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And I Thought I Was Going To The Beach

This work is a lifestyle, and there is only one way that I k ow how to do it.

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I had my cut off Jean shorts on. I had on a Bills t-shirt. My backpack was full of cameras and a plan to have a relaxing afternoon of talking to myself — vlogging. My wife and two daughters were walking behind me. They were in their bathing suits. The sun was shining bright. We were going to the beach.

Then I picked up my phone. Made a call. Introduced myself and announced my purpose. I hung up and turned around. I would not be going to the beach. I would be going to work instead. 

I’m working on a series of articles about growing cross-straits economic relations (and potentially a film about it as well) and Kinmen is ground zero for this. 

I called to set up an interview with the man who’s second in command in the local government here — who also seems to be a driving force behind re-establishing Xiamen / Kinmen relations. He is also prone to giving emotive, to the point, well-spoken interviews — i.e. something I can actually use. 

He wanted to meet immediately. 

So I walked back to my guesthouse, put on something resembling work clothes (full length jeans), and exchanged a few cameras for my interview rig, and off I went. 

My family didn’t even respond with a glitch. This is just normal by now. They know I never have any idea what I’m doing. They were probably just relieved that I didn’t get off the phone and announce that I was immediately departing for Strung Treng. 

If you ask me to go across the world tomorrow there is a better chance that I will do it than if you try to plan it for six months down the road. 

How am I supposed to know where I’m going to be six months from now?

I need to be unchained enough to be able to pounce on whatever story comes passing by, not tied up with a never ending stream of pre-established engagements. 

I don’t have any semblance of a work schedule — I kind of just work all the time. I usually don’t have any idea what country I will be in next week. I keep things open-ended, fluid, and responsive — so when someone I want to meet is able to see me I can be there. No questions asked, no appointments to cancel, I can just say, “Sounds good.”

It’s a strategy that I’ve found effective — or, rather, absolutely necessary. I’m a professional story chaser, and I understand how unpredictable this work can be. So rather than swimming against the tide I observe the way the river is flowing and just go along with it.


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Filed under: Journalism, Kinmen, Taiwan, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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