As I mentioned earlier, Hsinya and I are traveling overseas to Taiwan by bringing only carry-on luggage. It’s an experiment in minimalist travel to help us save money, time, and the environment. Hsinya and I landed at Taoyuan airport around midnight on Sunday. It was a cramped, 14-hour international flight, but Hsinya’s family was overjoyed to see us when we arrived. Thanks to our minimalist luggage, we didn’t waste any time claiming baggage, so we checked out an hour earlier than other passengers. Her parents were confused about our minimalist luggage (That’s all you brought?), but they were definitely glad to leave the terminal so quickly.
My wife’s hometown, Taichung, is in the center of the country. Like other cities in Taiwan, Taichung has an aura different from any city I’ve seen in the United States. Taiwan is an industrialized nation, and Taichung is a vibrant commercial center. Of course, the locals import foreign brands like Pizza Hut or 7-Eleven, but even more impressive is their ability to adapt and create their own local versions of stores. Last night I visited Save & Safe (literally “Big Buyer” in Chinese), a multi-story shopping center triple the size of my local Walmart. At night, Taichung becomes a city of lights, since many stores–and their shoppers–never seem to sleep.
Being a Greenimalist in Taichung will be a challenge, but I think the challenge is what makes living here exciting. In Irvine, it was easy for me to buy organic food or to ride a bicycle. In Southern California, sustainable living has entered into mainstream consciousness. Sustainable living, however, lags behind in poorer parts of the world, since the priority of rapid economic growth trumps everything else. But Greenimalist living should be universal; it should be just as practical for someone who lives in downtown Mexico City as it is for someone who lives in Irvine, California. Now that I’m in Taichung, I get a chance to experiment.
Like other international cities, most of Taichung is accessible only by roads, which are often dominated by fast cars and motorcycles. Trees are scarce, and fresh air is scarcer. Smog in Taichung is a serious health issue, and based on my experience, it’s much worse here than in downtown Los Angeles. I definitely won’t go cycling without a gas mask, but I probably won’t go biking at all because I’m afraid of getting flattened by a reckless driver.
At the same time, there are new opportunities here in Taichung. The farmers markets are more lively here because Taiwan has preserved part of its traditional food culture. It’s also very easy to live without a car, since the public transit system is excellent. There are trains, buses, and high speed railways that can take us practically anywhere in the country. Lastly, since Taiwan is a tiny island with scarce resources and space, water and energy conservation is stressed here far more than in America. Failure to recycle is punishable by fines.
So while green living hasn’t become popular just yet, I’m encouraged to discover it’s at least possible here in Taichung. If Greenimalist living is possible on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, it may be possible wherever you live, too.
Is it hard to be a Greenimalist in your city?