The collected writings of a Renegade Tourist

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Airport shuttle, 5:03 am

The same road that I've driven every day, passing the same houses, the zebra crossing with the orange light, the pizza place at the corner, the house covered in vines on the way up the hill; all so familiar, like home yet it's not. Every day for two months but now it's the last time. In a few hours I'll be sitting on a plane on my way home and it's unlikely I'll be back. I'm happy to leave, but also sentimental. It's strange, this may just be some insignificant village in the German countryside, a boring little town not worth caring about, but the place has gotten to me somehow, the tiniest part of me will miss it. Goodbye.

Road B327, Germany, 5:12 pm

The fog is so thick, I can barely see the road ahead of me, it's like driving through paint diluted in water. All I can see is the red glow from the tail lights of the car in front and the swirling mists, lit up by my head lights, bright white against inky darkness of the forest. Dry leaves keep falling from the branches above, mixing in with the fog as it flows around the car like smoke in the breeze, sweaping up and over windscreen or creeping along the sides, only just revealing the next few meters of asphalt. I concentrate, focusing on what little I can see of the white lines along the edges and that glow up ahead in order to not go flying off the road. Part of me thinks thi is crazy, wants to slow down, but part of me wants to stick to that other car, let it guide us through this soup like an ever moving beacon. I choose the latter and keep a steady pace, that red glow at a constant distance, but one thought keeps spinning through my mind: this is just ridiculous.

K├Ânigstrasse, Stuttgart, 5:07 pm

I'm on what I believe is the main shopping street in the city, it's wide but free of cars with shops and restaurants all along the sides. Despite being a fairly sizable city, all the shops are closed; the lights are on but the doors are locked and not a soul inside. Out in the street there are a few stragglers but otherwise it's deserted. At this hour, when the light has started to fade but the street lights have yet to turn on, the feeling of emptiness becomes profound, like the entire city is dead. And there, for a few moments, I flash back to the deserted airport with its long corridors and waiting halls nearly devoid of people. In the back of my mind I know that this is normal for Germany, but for a brief moment I can't help but think that this is due to the pandemic.

Country road in Baden-W├╝rettemberg, 7:09 am

It’s cold outside, only a few degrees above feezing. The sun has barely started to rise, giving the sky the merest hint of pre-dawn light, just enough to see the outline of landscape we’re driving through. All around us is a thick grey mist that creeps across the dark fields on the side of the road. We cut through the fog like a knife as we speed down the road, leaving a trail of clear air behind us. Our headlights burrow into the mist, illuminating a few meters of asphalt ahead of us and the odd roadside tree, before the … Read the rest

Guyan Waterfall, 4:03 pm

I stand just meters from the fall looking up at it. It is tall and narrow, the stream of water tumbling down a near vertical cliff, hitting little protrusions in the cliff face on the way down, sending a fine mist into the air. The mist catches the rays of the sun, forming a permanent rainbow that hovers in the air just above the the shallow little pool at the fall's base. The little gully where I stand lies in the shadow of the cliffs above and the air is filled with the rushing of the water. Outside, the landscape is bathed in sunlight, all green and bright and swelteringly hot, but here it's cool and calm with the soothing sounds of the water drowning out all other noise. As I stand there admiring the view, the excitement of successfully scrambling my way up the lower falls to this place slowly dissipates and I feel a calm settle over me. It's as if my mind has been emptied of all worries and negative feelings and I simply feel happy.

Teapot Mountain, 11:26 am

The trail is close to vertical, a narrow trench of bare gray rock leading up towards the summit, the sides of the cliff forming a sharp V-shape against the sky. The bottom of the trench is uneven, forming footholds here and there, and two thick, knotted ropes run down the sides for you to hold on to. I'm standing halfway up, waiting for the person in front of me to get around a particularly difficult section, thinking to take a photo but I realize this is not the time. My position is too precarious, swinging the pack off my back to retrieve the camera might throw me off balance, and besides I have people waiting below me. Instead I spend a few moments just taking in the strange feeling of standing here: the urge to continue moving upward, to keep pushing towards the end of the trail, mixed with the very real sense of danger in standing at this very spot, and the thrill that it brings. Normally I would wax poetic about the beauty of the surrounding landscape, but right here and now, that's it, nothing more.

Chang Gung Hospital, 8:45 am

Only one of the doors is open, the rest have been blocked, and a line of people are moving through it at slow but steady pace. Just inside, in the space between the two sets of doors, is a table with a line of automatic disinfectant dispensers. One by one the people in the queue get a squirt of disinfectant, a faint smell of alcohol rising into the air, and rub their hands together. They pass by a temperature check station, an IR camera on a tripod hooked to a computer, and into the entrance hall of the hospital. Inside they are met with a row of folding tables, set up like a temporary barrier. Each table holds a computer and behind it sits a nurse in purple gown, pink hair net, surgical mask and transparent face shield. The people spread out between these checking stations, handing over their ID cards as if they were at the passport control at the airport. Those who pass the ID check get a red stamp on their hands, almost like a nightclub though far less lighthearted, and are finally let through. I myself get the admittance stamp and can enter the hospital to do what I came for, I can only speculate about what happens to the ones who don't get it.

The Balcony, 12:08 am

I stand looking out over the seemingly sleeping city. There's a light breeze that makes it feel like the cold of the night air is creeping in through the gaps between my shirt buttons, and chill of the stone floor is seeping up through my socks. A new round of fireworks starts, I can hear the sharp cracks somewhere off to the right but they are hidden from view by the nearby buildings, all I can see is the colorful flashes of light on the surrounding facades. I stand there in the cold dark space of the balcony, the revelry and fireworks just on the edge of my consciousness, and feel that special kind of feeling that isn't quite loneliness but isn't really anything else either - clearing the mind from daily stresses and just absorbing the cool quite now, and yet, realizing somehow that you want to be where those unseen fireworks are. And that's the moment that I notice it, the fireworks are reflected on the windows of one of the buildings in the distance, the glass making the images ripple and become dreamy; a moment of beauty pierces my solitude and brings me back to reality. I listen to the fireworks for a few moments longer then let the cold drive me back indoors.

Dongao bay 4:12 pm

I thought I could go swimming but it's too dangerous. The beach slopes steeply down towards the water, and when a big wave comes sweeping in it's like a giant trough of water that empties then fills back up in matter of seconds. Though swimming is out of the question I still enjoy the feeling of waves washing over my feet, so I walk a few meters down the slope, let my feet get swallowed up by the pleasantly cool water while the afternoon sun warms my back. I hesitate for a moment, thinking about taking a few steps more, then another big wave comes rolling in and crashing onto the beach with tremendous force; white foam rushing forwards, the water rising from my knees to my chest in an instant, the force pushing me back at least a meter. Just as I recover my balance the water rushes out again, pulling at my legs, threatening to drag me with it. Behind it, a million little rocks come rolling down the beach, filling the air with a rattling, rushing noise against the background booming of the waves.

Zhuwei beach, 6:02 pm

The water is a nearly perfect navy blue topped by a faint streak of orange from the warm glowing ball of the setting sun. I lie in the water after my run over the soggy grey sand, letting it cool me down. A wave comes rolling lazily along, slowly lifting me up then gently dropping me down as it passes. I take in the beauty of the sunset and just drift, total relaxation.

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