Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cycling around Taiwan: Epilogue

I've added this epilogue because I need a venue in which to talk (waffle on) about the trip: its effect on us; its significance; its legacy; and several other random thoughts.

It has now been almost three months since we completed our circumnavigation of Taiwan and returned to Tainan.  Little did I know that my odyssey had only just begun and that it would take me this long to recreate the journey as a map and as a series of blogs.  I can honestly say now that I am glad that this project is over and that I can remove it from my mental list of things to do.  As I became aware of the amount of work involved in this project it acquired a weight in my mind, a weight that became a burden as the weeks passed by and I trudged on down the digital page leaving arial-font footprints.

I have always owned a bicycle and been a casual cyclist but only since living here in Taiwan has my casual involvement evolved into something more serious.  My bicycle had now become a vehicle for escape from home for a weekend getaway, capable of carrying camping equipment and all the essentials for a prolonged absence from the conveniences of home.  It has also become more of an expression of ethics; I ride a bike because it is quiet, produces no air pollution (arguably), and symbolizes freedom from dependence on energy from elsewhere.  Cycling has also become closely associated with fitness in my own mind and riding my bicycle to work almost every day, it easily constitutes my staple unit of exercise.

This tour around Taiwan is the most significant bicycle journey I have ever made.  (Andrea and John would say the same.)  It is also one of the greatest adventures I have ever had.  Thankfully, Taiwan is small enough to make possible its circumnavigation within the span of the longest vacation available to us (Chinese New Year).  So now that I have cycled around Taiwan I cannot help but set my sights higher and I have begun to cultivate aspirations to other grand cycle tours.  I would love to be able to cycle around Australia and now that I have had my Taiwanese experience the gap between desire and reality is all the shorter.

You need good friends for a trip like this.  John, Andrea, and I had our disagreements and arguments.  I think that Andrea and I are fortunate that John is exceptionally easy-going and rarely gets annoyed at us for anything.  He was probably as good company for eleven days as we could have hoped for.  I can't think of anyone else we know in Taiwan with whom we could have integrated so smoothly.  Andrea and I had our own arguments with each other along the way and I wouldn't have expected things to be otherwise.  But we are better and stronger for it and we have probably covered some issues that won't need to be revisited again in the future, being either resolved or redundant through changes in our behavior or our thinking.

More than anything else, perhaps, our journey around Taiwan looms so large in my own imagination.  It was a grand undertaking, my first really big challenge in a way, and hopefully the precursor to greater challenges and accomplishments.

We didn't pick up any souvenirs in which we can imbue the spirit of our journey and which will forever mark the accomplishment for us.  Instead, we have a collection of photos taken on the trip and our own memories of the experience.  Hopefully this blog will remain intact for some time to come as a digital memorial to our accomplishment.

This journey required an investment of our time but we received dividends of time in return:

Time to think.

Time to reflect.

Time to admire and appreciate the world around us.

Time to be.


Anonymous said...

"I cannot help but set my sights higher"

I wouldn't degrade Taiwan. I think Taiwan's diverse and challenging topography and climate make it on par with other famed routes in Europe and America. Taiwan's passes are more challenging than the Alps as Taiwan has less distance from sea level to 3200 meters.

Adrian Brown said...

Thanks for your comment. I'll be posting some pictures shortly from my cycle straight across the central Taiwan mountain range, up and over those passes you mention.

Richie said...

Hey Ado, Nice new look eh! R

Adrian Brown said...

Yeah, I like it. I know I'm participating in Google's rise to domination of our collective information future but they make such nice-looking things. Thanks Richard.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Singapore, and droves of my countrymen head to nearby Taiwan for short holidays, usually just to stuff their faces, shop a little and go home. Each time I ask a friend how his/trip to Taiwan was, I'm used to seeing an indifferent shrug accompanied by a "meh".

As such, I've never really felt the urge to make the trip.

Your account of your round the island cycle and your photographs have changed that. I am now dead keen to head to Taiwan to do the same round island route that you have done.

That coupled with the fact that you can't get high end Giant bikes cheaper anywhere else in the world.

Cheers mate.

Adrian Brown said...

Thanks anonymous Singaporean guy. Glad to have inspired a cycle-touring and I appreciate your feedback.