Journey, by definition, is the act of travelling from one place to another. The journey I have been on for 19 years is not merely marked by some spatial displacement; it is also one of transcendence. I’ve traveled with different intentions—academic, leisure, a spontaneous getaway—but what I always leave with is a rewarding confrontation. A confrontation between what I thought and what I experienced. The sights, sounds, textures and interactions stimulate my shell of thoughts. What is left, is real; what is left, is raw; what is left, is so much more.
24.9936° N, 121.3010° E. Photo courtesy of Terry Chen.
Taoyuan, the city I grew up in, has always been a sanctuary. I come back to this city and I am cradled by my family. It wasn’t until the spring of 2018 that I got a chance to explore my city alone for the first time. The city no longer solely meant family. I saw the steam rushing out of traditional sweets that were fresh out of the oven. I smelled the thick incense escaping the sophisticated hollow designs of the temple. I brushed past busy pedestrians and nonchalant ah-mas, or grandma in Taiwanese. I trod with my own steps, unraveling parts of my home and parts of myself that I had not quite seen before. Taoyuan is so much more.
23.1291° N, 113.2644° E. Photo courtesy of Terry Chen.
邊哭邊追在巴士後面 or bawling and running after the bus is one of my freshest memories from when I first moved to Guangzhou. Fooled by my self constructed reality in which my aunt and grandma would be moving with us, I was distraught by their departure. As they stepped onto the bus, in the corner of their eyes, my aunt and my grandma saw from the window a tiny shadow running towards them. I cannot pinpoint when my reluctance to see Guangzhou as a second home disappeared, although somewhere in my 13-year journey in this city the reluctance turned into acceptance, and acceptance turned into pride. Guangzhou is so much more.
50.0274° N, 19.2020° E. Photo courtesy of Terry Chen.
It felt like a time warp. I looked around, and it was as if I could see those innocent souls. I thought of the book, Hana’s Suitcase — the first book about World War II I had read. I was surprised that I did not expect myself to feel; the shock I got from reading about Auschwitz is nowhere comparable. Prior to my visit, Auschwitz seemed fictional as I could not imagine something so cruel to have happened in real life. Auschwitz lived in books and movies. But seeing it right in front of my eyes, I shuddered: less than 100 years ago, innocent people, with their fates demonically determined, occupied this exact space where I stood.
25.2048° N, 55.2708° E. Photo courtesy of Terry Chen.
Ancient civilization, artifacts, mummies, pyramids, pharaohs. These are some of the most common associations people have of Egypt, and they were some of my only associations prior to my trip there. 16 friends, six days and infinitely many memories later, Egypt means something unique, something vibrant. Egypt is so much more.
30.0444° N, 31.2357° E. Photo courtesy of Terry Chen.
I genuinely thought Dubai was made of gold. The buildings, the roads, everything. My summer in Dubai suggested different things (though my wallet probably agrees that Dubai is, indeed, made of gold). Dubai is a city where I listened. I listened to the stories of my cab drivers; they each cut me a piece of their lives, perspectives and experiences as migrants. I got to learn about one driver’s 20 years in Dubai and another driver’s life back home. Their narratives combine to form the city for me where their diasporic identities, different lived experiences and unique lives all intermingle in one city. Dubai is so much more.
With every one of these journeys came a redefining of some kind, although redefine is not an accurate way to describe these processes. They are, unlike what the word suggests, not definitive. A city, an experience, a perspective and me; living through these journeys made them so much more.
Terry Chen is a contributing writer. Email them at email@example.com.