Every place on earth that I want to visit — is because of him.
A year and half ago, I had this great opportunity to study abroad in the United Kingdom, a country I have dreamt to visit since I was small.
I grew up in Hong Kong. I got my bachelor degree in the University of Hong Kong. In the third year, I applied to an exchange program offered by the school, to study overseas for half a year.
I have always wanted to study abroad. I am always outgoing. Perhaps I find the education and atmosphere outside Hong Kong less stressful and suit me better. But when he found out that I have to leave for six months, he found it hard to take. He was always upset thinking of me leaving him. He said I was abandoning him. He said so as if I was leaving him alone in a living hell and flying to a paradise all by myself. For one moment I thought I was really selfish.
We have had the same discussion for so many times. He knew that I have to go on that exchange in order to fulfill my graduation requirement (my program required students to have an overseas studying experience). Discussions became frustrations, then arguments.
Half year before the flight to London took off, we broke up.
I don’t know if that was because of the fear of a long-distance relationship that pushed him away from me. He said he was tired. He said it was stressful to be with me. The last kiss — I couldn’t feel his love anymore. It was just me trying hard. That was not a kiss — just me trying to push my lips against his, almost forcefully.
The two-and-half-year relationship crushed me pretty hard but I told myself I have to be tough, at least in front of my family. I convinced myself the break-up was a good thing for my departure to the UK. I no longer needed to worry how sad he was; I no longer needed to calculate the time difference and try to skype call him in the middle of the night, like all my friends did. I could have all the fun I wanted to have. I could drink, I could party — I had no one to report to.
I travelled a lot during that half year — Spain, Greece, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Denmark. I lived those moments in life. I was happy.
Greece was pretty. Santorini was spectacular, the sunset was a kill. I fell in love with that place the moment I had my sight on those little blue-and-white houses.
I found the Three Blue Domes in Oia, took a picture in front of them, just like all those postcards. It’s not all those postcards. It’s the postcard that he wrote me when he first traveled to Greece.
“It’s beautiful here but there’s something missing because you were not here with me. I promise I will come back here with you and share the view with you.”
I stood at the same place where he stood one year ago. Suddenly I found that I wasn’t in love with the island, I was in love with the person who came here once.
I planned the Greece trip because of him. I was determined to find the Three Blue Domes not because I want to replicate the view in those postcards. Because I wanted to take the journey he had taken.
Because I miss him. I still love him.
When I went back to the UK, I started searching for flight tickets — to Turkey and Croatia.
He told me he met the friendliest hostel host in Ankara, Turkey. He learnt that the authentic kebab Turkish eat every day was different from those we had in Hong Kong. He sent me a picture of the Victory Monument at Ulus Square. He bought me a turquoise bracelet. I always loved turquoise, deep but clear, mysterious.
He said the starry sky in Croatia was stunning. The hot chocolate that he had for breakfast every day was the best he had tried in his life. It was snowing and cold but people there were friendly. He knew I like collecting currency so he brought me all those bank notes and coins.
It was always raining and gloomy in the UK. I longed to see the stars in Croatia’s clear sky. I wished I had the money to fly there. The flight ticket to Turkey was not expensive but it was amid a conflict with Ukraine. My parents said no.
Half year flew by. Time flew by quickly in general. I went back to Hong Kong, graduated from my bachelor degree and here I am now, earning my master degree in Los Angeles, California.
I changed but at the same time I haven’t changed.
I still love traveling. Turkey and Croatia are still the common destinations I put in on Skyscanner. I know nothing about these places. Sometimes you want to visit a place not because of the place itself, but a person.
Places change, people don’t. Or is it: people change, places don’t?