One of the finest features that Taiwan has to offer is its abundance of natural beauty. Taiwan’s older name, Formosa, means “Beautiful Island” in Portuguese. From Turtle Island in the north to Kenting in the south, Taiwan is covered in richly dense, sub-tropical vegetation. It is which creates wondrous scenery just about everywhere you travel. This beauty is what made me choose Taiwan as my first TEFL destination.
Travelling is the best way to adapt to a life in a new country. Culture shock is inevitable and it becomes a lot more difficult if you don’t get out of the city you live. This is why this OnTESOL graduate article will share some advice on travelling in Taiwan and how to adapt to your new life in a different country.
Travel by Train
By North American standards, Taiwan is relatively small: 245 miles long and 89 miles wide. The size makes traveling around the island easy and convenient. With Taiwan’s excellent railroad system. It’s incredibly easy to circumnavigate the island and taste the different flavors of culture that Taiwan possesses.
The High-Speed Rail operates along the western side of the island, where the elevation is relatively stable, and jets people from Taipei to Kao Hsiung in less than two hours. Slower trains navigate the tunnel train tracks that transport people to the more mountainous and rugged east coast.
Taiwan exhumes a unique persona with its precipitous cliffs and creeping vegetation. Taiwan’s mountainous regions are particularly steep. It is because the Island juts out to an elevation of almost 13 thousand feet in a relatively short distance.
There are hundreds of challenging hikes available to enthusiasts that will showcase Taiwan’s diverse wildlife. As a recreational backpacker from California, however, I must say that Taiwan does not provide nearly as many places to completely disappear in solitude for days on end. The island is simply too small and the population, too large. Many Taiwanese hikers whom I know will simply hike in the day and find a hostel to sleep in at night.
Many coastal cities offer excellent opportunities to delve into ocean-related activities, ranging from coral reef diving to tide pooling. Surfing is also incredibly popular in Taiwan; most rental shops offer lessons to beginners and a few offer surf tours that cater to the more advanced.
Be Kind to The Environment
Although Taiwan is a beautiful island, it is important to note that 23 million people inhabit it. It’s nigh impossible to host so many humans and not have some sort of negative environmental impact.
The government of Taiwan, in more recent years, has paved roads to the more remote regions of the island. For example, it used to be that if one wanted to climb HeHuan Mountain, that person would have to do some mildly serious backpacking along treacherous trails for a couple of days.
Now, one simply has to rent a car, drive to the trail-head near the top of the mountain, and undertake a short one-hour climb to get to the summit. Consequentially, debris litters the mountaintops and trails along the way: plastic bottles, candy wrappers, discarded gloves, and my personal favorite, cigarette butts.
It pains me to witness the indifference of some people when it comes to the preservation of our beautiful planet. I felt disheartened after traveling to Ken Ting. I saw a tremendous amounts of litter drifting around Taiwan’s beautiful coral reefs. But we discuss these issues with locals. And we came away with a modicum of hope knowing that at least a few people cared.
Prone To Homesickness?
Everyone is! The hardest times occur during the first few weeks. This is the time to be strong. Write a diary, make phone calls (Zoom or WhatsApp) back home every few days, or just start working diligently on learning the local language. This is also the time to plan your first trip and get excited for your new life as an English teacher in Taiwan.
The point is to keep yourself busy. The more time you remain idle, the more time you allow yourself to feel down.
In Taiwan, my largest hurdle turned out not to be homesickness, but the weather. All my life, I’ve lived in temperate weather zones. Coming from Northern California, I was used to mild winters and mild summers, leaving me ill-prepared for the brutal humidity and heat of summertime on a sub-tropical island.
The heat suffocated me. I remember my first night, standing outside of Taipei Main Station while waiting for my host-family to pick me up, wondering how I would ever get used to this torturous weather. For days, I felt exhausted. I set off every morning on foot, looking for work by dropping off circum vitas at any and all cram schools I encountered. I would return every day, after only two hours of searching, with a suit drenched in sweat and a parched throat.
How I Cope Up With The Weather?
I learned that all I could really do, to acclimate to the heat, is stay hydrated and go out as much as possible. Leave the oasis of your air-conditioned room and confront the heat, or else it might take you longer to adapt. Of course, you should feel the onset of heat exhaustion. It would behoove you to listen to your body and rest when rest is needed.
I successfully acclimatized after a few short weeks, thanks to a few strategies recommended to me by the Taiwanese family I currently live with. First, wake up every morning at 5 a.m. The weather is relatively cool, the air is clean, and it’s the best time of day to go running. The first few days of running hit me the hardest, but in the end, it helped me tremendously in getting used to humidity. Secondly, don’t use air conditioning.
If you need to cool off, use a fan. I know some expatriates who still complain about the weather after being in Taipei for a year (and yes, they use a/c religiously). Whereas it has only taken me a month to fully adapt to the hot weather and humidity. This is all anecdotal evidence at best, but this is what has worked for me.