A Promise Is A Promise: A trip that has been waiting for over 40 years.

Last October, my client Asher who is from Israel had been diagnosed with lymphoma. He must do the relevant examination and treatment as soon as possible; therefore, he had to cancel his scheduled trip to Taiwan. At that time, my mother also did chemotherapy in the hospital, so I understood his situation. I told him that I believe a cheerful heart is good medicine and sent my sincere blessing to him, hoping the examination and treatment will be pretty smooth. On the other hand, I returned the tour fees as much as possible to him and invited him to visit Taiwan once he gets better. Read more

The Man behind Topology—Steve: The wish to give back to the tourism industry of Taiwan was what got me started

My grandfather brought me up, and when I was young, I used to play with a mini globe all day long. My grandpa told me that I could find all the countries on this tiny ball. Looking hard for Taiwan on the globe, I found out that Taiwan was unbelievably small compared to the other countries.

When I started to attend to school, I realized that my knowledge of my homeland was so little. Every time I read the articles praising Taiwan was the Kingdom of Butterflies and Bicycles, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all true or not. This wondering stuck in my head for a long time until the year that I left Taipei for university in Hualien. This change allowed me to see Taiwan in a very different perspective.

About a decade ago, Hualien was not as flourished as nowadays in terms of tourism. Many stores preferred “one-off consumption.” To put it simply, instead of keeping the customers coming with good quality and service, they only thought about cutting off as much meat as they could from each customer. A few years later, following the trend of blog, travel posts and delicacy posts went viral which brought many more tourists to Hualien. The government also told people that with more tourism income comes a better quality of life. However, I discovered that the poor quality of tourism only brought the local people in Hualien heavy traffic and polluted environment.

I always wanted to do something, but never had a good way of approaching the problem. Dream finally came true when I met Peter, the founder of Topology Travel, and became his second employee.

I found out that many foreigners who are working or studying in Taiwan like to travel around the island during the weekends. Unfortunately, once they set foot out of Taipei, there is not enough information written in English or other languages for them to arrange their own tour. The tourism environment of Taiwan was still not friendly enough to the foreigners. This is where Topology Travel comes in. We fill this gap with great service from our travel consultants and tour guides. This was totally different from what other travel agencies were doing back then, which was to focus more on the Chinese tourists. We chose the path less taken by providing English-speaking tour guides and customized tours so that foreign travelers can experience the real Taiwan in a way they prefer.

Through my work, I bring foreigner travelers into Taiwan which allows me to know friends from all over the world. Through them I learn how special Taiwan is and have more sense of belonging. Today, I don’t need to travel abroad to interact with foreigners and to learn different cultures. Taiwan possesses many unique qualities, such as super high level of convenience and quality of service. I truly believe that my hometown has a lot to offer, and for that I strongly recommend you to come and see for yourself.

Setting off from the small island in my memory, I have been searching for Taiwan’s position in the world and also working hard to let the world see the real façade of Taiwan.

Local Recommendations: As someone who spent his college life in Hualien, I recommend Chihsingtan Beach and Sanjhan River to you. Hualien is a fantastic place for downshifting; that is, doing nothing is the right thing to do. Just lay on the beach, listen to the whisper of the ocean, and let your body and mind wander in the wind.

The Difference between Taiwan and Germany – Insights from Our Intern from Germany

Introduction

My name is Lukas. I am 19 and from Germany. I worked at Topology for four and a half months. My tasks were about organizing and hosting tours as well as promoting and improving them together with my colleagues.

Photo: I am the one in the middle of the first row.

I chose Taiwan because I wanted to experience Asian culture. In my opinion Taiwan has the best mix of it. Furthermore Taiwan offers a lot of nice landscape and huge choice of activities.

Taiwan and Germany are very different starting with religion and cultural influences and ending with food and everyday working. Following I will give you a small insight into the Taiwanese everyday life and point out the main differences between Germany (or European countries) and Taiwan.

