Traveling Alone: Taiwan
Post by Molly Ronan, who recounts her experiences traveling alone in Taiwan, China. Click here to learn about the many opportunities to travel abroad at Babson.
I studied abroad for a semester in Shanghai but took a week trip to Taiwan during the Chinese October Holiday. I traveled to Taiwan with my friend Roxy, but one day she was pretty sick and couldn’t go out anywhere. Not wanting to waste one of the few days I had, I took the suggestion of the family I was staying with and got on a bus tour to Lion’s Head Mountain. The mother of the family took me to the bus stop and she told the bus driver that I wanted to buy a day pass and then I was off.
Now once I was on the bus, I was excited, not really nervous. Traveling alone is a kind of adrenaline that you don’t get from anything else. You are in complete control. You can do whatever you want without having to consult what anyone else thinks. You are responsible for what happens to you. It’s pretty amazing. It may not sound like it but to me, it was possibly the best part of the trip. The story I tell the most often. I still feel excited thinking about it.
The first stop was Beipu. When I was getting off the bus the bus driver was trying to make sure I knew that this was Beipu, not Lion’s Head Mountain. He thought I was getting off too early. But I nodded and said “hao de” which is basically my limited Chinese saying, “It’s okay, I know.” I get off in this little town in front of a temple and the place looks pretty abandoned. It takes me a while but I finally find the main street with some stores.
The woman I was staying with had told me to try this kind of tea and dessert which she had texted to me in English and Chinese. So I go up to a restaurant that looks like it sells what I’m looking for. I show the woman working there the text on the phone to ask if she has that. She looks at it and then takes my phone and brings it inside the store so I follow her. I see that she is showing it to a younger girl who speaks English! So the girl says to me “So you want to drink our tea and have this dessert?” And I responded with “Yes, please!” So she tells me to sit down and then I am served my tea and dessert! It was delicious! At this point I was pretty proud of myself for getting what I wanted without being able to speak the language. I was lucky there was that girl there who understood what I wanted! Plus it is so rewarding to communicate successfully on my own.
Next though was rushing back to the bus stop so I could make sure I got to Lion’s Head Mountain on time since the bus only came every hour. When we finally got to the mountain the bus driver pointed me in the direction of the information center. I got a map and decided on a trail and then I was off.
Now I was really by myself. Once I left the information center I did not pass one person on the trail. So it was just me and nature. And it was so great. The hike wasn’t too hard, but to me it was pretty tiring. There were a lot of steps but it was also exhilarating. It was so gorgeous. I have never done anything like that: hiking by myself in a foreign country. Not only did it feel good just to be moving and exercising, it felt amazing to be in nature after being in the huge city of Shanghai for the past month, and just be alone and know that I was okay. I was in a foreign country hiking a mountain and I was so okay. I was doing it and I was good. I was capable. I actually did it. Now I can say I hiked a mountain in Taiwan by myself.
These are the moments that really define a study abroad experience. It builds confidence in a way that nothing else can. It allowed me to take a chance I never would have otherwise. Now whenever I doubt myself or worry, I just remind myself that I hiked a mountain by myself in Taiwan.