I travel the world as a classical pianist. But my Egypt adventure created space for me to play

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As a Taiwanese-American, I consider myself to be a very pan-cultural person. I was born in Taiwan, but New York City is my home and I’ve also lived in Sweden and Italy for periods of time. I speak several languages and I still work in three continents – Asia, America and Europe – as part of my career as an international concert pianist.

I assumed that my first group trip with Flash Pack would be exactly that: a trip. Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s soul-searching journey in The Alchemist, I had been planning to travel to both Morocco and Egypt for some time. However, the pandemic cut that idea short and I ended up skipping straight to Egypt.

What I hadn’t expected was finding this global community. The people I traveled with were friendly and joyful, and I felt really aligned to the vision that Flash Pack has created.

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As a concert pianist, life experiences feed into my play

I think many women in their 30s, like me, face this unspoken pressure to conform to certain narratives. So, it was truly heartwarming to meet other professional singles who are breaking away from these traditions. 

With Flash Pack, we are all part of this nourishing environment where we travel the world together, meet new people and experience life in a fresh and present way. It made me really happy to realize a concept like it exists; it’s so important for people like me who are forging our own paths. 

Being a pianist is similar to being an athlete: I’m very conscious about what I eat, I exercise every day and I look within, practicing for many hours at a time. Yet it’s also important to me to have life experiences, as doing so feeds back into the quality of my play.

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The hot-air balloon ride exceeded all my expectations 

It’s true that I don’t like being without a piano for too long – as an instrument, it’s an extension of myself – but when I return to it after some time on the road, I feel renewed.

I’m also a very curious person; I’m always searching for intimate moments with real people that connect back to my piano playing. For me, travel is a way of recharging and building inspiration for my creative work. It’s a chance to evolve, both musically and beyond.

There were several standout moments on our Egyptian escape that allowed me to do this. The sunrise hot-air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, for example, was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

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Another special moment was sailing down the Nile

People who enjoy pieces by Bach or Beethoven always talk about something cosmic in that style of classical music and, to me, the balloon ride felt the same way. To be in this 360-degree sphere with the sun coming up, balloons rising all around and a local shepherd moving his flock across the landscape below, all my expectations were exceeded. 

It was magical to witness and so moving. I couldn’t speak – I was just trying to take it all in. I had tears running down my face. 

Another really special experience came when we sailed down the Nile on a private felucca (traditional wooden sailboat). There was something almost meditative about sitting on the deck, enjoying the sunshine and local Egyptian food.

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Our guide Faten was once of the most spirited people I’ve met

I was in my element. Surrounded by people in an overwhelmingly beautiful setting, it felt healing, especially given we had all been cooped up for so long during the pandemic. 

Our guide Faten is one of the most knowledgeable and spirited humans I’ve ever met. Her role as a female guide is quite rare in Egypt and I learned so much from her stories; she really took us under her wing. 

From the moment we arrived, it was like we were all her ducklings. I felt genuinely connected, safe and cared for. Our whole group had a great chemistry and I’m intrigued to see whether we will meet again sometime, somewhere in the world. I’ve already booked my next Flash Pack trip, this time to the Philippines.

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I’m so glad I went through with this adventure

Above all, I think the experience of Covid changed how we travel. For artists like me, it made us question who we are beyond the confines of what we do (which can be all consuming). 

With most concert halls closed, I took advantage of the opportunity to start designing concert dresses, studying at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Three years later, I’ve launched a couture collection and my work has been showcased in Vogue Taiwan

It was a profound step change for me because I got to dig deeper and explore my identity. I discovered I’m not just a performer, or even a fashion designer, I’m a person. Like everyone, I am many different things. It was a realization that led me directly to Flash Pack – and I’m so glad I went through with this adventure.

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I’d been missing that connection with other humans

I’m not married, I don’t have kids and I spend a lot of time alone in my art. So, I realized that I’d been missing that connection with other humans. 

Exploring Egypt with fellow like-minded travelers is a bit like kids playing in a sandbox. You don’t care where anyone comes from or what they do for a living, you’re just together in the moment, having the most brilliant time. 

Weiyin Chen is a concert pianist and fashion designer who traveled with Flash Pack to Egypt

Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveler like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.

Images: Flash Pack

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