and Andre as soon they arrived off the plane, they were excited to get into the adrenaline rush activities. From the airport, we went to do the street louge. The next day we did jet boating, bungy, and then canyoning. After a few days we were all rushed out and could not get up the energy for the numerous other adrenaline activities and ended up just relaxing with golfing, fishing, picnics, and hikes. The time was short but we sure did use the time efficiently. Most of all I appreciated friends and family flying out so far to share one of the most memorable times in my life.

Much of my time in New Zealand was fly fishing the numerous crystal clear rivers filled with talked about 10lbs trouts. At the beginning the fishing proved more difficult than the States, but I enjoyed the peacefulness of exploring nature and absorbing the beautiful and almost unreal scenery. A magic feeling comes about when one is surrounded by beautiful mountains with the clear water running around your legs. There have been many times when I stood in the river and thought to myself – “What a beautiful world and I am so lucky to be alive.” I often come back to the thought that fly-fishing is the ultimate way to be with nature.. You are not in a hurry to go anywhere, often you are standing at one spot for a long period just absorbing the beauty irregardless whether if the fish are active. It was a bonus when I caught a fish. The best fish story I have was when I walked the bank not seeing any fish I gave up. However, my father not being a fisherman at all, yelled to me that there is fish. I ran and got the rod and snuck in a fly under the trees. Within minutes, I had a nice 3 pound Brown trout. I rarely kill fish, but this one I had to because I knew that mom would appreciate it. But when I accidentally dropped the dead fish in the water, I saw it sink to the bottom of the river. I panicked, and next thing I knew I had most off my clothes off and dove into the swift deep cold river. I felt like I won the Olympic Gold medal when I got out of the water with the fish in hand to see Mom excited with a big smile.

New Zealand can be described as an adventurer’s paradise. There is everything imaginable to challenge the human, physically and mentally – high mountains, ocean surfs, raging rivers, flowing glaciers and deep forests. You got the guts, New Zealand has the challenge for you. However, I enjoyed it the most for it serenity, beauty and purity. It was a place where I felt I was spiritually free and mentally clear.

So what now? It will take some time to adjust back to the real world. For some time before coming home, I was full of anxiety! What now? My friend George who is still traveling around the world writes “It's not just the fun of travel that keeps me going. Travel sometimes can actually get lonely and you actually want to settle. But it's the feeling that you are onto something spiritual at your fingertips that keeps you out – and that is a feeling that I can never get at work. Maybe it's the outdoor aspect of it all. I don't know.” I could not have described my inner feeling better. From this trip, I have new perspectives on life that I am still trying to figure out. I learned that there are a lot of things in life that I want to pursue which are more personally meaningful and fulfilling. But I do sure about one thing, one has do what feels right and good and ultimately do what make the person happy inside for yourself. Life is too short to do something that we don’t enjoy. I read once, the only things certain is that we will die, but what is uncertain is how we live. So what now? I will head back to the Boston area at the end of this month. I will look for a job and only accept it if I know I will deeply enjoy it and find it fulfilling. One of the ideas that I am most focusing on is to open a community center in the inner city to nurture young teenagers into the mainstream society. This will be a non-profit business operated with profit principles, but gains measured in growth of benefits to the surrounding community. Any support or interest in this area would be much appreciated. If all this fails, I can always travel more, as I found out that my living expenses are lower traveling than at home. Hard to believe but true!

Well, without dragging out this torture for the readers. I will share other thoughts when we meet in person and would want to hear what you have all been up to while I was away. If you have read up to this point, I must thank you with my sincerest appreciation for being such a good friend to allow me to share this memorable experience from beginning to end – a true sign of a good friend. To you, I wish all the happiness and joy in the world and may we have the good fortune to share it with you.

In closing of this chapter in my life