I have not bathed properly in several days. I jump in and out of the shower quickly because it’s a hostel shower. I then spend the day sweating. My skin feels gross. Thank GOD no one knows me. I feel the need to apologize to people sitting next to me on a bus for more than a few seconds. I am RANK.
Yesterday evening, I had arrived at my hostel in Lantau Island. To get there, I had to take an hour long subway ride, then an hour long bus ride, then walk for 20 minutes to the hostel. The bus ride was spectacular, going up and down the lush green mountains of Lantau Island. The rain made all of the leaves glisten and the air, although damp, felt crisp and clean. By the time I got to the Lantau Peak where my hostel was, it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. The Big Buddha greeted me, and that was it. The people had cleared out for the evening. There was a couple who kept their store open for the hostelers – dinner of chips, hello. After sprinting up the hill to the hostel and to warmth, I felt gross. My clothes were damp, I was hungry, and all I wanted to do was have a pity party for one. This is the problem with traveling solo – everything is great and awesome and wonderful. Until it’s not. And then you just want to complain. And moan. And be miserable. All alone. I was feeling pathetic and quite enjoying wallowing in self pity.
This was until I met Linda and this made me have a “buck up” moment. Linda had crossed over that line from rank and gone way into RUGGED territory. She was baller and I looked at her with envy, jealous of her awesomeness.
We began to chat as I was pretending to read my book on the balcony but really just people watching the family below trying to start a bonfire in the fire pit for the hostel. The rain had stopped. The night was pitch black. You could see the stars. Linda marched up to a towel hanging on the banister. It was semi-dry, she seemed a little frustrated by that, but folded it up, and sat down and just started talking.
Her story was amazing.
“So what brings you to Lantau?”
“Well, I’m from the Netherlands. And I got bored. So I got on my bicycle. And biked to Beijing.”
“Excuse me, WHAT?”
“Yes, I think it’s something like 12,000 kilometers. I biked through Iran. The people there are lovely. And then I just biked to Beijing. Was going to bike here to Hong Kong but the pollution was a bit bad, so I decided to take a train instead. That’s me over there in the tent.”
“So you biked through Iran? And all through the desert in the west of China?”
“Yes. It was quite fun. And you can do it quite cheap too. Sometimes I wouldn’t find a place to stay so I would take my satchels on my bike and hook the ends of my mosquito net to one of the four satchels and my bike handle bars and make a mini-tent for myself. It was quite beautiful to do that in Iran.”
I was amazed. Stunned. Shocked. Impressed.
This made me snap out of it quite quickly. I had eaten a nice bag of Western chips, I was sleeping in a bed, I was in a hostel with a shower, I had plans to be back in Hong Kong Island the next day. And my apartment in Shanghai was waiting for me in two days.
The next morning, I tried to embody the “Linda spirit.” I got up early, took a hike down to the fishing village of Tai O. On the way down the trail, I saw monasteries nestled in the mountains with nothing but trees around them. There were wild cows walking on the streets.
No one had arrived since none of the buses were running yet and the morning sun made the water shine. It was sheer beauty and I had to stop many times on the trail down to just take a moment to take a mental snapshot. It was beautiful and I was so grateful to have this moment. My two feet had taken me far and to these phenomenal places. It was just me and my thoughts and no worries. I could do what I wanted, stop when I wanted, go when I wanted, explore, experience, LIVE. It was great and made me realize how wonderful this year is and all that I can look forward to.
So while I may still be very much in the “rank” group and never be able to quite get that rough skin ruggedness that “Bike to Beijing Linda” had achieved quite naturally and successfully, I had a newfound appreciation for the traveling lifestyle and all the excitement that comes with not knowing what will happen next, but being totally one-hundred-percent OK with that.