6 Months and 3 Countries

When a thing beckons you to explore it without telling you why or how, this is not a red herring; it’s a map. – Gina Greenlee

The September 2020 version of me was sitting in his room, totally conceded to the inevitability of another half-year in lockdown. After all, since march has been shut down everything completely - there's literally nothing that would change about that, given the ongoing state of the pandemic. Right?

6 months and 3 countries later, I have zipped down and across and around the world - the most I've ever travelled in this time frame, all during a global pandemic. Nothing about this was planned. My passport was expiring soon, and I never knew where I'd be in the next two months.

In fact, the only constant here was the ever-present unknown and never-ending chaos that defined my journey.
Q: Where do you see yourself in two months?
A: Haha good one.

Cozy Toronto

This place is cozy. Getting too cozy.

Wake up, eat, school, eat, walk, school, eat, sleep.

My being is literally atrophying. One more day, let's endure this. Endure one more day.

An online school term is inevitable.

Man, it's been too long. Let's meet up after all this?

The next two terms will be online only.

Each of us has an important part to play in limiting the risk of COVID-19 and maintaining safety both on and off campus.

There has to be more to my life than this.


Ding! You've got mail.

Title: [Hack Lodge] Micro-campus for projects this fall!
A school 2.0; a micro-campus to learn and create together with 30 young people filled with curiosity and kindness this fall. There will be a rigorous COVID protocol and it will operate as a bubble with no outside interactions.

I had to leave this place and go to School 2.0. I interviewed with Marley and Raffi, convinced my parents, bought a plane ticket, and headed off to Truchas, New Mexico.

Desolate New Mexico

On the plane ride I finally come to grasp the utter spontaneity of my decision. I was going to a place I've never been, by myself, in a pandemic, not knowing any of the residents beforehand. I could get abducted for my organs and no one will know. Oh well, let's see how it goes.

It went very well. A warm desert surrounded by sharp mountains and covered with foreign plants greeted my arrival. Everything was new; the land, the house, and especially the people. For once in a long time, I was with people who learned and built things out of an innate curiosity and passion, instead of the need or desire to get ahead in finite rat-races.

We lived in the middle of nowhere, but the house was never quiet or empty. For me, as an only child who spent much time in solitude, this was transformative.

I did a lot of new firsts here, including:

  • cooking for 28 people
  • climbing the tallest mountain in New Mexico
  • playing the recorder and eating fries on said mountain
  • getting on a hot air balloon
  • doing a winter midnight balcony hackathon
  • playing with power lasers

So it turned out that my impulsive decision was one of the best choices I've ever made.


Two months and many great memories later, the program came to an end. I didn't want to go back home so I asked my new friend Geffen if I could go live with him in SF, and he said yes. And so 4 of us started a road trip West to California.

Golden Bay Area

Grand Canyon. Las Vegas. Death Valley. San Louis Obispo. Silicon Valley. It was crazy feeling, finally being in the places I've heard about for so long. The raw beauty from these intense pockets of memories was overwhelming. I felt awake and at peace.

I don't miss Toronto one bit.

The lucid brumal sunlight bathes Topos house
in which memelords and bright minds ideas espouse
Amidst covid, all is still as Pyongyang
all on pause, VC dinners gone with FANG
Stonks go up and ml papers come out
ideas and fantasies mix and fly about

I learned a few things:

  • There's going to be a place that calls out to you. Just act on your gut feeling, and wonderful things may happen.
  • That community that truly resonates with your values and interests really does exist, you just have to look for it.
  • It's a dangerous thing to settle on an environment that you know isn't optimal. Take the leap to explore, and you won't be disappointed.
  • You're never too young to do something. Chances are someone your age has already done it.

A few fantasies broke for me during my time in SF:

  • this place is a modern, utopian city
  • most companies are driven by a meaningful mission statement
  • the value systems of those in tech are diverse and unique
  • VC is only driven by altruism and a genuine excitement for the future
  • people are pushing deep tech and applying innovations to every aspect of our lives
  • there is a social safety net that is paid for by big tech

I did contracting work for a Chinese company, then full stack dev work as the third employee in a budding NLP startup. I lived in a company AirBnB, did a 10 day hackathon, and cooked a lot. I got a job offer from Google and a spot in a startup accelerator in Taiwan.


By now I'm sure that there are many many more inspiring people and interesting lessons/experiences/environments outside of the traditional college experience. The world is a big place, and I should explore it while I still can.

Taipei

About this time, the stars and planets aligned so that I was at a crossroads. I could decide between a founding engineer position at a budding company in SF, or throw everything to the wind and go to Taiwan to do my own thing. A tug of war between my responsibilities, outlooks, and instincts ensued.

So far, I had seen prime examples of people who had followed their calling and forged an unconventional path for themselves. Inspired to know that this was indeed possible, I decided to follow my gut and try to discover myself in Taiwan.

Against all odds, I was approved for a visa, flown to Taoyuan International Airport and checked through customs, all in the midst of the pandemic.

Looking forwards, I have no answer for the why's and the how's in my life. My gut feeling has taken me this far, and I'm sure it will lead me places if I follow it unconditionally. Everything is unfamiliar and exciting, and in a way, that's quite precious. In the future, I'll always be able to visit this place, but I'll never feel the same novelty and confusion again.


So I'll take this chance to explore and find out what truly matters in my life. I'll try to build projects and friendships and lessons and memories. There isn't much time to do this either. To sum this up in my own twist of the common saying:

The world is your oyster and oysters don't last long

(you only have a finite amount of time before they expire)