The dreaded question came up today. I was sitting comfortably on my apartment balcony, up in the skies on the twelfth floor. I was munching lunch with one of my best buddies Johnny. I was in my Shanghai home. Home. We were talking about our friends, some new impulsively acquired pets that have turned up here (my housemates are crazy) and my plans for Taiwan. I leave on August 5th. Then it just rolled off his tongue: ‘So when are we going to have your leaving party?’ I was mortified. What ran through my mind? ‘Hell no! Stop! I don’t want a leaving party!’
You may think I’m crazy, cold, inconsiderate or a downright Scrooge but let me explain. If you’re a slow traveller like me, or leaving home to travel for the first time, it’s really hard to get up and actually go. On top of that, having a party to say ‘goodbye’ puts you in a room where you’re forced to proclaim ‘adieu’ to everything and everyone that you love. That’s too much for me. I’ll cry lots and feel really sad. It will be like a travel funeral.
So, here’s why I’m struggling and will leave Shanghai through the back door.
What can make your travel experiences unforgettable and magical are the people, not just the place. I’ve struggled with Shanghai and talked about it here before. However, as time has passed, I’ve met the most diverse, talented and warm-hearted people I know. Especially since booking my plane ticket outta here, my love and adoration for these folks has increased immensely.
I advocate solo female travel in Asia. That’s what this blog is about: Feeling confident, self-assured, assertive, strong. I’m not a warrior though. Part of me needs these friends with me, by my side, a lot. Suddenly, Facebook, Skype and emails are not enough. I only wish I had a backpack big enough for you but I’ve got all of this in it. I’m not prepared to tell my friends how much I love them in a room whilst I’m drunk. I’m just gonna tell them everyday from now on how much they rock.
For me, it’s the market vegetable lady who sells me mouthwatering goodness for ridiculously cheap. She’s always smiling and hard-working. Without fail, she throws extra coriander and spring onions into the bag when the shopping list is finished and we’ve sealed the deal.
It’s the security guards in my apartment complex. They’ve seen me come home at 4am, with some kind of wig on, dragging a mate in with me who is totally worse for wear. The truth is that they’re just as drunk as me, watching weird Chinese TV and gossiping about all the other residents.
It’s my Ayi (Chinese auntie cleaning lady) who comes and cleans our apartment every week. She doesn’t speak any English but her face and actions say everything – she loves us and we love her. I’m the Mum of the house but she’s the fairy Grandma. Johnny recently hired her. She asked for 30 quai an hour – he told her 40. That’s how amazing she is.
I’m the drummer who dressed up all summer as a superhero and rocked out with passionate, sweaty musicians.
I’m the oldest in the house and therefore the mamma. I’m the one who gives advice, decides what goes down and tells it to your face.
I’m the kindergarten English teacher who wakes up way too early to go and teach the most adorable and loving children I have ever met.
I’m the Burlesque dancer who everyone loves to have dinner parties with because they get dessert: me and my dance routine.
I’m the travel blogger who went on a date and found it so boring, all I could think about was going home and blogging more. I love blogging!
I talked about never wanting a house and why you have to leave home and travel but things aren’t so clear cut. There is a safety and calmness in knowing what your routine is, where you can get your favourite food, how to use the local transport and sleeping in your own bed. Starting fresh over and over again can become tiresome for some travellers: a new job, a new home and new friends takes a lot of energy. All I can say is, I’m a travel Jekyll and Hyde. I like to be pushed and tested and once I’m too familiar with something, it’s time for my next challenge. I still have a lot of energy!
People, cultures and countries are increasingly saying ‘hello’ and jumping right into each others’ gardens. It’s fantastic! Now, I don’t just have friends in London but everywhere! I never could have imagined as a child, before the internet even existed, that I would have friends from America, India, Korea, Japan etc. The list goes on. Facebook, Skype and Gmail may not be as wholesome as talking to someone face to face but it’s still a brilliant bonus. I’m also still meeting up with friends years down the line, in countries we’ve both never been to. I love it!
In return I’d like to say, you kick ass and I love you. Let’s hang out and don’t you dare give me a leaving party. Every day from now on, let’s do something really cool together. When I leave, I’m going to just go on a long trip before we say hello again.