Solitary man on a train
Neal O’Grady – @NealOGrady

Solitary man on a train

Thoughts induced by Taiwan

A solitary man, sitting on a train in a land faraway from his own. A land no less or more spectacular than the one he left behind, but profoundly different. The terrain is covered with lush greenery, peaks, rivers, rice fields, cliffs, and valleys. Spiders are larger than his fist, with twine like webs. The people nicer and more generous than the average person back home despite having far less to call their own. Everyday is filled with moments that make him stop and think, or just flat out laugh because of how different and seemingly weird they are. Random dance halls under overpasses. Garbage trucks playing ice cream truck music. Advertisements with white faces photoshopped onto Asian bodies. Every item being wrapped in its own plastic bag, including drinks. Those drinks filled with tiny black gelatinous balls, which have a strange, yet addicting, texture. The bakeries filled with pastries that are then stuffed full with meat and sweet paste.

‍Random dance floor under an overpass, complete with music, bar, and couches.

This man can't help but ask himself, at times, what the hell he's doing in a place like this. Each time he does, however, he quickly remembers why. These weird moments remind him exactly why he's here. To challenge his beliefs, and challenge the status quo of going through the daily grind, buying shit he doesn't need, and hoping one day to find someone who can put up with his shit as much as he can put with theirs. He's here to collect a series of weird stories, ranging from amazing to terrible. The moments where he realizes how beautiful life is, finds where he belongs in the world, discovers what makes him tick, or maybe even meet his next best friend. The moment he shits his pants, has everything he owns stolen, has a night of homelessness, or suffers from a disease that shatters him to his core.

One lingering question on the mind of this man is why isn't life like this when you live somewhere. This endless supply of weird interactions and moments, and this devil may care, come what may mentality. Thousands of people per year probably come to his home city and have these weird moments just as he is now, but why can't they be achieved without being so far out of his comfort zone that he learns that the only way to feel sane is to become comfortable with continuous discomfort.

Being in the way, not knowing what to do, where to go, what anyone is saying, what he's actually eating, or how to act. The answer, he supposes, is being open and giving time to allow things to happen. This man, back home, and everyone else on this planet is surrounded by thousands, if not millions of people, all looking for these beautiful, fleeting moments, but allow the daily grind, and developed social lives to prevent them from happening.

Consuming alcohol, and its similar intoxicating substances, are probably the closest we get to achieving these moments of openness and discomfort. The social barriers fall away, we stop focusing on the other shit in our lives, feel weird in our own skins, and allow weird shit to happen. This is probably why we all are drawn to these substances; they often lead to some of the craziest of stories. The only challenge is whether we can remember them later. Not the healthiest of ways perhaps, so hopefully along the way the lifestyle will become engrained.

This man, of course, was me a few days ago, when I wrote it. I had just left Taipei and was having my first true day of travelling solo since leaving home. Since then I've rediscovered my love for motorcycles, learned that I fear very little, made a new long-term friend, and found one of the most beautiful places in the world. I've also realized that life is better lived in stereo. Despite considering myself a well-established introvert, I just can't enjoy the solo days nearly as much as those filled with others. It's what made HK such a great time, and what will make every other moment of my life to come truly worth experiencing.

‍Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

I'm now on my way back to Taipei, ready for a series of weird times before heading to South Korea. I'll discover the land of Samsung and Psy with a new, yet great friend; a fellow traveller from Germany whom I discovered in Taiwan. It's gonna be a hell of a time.

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