“Can I take a photo with you?”
Her bright, young eyes, full of enthusiasm and wonder, looked into my jaded ones. I remember having eyes filled with sunshine like hers. Now they’re just tired and disenchanted; tired of travelling and disenchanted at the phlegm-spitting, queue-cutting, rude, and conflicting country that I am finally leaving.
She’s another youngun. Everyone I’ve met on this trip had been fledglings – fresh out of high school, on their sem break, entering their first jobs… Turning 27 – you may laugh at what I’m about to say – I’m now on the weathered side of the coin. “27 barely scratches the surface of age!” you shout, but at the hostels and in the dorms, I feel my age.
“Can I add you on WeChat?”
She forced me into big sister mode, which is the last thing I want to do right now. It is 1:24am and after a long day of walking and transiting, I desperately want to go through immigration and take a nap before my flight home.
She had never travelled out her bubble. China is so vast and there’s enough for a lifetime’s worth of travel, but I reminded her that it’s more than just seeing a different landscape. Travelling is also about being amongst people of different skin colour, learning a different language, tasting weird foods, and being shocked, surprise and sometimes disgusted at cultures a world’s difference from yours.
“Where have you been besides China?”
I saw her looking up to me, not only because she is short. She has never met a person who travels alone, what more someone who is also yellow, who is also a woman, and whose age is only a stone’s throw away from hers.
I used to be that wide-eyed young girl admiring these dusty, old backpackers, interrogating them about how they travel, the places they’ve been, digging bewildering stories out of them. Now I’m fatigued, I feel the knots in my shoulders and I’m on a cold steel airport bench giving life advice to a girl I shared a taxi with.
She reminded me that I’ve been travelling for 8 years now. 8. I guess it’s time for the roles to change. I told her to go out and see the world, you’ll grow so much from it.
“I’ll walk you to your gate!”
I saw a new idea bubbling in her head, one that had previously occurred to her but she brushed off because she had never seen it possible.
She is pretty and adorable, filled with curiousity and fervour. Next to her, I feel like death and anguish. Three weeks in China had sucked the life out of me and for the first time ever, I am tired of travelling.
For the first time ever, I couldn’t wait to go home.
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