The Dream Team

Text and photos by Caby Styers, ETA 2018–19

This winter I was able to travel to Taiwan for one week with two really good friends. It was during this trip that I realized the importance of choosing the people you travel with and being there for each other when situations do not go as planned.

Our trip started out with a rough patch when one of my friends realized on our bus to Mokpo that she had left her cell phone in a taxi that morning. We both live in Suncheon, in the southern part of Korea, and we were traveling to Mokpo, another city to the east of us. In Korea, there is no stopping buses when they are driving to other cities, so we rode the two hours to Mokpo, and then returned to Suncheon that same day and were able to find the phone. We finally rode back again to Mokpo to meet our friend before going to Taiwan, six hours after our first bus ride. My friend and I were a little tired and dispirited, but at the end of the day we were able to joke about it and move forward with our trip.

The next day, the three of us took our flight to Taiwan. We were about to exchange our money at the airport when my other friend couldn’t find her wallet. We couldn’t believe something like this could happen again. We looked on the airplane, asked airport staff, and searched everywhere to find it. But we were not as lucky this time. While my friend not having her wallet was a constant stresser for her on our travels, we were able to help her and pump her up the rest of our trip. By giving her time and space to process the problem and her anxiety, and then being there for her to help strategize what to do next, we were able to help relieve some of her stress and enjoy the trip despite the complications.

Losing valuable items became a daily joke as we asked, “Do we have everything?” before and after taking any transportation. Actually, we were able to save our phones twice this way.

Finally, later in the trip, we traveled outside of Taipei to a very famous street called Jiufen. Jiufen is famous because it was the inspiration for the movie Spirited Away. There are hundreds of shops and tea houses in this area. After exploring this street, we tried to get to a waterfall in the late afternoon for a change of pace, however, we ended up getting lost on a creepy trail. As it was about to rain, we were walking by abandoned houses, a man chopping wood, and a lonesome, loud power generator. As the trail became darker, we became more lost, and more isolated from the rest of the world. I began to have a panic attack, but my friends, even though they were scared too, were able to help me through it. We were able to make it back and laugh about it on the way home.

In the end, this was one of the most stressful trips I have been on, and I don’t think I will be able to go on a trip anytime soon without panicking about where my phone and wallet are. However, it was also really fun and memorable, because I went with friends that handled and adapted to stressful situations in a similar way that I do. Thinking back, I am surprised that we handled everything so well, and it was because we were able to be there for each other, each of us stepped up during the trip to lead the group. Ending the evening in laughter and jokes, despite the challenges of the day, was one of the many great memories from that trip.