Food

Photo: Taiwan has variety of fruits and most of them are pretty nice!

Taiwanese have a special relationship to food. They love to eat many different kind of good and clean food. Eating together and inviting a lot of people to share food and stories are common.

I was invited by the boss of the hostel I stayed several times to have dinner together with his grandma and once we did a barbecue during a typhoon. There is not really much that can stop Taiwanese from a good barbecue.

The food itself is very delicious but very uncommon for Europeans. Furthermore the overall preparation of food is different. Germans don’t eat rice and noodles that much and particularly pork tastes different. I think the difference is caused by the feeding and preparation of the animals. All in all it tasted so well that I ate tons of it.

But the main difference between here and Germany is the dinner itself. Taiwanese will meet their friends, buy a lot of food and have kind of a buffet. Additional they have the Chinese tables which have a rotating plate in the middle.I like that very much. You simply don’t have to eat what you don’t like.

Another advantage of having dinner here as a guest, you will get offered tons of food. They don’t accept a simple “No thanks. I’m full”. You have to say it 4-6 times before they understand that you cannot eat anything more without exploding.

And don’t be afraid of dirty food, it nearly doesn’t exists here. Nevertheless would have a small first aid set in my backpack in case I don’t stomach some food.

Landscape

The environment in Taiwan is really stunning. Everything you want can be found. Hiking in the famous Taroko Gorge or even just in Taipei (e.g. Elephant Mountain), natural hot springs in the north and along the east coast (Beitou, Jiaoxi in Yilan or Chipen in Taitung…etc), surfing and swimming all over Taiwan, aboriginal culture, temples, huge cities and a lot of small fancy villages like Jiufen or Dulan. All this makes Taiwan one of the most worthy countries to travel. If I compare it with Germany, hiking in the Alps and visiting the north sea are amazing but Taiwan has more options, especially when it comes to activities and distance. The thing you should notice it that there may be typhoons during summer time.

People

The people in Taiwan are all very kind and helpful. It is amazing how they care about you even if you are a foreigner. Getting lost is very hard because everyone will try to help you. And don’t be afraid if you travel Taiwan as a European or American. It might be strange that a lot of people will eye you, because you are different. But no worries, the most smile back.

When it comes to language it is hard to communicate in English if you are not in Taipei. But there is always a solution. They will ask someone, who knows English, to come over and help or communicate with hand and feet. Taiwanese are great at that.

Culture

They also have a remarkable mix of culture and history. The Japanese ruled Taiwan for 50 years, so there is a lot of influence from there. Furthermore Chinese culture, of course. You also can visit aboriginal tribes in eastern Taiwan. Additionally Confucian values are very important. You can find huge plates with the characters for “honor your parents” and “loyalty” in elementary schools. You will find a lot of these values in the everyday life.

As a traveller, altruism is the most present. I experienced to be invited to family dinners, being driven to the next train station, showed around the city and doing activities together. I didn’t experienced something like this in Germany yet. Particularly asking people if they need help finding the way and taking them to their destination is what Taiwanese makes so special.

Additional you can talk and discuss almost everything. The people are very open minded. Also the way of dealing with conflicts is different from other Asian countries. Talking directly about the things you don’t like or criticize is more common here, still not that hash as in Germany, but it was very easy for me to adapt to it.

Travel Guide Book vs. Real Life Experience

Getting lost while travelling is not something very spectacular. During my trip around Taiwan I got lost many times but this was mostly caused by non-existent skills in Chinese.

I travelled with Lonely Planet, Bradt and several online Blogs as well as with the advice from Topology Travel. But the main difference between the travel book and the experience is that you will meet several inconveniences which don’t show up in the book. Sights are described very beautifully but they do not mention how to get there by public transport. For example at the east coast of Taiwan, public transport is very limited. Sometimes there is only one bus a day but the travel guide doesn’t mention it. Or the famous Walami trail in Hualien, which is described as one of the best hiking trail. The travel books never mentioned that getting there is very complicated if you don’t have a car or a scooter.

