苦逼了就辞职弃学去旅行? – After so much effort, will you leave for a trip? – English

  
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This week-end, at the Rhino, I will talk about my travels, about my trip to Taiwan and other places; but I’m not preparing a trip at the moment, so I’m very distressed. I don’t want to talk to people again and again about Taiwan’s food or scenery. And I’m also reluctant to talk about the “what it means to travel”. I’ve talked about it too many times already, and it has caused great confusion, as if this was what life.’s really about. But it’s more likely that it’s not.

The story of that girl who gave up her job to travel, I tell it half-heartedly, aware of all the embarrassment and financial difficulties. She’s not a little girl either: she was born around 89, and had worked for one year at 3W, saving up; and she had the spirit of an independent traveller. But when I watch her smiling face on photos of Nepal, Thailand and other countries, I always remember a conversation with the boss of my previous company:

Boss: “How have you been lately?”

Me: “Not too good, I want to travel again, I don’t want to come to work.”

Boss: “Can you afford it?”

Me: “Money-wise, you mean?”

Boss: “I’m not talking about the money, I’m saying that each time you leave, you end up coming back, and each time, you have to re-adapt to reality.”

When I tell the story of that girl, I am quickly reminded of this conversation, and then I forget what I wanted to say, and start thinking instead.

In this current age where everyone suffers from enormous pressure, all young people are pretentious, and they all think that they should not have to sit in a small cubicle filling tables or doing endless PPTs. If they’re going to do something, they need high pay for overtime, twenty days of paid holiday per year, and all sorts of other advantages, 才能体现出自己牛逼哄哄的价值。Otherwise, they think that a hard life was forced upon them, that it’s all hopeless, that there is no light for them. And so, whenever someone travels around the world, or does anything they like for six months a year, or just had a stroke of good luck, they think that they should also embrace this kind of life. Media pressure is getting stronger and stronger, saying things like “life is all about exploring this wide world” or “if you don’t travel, you will feel that the world is ahead of you”. These messages are not wrong in themselves, but they confuse the tastes of young people who still don’t have much experience, and not a hint of career or achievement.

This year in May, I left for Taiwan and came back. I have since found a better job, and everyone thinks I am so happy – I can just get what I want – but I discovered, over the last four months, that there’s no way I can concentrate on my work, or to say it differently, there is no way that I can hold together my daily chores and with the freedom and mind-opening experiences of travel. 收放自如,能屈能伸这样的话对我显然失去了作用。开始我以为是工作 本身的原因,可是仔细想想,目前的工作比起以前轻很多,环境也更加自由开放,这都是我以前想要的,但是到手之后我为什么会变得不快乐?But it’s just dawned on me that it’s me who did not ‘afford’ the shackles of reality with the freedom of travel, that I have now developed the distorted view that daily life should be ‘free’, and that my value should be recognised as what my travel demonstrated. And so, I have started to think of going away again. And therefore, within four months, I went to Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan, leaving the company for one week each time. But each time I came back, I realised that the trip had not made things easier, quite the opposite, it had made things even harder. And so, I still haven’t been able to balance all of this.

Travel can easily make people relax mentally . 跟散瞳孔似的,十分钟散出去,收回来可就久了。But all this talk about “what it means to travel” – is that really about the meaning of the world – is there really that much to it?

It seems to me that there’s more about ‘affording it’. For young people, especially young people in their first five years of work, ‘affording it’ is also about their own career. Using the word ‘career’ sounds like I’m using an empty formula. Many young people have cast it aside, and think that they can just have some fun, then come back and go on with work – so the expression ‘gap year’ has taken on, and become quite respected. But every time I think about this expression, “gap year” I feel a certain tension, maybe because I’m in an industry where things change overnight, and where everything has a strong sense of urgency. As for the ‘gap year’, I prefer the idea of a ‘gap month’, since it may take a year to adjust even to a trip of no big significance; second, for people who haven’t yet worked for five years, and are planning a year with no income, before the year is over, in just three months, they’re likely to start panicking; third, regarding career, a long absence is likely to leave the mind and body out of shape, and result in serious estrangement from networks and latest developments in the industry. Behind this is a hidden but very sharp logic: when you start work, your salary after tax is around 3000 a month. After one or two years of effort, you may finally get a promotion and a slight pay rise, but if you leave for a whole year, or even just three months, the market may reduce all your previous efforts to nothing. When you come back, at best you can find a job that pays 1000 more, and if you’re not too lucky, all you manage is to go on working for 3000. In 6 months, I saved 18,000 by cutting food and drinks; the ticket and exit visa alone cut me down 6000. Staying in such a cycle of budget travelling, that might be ok. But the question is, is it also your dream to take your parents on a trip after they spent 20 years bringing you up? And are you thinking of taking them with you to a 1$ a night hotel, or stay at a youth hostel in a noisy 6 bunk dorm? Certainly not! And if we push things a little further, if there was something that your parents really wanted, would you have enough savings to help them a little?

I remember a sentence from 以前我看到小S围脖的, when she came back from a luxurious where she took all her family, she said: “I work very hard every day, so I deserve to have a beautiful and sunny trip!” These words deeply touched me.

A few days ago, Kuo Yee Kwong gave a lecture on Baidu at the National People’s Congress.Kuo Yee Kwong was born in 1966 in the US, in the State of New York, and loved music as a child, so he studied piano, cello and violin; then at 16, he began to learn the guitar. In 1989, he, Ding Zu And zhang Ju formed the Wu Tang Clan, a band that made a sensation on the Chinese rock scene. On the 21st of June 2010, he became the international media and public relations director for Baidu. He said the following sentence: “people must have a ‘vocation’ (or profession); they must also have an ‘advocation’ (or a hobby). But the most important is this: they must know the difference between the two.”

I believe that this is the kind of life we should respect. It’s not about going to the extremes of completely rejecting A for B, or abandoning A then rushing to B for escape. One day, we all want to come back. You think it’s you abandoning this world which you’re not satisfied with; but it’s the world – the world that you thought you were escaping – which has abandoned you.

As for the things you have to suffer in day-to-day life, I would like to quote the final lines of Jay Chou’s song fragrant rice:

If you complain too much about this world, when you fall you will lack the courage to walk further, why choose to be so weak and degenerate! Just look around and see, how many people are bravely fighting for their lives, so shouldn’t we be satisfied!!! And cherish all that we have, and all that we don’t have!!!!

 

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About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org