It's been a year since my wife and I stepped on a plane and moved to Shanghai. Sometimes I have my difficulties to understand and make sense of how time flies. Where did the year go? What did I do? What has changed? Did I do enough to rank higher on my imaginary scale of "living a meaningful and profound life"?
I haven't taken my time yet to properly think about and answer all of the questions above but I want to share a few reflections on our first year in Shanghai.
Social, Mental and Physical Health...
In late 2019 I set myself a few goals. One was to be socially, mentally and physically healthy. I wrote about how physical health influences mental and social health in a different article.
After enjoying life between July and October 2019 - at least by my definition of an "enjoyable life" while being an overconfident and (insecurely) overachieving management consultant: good, expensive food, lots of free time to catch up with what I've missed out on over the past 10 years, looking for new and interesting topics to learn and business opportunities to follow up on, having an empty mail inbox, having 0 calls per day, etc. - I set out to achieve a long term goal of mine: physical fitness in the form of a six-pack and a healthy diet.
It took me 3 months, 5 runs per week, 3 healthy meals per day and a lot of weighing, looking into the mirror, pushing myself with setting clear rules (I will probably keep the piece of paper on which I wrote "You will not skip a single run until Christmas!" forever...) to achieve this goal but looking back I can say that and I think I've done well to be in good shape. I am now running the equivalent of 1.5 marathons a week on average while focusing more on attaining and keeping a lean yet muscular stature through HIT and 2-3 sessions with heavy weights per week.
Regarding social health I can only say this: I didn't make many new friends here in Shanghai - yet I don't think that I am missing out on much. Probably that's due to the fact that I am still enjoying the anonymity of the big city and will keep doing so for a little while longer.
Mentally I think I haven't been in a better, more mature state (if that is a good thing). I have learned to reflect on my (bad) behavior and phases of rage and anger, learned to accept the fact that if you truly want to achieve something you need focus and act instead of building castles in the cloud, stopped dancing on several weddings at the same time (old German saying), found passion in writing down what I think and feel and found a lot of pleasure in studying and learning about (the yet to be fully understood mystery that is) our brain and mind.
I've also managed to write 30 weekly blogs plus a few daily ones. I am quite proud of that, even though I am still looking for ways to get more readers and more feedback on my articles and the included thoughts since ultimately that's the currency to evaluate if it's worth the while. I am aiming at 52 weekly blogs by the end of the year and I'm confident that I'll keep using this instrument to reflect on my life, thoughts, the stuff I learn and things that I find interesting. And I hope to find more like-minded people along the way that share my curiosity and passion for the matters of the mind.
Travel and Exploration...
When thinking about traveling I usually think about air-travel. I love flying. Some friends and former colleagues do, some don't. My mother doesn't like it. Chances that she will visit us here in Shanghai are very low.
I have been visited by my little brother and one of my best friends late in 2019 - really great memories. I can't say how much I'm looking forward to having visitors again here in Shanghai. I take huge pleasure in presenting "my town" to people who've never experienced China (at least the Shanghainese version of it) or a city of comparable size.
There's an article I wrote about the freedom of traveling and the joy I take in exploring - and I have to admit that each day I read about new travel restrictions and the difficulties that come with journeying between Europe and China makes me miss traveling more and more each day.
First and foremost I have to say that going home to Finland and Germany are still my favorite things to do. The next time I'll be able to set a foot on home soil will be 9 months after I've last done so... feels like an eternity.
However, we've had some truly great travel experiences since moving to Shanghai. And I've discovered that traveling by train can be as enjoyable as air-travel (at least here in China). Thinking of the journeys we've undertook here in China, I have to say that visiting Huangshan and the Anhui province was probably my favorite thing to do - although seeing the Great Wall near Beijing was comparably worth remembering. Spending a couple of days outside the big city is always a great relief. The landscape of Huangshan, the ancient towns, the rough mountains, the morning mist over the tee plantations - these will be memories I will cherish for a long time.
There is a long list of destinations we still want to visit while being here. Lots of them in China, i.a. Guilin, Xi'an, Chengdu, but also abroad: Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam - in no specific order. Hope we'll get to do that in the near future.
On another note: We've done a lot of exploring and re-exploring here in Shanghai as well. I've already written about a few favorite sights and restaurants. First we thought that we'd carry a curse in such a way that every restaurant we visited would close within three months after our visit. But we've learned the hard way that the "half life" of restaurants and bars is not nearly as long as it is in Finland, Germany or other parts of the western world. Some spots open and close within 3-6 months, some don't ever fully open and some have disappeared as a consequence of the current crisis and other (partially political) reasons.
I am pretty sure that once the rainy season is over we'll be able to discover a lot of new and interesting places since Shanghai is this ever changing canvas for restaurants, exhibitions, shops, etc... and I'm looking forward to that.
No doubt, 2020 has been quiet so far (here in Shanghai)... Late 2019 promised a lot that - and we can probably all agree on that - didn't come to fruition in 2020 (yet).
I've been lucky enough not to be too negatively affected by the crisis (except for the travel restrictions) and I will continue the path I've taken. There is a lot more studying, traveling, and working (out) to do. I've learned not to worry too much about what's going to happen in 3 or 5 years but I have set my goals and visions and as long as I have the feeling that I'm on the right trajectory, I can be grateful for today, for tomorrow I know will be even better...