When I meet new people I am often asked what brought me to Taiwan. I usually tell them the easy answer that I came to teach English for a couple years in order to pay off my student loan but decided to stay once I met my boyfriend. The longer answer usually includes my sudden decision to move to Taiwan and booked my flight only a couple of weeks before its departure. The truth is that it had actually been building up over a long period of time and was only truly decided in the moment I booked the ticket.
Throughout the five years it took me to finish my undergrad, I had been itching to get out of Canada. At the time, I didn’t intend to officially move to another country, just take a long trip until I was ready to settle down somewhere in the only country I thought was good enough to call home. Like my siblings, the travel bug bit me at a very young age and I enjoyed taking long trips as often as I could. Once I started university I thought of it as a ball and chain, restricting me to one place for too long.
While I was attending the University of Lethbridge, a friend recommended I read a very popular book at the time, Eat, Pray, Love. Stay with me. It’s a cliché, I know, but it certainly didn’t make matters any better for me. I craved a change. A big change.
In my final year of my undergrad, I was dating a guy who initially helped me forget about my wanderlust. Our relationship started off with curious attraction and sweet gestures but over time it had become obvious that it was destined for failure. I was growing increasingly unhappy and found that I was dreaming more of getting away from everything that was familiar to me. Then one night we watched Eat, Pray, Love together and within the first few minutes of the movie I knew that I was going to be an awkward mess once the credits rolled. One of my friends thinks I’m ridiculous when I say that I felt I had a lot in common with Elizabeth Gilbert (along with almost everyone else in the world who picked up her best-selling novel), but it was enough to send me spiraling out of control toward making a series of decisions that I had only entertained in my mind. Perhaps needless to say, when I ended the relationship, things did not go smoothly, and in the end all communication was cut off between us. If there’s anything that can really kick-start a major shift in life, it’s the ending of a relationship, especially one that had gone terribly sour.
For the following six months, I focused on completing my final classes and, in an exhausted and noncommittal fashion, looked into my options for teaching English in countries around the world. I was torn. On one hand, I felt the need to get far away to experience adventure, discover new options, and learn new skills. On the other hand, I dragged my feet as I had a comfortable, albeit temporary, job on campus (as a painter), and the thought of actually moving to another country scared me just enough to not put in too much effort.
Everything changed for me one evening when I met my good friends, Luc and Breanna, for dinner at O-Sho, a popular local sushi restaurant. It was the last time I would see them for a year or two as they were moving to Taiwan to teach English in Kaohsiung. They spoke about how excited they were and the amazing opportunities that were available for English teachers in Taiwan. It sounded fantastic, and I mused out loud how I wished I could do something like that instead of what I thought were my more realistic plans of finding a job with the government. That’s when they said, “Well, why don’t you join us? There’s a spare room in the apartment we’re moving into and you can help us with the rent.” For a brief moment, I thought their suggestion was absurd, but then it hit me. It was the perfect solution! I agreed right then that I would join them.
For the next two months, I began researching anything I could about Taiwan. I made the verbal commitment to moving to Taiwan before I even knew where the country was. Yet despite my ignorance, I insisted that I was going to call this foreign land my new home. As time went on, my family grew tired of me constantly talking about something I would never do. They insisted I start making more realistic plans and toss this silly idea in the same dark corner as all of my other unrealized dreams. So, in order to prove a point, I grabbed my mom’s iPad and booked a ticket for two weeks later. That was when their doubt that I would travel to Taiwan turned into seriously frustrated doubt that I would be prepared in two weeks.
Now, here I am in Taiwan, three years later. A lot has changed for me since I first arrived in this captivating country. The most significant change is that it has become home for me in so many ways. Before I arrived in Taiwan, Luc made a prediction about the direction my life would take. He said that I would fall in love with Taiwan, then fall in love with the most amazing guy in the world, and never leave. I think he may secretly be a prophet.