Photo by Jory Cordy
By Raan Parton
For years, long-time friends and advisors in Taiwan have been inviting me to come visit and soak up inspiration from their country’s bustling urban centers and sprawling rural landscapes. I have been to Taiwan a handful of times, but have spent most of my time only in Taipei. This trip gave me a chance to take in a diverse range of experiences and really appreciate a culture characterized by incredible work ethic, warm people, and captivating natural beauty.
The New York Times columnist and best selling author, Thomas Friedman, recently wrote a column on the inverse relationship between oil reserves and education performance. In the article, he highlights Taiwan as a country that has invested in its own people and relied on education and innovation, rather than natural resources, to develop a vibrant economy:
"Every so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?” I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. “Taiwan? Why Taiwan?” people ask. Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction — yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today. How did you get so lucky?”
After spending two days in Hong Kong and ten days in Taiwan, I can echo Friedman’s claims that Taiwan is one of the most impressive countries I have ever been to. Whether I was visiting the National Palace Museum, shopping at Hotel V in Taipei, traveling to rural rice farms and small-scale markets, surfing in Yilan, or grabbing drinks at the Yuanshan Great Hotel, what impressed me most was the Taiwanese people. Taiwan is driven by an innovative spirit and is truly a country full of inspiration.