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Although I’d spent the past 3 years dreaming of going back to Hong Kong, I actually hadn’t set up any kind of itinerary for my trip back there this year. I suffered through jetlag for my first weekend there, and then I went to Disneyland on Monday and Tuesday. Beyond that, I hadn’t made any plans for myself.

However, on my way back to my hostel on Tuesday night, I formulated a plan to take myself on a date the following day because it was Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to treat myself and celebrate the success of my solo travels so far.

I slept in a bit later than normal, put on my pinkest dress, and packed my adventure bag for a busy day.

I took the train to Tung Chung on Lantau Island and then hopped on the bus to go to Po Lin Monastery, enjoying the scenic view along the way. Since the cable car wasn’t running until 10, I got there before the crowds.

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It was a very short walk from the bus stop to the bottom of Big Buddha, where I geared up for some extreme stair-climbing.

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It was a lovely warm day but it was still cool and cloudy enough that I only broke a little bit of a sweat as I climbed the 268 steps to the top of Big Buddha. During one of my water breaks, I met a fellow American who ended up joining me on the day’s adventures. (I also met yet another dog!)

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The view from the top was lovely, and we walked around, taking pictures and chatting about his job as a flight attendant, my job as a teacher, and our mutual dislike for the current leader of the US–he had a t-shirt he liked to wear on his travels that said “Sorry about our president” in about a dozen different languages.

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My plan had been to eat at the vegetarian restaurant in the monastery, but it didn’t open for another hour after we finished at Big Buddha, so we decided to follow the nearby Wisdom Path and instead ended up veering off to hike a trail that was a little more intense.

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Not only did we encounter incredible scenic views along the way, but we also had fun exploring some abandoned buildings.

Finally, we couldn’t handle hiking uphill any longer and turned back to get lunch at the monastery. In addition to our meal, we wanted to spend some time appreciating the beautiful details of the monastery.

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I had wanted to eat here 3 years ago when I last visited the monastery but didn’t have money at the time because I’d been waiting for a bank transfer to come through.

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So I was pretty hyped up about this meal, and honestly, I can say it’s one of the worst vegan meals I’ve ever paid for! Flavorless steamed veggies are not a great way to make people appreciate a vegetarian diet! Nonetheless, we ate what we could before leaving, having already bought our meal ticket earlier.

New friend, as we left the restaurant: Do you have everything?
Me, with an eye roll: Yes, thanks DAD!

30 minutes later…
Me: My wallet is gone!

Luckily, the Buddhist monastery was a great place to learn my lesson, and we easily tracked down my wallet with the cash, passport, room key, and cards still there.

After taking the bus back to the train station, our next stop was the Pacific Place AMC on Hong Kong Island. I had found out earlier this week that Black Panther came out Tuesday in Hong Kong, and I considered it my American duty to see it ASAP. I love going to the movies, so I was excited to experience the cinema in a new place.

And of course, seeing Black Panther at Disneyland had only intensified my excitement.

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Black Panther was PHENOMENAL! It didn’t really feel like a Marvel movie because it didn’t tie directly into the other plotlines in the MCU, but it tackled some relevant issues, and I ended up crying at the end because I was thinking about how some of my former nerdy students are now going to have a superhero that they can identify more with.

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We attempted to go to Victoria Peak for a sprawling view of the city, but the line for the tram was super long, and we were super wiped out from the day’s hike (my health app said I climbed the equivalent of 71 flights of stairs!), so we went out for dinner and then called it quits.

My day went totally different from how I had envisioned it when I planned it out. I had started my morning expecting it to be a FANTASTIC day, and the reality somehow exceeded my high expectations! And that was even despite the fact that my day of planned solitude ended up being shared with a new friend. There were so many times that I wondered “Why am I not feeling anxiety about this situation?”

At the end of that day, I wrote: “I’m hoping that at this rate, I might someday soon have an anxiety-free day without even noticing. And then another. And another. Until it becomes the norm. It feels really good to be out exploring the world!”

More than 3 months later as I publish this, I can confirm that living without anxiety is still my reality! It’s amazing to navigate public transportation and simple interactions and rushed travel days and whatever else life throws at me without breaking a mental sweat, and I hope this trend continues!

Love, Elizabeth

Do any of you ever take yourself on solo dates, or am I the only one?!