I wouldn’t recommend driving there if you are not used to Taiwanese roads and driving style. The roads are very narrow and can be very dangerous. In my opinion only experienced drivers should drive there.

Concluding travel guides are good to get an impression of your destination and the surroundings, but for actual travelling, I recommend to use more than two different travel guides, several blogs and get help from locals!

A local travel agency offers you the best advice and some of them, like Topology travel, offer customized tours. This may cost money, but you can be sure to get the most reliable information. Hiring a travel agency is also the easiest way to get good information.

If you are travelling low budget, the staff from your hostel and other travellers you meet are also really nice opportunities to get advice.

Furthermore I really recommend to get a SIM card and mobile internet. Google maps was one of my best friends while travelling!

With all these experiences I made, I would really recommend to get some help. If you can speak Chinese you might don’t have a lot of these problems, but a few spots are a bit tricky and you will need help. The choice is up to you!

A Valuable Experience of Receiving Muslim Travelers during Ramadan

Sitting around a small coffee table, we were listening to Felix from Indonesia sharing the culture of Islamic Ramadan with us. The Ramadan is a once-a-year event significant to the Muslims. They are not allowed to eat and drink until the sun has set. The Muslims sympathize with the struggle of the hungry through the Ramadan and at the same time learn to keep their own desire under control. According to Felix, during the time of the Ramadan in Indonesia, a volunteer who is in charge of the “morning call” will shout on the street for everyone to wake up in the early morning so that they can get something to eat before the sun rises. This way, people won’t starve and have the energy to work during the day.

The sharing makes us think of that we had arranged a tour for a Muslim family from Indonesia during the Ramadan in Taiwan before. The experience was very impressive and valuable, which let us learn a lot about how to receive Muslim visitors well.

Janice’s family are Chinese Indonesians. They were the first group of guests that Allan received when he was first starting up as a travel consultant. It was also the case that impressed Allan the most; you can call it his masterpiece.

That year, Janice’s family scheduled a trip to Taiwan in the end of July and wanted to visit Kinmen County. The family had some special requests: they wanted to live in a five-star apartment hotel, they were very specific about the choice of car, and Janice also emphasized that the activities that included sunshine and sweat should be as little as possible. “I guessed the guests would like to have a luxury vacation at that time. I was challenged because apartment hotels were not that common when they traveled out of Taipei” Allan’s memory was still vivid.

From the guests’ dietary of not eating pork and drinking alcohol, Allan deduced that Janice’s family should be Muslims. With further research, he found out that during the time of their visit in Taiwan, it was the Ramadan. A thought struck Allan: all of Janice’s requests made sense! Staying in an apartment hotel was for the convenience of preparing and consuming some food before the sun came up. Reducing the outdoor activities and avoiding sunshine was for the purpose of not dehydrating too quickly. After all, during the Ramadan, even drinking water is forbidden.

“Since there are so many restrictions during the Ramadan, then why do you choose to travel in this month?” Allan asked Janice curiously. It was because that the family members lived on different continents. Janice’s siblings were studying in England, America, and Singapore separately, while her parents lived in Indonesia. The family seized the chance of summer vacation, eliminated all the obstacles, and chose to have a reunion in Taiwan. This showed their strong and inseparable bond. Among all the family members, the oldest sister, Jessica, was the latest to arrive in Taiwan. Their father, David, specifically asked the guide to take the whole family to the airport to welcome Jessica. It was not hard to see how much they were eager to see each other.

Actually, the relationship between Janice’s family and Taiwan goes way back. Janice’s father, David, used to study in Chung Yuan Christian University in Taoyuan city and couldn’t forget the taste of Taiwanese cuisines since then. That time visiting Taiwan, he hoped that he could show his children his Alma Mater. Even though the schedule and the roads that they took were rough, their driver guide, Taddy Zheng, did everything he could to make their wish came true. He drove for nearly two hours to Chung Yuan Christian University so that Janice’s father could revisit his glorious time in Taiwan as a young man.

