The more I am away, the more I stabilise the image of what I want for my life; more long term than this. Not in a crazy “I want to settle down and have three kids in the suburbs” kind of thing (maybe some day, never say never right?).
There are many things on my life ‘to-do’ list. To name a few: I’d like to go back to Wales some day, find work, get me and my brother a little two bedroom apartment or house with a fish tank and maybe a dog, and set it up as an Air BnB for when he leaves/goes on holiday. The idea of running a little BnB or hotel has always been a dream of mine and meeting new people, travellers with stories and interesting anecdotes without leaving the comfort of your home and slumming it in hostels, well that makes a nice little plan for breaks in travelling the world myself. I’d like to become a tattoo artist and travel that way, open my own cruelty-free bakery or cafe, I’d like to do a charity bike ride around the Welsh border, and work in a barber cutting people’s hair for a living. Obviously my studies lead me towards becoming a graphic designer, working globally from London, Shanghai, Melbourne… I’d like to specialise in print, start my own magazine, photograph people’s weddings and events. But most of all, for right now I’d like to live in China; Xi’an or Shenzhen in particular, and of course visit Chengdu again.
I promised myself seven years while I was in Chengdu; a stab in the dark at a goal but one I feel I must hold myself to with optimism and a little (but not too much) expectation for everything that is about to come. Although that in itself seems a little expectant.
I chose seven years for very little reason other than that is how long it seems to take to get somewhat fluent in the language, and it is becoming more an more clear (as things do) that me and the person I promised this to/with/because of were meant to meet. Sometimes the world feels so chaotic, especially as a traveller, or expat, or backpacker; people are constantly coming and going around you, connections to friends and places and situations are short and passionate, all the feelings and events and love is packed into just a fraction of the time you take for things ‘back home’. And sometimes things just feel so obvious, so supposed to happen, before we really even know why. Moving to China feels essential, an undeniable future. It just feels right.
This is an account of why, when I really think about it, I want to move to China.
“She spoke to me in a voice that came from just behind my eyes. She said…”
Being here in Australia, specifically Dingo, QLD, I am working a hard labour job. I have come to trade female power for masculine, exchange flexibility for strength. I watch the gloved hands in front of me, forget what it is to feel with fingertips. Grow callouses they say, build an armour around you. This is what I will get back when I move, kindness without arrogance, power without sacrifice.
I am just not ready to go home.
Home has become many things over the last few years. Literally every day I am asked where I consider home to be and every day I struggle and am called out on my lack of conviction. Sometimes I stick to just saying the UK because it is easy, because it’s something everybody understands. Sometimes I say England, near Brighton, because that was where I was born and if you know British geography at all Brighton is somewhere you’ll know, Shoreham-by-sea not so much. I say this even though I was only there for six years of my childhood. If I’m feeling particularly confident and am ready to explain myself for the tenth time this week, I’ll say Wales.
Although I would never call myself Welsh (others do), Wales is where I lived for seventeen years of my life, it’s where I made the most friends, suffered through my teens, began working, studied and graduated with my bachelors degree. It’s where I left and where I intend to return to one day. I guess wherever I might be ‘from’, I don’t want to return until I very much have to or actively want for that lifestyle. For personal, social and political reasons, for now I want to stay away.
So that leaves me with a lot of options, not only China can provide a home for British travellers, there are many other countries to visit, I could throw a dart at a map of I wanted. So why move to China?
Honestly, a big part of it is that I just have a gut feeling. Beyond all the articulation, cultural reasons, social reasons, professional… It’ll always just go back to the fact that it just feels right. The people I’ve met on my travels in the East have been honest, gentle, authentic in ways British and Australian people have learned to avoid. They seem to have it right, whatever that means (aside from all the corruption and power hungry people at the top obviously…).
The spiritual history intrigues me, in China they have faith in a deeper, more authentic way than the blind Christianity many still cling to in the West, if only for the extensive history behind it. I am heading East to learn about the values of Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism, they relate to me much more than those of the beliefs I have been brought up on, and those which still cage my own family. They are comfortable in the safety of perpetuated cycles of ignorance, why fix what ain’t broken? They live under the hope that somehow the Christian stories will provide for them; a home after death, love and guidance in life. Why not recognise them all as fiction, learn about others’ and live by their values alone?
The older generations of my family have always clung to impermanent objects for safety, been captured by mass marketed consumerism, the need to always have more things and make more money in order to find happiness.
Buddhism in particular provides an alternative; rejects the notion of holding onto physical things, Buddhists believe in Nirvana, dukkha, karma, the cycle of life, and challenges even the sense of self; a soul seperate from the rest of the world. These things intrigue me far more than the teachings of Arks and Technicolour Dreamcoats.
Taoism with its focus on nature, its aim for humility and compassion, rejects selfishness and intentional diversion from nature, and Jainism’s views of selflessness, non-violence and impermanence. I am eager to find myself in a place where I can witness these cultures first hand, I want to learn so much more.
The different religions in China appear to harmonise with eachother, unlike the West who hold grudges, judgements and even fear of other religions and cultures. I say this with blatant ignorance, as obviously I have no idea how these things actual go down, but I really do want to find out.
I want to learn the language. I want to keep practising until less and less people think I’m just a stupid British girl with an unfounded obsession with China. I want to intergrate where I can, empathise with unfamiliar things in another language. I want to understand and make friends, have conversations, be taught like a child, teach children, help the move towards connecting the world in a time where so many in power are pushing for selfish, shallow independence.
And I guess essentially, I want to go to China because I can. Because I have the resources, the contacts, and soon the finances, to move there and attempt a new exciting and interesting lifestyle, so why not? It is the place I picture myself when I am at my most calm, and logical. When I am most sound of mind, China is where I imagine I’ll be in a year, two, seven maybe.
I want to find a place where the world feels if not smooth and content then at least balanced, where nature and technology move forwards together, where the people are kind and logical and awake. I am in search of a space where I can imagine clearly and create well, where maybe I can bring about new life and new meaning to this world and be pleased for the future rather than wary of unjust rulers, and of earth going backwards, we are running out of time, this planet will only wait so long for things to improve, for people to be aware of the consequences to our actions and work together to make a better world than this.
“How did we ever get so far with so many fools in the gene pool?”
To summarise, primarily I want to go to just explore, to witness a different cultural landscape and a different speed, where the buildings are bigger and the music is louder and everything is chaotic but in a much more natural way than the West, where the chaos is essentially a loss of order. I want to go where they see the value in temporary things. I want to immerse myself entirely, be swallowed up by the cities, overwhelmed by the differences, the lack of familiarity, and the beauty China has to offer.
In the background to this, I’d love to find new friends in other expats, but mostly with Chinese colleagues, teachers, artists. I want to learn the language and find out about the spiritual side of Chinese life, I want to learn their rituals, their festivals and beliefs. I want to delve into the history and push towards the future, be that through teaching English or being part of a design team or however I find my footing and my place.
I guess only time will tell, until then I am eager to get going…