Yesterday I was lying in bed reading and I suddenly got a pang of nostalgia for Taiwan. As I turned the page and tried to focus my mind back onto the words, memories and images of Taipei kept popping into my head. I messaged my old room mate to tell him I missed him and that was when I realised: it was exactly three years ago to the day that I moved to Taiwan. My heart knew. Oh my, how time flies. And yet it’s funny the way my heart still longs for that land like no other. I’m not joking when I say I must have a bit of Taiwan inside me. Surely my great great great grandfather was Taiwanese or something. He had to have been. Is it natural to have such a strong connection with a place that isn’t your home?
Whenever anyone mentions Taiwan, my heart instantly beats faster. I truly love that island. The year that I spent there was one of the most special times in my life. It’s probably the last time I will have been so free. My days were spent cycling on my dusty, pink bicycle, to and from class. My mind was submerged in a world of Chinese characters constantly and I began to struggle to formulate coherent English sentences. I felt so at home and yet so far away too. And the connections I made with people, the friendships, they were real and filled with so much understanding. Not only was my brain undergoing a mental transformation to fill it with as much Chinese as it could possibly fit (occasionally throwing out the odd English word or two that it no longer felt the need for), my heart was also on a journey too. I was growing, and faster than I could have imagined. There were mornings when I would wake up and panic. I was 25, single and back in university. Then I would get up and remember that I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was exactly where I wanted to be, where I needed to be. There is no way that Taiwan and all its lovely people crept into my life for no reason. I was in my place and it felt more than right.
I miss it so much. I dream of moving back and navigating those old, familiar alleyways on my pink bicycle again, but sometimes it’s not the same when you go backwards. Things change, people move on and part of me really believes that it was that one year in particular in Taiwan that was magical. It was the people I met at that time, the journey we embarked on together that made it so special. There’s only so much hopping back and trying to recreate the good times that you can do before you realise that everything is as it should be. You can go back as much as you want but you can never get those exact same feelings in the exact same place back again. They were unique to the moment, and no moment is ever the same.
Taiwan will always be my magical land. Since that year I have been back three times and all were as enchanting as the first, but they were different. And I accepted that. I know I will live there again one day. I know that deep inside my heart. And it will be a totally new and different experience, and that is OK. As much as I loved my year in Taiwan, I wouldn’t want to try and repeat it anyway. It was perfect in all its highs and lows, and I will forever cherish every single second of it.
Taiwan, I miss you.