I am wide awake, sitting cross-legged inside my head, wondering if I am a creative person or a traveler or just a person who applied to go on a trip to Asia and got lucky. It’s late, I’m tired. Even the lights of Victoria Harbour have turned off and gone to sleep. I guess they don’t worry about these things so much.The Passion Passport website tells visitors that I am a “writer and photographer,” three words I don’t often consider. I write, but the words sit silently in my notebook. I shoot photos, but they have made a comfortable home in various corners of my desktop, only noticed when my screensaver stops. While these words certainly feel foreign, it’s the “and” that keeps me awake. How can I be all of those things? Harder still, how can I just be one of them?
I worry about that “and.” It allows for too much confusion, brings up too many questions and requires that I do more than I feel I am qualified for.
Every day of #PassportToAsia I worried that someone would ask me what I do. The same way I break eye contact with customs officials when they ask me my occupation. I often make something up. “I am a puppeteer-futures-trader here in Latvia for tumbling workshops!” But, not here. Australia will know, Nashville will figure it out.
On our last full day in Hong Kong, we woke up to a card slipped under our doors. “Hong Kong’s hinterlands are expansive,” it said. Apparently, 40 percent of the city is dedicated to country parks and nature reserves. Having been promised a mystery overnight excursion that would require appropriate footwear, I realized we were spending a night in a Hong Kong I never knew existed.
Our trip began with a guide from Sam the Local tossing a roll of toilet paper to each of us and pointing the way to urban taxis. After racing through the mid-afternoon streets to Sai Kung Town, we switched to rural taxis heading towards MacLehose Trail.
The path was paved, but certainly not easy. It was steep and I was sweaty and with frequent photo stops it took the group far longer than the guide, Rory, anticipated. The higher we climbed, the more visible the rocky coastline became and everyone was stunned by the vast beauty of this unknown Hong Kong.
We detoured to a waterfall, where writers and photographers become divers and swimmers. Our trail wound higher and the coast emerged before us. We passed surf shacks and puppies. Lizards and birds. This is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is faded city signs and bright white beaches.
Hong Kong became an “and.”
We reached our campsite for the night, still talkative and excited. There were beers and dinner and a campfire to look forward to. We were like children, choosing the tents we’d share and unrolling our sleeping bags.
After dinner, we made our way back to the beach in the dark. Somebody screamed and everyone looked towards the surf where the white tips of the waves had begun to glow blue. Bioluminescent plankton turned our beach into a light show we laughed and screamed at each tumble of waves.
I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been. Like Hong Kong and myself and everyone else here, our beach at Tai Long Wan was more than one thing. It was a beautiful beach during the day and a light show at night. Our plankton were simply tiny, twirling organisms during the day and rich, bright, glowing blue at night.
After wrapping ourselves in our sleeping bags and eating s’mores, we retreated to our tents for sleep.
I stayed awake. Australia on one side, Nashville on the other. I was awake and the waves were crashing, I was no longer searching for the context in which I was there. If the entirety of Hong Kong can be more than one thing, I can be that too. If a tiny little sea bug can glow blue at night, so can I.
I am a photographer, a writer, a Latvian tumbler.
This is the fourth of a four-part series on our time in Hong Kong during the #PassportToAsia trip in collaboration with Cathay Pacific Airways. Images by Adrienne Pitts.