The first time my friend MJ and I took an international trip, we went to Cozumel during our spring break of senior year in high school. Her mom and dad agreed to chaperone a group of five of us. Bless them, for otherwise, the rest of our parents would have no doubt squashed our wide-eyed, bushy-tailed travel dreams quicker than we could shout, “teQUILA!” As a single father, my dad was unwaveringly strict. But he trusted the level-headed parents of my friend, Niki, and so if it was okay for Niki to go to Mexico, it was okay for me. As for MJ’s parents, vacationing with five adolescent girls each on the edge of a newfound freedom was likely not the ideal, but they were nonetheless amazing during that trip, granting us just the right amount of freedom to (mostly) keep our rebellion in check.
It could have been that trip that sparked our tradition of traveling together. After college when we were both living on the East Coast of the U.S., we’d take the Chinatown bus to visit each other a couple of times each year. She was relocated twice for her job over the next two years, and I flew to her with enthusiasm during both of her stints in the Philippines and in Colombia. Now that she’s back in the states and I’m abroad, she decided to take the opportunity to visit me. Lucky, lucky me.
We spent the first of her two week vacation in Taiwan. In Taipei, our host picked us up where an airport bus dropped us off, and she took us straight to a place that sold milk tea. We found her studio through airbnb, and I’ve got to say, it was better than a hotel and better than a hostel, though I have no problems staying in either. She was super helpful and genuinely interested in assuring we enjoyed our short time in her city.
We spent a day roaming around the Da’an District. We searched out a famous breakfast joint and ordered a tray of foods we couldn’t pronounce. We got into and out of a spat rather quickly, true to the form of our friendship, and then we got on another plane and flew to Penghu, a cluster of islands off the coast of Taiwan. Our first view of the ocean was picturesque, though we didn’t quite understand how we were going to learn to surf among such colossal waves as these:
But the scenery changed quickly, as scenery does during any kind of storm, and in our case, a typhoon. The very next day, winds lifted the sand in swirls that whipped across the beaches and assaulted our bare skin like the stings from a swarm of angry bees. Boats were out of commission, but scooters weren’t, and so we saw the islands from the inside instead of the outside. The wind made an adventure out of the simplest trip to the nearest 7-11, where we bought our daily beer, bourbon, and breakfast.
MJ took on the primary responsibility of scooter captain. I only had to sit back and keep from screaming or grabbing her arms when a big gust of wind would nearly blow us over. I trust her. She trusts herself. We were cool.
We weren’t chasing the same things in Taiwan that we chased ten years ago in Mexico. That goes without saying. Ten years ago, we rarely went to bed before sunrise, and most recently, we were often in bed before eleven. Ten years ago, we were dancing on tables. Now, we’re more likely to sit around those tables and play a game of hearts or bullshit. Ten years ago, we were chasing boys, chasing tequila shots. Today, we’re chasing answers to some of the same questions we’ll probably have when we’re rocking on a porch together recalling stories of our youth. (Though I bet we’ll still be sipping bourbon). As we’re both pretty free at this point in our lives (no kids, no relationship, no mortgage), we’re wondering, for ourselves and for each other ~ what’s next?
There came a point during our trip, the third day, I think, when we decided to get as many outtakes on camera as we could. We wanted images that would make us laugh for a long time after we were home. And I’d say we succeeded. Especially after we discovered that seaweed makes a killer mustache, and that it will stay in place with little effort if you stand directly into the wind. I’d say my favorite part of the trip was creating those photos, actually.
Well that, and egg pie.