Other Mentions, Travel, Writing and Creative Thinking
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Sentiments of Traveling to a ‘Second Home’ – My Family Roots


Today is a Monday. I’ve just come back from Hong Kong yesterday morning, the plane arriving at 4.40am. By the time we went through customs, got all our luggage and headed out to the Central Bus Station, we got some coffee at a Caffe Nero and sat down. At this point, we had about an hour and a half before we could board the 7.10am coach back home, which we had booked beforehand.

By the time we arrived, it was about 11am! Or a little earlier than that actually. A few days ago, it had snowed quite heavily so as a result, there was a lot of snow remaining meaning that we had to drag our luggage across much of it (not fun!) before we could locate our car and drive back home.

I want to write about this experience whilst it is still fresh in my mind and still adjusting to UK everyday life again. I have been to Hong Kong many times, seeing as some of my family roots lie there – but this experience led me to discover some new feelings and I can only amount it to two things. One being as a result of growing up and another being that the city (and country – because I went to Mainland China too, to visit my mum’s side of the family) is vastly changing and developing as we speak. There is always something new every time I go back and I’m sure next time there will be another new building or development in progress.

I am happy to visit my family roots as much as I have done so far in my lifetime although I don’t know if it will ever be enough because each occasion always seems so short. It is bittersweet, and I feel bittersweet as I write about it. I know some who have never done so (visit their family roots that is), others who have on a much rarer level than I have but still, a special moment – each one different through the ages.

Hong Kong, and much of East Asia you may argue, is predominantly different to UK living. It’s fast-paced, crowded but it is almost the strength of the population that welcomes you – the noise of the people which the Chinese describe as being warm, an expression that doesn’t really exist in English or at least not to my understanding. This is the first thing I notice when I arrive in Hong Kong, and the first thing I miss when I leave Hong Kong. The first sentiment.

I have been to Hong Kong enough times to know ‘the feeling’ when I’m in Hong Kong as soon as I’m off the plane. Even a certain smell that I recognise as being Hong Kong which is funny because Hong Kong literally means ‘fragrant port’. I cannot describe it but it’s an authentic scent that I can only link to Hong Kong and no other. This is the second sentiment. Sometimes when I travel back and open my luggage, there is a scent of Hong Kong inside. I am not even kidding. 😝

Some of you may know that one particular reason I visited this time of year was for Chinese New Year. I have never celebrated Chinese New Year really and my mum had not been back home for CNY for about 30 years (!!) so it was a good opportunity to go. I’ve received red pockets before of course but it’s just not the same when you’re abroad. Strength of the population I’m telling you. Warmth of the noise. It was at this point that I recognised how infinitely everyone is considered family. I’d get red pockets from ‘strangers’ (my cousins’ friends for example or a neighbour) and it was the most bizarre but welcoming thing. I like this about Asian culture. Everyone is family. This is the third sentiment.

Growing up, I used to visit Hong Kong every year during the summer holidays. I am quite thankful that I don’t visit in the summer anymore since it gets mighty humid but of course, I miss the length of the vacation which was at least double the amount. Now, I only visit every 2-3 years and as it happens, everyone in the family is getting older. Busier. With jobs or kids, the things that take up your time as you begin ‘adulting’. As such, it gets harder to sometimes see family because understandably there are new priorities and you cannot be one of them. But for a day or two, you can and it is here that I understand how occasions like this where everyone – especially us coming back from abroad – can come together but it is ever so short-lived. Life itself is short so don’t waste time and see the people you need to see. Get off at the stop even if just for a moment. You have the responsibility to just do that, as much as you have the responsibility to return to your ordinary life and job.

The other day I asked my mum roughly how old a family member was. (Not in a bad way, just generally asking.) When you start thinking about age, that is when you know how quick time is going because it didn’t take long before I said that fifty is not far off (again, not in a bad way). You can say that it was just yesterday when I was a teenager and I saw my cousins in their 20s and 30s. But things stand different now and time is getting more scarce. Being based abroad compared to everyone else, time is even scarcer. I never even used to think about these things as a kid which is normal but now that I do, Hong Kong brings a new sentiment. Time will not stop for anyone so cherish the occasion whilst you’re experiencing it. There is a saying in Chinese, ‘No one knows tomorrow’s business’ and it could not ring truer.

Finally, the last sentiment that I feel – and always feel, is bittersweet. This sentiment normally kicks in after I have already left Hong Kong and have arrived back home. But you can bet that I can always look forward to the next time that I can finally visit again. It is the ‘looking forward’ part that cheers me up a bit from the tinge of sadness. Each moment in life is short-lived because we all have a responsibility to our individual lives and career…this is just the truth that you will discover when you grow up.

As a bonus, I will share with you a song that I have been listening to non-stop:

I discovered it by chance on a Spotify K-pop playlist and it couldn’t be more perfect to listen to towards the end of a journey or in reminiscing. It’s a song that understands me the best at this moment. I only just saw the English translation which is extremely fitting to the way I feel when I listen to it. 🙂

Time passes like water flows
I’m building a dam called memories
There are memories that I couldn’t hold onto
It’s the reason why I look beyond the horizon again today

[Read more: http://www.kpoplyrics.net/akmu-time-and-fallen-leaves-lyrics-english-romanized.html#ixzz58xS7SIpH]

Are your family roots abroad too? If so, where? What did you discover?

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  1. chinese new year sounds amazing! and I love what you said about everyone feeling like family, that’s such a nice sentiment & you don’t get that in other places. so cool!

  2. It’s great to write down your thoughts fresh from a trip! I try to do that but don’t always succeed.
    I agree so much about your description of the HK noise – it’s a boisterous affair. It feels familiar to me even though it might not be for everyone.
    So amazing that you spent CNY there especially! I’d love to be among the celebrations and all that FOOD!

    I felt very bittersweet to leave HK when I last visited which was more than 5 yrs ago. It was my birthplace although I don’t know my family connections. I was treated as an outsider (all the shops and restaurants knew I wasn’t local) but they were very welcoming. I wished I could live a short time there as an adult – maybe one day.

    What a sweet & sad song…

    • I think when you go on a short-haul trip that’s only 2 hours away, it does really feel like a holiday and you can believe you’re on one, but when you’re on a long-haul one, it’s so different! It almost feels like a dream and like you’re in an alternate world because everything is so different from the people to the climate to the environment.

      Ah boisterous! That must be the term that I’ve been looking for? Though honestly, I never use that word lol but in Chinese, it is used a lot for obvious reasons. The people there really thrive on being with lots of people.

      Don’t worry, I think I get caught out too for not being a native. I think it depends on how “Hong Kong” I’m feeling that day. 😂😂

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