Verified again: Every bout traveling alone is a chance to let the world in, to open the floodgates that are constitutive of one's own being and to let the waters rush in. Cell membranes moving, fenceposts shifting, playground chalk lines redrawn, a reconstituting of boundaries and a reorientation of one's view.
And at the same time, there's an intense solipsism or introspection that happens, a snake thoughtfully chewing on its own tail, where the world reduces itself to a series of moments, glances, explorations, decisions, choices, paths, indecipherable messages, meanings that are inaccessible to you. You understand that there is a world behind everything that you see; when squinting through a peephole and discovering infinite variation and complexity, you decide (correctly) that a vast world must lie inside and beside and alongside everything.
Hong Kong was, is, breathtakingly tall, majestically old, aggressively new, but more importantly fully lived-in, fully cared-for, bearing the mark of millions of people making it home, carving out small systems and patterns of life. An old object worn smooth around the edges from people handling it over the ages. A certain kind of honorable ruthlessness maybe, of agility and speed and tempo, but also with balance and rhythm. But enough of this anthropmorphizing of a city.
Sometimes it's only during traveling that the other alternatives or possibilities really surface upwards, that I get to momentarily trace out trajectories and curves for the other beings that I could have become. A lot of them: I could have stayed in Korea, I could have kept my citizenship and gone to the army, I could have gone to that other college in another city, I could have chosen that other program, I could still move back to Korea, or elsewhere. Decisions less like branches on a tree and more like splitting strands of ivy fluttering on the side of a brick wall, varied and wide. I could be elsewhere, anything could happen. If there's a taste in my mouth it's the taste of possibility and alternatives.
For a moment there I was living in Hong Kong and we were all good friends, everyone pushing out into their different directions and trying to probe the world a little; for a moment there it seemed right, everyone gathering underneath an elevated highway to listen to some friends-of-friends play noisy mellow droney postrock next to the glistening harbor, clusters of other enthusiastic people here and there blissed out to layers and layers of noise, sitting on the ground drinking and talking;
For a moment there it seemed like I had been doing this forever, on this warm breezy night, walking together through mostly-empty subway stations, scarfing down junk food for a hasty dinner, bumping into acquaintances, joking on the train, catching a midnight showing of a film by everyone's favorite famous arthouse director; and for a moment it seemed so comfortable, the six of us smoking a cigarette afterwards in the shadows of endlessly tall buildings in the financial district (eerily empty and peaceful for once) and acting out the film, throwing slo-mo mock punches, before saying our goodbyes and disappearing into the night full of sleeping neon signs and traffic lights shining dutifully on empty streets, and the occasional taxi whizzing by.
And so leaving Hong Kong doesn't feel like I'm leaving a place behind, because I could still be there, things still possible, but rather as if I am leaving a version of myself behind, yet another sliver of my being cleaved, shaved off, perhaps to be encountered or rejoined some day, one day, or never at all.
If there's anything to be learned it's that the world is big --
-- but no really, seriously, it is very very big; it is more vast and more varied than you could ever imagine it to be; and you will grow to 'understand' it soon but will travel again one day and will realize, once more again, that it pushes beyond the edges of your understanding. If there's anything to be learned it's that it is easy to fall back into myopic positions of complacency, worrying, competition, self-comparison, where the real challenge is in the long run, with one's own being. That this is all but momentary, but what is as concrete as concrete can be are the small nonverbal material things: the gesture of an old woman wiping a table, a glass of tea being poured, the involuntary outward sigh after the first bite of food, the contorted wince when pain strikes a body, the elongation of time when one is sick or hurt, the slippage and transience of memory, and all the other things that find their origin in the body and grow outwards from it. And if you ever forget these things, or stop viscerally understanding that the world is big, then you need to travel (alone) again, and rediscover and remember and remember.
The world is immense and people live in it = there is always, always, another way. In other words: there is never "no alternative". To say so is to fully be enmeshed in the immediacy, vitality, delimiting, constraining, blinding moment of the local present and present only.