For the Ramadan, the guide, Taddy, made many sweet gestures. In addition to providing parasol for the guests to hide from the sun, he also avoided eating in front of them. All the details indicated that Taddy respected their culture. Besides, Taddy also prepared boxes of sliced fruit in the container so that the family could eat some juicy fruit as soon as the sun had set. When the sun was about to rest, Taddy could hear some noise in the back seat while driving because after a long day of traveling around, everyone was starving. They all grabbed a box of fruit from the container and were ready to dig in. The father counted down with his watch. As the number zero was announced, everyone started to eat without further delay. Seeing the guests eating with their hearts’ content, Taddy felt satisfied as well.

Fortunately, when the family arrived in Kinmen, the Ramadan had ended; thus, they could relax and enjoy all the mouth-watering food there.

Taddy had never been to Kinmen, so before the family arrived, he took his parents and wife there to familiarize himself with the place and to gather all the information about the restaurants. This way, when the guests came to Kinmen, they could taste the food that was not only delicious, but also was allowed by the Islamic law. Taddy’s professional attitude was worthy learning. Therefore, every cuisine that Taddy recommended, no matter it was the beef noodle or the oyster vermicelli, the family relished with absolutely no worries.

Kinmen is the famous home town of the overseas Chinese. In the earlier period, many people from Kinmen emigrated to make a living. Most of them relocated in the Southeast Asian countries. Many emigrants worked really hard to earn enough money to send home for the local construction, but they never set a foot on to the already unfamiliar hometown. As an overseas Chinese family, there must be a sentimental reason for them to choose to visit Kinmen. The family visited the most classic building in the Shuitou Communities: the De-Yue Building. The magnificent building happened to be exhibiting the dress and food from Southeast Asia. I wondered if the family felt that they belonged to this land. “Many visitors who come to Taiwan have a deep connection with this land,” said Allan. Being able to bring alive the connection was one of the most valuable things that Allan could do.

Allan also went to meet the guests while they were still in Taiwan. The family gave Allan a “Batik” which they brought to Taiwan all the way from Indonesia. This kind of colorful shirt was the dress that represented Indonesia. It possessed the characteristics of their people and was also a precious gift for the Indonesians.

It was well-expressed that the family was very satisfied with their trip in Taiwan. Through the experience of receiving Janice’s family, Allan realizes that every request has its own reason. The travel consultant needs to get to know the guests actively and raises questions whenever needed so that s/he won’t misjudge the guests due to his/her one-sided opinion. For Allan, this trip is an intercultural communication that creates a meaning for his career that can never be reproduced.

Family Legacy—A Root-Searching Journey

Every year, travelers from around the world visit Taiwan for different reasons. Some come to visit their friends; some for the passionate Taiwanese; some for the food; some for the view, and some are like Pan’s family, who simply just “come home.”

Pan’s parents moved to the US a long time ago. They worked really hard in an unfamiliar country to create a better future for their offspring. Pan and his sister were born and raised in the US. Due to their parents’ work and the long distance across the Pacific Ocean, they seldom had chance to visit Taiwan. Growing up, Pan and his sister were married and had children of their own. With Pan’s parents growing older, they decided to came back home to visit Taiwan with family members who hadn’t yet seen this beautiful island.

Besides sightseeing, they had another important mission—tomb-sweeping. This was for the ancestors to see the new generation and to pass on the family legacy. Pan mentioned in the letter about their requests. Because this was a very rare and valuable trip with all three generations traveling together, he hoped to visit more scenic spots. On the day of their arrival, they made a beeline for the cemetery in the northern Taiwan. Afterwards, they spent a half day exploring Taipei. We all knew that after a long flight, people could get really tired especially the elderly. Therefore, we reminded Pan that if anyone felt too tired and wanted to rest in the afternoon, we could end the tour at any time and headed back to the hotel.

