【WHY NOT BOLD】Roaming Across the Corners of the Globe: Interviewing Gigi Chang

That Year, She Became a Wanderer of the Earth

“In a single, exhaustive day, I became a global nomad.” On September 11, 2022, a young woman commenced her worldwide adventure, sharing the beginning of her journey on Instagram from her first stop, London.

Gigi Chang succinctly describes herself online: “Capturing stories with my camera, I wander solo across the globe. My home is in Africa for now.” At 22, the Taiwanese photographer chose to embark on an extensive journey. Like Phileas Fogg, the protagonist from Around the World in Eighty Days, her adventure started in London, but hers was not spurred by a wager nor constrained by a deadline. Her travels aimed simply to fulfill a childhood aspiration. “I want to tell my younger self: Look, you are more courageous and resilient than you ever imagined. You’ve reached the far corners of the world, listening to untold stories.”

Thus, her journey unraveled without a predetermined route or timetable, taking her from Britain to Iceland, then Paris, Norway, Portugal, the Balkans, Turkey, Palestine, and into the vast sands of the North African Sahara. By her 23rd birthday, she had explored 23 countries. “The heart dictates the rest—deciding the duration of each stay, which cities to explore, and what adventures to pursue, all led by serendipity and instinct. The road is rife with unpredictability.”

Gigi wanders the world with the utmost freedom. She recognizes her privilege, being unburdened by financial strains at home, having amassed a ‘wandering fund’ over two and a half years from tutoring and photography. “I might one day be robbed and decide just to fly home,” she muses. Times of peace are often supported by others who bear burdens on your behalf, for which she is profoundly grateful. She knows well that achieving her dreams is a privilege she enjoys. Yet, earning her travel money was far from easy, it was a result of relentless effort and nights spent working against the clock, saving every bit of sweat equity for a more extended journey.

Isolation often accompanies her travels, particularly when facing harassment, threats, or scams, leaving her feeling helpless and desiring companionship. Nevertheless, she doesn’t view loneliness as negative, to her, it’s a personal choice, a task she sets for herself.

The Happiest Eight Months in Kenya

Teaching in a small Kenyan village for eight months became the most joyous period of her life. Initially indecisive in Egypt about her next destination, she serendipitously met a backpacker with teaching experience in Kenya. Yielding to destiny’s pull, she connected with a school in Kenya and made her move. Those eight months, spent teaching English, math, her least favored subject in junior high, and photography, were filled with pure happiness. “Education is vital. I know I couldn’t overhaul a century-old educational system in eight months. I never aimed to change anything drastically, nor did I believe I should. My goal was simply to plant a small seed, to someday sprout and strengthen within their lives.”

Her presence led eight students to achieve the highest scores in their school’s history, helping them to appreciate their own worth and no longer view their futures as bleak.

In some eyes, her actions might be seen as hypocritically idealistic or born from the arrogance of a privileged upbringing. However, her seemingly foolish heart and impulsive actions reflect her life philosophy and approach to engaging with the world.

Her Most Beloved Land After Much Traveling

Her favorite destination after extensive travels? Mongolia. 

Upon turning eighteen, she expressed a desire to her mother to visit Mongolia, “not sure what to expect, but eager to explore.” And so her adventure began, aimlessly wandering the vast steppes, finding the sun-kissed cheeks of the locals under the expansive skies utterly enchanting.

Lying alone in the open fields one morning, she noticed a stone standing quietly amid the endless grass, seemingly uninvolved with the world around it. In that moment, her heart surged with passion, pounding wildly. She suddenly grasped the vastness of the world and her small place within it. She realized the meaning of life doesn’t need to be grand; in the massive flow of life, you are not alone. She also remembered that love is the most potent force on Earth, hoping it would spread as warmly and evenly as the sun overhead.

This is her tale. Since then, nothing has deterred her. Once you’ve experienced such expansive landscapes, how could you not continue to explore?

There’s no end in sight, no scheduled return

“Talk of a return date or a final destination doesn’t align with my current philosophy of life; returning to Taiwan doesn’t signify an end for me. I intend to keep moving forward,” she penned. “Life resembles an unscripted film,” where every person who enters her life plays a part in the narrative. She’s uninterested in knowing the finale, nor does she anticipate a perfect conclusion.

How long will her global tour last? She doesn’t know. “Perhaps until I am utterly exhausted, until my heart is no longer susceptible to anything.” Gigi hopes that by sharing her journey, others will learn to love, to trust in this flawed, boundless world.

Image source: gigichanngg@threads

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