It seems like an eternity ago already, that I went to Asia for the first time. Prior to this trip, I’d spent 5 days in Melbourne on my own, but that was the extent of my solo adventures. I was 27, naive, and hungry for change.
When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was not a happy camper. I arrived by boat from Macau and it was quite a fall from grace to be checking out from the Hard Rock Hotel in the City of Dreams, Macau and checking into a backpackers in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. I’d gone from a luxurious king sized bed, room service and an even more luxurious bathroom to sharing a room with 5 other girls. There were 2 sets of bunk beds with 3 levels. Each bed had it’s own makeshift curtain for privacy. I opted for the bed on the ground since I was too scared to climb the ladder and sleep mere inches below the ceiling.
I remember going for a walk, not really knowing where I was going. I was continuously stopped by beggars and my goodness I was homesick. I walked into a small supermarket and spotted a box of Weetbix in the International Foods section. I don’t even eat Weetbix, but that familiar packaging forced tears into my eyes. What had I done? Why did I think that travelling alone in such a foreign part of the world was a great idea? I wanna go home.
I got back to my digs and hid behind my makeshift curtain. I think I cried myself to sleep that afternoon, this was the first time (and only time as it turns out) that I’d felt truly homesick. The kind of homesickness that buries itself in the bottom of your ribs. That you feel with every breath. The kind that questions every thought and action I took that lead me to this moment.
After a nap, I went out into the lounge area and got chatting to a couple of Australian girls. They shared their stories about Hong Kong and how much they loved it. I described my experience with the beggars and they said I was just unlucky because they hadn’t encountered any of that. Hearing those familiar accents, and positive stories about this city gave me the motivation I needed to shake off this funk.
Over the next few days I made numerous friends and got up to all kinds of mischief. Wild nights at Lang Kwai Fong (night clubs), getting caught in the rain at the top of Victoria Peak, eating all kinds of weird food, laughing until the sun comes up.
On my last night in Hong Kong, I took time to reflect. I went to a quiet bar on my own, ordered shisha and a cocktail, and gave myself time to just sit back and think about everything I’d done over the 3 weeks leading up to that point. It was in this moment that I finally felt comfortable in my own company. The fear had gone. I was happy.
I ended up leaving that bar with someone, then proceeded to ditch him when he tried to take me to a red light district. I went back to Lang Kwai Fong and danced until dawn. I met someone incredible, then I bolted when he went to the bathroom. I had no sleep and I almost missed my flight. I cried in the taxi to the airport in part because I didn’t want to leave and partly because I was so afraid of missing my flight.
My adventures have certainly evolved since that trip. I found an inner strength on that trip that I don’t have the language to describe. I haven’t felt homesick like that since. And despite the emotions I felt on that trip, it hasn’t put me off, nor has it filled me with any regrets.
Travel is one thing that you can invest in, that you’ll never regret. Even if things don’t go according to plan, you’ll still learn from it, and look back it fondly.