by Niall Doherty


Born in Brazil to Korean parents, educated in the US, moved to Paris on a whim, then got all entrepreneurial in Asia. She does three hours of Muay Thai a day and reached out after reading my book. Now we’re sitting having dinner in Hong Kong, talking about relationships and physics and metaphorical buses as the waiter pours endless refills and serves food I’ve never heard of.


I step out with words of love in my ears, floating down Wing Lok in an ordinary moment of bliss. With each breath the city ebbs and flows with me, like we’re all one, like nothing’s amiss. I’m over my own shoulder watching a man in the prime of his life, knowing it doesn’t get much better than this. She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm, I sing as I walk. Love is patient, love is kind.


I think about labels and how people are so attached to them, myself included. Like when I was vegan, I felt that anyone talking shit about veganism was talking shit about me. I took it personally. And I see it all around me now, people taking things personally. I see it in comments and emails, people telling me between the lines that something I wrote was an assault on their identity. Well, that’s not really my problem, I think but don’t say.


Reesh straddles me and goes in for the choke. I have to rip his right wrist away while swinging my right arm up and over, lifting my hips at the same time and making sure as we tumble that my outside knee doesn’t hit the ground. It’s a lot to remember, and I wonder if practicing a move twice a week for a few minutes is enough to make it reflexive, to make it useful in the real world. Probably not.

Infiltrating the Hong Kong airwaves.

Infiltrating the Hong Kong airwaves.


A dose of the warm fuzzies when I check my inbox to find a hundred dollar donation with a note attached: “I don’t usually comment or engage too much with your blog (i’m more of a lurker), but I read it all the time, use a lot of your suggestions and got your book off amazon when it was free. Your writing has been extremely beneficial and inspirational to me. So I just wanted to say an extra big thanks!”


I stand in line like a sucker, not realizing that the rules are different here. That is, there are no rules. First a heavy set woman jumps ahead of me. Okay, no big deal. I’m in no rush. But then a little old lady marches right past and slides up to the counter. The thundering bitch! Her phone rings before she’s served and she steps away for a minute. Perfect. I jump out of line and take her spot. If you can’t beat ’em…


I sit quietly in a coffee shop off Wyndham Street, thinking. The radio interview was fun, but once the ego quit buzzing I found myself with the same question I had two years ago, after 2FM called me on my way out of Ireland: “How did that help anyone?” I don’t have a good answer. Both times, I talked about myself and my journey, but I never offered encouragement or advice for others looking to live their own dreams. I can and should do better.


It’s cold and grey and there’s snow falling. Just as I get there the taillights blink out, the car pulling away quickly and disappearing around the corner. He’s probably waiting for me there, eager to play the same trick again. But fuck him. I’ve had enough. Even if he apologizes and allows me in next time, no go. We’re done. I’ll walk the rest of the way, long and uncomfortable though it will be. Thus resolved I grit my teeth, pull my collar tight, and wake up in a sweat.


Slow, consistent progress is the only way to make big things happen.1 This has become my mantra. I get up every morning and knock out some big things before letting myself get lost in a forest of emails and comments and Facebook. A few hours of solid effort every morning, a few hours of focus, a few hours of discipline. Chipping away at that rock. Tap tap tap, until the whole thing cracks and crumbles. This is how it has to be.


I spend most of my time in my bedroom, in front of the laptop. Today I left the apartment for all of twenty minutes to get groceries. I bought two tins of sardines, three bananas, a head of broccoli and a bag of frozen vegetables. Tomorrow I’ll get up at five and workout again, then get right back to work. There’s nothing glamorous about my life right now, and I’m loving it.

Making friends on the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong

Making friends on the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong


The sixth bank I walk into is the only one offering hope. I won’t need a local ID, and my visitor visa is sufficient. Now I just need proof of address, a copy of my lease not acceptable. Will have to figure that one out. Once I do, I’ll have bank accounts on three continents. I’m not sure if such an arrangement will ever prove useful, but it will make me feel a little more like Jason Bourne.


Apparently Steve Jobs had a closet full of blue jeans, black polo necks, and little else. The idea was to avoid wasting mental energy deciding what to wear every day, so he could focus his brain power almost exclusively on high-level tasks. Here in Hong Kong, I’m trying something similar with food. I eat the same four meals every day. When I go to get groceries, I don’t need a list. It’s always some combination of the same eight foods.


I’m relieved to see Sergey, and quickly pair off with him. In Krav, I find it’s best to have a half-crazy partner, someone intense who won’t settle for pulled punches. And that’s Sergey. Our trainer has to tell us several times to calm down, that we’re being too rough. But fuck it, this is what I’m here for. I want that adrenaline spike, I want those bruises, I want that occasional fat lip. I’d rather learn hard lessons in the gym than on the street.


Early every morning, the same people, like clockwork. There’s the odd character with the shaved head sitting on the steps by McDonalds, staring into space as I run past. The man in uniform walking to work as I stretch at the first playground. The portly old chap with the cane doing laps of the second. And the little old lady who always laughs and greets me there, too. Except I haven’t seen her for three days now. I wonder if everything’s okay.


Hong Kong bank account: check. That was easier than I thought. I almost didn’t believe it would be possible. But hey, why even bother? It’s primarily because I don’t trust any one government, bank, economy, or currency. Having money in different accounts on different continents ensures I won’t lose everything if one tanks. Of course, my “everything” isn’t much right now. Working on it.

Hanging with travel blogger extraordinaire, Jonny Blair.

Hanging with travel blogger extraordinaire, Jonny Blair.


Saturday night in Hong Kong involves meeting up with two people I know only from the Internet. Jonny has visited all seven continents and was in Ethiopia three weeks ago feeding wild hyenas. Catherine is spending the year visiting influential artists in thirteen countries and narrowly escaped a bar fight in Zimbabwe. We end up with several others at a karaoke bar on Nathan Road.

In the comments below, let me know which of the above Momentos is your favorite. Which can you relate to?

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