26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
With a heavy heart, I co-operated in giving and throwing away, selling and packing up everything I owned at the time.
Only a few people we knew believed we could pull it off.
I understood how hard it was for family and friends to understand how we could just drop everything and give up our secure, relatively luxurious life for the unpredictable road ahead, challenging the world and backpacking through places most considered dangerous!
“I found our tickets. We’re flying out of SeaTac International Airport,” he said, pausing afterwards to extract the full effect.
“We stopover in Seoul.” Ammon continued.
Chapter #8 “Arrival”
Throughout the nearly forty-hour flight to Hong Kong, I had expected to hear myself screaming hysterically at any moment – Get me out of here. Get me off this plane now!
“Well, we might as well get comfy,” I heard Ammon advise.
“You can come out now,” Bree laughed, demonstrating how safe it was with a big gulp of seemingly harmless air.
The whole street seemed to be full of screaming ‘pick me! pick me!’ florescent signs.
It was as small as the closet under the stairs in “Harry Potter.” It contained nothing more than a bed, which was all that could physically fit in the space. My eyes widened involuntarily as I took in the sad sight. So, this is my new life.
Chapter #9 “The Conqueror”
Sandra was one of Ammon’s closest friends, though he often refused to admit he had any. We learned quickly how friendly and positive Sandra was – the kind of person who celebrates her birthday by buying you lunch.
We were introduced to a wide range of traditional songs and food as well as to Mr. Buddha in my very first incense-permeated monastery.
From a distance, the city looked a lot like Vancouver, with its high-rises, busy streets and waterfront activities. Its “Hongcouver” moniker and its incredible diversity partially explained why I felt as comfortable as I did there.
The daily markets crammed between tiny alleys bursting with goods of all kinds amazed me, but we were being set free now, underway with all sails set, strong winds blowing, and a whole world of possibilities opening up to us.
We eagerly followed our bubbly new friend around the city as the days raced by, on foot and riding the occasional water ferry and double-decker city buses.
City View Hong Kong
All along, I had been expecting some kind of “Big Bang” type of reaction. I resented the trip so deeply and yet, despite the months of foreboding, it had not yet “hit” me. I was still waiting for some sort of physical manifestation of my ambivalence about this trip, like a quake in my knees that would send me toppling to the ground, or something – anything! I wanted to be shocked! To be surprised! Where were my fireworks?!
I knew that the farther we travelled inland, the farther we’d get from an airport and civilization.
I almost began to feel ripped off about the lack of a significant personal breakdown of any kind, though we did, by sheer happenstance, see the nightly firework and laser light show from Hong Kong’s seawall on our last night in the city.
Hong Kong by night.
When we had completed her four-day, introductory crash course to the marvels of Sandra’s birth city, the five of us said goodbye at the front entrance to the subway station.
The subway was nearly empty when we got on, but it got busier and busier as we passed more stops. What else did I expect in the most populous country in the world – 1.3 billion people had to get where they were going somehow, obviously!?
After crossing the border into Shenzhen on mainland China, we were drenched by a tropical storm as we transferred from the subway to a bus.
I squinted through the droplets to study my new surroundings. Rain flooded the streets and the open shopping mall we passed.
Shenzhen was another city seemingly made up of lots of people in heels and business suits walking briskly, but typically, they still seemed to find time to gawp at the spectacle our foreign parade evidently presented.
“This is the biggest city you’ve been to,” Ammon told us. “More than ten million people live here. Do you realize that’s almost a third the population of all of Canada just in this one city?!”
Chapter #10 “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”
‘This is like a hospital on wheels,’ I exclaimed, looking down the aisle of bunk beds that reminded me of military barracks with their crisp, tightly folded linen.
There was an ancient Jackie Chan film playing on a TV suspended from the roof in the centre of the bus. The flashing blues and whites of the TV were enough to light our faces dimly. I was surprised Bree wasn’t glued to it until I realized it was all in Chinese.