在台灣，露營會訂露營場地，車子開到場地便可以搭帳篷，也可以睡車上，這是最容易的車宿旅行，不知那來的堅持，我覺得車宿就是要睡在非付費的露營地，不少人會睡在路邊停車場，我們有兩個選擇條件： 一是遠離馬路 ，二是有洗手間。中午，我們從花蓮台11線出發往南，台東東海岸地形狹長，公路只有一條，一直開4小時，風景都是太平洋。我本來以為我們會開到哪就睡在哪，但原來她不是，負責開車的她會焦慮，心中一定要有目的地。
“I was wearing my new shoes when it started to rain. I stood in front of a puddle for three seconds. It took some courage to jump over it.”
“I don’t like eggplant. With a plate of eggplant pickles in front of me, I needed to take a deep breath before picking the pickles up with my chopsticks and putting them in my mouth. Courage was needed in the process.”
After sojourning in Taiwan for a long time, I have become accustomed to traveling around the island. I have tried taking buses, trains, high-speed rail, driving, camping, staying in homestays, camping in the wild, and hiking. And on top of the fact that I usually ride a bike, I thought my soul had already merged with this island, and my heart rate would no longer accelerate suddenly as it did when I used to wander around the city. However, it wasn’t until I went on my first road trip that started from the east and went all the way to the west of Taiwan, circling half of the island, that I felt that sense of happiness again, which included “courage.”
Road trips remind me of “road movies” in which the protagonist usually sets out on a journey by train or car for some reason, and as the journey progresses, various events take place that help the protagonist find themselves amidst the confusion. Through a series of experiences, the protagonist gains a better understanding of themselves. During this road trip from Hualien to Tainan, the reason for embarking on the journey was not as important as the feelings and experiences we had along the way. What made this trip different from a typical road trip was that we slept in the car.
“Car camping, caravanning, RV camping — it has many names.”
Since the car we were driving was already a seven-seater with a flat back seat, we decided to sleep in it for this trip. In that way, we wouldn’t have to book accommodations or worry about arriving at a hotel on time, which made us feel relaxed at the beginning.
“I thought I wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore, but I still felt worried.”
In Taiwan, camping usually means camping at a designated site, where you can pitch a tent or sleep in a car once you arrive. This is the easiest way to go car camping. However, for some reason, I felt that car camping should be done in non-paid camping areas. Many people sleep in roadside parking lots. For us, we had two criterias for choosing a camping spot: First, it had to be far from the road, and second, there had to be a restroom nearby. At noon, we set off from Highway 11 in Hualien and headed south along the narrow and long terrain of the East Coast of Taitung. There is only one road, and we drove for four straight hours, all the while enjoying the scenery of the Pacific Ocean. I thought we would just sleep wherever we ended up, but she, who was responsible for driving, felt anxious and needed to have a destination in mind.
I didn’t realize how important having a destination was for her. Once it gets dark on the east side of Taiwan, it becomes quite dim, and she didn’t want to drive around in the dark looking for a place to sleep. We had already stopped at three scenic rest areas, but none of them seemed suitable for sleeping. We had rode for 74 kilometers already, and it was getting dark. It felt like we were climbing a mountain and hadn’t yet reached the summit, not knowing how much longer it would take. We made it to Changbin, the first small town on the southbound route to Hualien, just as the last light of day was fading. It was both very primitive and dramatic, which was exactly what we were looking for on a road trip. We saw the sign for “Changbin Fishing Port”along the road, but not from our phones.
“Changbin Fishing Port is a small fishing port. Recently, there was a Flying Fish Festival, which means all the fishing boats have to return before dawn. They are all small boats. And on this side is a fixed-net fishing area. There are sewage treatment facilities in the restrooms,” said a local indigenous person who came with their child to the fishing port to look at the sea. It was already dark in the port as we started cooking dumplings. I thought to myself, “These children in the east aren’t afraid of the dark at all.”
It was our first time sleeping at a fishing port. The car was parked right next to the sea. If the wind was strong, would we be blown into the Pacific Ocean? I shushed myself with “Don’t scare yourself.” Eventually, tiredness hit and we fell asleep in the sound of the waves. Looking back now, it was probably the tiredness that caused our adrenaline to rise and our heartbeats to race.
The next morning, we woke up and came to realize that we had actually slept in the middle of a real fishing port. With our car window facing the sea, it was a view that no amount of money could buy at a homestay. And surrounding us were the fishermen who were busy working.
As we moved along, we entered the Hualien-Taitung Rift Valley, a place surrounded by mountains. If our journey were a road movie, the plot would be quite ordinary. But perhaps our daily lives are so calm and peaceful, and that we feel so safe staying in a concrete jungle; car camping allows us to go beyond the ordinary and experience the unexpected. Worries from the previous night became memories, and we were driving around, looking at land art, visiting local art galleries, trying out the famous Chishang tofu sheet, grilled oysters, and so on. We traveled deep into the mountains, continuing to see the ocean until we reached the ocean in Pingtung and stayed in a camping ground nestled in a high forested mountain two kilometers above sea level. This time, camping requires only a little courage.
Next time when you come across a garbage truck, a mobile vegetable truck that wanders in the countryside, or even the only MUJI mobile service truck on the road in Taiwan, talk to the driver and the passenger to hear their road trip stories. You will realize how a little bit of courage can bring along so much happiness.