In the summer of 2014 I was assigned to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand for my spring 2015 Go Global exchange program. Then the country had its second military coup in eight years, which made it a less than ideal destination for my first time leaving North America. So I jumped through hoops and was reassigned to the special administrative region of Hong Kong.
Within weeks of my departure the press was heavy with stories of the Yellow Umbrella movement.
When I arrived, I was dazzled by the lights of the most vertical city in the world. I had heard a great deal about the Pearl of the East from my classmates and friends around UBC and Vancouver, but none of it had prepared me for the five months of subway navigating, escalator or elevator climbing, and tropical exploration.
By the time I finished my exams I had enough savings for approximately ten weeks of hostel-hopping, street food munching, backpacking fun. I was against flying, so I wound up taking a series of trains, buses, taxis, tuk tuks, ferries, cyclos, scooters and motorcycles all the way to Singapore. I made stops in Macau, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
I met a great deal of people from a great many places, was exposed to three very different religions, took 19,000 pictures over seven months, all without a single case of regret, except for the two minor cases of food poisoning. I could never recommend enough the eye-opening power of travel.