Places I slept, 2021

View of Hong Kong Harbor and Island from a hotel on the Kowloon side

Unlike last year, I tracked this list carefully in twenty twenty one. Some rituals fade in importance when forcibly paused, but not this one. I love recalling our different adventures. Lists like these and the mental exercise they entail are a way to mark time, and to remember life’s variety. In 2021 I needed both. As years go this one was not as slow as the last, and for a brief moment we felt the world open up. After both getting new jobs during the first lockdown in twenty twenty, we started the new year working hard with good groups. For the first time since twenty sixteen, we both made it through the month of August in the same job we’d begun the year with. It was a spring of adventuring around Hong Kong, bouldering on beaches and kayaking in the ocean. We played frisbee, but sparingly, and Tara spent alternate Wednesday evenings running women’s beginner frisbee sessions. Long a passion, her efforts have paid off, with summer sessions attracting thirty-odd women of various levels. Given less access to the world, we’ve invested more in the community we can reach. We also started doing yoga together, slowly, and for much of the year it made Friday mornings the best part of the week. As we learned in twenty twenty, spending time learning new skills is always worthwhile.

Most luckily, we got vaccines in April and were on a plane to the US by the end of June. After more than a year on the ground, seeing Hong Kong from the air during takeoff was a relief and a reminder of how important air travel is to our lives. I’ve rarely been happier to be on vacation. In California we swam in pools, drove cars, ate barbecue on decks, and walked around lakes. In Colorado we went to the All-Star game, and in New York I played soccer on a field with a view of lower Manhattan. Mostly though we spent almost every waking hour in conversation with someone we hadn’t seen in a year and a half, and those moments make up many of the year’s best memories.

Our trip was lucky in all the best ways, as we returned right before Delta re-terrified communities, and escaped with only seven days in hotel quarantine. Those seven days watching Hong Kong and the harbor, the view of which tops this post, represent something of a dream, a small gap to be quietly ourselves and remember all that we’d done. From the moment we left that room and reunited with our friends and our cat, on my birthday in early August, the year seemed to accelerate. Tara changed jobs, a lucky shift back to the renewables industry she never really wanted to leave, and the sense of being underwater that comes with starting new hard things returned. After a hard year for my startup’s business model I too moved on, without a next step in sight. Some decisions are difficult but necessary, and the gift of a partner who can pay rent has enabled me to relax this past month. The cat appreciates the company, and we know by now to take what breaks we can whenever we are able.

Twenty twenty one was a good year, alternately hard and peaceful, and while we miss some parts of our old lives fiercely we are settling in to this quiet new reality, grateful both to those here with us in Hong Kong’s bubble and for regular communication with those further afield. Our list, when compiled like this, paints a picture to me of our relationships. It reminds me of friend’s homes and the comforts of our local situation. We are lucky, as always, to have so much to do.

Tai Hang, HK
Aberdeen harbor, HK (houseboat)
Admiralty, HK (staycation)
Wan Chai, HK (staycation)
Malibu, CA (twice)
Oakland, CA
Fort Collins, CO
Walden, CO
Berthoud, CO
Cherry Hill, NJ
Rumson, NJ
Brooklyn, NY (two separate spots)
Ithaca, NY
Hung Hom, HK (quarantine)
Tsim Sha Tsui, HK (staycation)
Sai Wan Beach, HK (camping)

Places I slept, 2020

A Hanoi view

My tradition of keeping track of every bed became almost an afterthought this year. Like most people, I have never spent as much time at home. My regular question as to the pace of the year and whether it will feel fast or slow in memory is easy to answer. Twenty twenty will feel very slow.

In some ways the change of pace is, as many have written, an opportunity to reset, to re-value and build new habits. Many have done so. Tara has learned to surf and pickle, learned to do handstands and play new songs. For myself the skills aren’t as obvious. This year gave me time to learn to lift my left arm again, and then to do pull-ups, planks, and climb once again. These abilities are the gift of a re-built shoulder, itself a gift of Hong Kong’s medicine and reasonably priced global insurance. The quiet days with nowhere to go and nothing to do save rehab were a gift of the pandemic, with sports and travel closed and my startup failed.

The other gifts, less physical, are those that come from the new job, from trying hard to help build a team and company. From presenting to a board, talking to investors, recruiting, and building cash flow models, twenty twenty gave me the chance to prove that all my start up experience could go further. It’s an opportunity I’ve sought, and I’m glad to be here in Hong Kong trying to make a company work.

As for travel, well, I think the list of places we were supposed to go outnumbers those we did. From weddings postponed or done via Zoom to meetings conducted on Slack instead of in person, there was much we gave up. For a year that saw Hong Kong give up so much more, that saw America give up so much more, it feels awful to even mention our losses. Far more important, then, to recall what we did do, before the planes stopped, and all the people we did see. Here then is my list, and a wish:

May we not have to say goodbye to so many in twenty one, and instead get to say more hello’s.

Tai Hang, HK
Hanoi, Vietnam
Taipei, Taiwan
Malibu, CA (x2)
Santa Monica, CA
SF, CA (x2)
Anaheim, CA
Manhattan, NY
Brooklyn, NY
Cherry Hill, NJ

The total for the year’s first 58 days: 10 places, and 2 of them twice.
Since then:

Kowloon, HK - a hotel staycation
Wan Chai, HK - another hotel staycation