It happened in Taoyuan International Airport at 10:28 pm, while walking towards the Departure Gate area. I was focused on making the 12:30 red-eye out to Manila on Cebu Pacific Airlines, when I suddenly looked up to see a familiar name. Honolulu. Capital city of my native land: Hawai'i.
A distant yet familiar memory of soft sun-rays, warm golden sand and pounding surf flashed through my busy 'Asian' mind and I found myself stopped in my tracks, staring up at that familiar name. Honolulu. I read the three Chinese characters transcribed next to it: 檀香山, Tán Xiāng Shān, literally translated, Sandalwood Incense Mountain. Honolulu.
Understanding this made it all the more surreal, even more of an erratic, unexplainable vision. The distant scent of Hawai'i clouded my mind, like sandalwood incense burning in a far away mountain valley. In that moment I found myself stuck between a juxtaposition of Far East vs. Ocean...Asian vs. Polynesian.
And in my mind, they all meant the same thing. Home.
It has been almost three years since I pulled my roots from the North Pacific sands of Hawai'i, and transplanted myself into the East Asian soil of Taiwan, and moments like this have been few and far between. Nevertheless, there I was, for just a brief moment, contemplating the logistics of hopping off my flight flying south towards Manila and redirecting my path east to Honolulu instead. My flight to the Philippines left in two hours. The flight to Honolulu left in six. There was still time. Should I continue south to Manila? Or should I go makai* to the Mountains of Sandalwood Incense?
After a split second of momentary disorientation, my mind cleared and the heavy scent of distant tropical tradewinds dissipated.
There I found myself, standing in Taoyuan International Airport at 10:29 pm, listening to the whirring sound of the airport A/C, and looking up at a rolling 'flight departure' schedule that immediately switched from displaying Honolulu 04:28 to Hong Kong 05:05.
I shifted my backpack onto my right shoulder, plodded on, and made my way to the Departure Gate area, with more than enough time to catch the red-eye, south to Manila.
*A Hawaiian term meaning "towards the ocean"
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...