They set on a journey to the cemetery in Tainan. Due the limited time frame, they took a round-trip High Speed Railway (HSR) to and back from Tainan and filled in some spare time to do some sightseeing there.

To avoid being lost, we tried to get all the information on the location of the cemetery. However, Pan’s parents hadn’t been back to Taiwan for many years, so they could only provide its general whereabouts. Ensuring a smooth trip became a challenge. According to the clues provided by Pan’s dad, we became detectives and began an adventure on Google Map. Typing in the information that we had, we screenshot some landmarks and asked Pan if they were near the cemetery. If they were nowhere near it, we just kept searching. A few corrections later, we were finally able to confirm its location. We owed the success of this tour to the guide and the driver who dedicated themselves to make the customers satisfied.

One week after the tour, we received a letter from Pan’s brother-in-law. He thanked us for our effort and mentioned that for the first-time travelers in Taiwan, he and his children, they had a wonderful time.

A perfect journey combines a detailed communication and preparation beforehand, a well-experienced driver who know the roads in Taiwan inside out, and a seasoned guide who can manage all the requests that the customers might have. Only with the three combined can the customers experience a tour whose quality is beyond their imagination.

Photo: Albert, Tour guide of Pan’s Family.

How Do We Pick and Train Our Tour Guides?

A tour agency is nothing without its tour guides. Traveling with a seasoned guide can completely change your understanding of a destination and make your trip smoother and more brilliant.

As you may see that our clients think highly of our tour guides on TripAdvisor. Are you curious about how we pick our tour guides?

Most travel agencies are only fond of tour experienced guides. However, in our opinion, when selecting our tour guides, we pay more attention to his life experience than his seniority. Since our clients come from all over the world and have different background, tour guides with different life experiences allow us to find the most suitable one for each group or family.

Take one of our tour guides, Fred, for example. He decided to come back to work as a tour guide at the age of 60. Fred said that, at the beginning, he was worried that he would not be accepted due to his age and the fact that he was lack of experience. However, we valued him for his rich experiences abroad. Today, Fred is already one of Topology’s most popular tour guides and an important teacher who helps us train our new tour guides.

In addition, we are also very willing to provide opportunities to new tour guides as long as their vision of the tourism industry is consistent with ours; this way, we can learn and grow together. After all, Topology Travel is also an agency with zero experience at the beginning and gradually grows into a trustworthy company.

Photo: The founder of Topology, Peter, introduced the company’s development to new tour guides.

At Topology, “Sharing” is one of our most important value. Therefore, we hold a lot of free training for our tour guides every year. The training topics are dazzling. We will learn from the guiding skills of the most popular tour routes, the introduction of the cultural relics at the National Palace Museum, the knowledge of plants and birds in Taiwan and how to help wheelchair travelers to travel in Taiwan safely…etc.

Photo: We hold training in Jiufen to teach the new guides how to introduce this lovely town.

We also hold regular conference to allow senior tour guides to exchange their crisis management experience with young guides. All of this is to hope that every traveler will be able to understand Taiwan more deeply and safely with our tour guides, and feel touching about our island.

Photo: Senior tour guides exchange their crisis management experience with young guides.

In the end, of course the efforts we made to upgrade our guide service must let our guests verify them.

Let’s share with you some of the feedbacks from our guests. The small notes handwritten by these guests are the warmest treasures of ours, and even the guests did a thank-you certificate for us!

We got sense of achievement from these lovely gifts and believe that we did the right things – Using the way we like to interpret the real Taiwan and let our guests have a wonderful time with family or friends under the good care of our tour guides.

Propose on a Tour – Say “I do!” at Taroko Gorge

Surrounded by the magnificent gorges and the silk-like Poplar Falls, Tom from the Netherland and Cosette from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, promised to take each other’s hands for a lifetime. In May, 2015, we witnessed the sweet blossom of the couple’s love.

Tom met Cosette thanks to his work. After falling in love, they chose to settle in Kaohsiung. Taiwan became Tom’s second hometown, and he decided to plan an action of love here; that is, to arrange a romantic two-day-one-night trip to Hualien in order to propose.

