"I must look like someone running away from the shrink. I carried a one-kilogram teddy bear, and charms that bear the names of my family, which signifies good fortune in Taiwanese culture. To an outsider, I might look like an independent girl, but I am not. I miss my family. I miss my ex."
4 years ago, Chu-Han was at an intersection of her life. She was one semester away from graduation. Despite majoring in economics, economics was never her passion. She wanted to travel the world to search for the purpose of her life. She decided to come to Australia on a working-holiday visa to improve her English.
Her real passion lies in the mountains. Challenges thrill her. Nature energises her. Located in the Pacific volcano belt, Taiwan is a paradise for mountain lovers with majestic peaks and lethal valleys. Through her numerous adventures, she met a boy through mountain climbing and fell in love. He promised to visit her in Australia.
But they broke up before her departure. "I really loved him, but the feeling wasn't reciprocated." Tears streamed down her cheeks.
She decided to try the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia, as recommended by someone back home. The track was 1000 kilometres long, and she decided to finish it from end to end.
One thing separated her from a typical hiker: She brought with her a hand-made Teddy Bear, with her ex's name sown on the bear's left arm. Every step she walked, she could feel the weight of the bear, but she persisted. The bear made her stand out among the hikers. They would ask her why she brought the bear, and she would tell them the story. Her hiking boots fell off from the bottom, and she tried attaching the bottom using rubber bands while reluctantly heading towards the freeway. But she decided to come back.
The promise held 4 years later. Started in September this year, Chu-Han resolved to finish it. Her feet started to hurt in the middle of the journey. "My feet hurt so bad that I could barely walk. This couple saw me and offered a ride. Before I walked towards the car, I hurt so bad that I started crying out loud." Despite the pain, she visited the stops that she missed from last time. This time she left the Teddy bear at the Bibbulmun office where hikers proudly receive their "end-to-end certificates". It was time to move on.
Fortunately, the doctor said she didn't have bone fracture, but strongly recommended her to rest for the muscles and tissues to heal. She flew to Canberra to recover to prepare for the next leg of hiking.
For Chu-Han, she enjoys the deep connection she makes with others in the bush. "In cities, people are too busy to listen. When we are in the bush, people listen, and they hear me. If I say something they don't understand, they try to guess. Hiking is the best way to improve English. When I was working in a massage shop, all my colleagues speak Mandarin, and I could barely practice English. Clients came for a massage in order to relax, not trying to correct some Taiwanese girl's shitty English."
Chu-Han finished the water in her glass. As the first Couchsurfer at 1913 Collective, she was open and willing to share. I appreciate her courage to share her journey of healing and discovery. She reminds me of Sheryl Stray, who hiked the 2000-kilometer Pacific Crest Trail in the midst of marriage crisis, value crisis, and the death of her mother.
Despite the fact that she grows up in the cosmopolitan Taipei, Chu-Han has the energy of a bush girl. A song by Aviv Gefan (אביב גפן) starts to play in my head, "כי עם הזמן הכל חולף..." (With time going by, everything will pass.) I believe her two attempts of finishing the Bibbulmun track in the past 4 years has made her stronger, wiser, and she is ready to open a new chapter of her life.