Cultural traditions and an Asian female solo traveler

Sarah’s story:

Often times, it’s hard for me to explain to others that I had to sacrifice many things, including family, in order to take hold of my own life and travel around the world.  Though my parents are not very traditional, their traditional upbringing, thoughts, and dreams still sometimes suppress who I really am: a Nomad.

At four years old, my whole family and I immigrated to Canada due to the wide spread fear that China taking over Hong Kong in 1997 would have a bad impact on us.  From my first stepsinto a Canadian preschool, my life took on a new path.  I’ve learned things the “Western Way”.  My brain changed Cantonese to English as my “mother tongue”.  I prefer my salad raw rather than steamed or stir fried.  I would often skip class, smoke some pot, talk back to my parents, come home late, and go on my crazy adventures with my friends via hitchhiking, etc.  These are some things a typical traditional Hong Kong girl would not do.

I remember stepping into my relative’s home in both Hong Kong and China after 13 years of not visiting them.  In the first five minutes of us trying to communicate, I saw displeased, worried, and a bit of curious expression on their faces.  They didn’t like I was so dark (tanned), didn’t like my holy outfit (my shirt and shorts had many holes). They didn’t like one bit of my nomadic life, and they definitely did not like the fact that I do not like to eat rice.  For the two weeks I spent with them in China, every single day, I was drilled questions and doctrines: how I should get a job, how I should stay and be an English/ piano teacher, how I should start saving and buy a house, how I should hurry up and get married (I’m 23), and how I should drop my old “wild” life and settle down.  Even till today, I still cannot understand their mindset and vice versa.  If I was never brought up the Western Way, perhaps I would have listened.  Maybe I would have even complied.

In social media, I often seen teens/ young adults looking for a way out of the society:  a place where you work hard, earn money, so you can buy more: a normal daily life cycle.  One thing that stops them would be fear – of the unknown.  Another that halts them would be family – bad rumours and image, strong family ties.  If my family really understand me, they would let me go.  If my relatives really understand me, they would all accept who I am.  Why does my skin colour, my crazy hair, and my hippie clothes put shame on you … on our family name?  How does seeing my hitchhiking videos and dumpster diving pictures affect our relationship?  Why do they only see my faults and not my positive side?  Why aren’t they happy to have a family member who has been travelling and hitchhiking in various parts of the world to around 35 countries?  These are the questions I ask myself again and again when I see them.  It depresses me.  And I feel  that leaving them and their negative feedback behind is my only choice.

I rarely call myself a Hong Konger, because that is just my birthplace.  I tell people I am from Canada, because that is my true nationality.  Some of the readers here might think I am adopting a new culture and forgetting about my heritage background, but I can tell you now, I am only inspired and embracing multiculturalism.

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Sarah Tang (Go Find Sarah) is a Chinese-Canadian living and travelling all over the world one country at a time.  She is a true procrastinator and a great listener.  On the road, you’ll find her juggling, jumping and talking while hitchhiking by herself or with one of her lovely victims that she managed to find.  She might not be super reliable when it comes to meeting someone on time, but, when time calls for, she could be the most wonderful person ever.

2 comments

  1. I met this girl 3 years ago and we traveled a bit together in Morocco. She is truely fascinating. She’s easy going, eager to learn everything as a child would do and this is what makes her exceptional. She goes on with life with no fear (at least she doesn’t show) and goes really easily with the flow. At the same time she knows what she wants. Sarah is a girl worth meeting for what she is more than what she does (which is remarkable).
    XX girl, always wish you good luck!

  2. Having had the pleasure of meeting Sarah in Hong Kong, I completely understand what you mean. A rare gem indeed. 🙂

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