Tom was contacted by Peter, the founder of Topology Travel, and one of our travel consultants, Jonathan. After knowing Tom’s secret mission, they suggested to help him come up with a creative and surprising proposal. The planning unveiled through e-mail correspondence for quite some time.

The detail went like this: on the first day, Jonathan recommended the couple to join a river tracing activity. This not only gave them more precious memory, but also built up the atmosphere for tomorrow’s proposal. Although Cosette, who was not very good at water sports, was a bit nervous during the activity, she still had a good time under Tom’s great care. The other three consultants, who pretended to be travelers, helped to pump up the atmosphere. They also invited the couple to hike at the Toroko Gorge the next day.

The proposal team woke up on the big day very excited but also a little bit nervous. After a whole day of hiking, we came to the Poplar Trail. When we were about to pass the Poplar Suspension Bridge, everyone was saying how much more thrilling it would be with eye masks on. Cosette agreed to our little game and walked pass the bridge wearing an eye mask. At the end, Cosette took off her eye mask, seeing Tom on one knee in front of her holding the crystal bear which had special meaning to both of them. He told Cosette his feeling and that his life would be much better with her around forever. Under the witness of the Poplar Falls, Cosette said “I do,” and they exchanged vows. This wrapped up the mission that was assigned to the proposal team.

We joked about that as a travel agency that provides customized services, the number of projects that we manage are growing and the categories are getting more and more interesting. Besides creating itineraries and planning proposals, we also have to work as extras! Seeing the smiles on the clients’ faces gives us the energy to work even harder.

When the trip to the Toroko Gorges ended, Tom and Cosette’s next stage of life was about to begin.

【Our Tour Guide】The Live-And-Learn Guide Named Fred

Fred used to be a seaman when he was young; he traveled around the world and befriended people everywhere. Today, he is a seasoned guide of Topology Travel who comes back to his homeland to introduce Taiwan to travelers from all over the world.

At the age of 66, Fred is already a grandpa. He is well-known for his warm and kind smile, and many groups of family guests call him Uncle Fred. Children often see him as a great play partner, so whenever the journey comes to an end, kids always hold on to his hand and are reluctant to let him go.

“Guests are family” is Fred’s motto for treating customers. “When we are the ones who travel abroad, we also hope to have the best experience. And to some customers, coming to Taiwan is not an easy thing. Therefore, as locals, we should provide the guests with the most worthy of visiting scenic spots and the most interesting activities.”

With this kind of idea, Fred does his best to collect the information in order to enrich the guests’ journey. There was a time when Fred received a group of customers who were very passionate about traditional culture. “I found out that there was a free performance of traditional drama that night, and although it was not in the travel plan, I took them to enjoy the show. It turned out that the performance was one of their most unforgettable memories in Taiwan.” Because that Fred likes to bring surprise to the guests’ trip, he becomes many repeat customers’ appointed guide. To our guests, Fred is not just a guide, but more like a friend in Taiwan.

Fred is so thoughtful that he always monitors the guests’ condition during the tour. “One time, the travelers were about to take the train on the next day, but their kid caught a cold. I was worried that the temperature on the train would be too cold, and the air was not that circulated; all of which would make the kid’s cold worse. Thus, I talked with the parents about changing the itinerary a bit. They were very pleasant that we could adjust the trip according to their situation.”

Even though Fred is already a competent guide, we still see him in many seminars. I joined a seminar held by the National Palace Museum with Fred once. Watching him listen to the speaker so carefully touched me because I knew that he had already brought dozens of guests to the National Palace Museum for over 70 times, yet he still actively participated and was always taking notes as if he were visiting there for the first time. In addition, Fred will never miss a single conference for guide held by Topology Travel.

As one of the most popular guides in Topology, Fred receives a high reputation on Tripadvisor. Even so, he humbly claims that he is still a 60-point guide. “This means that I can always do better; there is always room for improvement because I can always learn something from the guests.”

