Goodbye Asia

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April 18th 2017
Published: November 8th 2017
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2017 has been a weird year for me. Weird and so turbulent that for the first time I have been absent from my travel blog for half a year. This blog entry is using the pictures of my trip to Coron in the Philippines in early April, although the content is not going to cover much about that specific trip. I anyhow think that pictures from this paradise on earth should be shown and make it out to the wonderful world of the internet. So dear readers, enjoy my snaps of this truly tropical paradise.

Anyhow, back to the topic of interest. I have decided to leave Asia after 7 long years living in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau. This specific travel blog was started by me when I backpacked (for the first time in my life) through China for 6 weeks in 2010. Reading my entries from then is a truly amazing flashback and feels like a dialogue with my younger, somehow more innocent self. I am typing this entry from a very different environment indeed. Sitting on a big, grey couch, raindrops beating on my window, I am living my life in a very new place on this amazing planet - the southern country of Dorset in good old Albion.

My original plan was to spend 4-5 years longer in Asia with my dear girlfriend THH but things happened and I decided that Europe is where I belong (yes, even with the Brexit). THH luckily found a new job in London and yes, we are still both in academia! In other words, it has not been easy but everything is falling into place again. For my dear readers this means that you are most likely going to see a little less of tropical paradises on this blog, although a month long journey to find my long-lost family is planned to Brazil for next summer! I want to use this specific blog entry though to reflect on my time in Asia and what it meant to me, what I have learned, how these long 7 years appear to me now.

I have had the idea to move to Asia a very long time before I realistically thought that I would ever be able to do so. The main reason was my still ongoing love-relationship with Japan, its traditions, madness, and genius. Ironically, Japan is one of the countries in Asia where I could not spend nearly as much time in as I wanted to. Instead, a carpenters' son from a minuscule village in South Tyrol ended up in Vietnam for more than a year. Looking back, that might as well have been the most incredible period of my life. Teaching classrooms with more than 100 students in the soaring heat, riding my scooter through tropical floods, spending hours and hours on a single coffee, getting used to inhumane levels of humidity and communist propaganda, and learning to live life in slow motion. Little did I know that Hong Kong would reverse my life for 180 degrees.

A PhD in the most urban, crowded, stressful and polluted place I had ever been. Living in an apartment of 7 square meters (including bathroom), dealing with cold, rude, emotionless people on a daily base. Getting used to and falling in love with the bright neon lights lighting up the world's most beautiful skyline. Starting to experience the slow drifting away only big-city dwellers get to know - a comfortable haven of indifference, individualism and solitude in the midst of many souls experiencing the same. A PhD office with 30 students where nobody says hello, smiles or cares who you are or what you do. Competition in the air, so dense you can cut it with a knife. University doctors trying to put me on Xanax for my initial attacks of anxiety - and the slow steps towards acceptance, resilience and a hardened mind - a souvenir so typical for Hong Kong I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Last, one year in Macau where finally THH and I could live together. An unlikely couple in an unlikely place, a fairy-tale came true. So true that it was slithering into a somehow dull routine in the very dull place that is Macau. The sudden choice to relocate to the UK, the sad goodbye from my girlfriend, the good news that she found a job to follow. The moments where I find myself in England, cooking Macanese minchi and Filipino pork-adobo, feeling strangely at home in a country I know nothing about.

Overall, I am very grateful for my experience in Asia. It was way more than I could have expected, considering my place of birth and exposure to the outside world. So, will I keep on traveling like mad and exploring the world? Of course I will. Will I stay in the UK for a long time? Who knows, although I am pretty sure that I won't leave Europe anytime soon. And there are the two of us, me and THH - and there is no way that this will change either. I am happy, I am lucky, I am ready to start anew - with a little Macanese minchi and Vietnamese coffee to take me back to the most incredible years of my life.

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