Tea and coffee farms in Nantou County, Taiwan.

A lot has changed around the world since my Scottish ancestors departed Argyllshire (a county of western Scotland) and arrived on the shores of North America in the 17th century. My ancestors were cousins of the Duke of Argyll and this year I’ve spent time thinking about what motivated a well-connected, wealthy family to emigrate to the New World along with thousands of other Irish and Scottish families. In the case of my ancestors, they were motivated by the cheap land of Virginia and the dream of exporting goods back to the homeland.

In this journey to the new world, I can’t help but speculate my ancestors enjoyed fine whisky, beer and perhaps, like George Thorpe or George Washington, even dabbled in the production of whisky/beer or imported/exported fine beverages to the New World.

George Thrope in Jamestown during the early history of American distilling.

Just like my ancestors, I too am motivated by new business opportunities and the chance to learn from people abroad.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, some time away from the office was needed, so I packed my bags and boarded my annual flight from the San Francisco International Airport on a midnight 11-hour flight to Taiwan. I couldn’t wait, and much like my ancestors, my mind was busy with thoughts of the sights, people, and places to visit in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Call it a workcation if you like; the first few days were spent trekking through the tea-laden highlands of central Nantou where anyone can find their favorite Oolong tea and fresh-brewed coffee from nearby family-operated coffee plantations. The next day I headed east down to the coast of Hualian Township where I enjoyed natural hot springs and dipped my toes in crystal clear creek beds near the beach.

Of course, time off in Taiwan would not be complete without a two-hour train ride north to the capital city Taipei to visit the delicious Le Hua Night Market for fresh Stinky Tofu, Beef Noodles, and every tropical fruit you can imagine, and some of you can’t imagine.

The local food culture features endless mouth-watering cuisine.
Hong Kong’s Night Market.

It wasn’t long before my business brain kicked in, so I hopped on a train and bus for coastal Yilan City to visit the whisky team at Kavalan Whisky. After meeting the team, we inspected their grain handling system and visited the barrel room for a dram of the finest blend on the Pacific Rim.

The train station and bus trek led me to the whisky!
Jim and Dads’ Brewing – Taiwan’s first coastal brewery.
Barrel room and silos at Kavalan Single Malt Whisky in Yilan County, Taiwan.

The next day, I had an early start to catch a flight to meet brewery friends in Hong Kong. It had been five years since my last trip to Hong Kong; luckily my memory and sense of direction around the city and the convenient MTR underground system were still sharp. After spending time in Hong Kong, it was time to head back to Taiwan and Japan to spend more time relaxing and visiting family.

Hong Kong’s Longest-Running Craft Brewery – more than 20 years.

So, what are you waiting for? Explore the world, treat your senses to all the sights, and taste what a trip abroad has waiting for you.

Beachside stream near Manbo Beach, Hualien County.