After completing a 600km walk around the nation, two college students said they have gained self-confidence and discovered the warm hospitality of Taiwan’s many communities.
Lin Yang-chieh (林揚傑) and Hu Yen-ting (胡彥廷) are classmates at the Taipei College of Maritime Technology (TCMT).
At the start of the summer, the two friends decided to challenge themselves by walking across the nation, in a sort of a “coming-of-age” rite of passage.
“To prove our manliness, we decided to walk around Taiwan,” they said.
The two began their one-month journey inspired by their slogan “One step and one footprint at a time, tour the whole of Taiwan.”
Lin, a fifth-year student at TCMT, is an orphan. Fatherless since childhood, his mother passed away while he was in junior-high school.
Due to hormonal problems, Lin had a big appetite as he was growing up and ballooned up to 130kg.
While attending TCMT, Lin got his appetite under control, and walked 14km of mountain roads to and from school each day. By doing this, he managed to trim down to 85kg this year.
Lin said they brought just NT$11,000 (US$370) each for their journey.
“To save money, we pitched a tent almost every night. We always ate cheap meals, such as braised pork rice, plain noodles and sometimes some dried tofu,” he said.
“We ate braised pork rice from north to south, and discovered that its flavor varies from salty to sweet in different regions,” Hu said.
However, they did run short of money toward the end, so they opted for discount items at hypermarts, such as cans of roasted eel and corn on the cob.
The best places to stop were police stations, where they could fill their water bottles and recharge their mobile phones, Lin said.
“One time, we met the deputy chief of the police station in Jiaba District (茄拔) in Greater Tainan. He is into outdoor sports and cycling. He treated us to fruit and steamed rice dumplings filled with meat. We really enjoyed the warm hospitality,” Lin said.
They walked nearly 13 hours each day, which was physically and mentally gruelling.
When Lin got blisters on all of his toes, they bought needles and iodine to break open and disinfect the blisters with iodine.
When the tent was too hot to sleep, they bought frozen mineral water bottles that were turned into mini-coolers with a small electric fan.
“I used to be a Boy Scout, so I know how to pitch a tent, tie knots and other skills. These came in handy on this journey,” Lin said.
Sometimes the friends had differences of opinion, and would argue over who should carry the tent.
“However, we learned to bear the hardships and carry on to the finish. We have gained self-confidence and a renewed outlook on life through this experience,” Hu said.
When they reached Hu’s house in Taoyuan County, Hu’s grandmother had prepared a feast for them.
“It was the most enjoyable meal we had throughout the journey. It was such a long time since I had this happy feeling of dining with family,” Lin said.
Speaking about his future, Lin said his teacher Lin Ya-hui (林雅惠) had helped him gain scholarship grants to pay tuition and living expenses.
“I will live modestly, and stick to a daily budget. When we graduate next year, we plan to hike up to Yushan (玉山) to commemorate the event,” Lin said.