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Safe is actually scary

· Iris

I've been in Taiwan for a month now. I have re-discovered many things that are great about Taiwan, but at the same time, I have also re-experienced many things that I know are counterproductive for me.

For the most part, Taiwan is a free country with no obvious social class distinctions. Outside of the capital city, it's totally okay to go out in an old t-shirt, shorts and slippers, and most people do! Even if you don't have a lot of money, you can still enjoy many simple pleasures like bubble tea, fried chicken...(okay, mainly food). Shops have set prices written out clearly, so as a visitor, you'd rarely be cheated out of money.


Most people are friendly and helpful, especially people who work in customer facing roles. A high level of efficiency is expected across all sectors - you can order something online and receive the goods on the same day; shops often apologize for 'the wait' when they take more than a couple of minutes to prepare something. Living is easy as convenient stores can be found at every street corner, and they can pretty much solve most of your daily needs (printing, job searching, posting banking).

People are orderly. You'll see perfectly formed queues at all public transport. However, I wonder if this orderliness is maintained by people's desire to be good or social pressure? Take priority seats on public transport as example - often on a packed bus, you'll see the priority seats completely empty. Why? because no one wants to be seen as that shameless person who takes away the priority seat. This is something I found very odd, but having tried sitting in the priority seat a couple times, I did find people casting judging glances at me even though the seats are clearly not being used.

The comfort provided by convenient living and the pressure of being judged combined can create an environment that encourages everyone to play by the book, to live safely, to walk the well-trodden path. When I tell people that I'm going to India or that Joey is going to Cambodia, a common response is 'Is it safe? I heard it's not safe. Why would you go there?'. Of course, opinions from people who have been are founded, but from people who haven't been, it's almost like they have decided to enclose themselves in a bubble and tell themselves 'where I am is great and safe, anything unknown is unsafe, so I better stay put'. Similar thought process can be observed on many people's views on life and career.

Although I'm really thankful for the comfort, safety and convenience that I have in Taiwan, at the same time, I also find it a little bit scary because I know this is how my own complacency forms. For the most part of my life, I had been the No.1 follower for playing things by the book, for doing the right thing. I accepted things I was told without questioning and let fear guided my life - fear of failure, fear of disappointment. This time, I've finally taken the courage to choose an unknown path (i.e. I have no idea where this travelling journey will take me in life), I know I have to fight extra hard to resist that innate nature to choose safety and comfort.

Of course, people who are totally happy living a comfortable life, there's nothing wrong with that! I've found that sometimes people get defensive when I tell my story of wanting to live differently - please don't take my desire to seek out challenges as a judgement on your life! If I was content with the way I was living before, I would have continued living that way. For me, travelling, particularly solo-travelling, has been like an 'accelerator'. Being in an unknown place, in unknown situations, there really is no hiding behind my own fears and inabilities. When I have no choice but to confront things I'd rather avoid, I know that's when I really grow as a person.

Who knows, maybe after all this I'd feel perfectly happy going back to my old way of living again...(so, don't worry mum! maybe one day I'll indeed 'settle down and have a baby before it's too late'). 

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