Fred remembered a story that influenced him a lot. A few years ago, when he was just starting up as a driver guide, Fred was in charge of receiving two professors from the Harvard University. Not long after their departure, one of the professors corrected Fred for driving with only one hand. “I realized that as a driver guide, I have to make the customers at the back seat feel safe rather than doing things the way I am used to. From then on, I always drive with two hands. I am grateful that the guests pointed out my bad habit so that I can get out of it.”

Join our tours, and maybe you will get a chance to meet Uncle Fred and feel his charm in person!

【Our Tour Consultant】What Guests Have Taught Me – An Interview with Tour Consultant Shirley Fang

“I still look like a child, and every time I meet guests for the first time, this is the thought that I think all guests have ‘What! This can’t be the kid that I have been in contact with!'” This is how petite Shirley always makes fun of herself.

What makes up for Shirley’s small size is her composed personality. Every person who gets to know her will undoubtedly feel her conscientiousness. She will prepare delicious snacks for hungry travellers, and bring warm blankets and cushions in the car for older guests. She does her best to remember even the smallest details of every guest, in order to best care for them during their travels.

As an English major in university, after leaving her work at various translation agencies, Shirley wanted to find a job where she could combine her professional and personal interests. In was a complete accident that she found the Tour Consultant position. “I really enjoy the feeling of travelling with a group of friends or family,” she says. And so that was how Shirley, who has always loved travelling, stepped into the tourism industry and started drawing on her English skills to help plan trips for foreign travellers.

In the past, Shirley had always thought she wasn’t the most comfortable with meeting new people for the first time. Now because of her job, she has had countless opportunities where she had to deal with guests firsthand. “I still remember the first time I was on the phone with a guest who had a problem and I got really nervous. However, when I hung up, allowed my emotions to settle and thought more carefully about the core of the problem, I was able to reconnect with the guest and successfully solved the issue,” Shirley remembers.

Through practice and experience, Shirley slowly found certain techniques to faciliate optimal communication between her and the guests. “Whereas before I used to be more of a listener, gradually I learned to actively bring up the key points in our conversations so that I can best help the guests.” Shirley believed that everyone had their own idsyncrasies; regardless of whether they decide to contract her help in the end, it was important to make all guests feel satisfied in their communications.

“I also learn a lot from my guests!” One time, one of Shirley’s guests forgot to apply for the visa, to the point that he could no longer join the trip. Despite this predicament, the guest remained extremely calm with no hint of anger, and asked Shirley to take good care of his wife and mother-in-law who were still going. “I know how much time he spent planning for this trip, but he manages to tell me that even the most well-planned vacations will have some unexpected troubles. Even though letting out frustration might make one feel better temporarily, it upsets everyone else around and leaves a bad impression.” This made Shirley realize that when problems arise, finding a useful solution is more important than looking for blame.

Other than interactions with guests, this job also offered other meaningful experiences for Shirley. Shirley’s mother is a member of a theatrical troupe, which mainly composed of cancer patients and volunteers. For their annual performance one year, Shirley invited her boss Peter. Throughout the performance Peter had tears rolling down his face because he was so emotionally stirred by the theme of “home” in the act, so much so that he was inspired to launch permanent travel promotions for the elderly in order to encourage people to bring their older parents and grandparents to go travelling together and create valuable family memories. Shirley was warmly touched by Peter’s action and support.

Shirley believed that the beauty of Taiwan laid in the heartwarming interactions with its people. Some of Taiwan’s less famous tourist spots offered the most authentic experiences, such as Old Taipei Dadaocheng, which she often recommend to people for its traditional architecture, teahouses and vendors, where one could really feel the vitality of the people. With a shimmer in her eyes, Shirley says “I believe that stories are spread through stories, and that culture is preserved through culture.”

With her ambition and astute sense of humour, this petite woman continues to attentively plan dream trips for every guest at Topology Travel.