Category Archives: Beginnings And Ends

Long Way Home – Acknowledgements

***Now that the trip has ended, I will soon be using this website to start a collection of women’s travel stories. Stay tuned! I’ll be looking for contributors.

“Well I stumbled in the darkness
I’m lost and alone
Though I said I’d go before us
And show the way back home
Is there a light up ahead
I can’t hold onto very long
Forgive me pretty baby but I always take the long way home
Come with me, we can take the long way home
Come with me, together, we can take the long way home”
– Long Way Home, Tom Waits/ Norah Jones (song)

An incredible number of people were part of this journey and I have all of you to thank. This trip has been yours. From the ones who first inspired me to travel to the strangers who graciously accepted me into their homes, I am truly blessed with all your wisdom and grace.

A few people deserve special thanks:

Sally P, for encouraging me despite all my doubts and fears, for all your wise words and pep talks, for always cheering me up, and for always being my number one fan.

My MITOC family – Rachel, Anna D, Aaron, Ben S, Thaddeus, Michelle, Jon, Francis, Nadine, Natasha, Jess L, Michele, Maddie, the Gilbertsons, everyone who worried about me, checked up on me, followed me, and flew to Istanbul to see me. There’s so many of you and you’re the best friends in the whole wide world!

My previous bike companions – Orian, Nate, Quinn, Karen, Ariel, Seager for teaching me all I know about bike touring and inspiring my first bike trips

The bike companions I had on this trip – (Virtual companions) Sage Cohen, Jana and Alex, for guiding my way through the vast expanse of Mongolia. (Actual companions) Mehdi and Mahyar in Armenia, Moshii in Kyrgyzstan, Marko in Kyrgyzstan.

Enesh in Turkmenistan and Ulugbek in Uzbekistan – for becoming my sister and my brother

Sara B – for always making me laugh! Crystal – for your wonderful friendship all these years

Sean Collier and Kate Goldstein – for teaching me the important things in life; the thought of you will forever bring smiles to people. This trip is dedicated in your memory ten times over.

Brother and Philip – for your web and tech savy skills (and dealing with my quirky eating habits for 27 years).

Dad – for being a traditional yet non-traditional Asian parent in all the best ways, and Nancy – for taking care of Dad

Last but not least, Mom, Dai Yi, and Po po — the most courageous women in my life who have struggled through life’s hardships with a love and determination that words can only superficially describe. I know I can be strong because I know I am part of you.

Inshallah, I shall see you all again soon and for many years to come…somewhere on my long way home.

I Drift Like a Cloud – Epilogue

“I drift like a cloud,
Across these venerable eastern lands,
A journey of unfathomable distances,
An endless scroll of experiences…
Lady Zhejiang here we must part,
For the next province awaits my embrace.
Sad wanderer, once you conquer the East,
Where do you go?” 
- Tom Carter, China: Portrait of a People (book)

After finishing the trip in December, I spent January to April getting back into normal life in Boston. Though life on the road was exciting, I was very much ready to be home. I could finally let my guard down completely and not have to worry about where I was going to sleep that night. I wouldn’t have to repeat the same conversation of where I was from and where I was going to every person I saw. Some people who start traveling remain vagabonds for the rest of their lives, but I have found that friends on the road can never replace my community at home. Being amongst friends and family, feeling close with others, having deep conversations, going to the movies, hiking in the woods–normal things–these were all things I missed. And most of all, I missed being a nerd. It was my delight then, when in April I found a new exciting job in San Diego and engrossed myself once again with plugging calculations, being awkward, and arguing about science.

Now that I am back to “normal working life”, most of the time it feels like all a dream. Every once in a while, there is something that tries to convince me that it wasn’t–that the person who rode that bike was indeed myself–but often it’s not convincing enough. When Ulugbek showed up at New York JFK airport, I still wondered how I could have possibly met him in Nukus, in the desert, speaking Chinese with a bunch of Chinese construction guys. What?! Nonsensical.

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Temporary Post from New York

Hello Readers,

Greetings from New York! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Between visiting friends and family and getting over jetlag, I had little opportunity to post. But in the past few days, I realized that many readers had started worrying that I got kidnapped or something in Mongolia. Well, friends, I am happy to announce that I made it safely to Beijing on November 6 and eventually back to the US.

I will provide a more detailed update soon. In the meantime, thank you for all your kind and encouraging words. I cannot express how much they have meant to me. Perhaps it is not possible to express these emotions in words, because it is something so universal and deep, something that transcends language, something to do with love. Though I had little space on the blog to write about it, you–my friends, family, and strangers I met along the way–have inspired me more than anything else in this world.

Last week, the brother I met in Uzbekistan, Ulugbek, arrived in New York to start a new life. I suppose after 8 months of traveling, I came back to America to start a new life too.

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People Get Ready

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord,
oh yes we just thank the Lord…”
 People Get Ready, Aretha Franklin (cover)

 

The moment of truth is finally here. In 4 hours, I will be on my flight to Istanbul. The last week has been an emotional one, filled with the joy of spending time with friends but also the sorrow of saying goodbye. The past few years in Boston was the first time in my life I’ve felt like part of a community with the most wonderful friends in the world and it is hard to leave.

I had and still have my doubts and fears. Was this the right time? Should I have waited another year–so that I could have gained another year of work experience, or waited until my friends also had time off? When it became clear that I would be traveling alone on this trip, I was very afraid for myself traveling solo as a woman.

But in the end, I decided, if it wasn’t now, when would it be? If I waited another year, would something else have come up that would thwart my plans? I had been dreaming about this trip for 3 years now, and if it was going to happen, now is the better than living in anticipation, and now is better than never.

As for traveling solo, I thought about the women that inspire me: Annie Londonderry – who cycled around the world in 1896 starting from the Boston State House on a Penny Farthing; Alexandra David-Neel – who spent her life traveling through Tibet in the 1800s; Freya Stark, a British writer who traveled throughout the Middle East and published many travel accounts; and Yuki – a Japanese women who motorbiked solo from Japan to South Africa and whom I met in Kenya. I also promised myself that I would stop and come home if I ever felt unsafe or my gut told me to stop.

With the journey looming over me, I remember the words of my favorite poem:

Be grateful for freedom to see other dreams
Bless your loneliness as much as you drank of your former companionships
All that you are experiencing now will become moods of future joys
So bless it all.
 Time is now a gift for you
 A gift of freedom
To think and remember and understand
The ever perplexing past
And to re-create yourself anew
In order to transform time. 
Live while you are alive
Learn the ways of silence and wisdom
Learn to act, learn a new speech
Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit
Learn to free yourself from all things that have moulded you
And which limit your secret and undiscovered road.
Fear not, but be full of light and love
Fear not but be alert and receptive
Fear not but act decisively when you should
Fear not but know when to stop
Fear not for you are loved by me
Fear not for death is not the real terror
But life–magically–is.
So fear not, my friend
The darkness is gentler than you think
Be grateful for life as you live it
And may a wonderful light always guide you on the unfolding road.
To an English Friend in Africa
by Ben Okri