“There were no backpackers, no bed and breakfasts, no surf shops, and no surfers at the beach. But it was easy to make friends!” he says. “Because at that time, everyone was not busy making money,” he adds with a laugh. Remembering his initial encounter with Taitung, his heart still has a warm feeling. Soon after, he met his wife, Kite, and established a strong, authentic link with this land.
After a brief stay in Taitung, he started traveling between Shanghai, Hong Kong and back to Taiwan again and again. His two children were born one after another, but he rarely had time to spend with his family. Mark began to ponder if such a busy life was exactly what he wanted. Finally, between New Zealand and settling in Taitung as their choices, the couple decided to move to Taitung and settle down. “The most important thing was to let the children learn Chinese. Taitung is a great place to live, with nice public security and the people here are also very friendly.” Of course, he did not forget his favorite sport, surfing. While teaching English in Taitung, he also teaches surfing and planting vegetables, flowers, or herbs on his own farmland by using permaculture methods. Mark always enjoys what he was doing. “Surfing is seasonal. Summer is the perfect time for surfing. However, there are fewer surfing classes in winter. I want to run my own farmland by continuing my mother’s methods of growing Western herbs in New Zealand, and living a life that is close to nature”, Mark says.
From 2002 to the present, Mark has witnessed the transformation of Taitung. “There are many national competitions in Taitung now, as well as B&Bs and restaurants which are also blooming. There were not many business activities here before when we first moved to Taitung. At that time, making money was such a headache!” Mark feels optimistic about the increasing internationalization of Taitung, but also thinks it is a big challenge. To be more specific, how can the correct model be used to develop Taitung in the future, so that many stores, B&Bs and others can make profits from the tourism industry without becoming overly commercialized, and protecting the natural resources of Taitung at the same time? The delicate balance between commercialization and protection will be the key factor that affects whether Taitung will continue to attract foreign tourists or not.