By Michael Turton/Ketagalan Media

Last year I was chatting with a student of mine about a new game that Taiwanese students were playing. “You play it using the local train stations,” she described. “You take only local trains, and you roll a die. Whatever number you roll, you get on the train and go down the line that many stations, and get off there, and tour that area. It’s really fun!”

The international media, always fifteen years behind events, has discovered the rising Taiwanese identity among the young. Commentators variously attribute it to the rise of democracy, the Chen Shui-bian era reforms to education, student activism, and other causes. But there is one element they miss: travel.

In the last decade, new forms of domestic tourism, coupled with the routinization of travel abroad, have enabled the young to confront their land and their position in the world at a younger age than previous generations. Recall that in the martial law era, the populace was less wealthy and travel abroad was difficult. The affluence of the older generation is helping to create a Taiwan consciousness among the young.

The 2006 film Island Etude sparked a revolution in the youth experience of Taiwan. The film’s main character rode a bicycle on a 7 day, 6 night discovery of Taiwan. Suddenly thousands of young people began emulating him, taking their own bicycle journeys around Taiwan. Today, round-the-island rides are a rite of passage for the young, and many of my students do them during breaks. An entire infrastructure of bike touring has arisen to service this impulse, including bike paths and agencies that rent bikes and arrange routes and places to stay. Biking has also taken off as a leisure and sporting activity, and local governments around Taiwan sponsor events that bring in cyclists from around the island, giving the young further incentive to travel and discover Taiwan. On weekends my students frequently take overnight trips and day trips, especially early in the semester before their workload becomes crazy.

The News Lens international edition has been authorized to repost part of this article. The full piece is published on Ketagalan Media here: Travel, and the New Taiwanese Identity

First Editor: Olivia Yang