Hi-Fi's Joe MacMillan
October 5, 2010
This, my inaugural entry as an overseas contributor, is being written exactly 365 days from when I've last been home. I've decided to make this entry not about the market I'm currently in, (which is Guangzhou, China), but rather, a major part of the travelling model's daily lifestyle, which I have experienced for the last year; the people you meet while travelling.
When you're travelling from place to place, living in models apartments, you're going to meet an incredible amount of people. It's just how it goes. During the course of my first trip to Shanghai, in my agency alone, I saw close to two dozen people come and go while I stayed, and I'm positive that there are many others out there that can say that they've seen more. Off the top of my head, I can't think of many other occupations out there where you have that many people not only enter your life, but live with you. Most of the time, the agency will put two beds into one room, and you'll be sharing your bedroom with another person, whom you've just met.
For most markets in Asia, it works like this: All together, the models in the agency pile into the van, and spending the day together, go to castings. It's a usual thing for the van to house conversations in four dialects. You usually have Russian, Portuguese, English, as well as the bookers, driver and radio announcers all speaking in the native toungue of the city you're in, which, for me, has been either Cantonese, Mandarin, or Thai.
All this time spent together usually develops into the feeling that you're part of a family. Each person sort of has their role, and I've met a few people that have been like the brother I never had, or another sister to me. Part of the reason why it works so well is because our personalities are - at most times - quite similar. We're Bohemians... or at least Vagabonds, (well... some people I've met could be better classified as Gypsies), travelling from Shanghai to Bangkok to Guangzhou to Shanghai, in a matter of months. Some people I've met have been to all the major cities for modelling you could think of; Milan, Paris, New York, London, Miami, etc., all in a timeframe of only a couple of years.
Our personalities are what make this possible. Some people just couldn't be away from home for three months, let alone fifteen. Some people can never get along with people that they live with. Some people need a steady paycheque every two weeks, and they need to have a set schedule for work. Models, for the most part, aren't like this.
These people are truly amazing to meet, and almost everyone I've lived with has been a friend to me. After knowing a person for only a couple of minutes, you start talking to them about things that you have in common. It doesn't matter where they're from. Be it Brazil, France, Italy, Canada, you still have the common lifestyle of travelling from place to place, being away from home, seeing new things, all while modelling full-time. After knowing some of them for a few short weeks, I felt like I had new best friends. Friends that I can talk to about future plans. We play pool against each other, and sometimes drink a beer or three. We all sit in the living room and discuss the places each other has been, and what makes them different and unique, or we'll talk about films and acting, or we'll talk and joke about the place that we're currently residing. Sometimes we'll give each other a pep talk or just be a pair of ears, and listen to something that's on our friend's minds. We'll get together and walk around, which is, for me, the best way to see the 'true' city you're living in.
In Shanghai, there were so many things that I saw while exploring that were just plain different from anywhere in North America. To give examples would be to defeat the point, because either they seem ridiculous and made-up, or less zany than they actually are if you were to see it happen with your own eyes. Asia is a different world, and to experience it with like-minded people from all over the globe, is amazing.
Sometimes, I'll think the way this apartment is situated sort of sounds like the opening line of a joke: "A guy from Israel, a guy from Turkey, and a guy from Canada are all sitting together in an apartment in China..."
You meet people from Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Argentina, Canada, The United States, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Mexico, France, Italy, and maybe you'll even meet someone that lives near to your hometown. You meet people that also want to venture onwards to places like Milan and Paris, and you meet people that have spent years in both places. You go to a new city, and find that some people you've met from the last city you were in are in the same place as you once again.
Now, some people hate Facebook. I used to. It's won me over in the last year, because when you're away from home, it's a great way to see how your friends and family at home are doing, and what they're up to. I also must say that Facebook shows the travelling model's life in a unique way; as a voyeuristic look into other people's lives while they all travel to different places. It's really proof, in text, of how small this world is. You meet someone and spend time with them, party with them, talk to them, and then once you add each other as 'online friends', you find that you have eight mutual friends, and they all live in different countries. When you're on your Facebook home page, and it shows that someone you know posted a status update that reads "Going to Shanghai soon", and some people they've met in other cities reply with "I'm in Shanghai now, see you soon" or "I'm going to Shanghai soon too!"
Which brings me to the other side. The goodbyes. The number of people that leave, of course, tallies up about the same as the people that arrive. But when they go, 'goodbye' doesn't really mean 'goodbye.' The feeling I've gotten, either from when I've had to see my friends, flatmates, roommates leave, or when I've had to leave to another place myself, is that it's not so much a 'goodbye', as it is a 'see you later.' I mean, it's bound to happen, right? "I'm staying in X and you're going to Y, but maybe we'll see each other in Z or back here in X within the next year." Sometimes people will fall in love and start to travel together, both going to the same agencies in the same cities. Sometimes they have to part ways. It's truly heart-wrenching when that happens, because it's not either of their decisions to end what they had together, and they feel as though, in a different life perhaps, it could have worked out.
But it's all part of the lifestyle, and this past year of my life (to the day), has flown by like never before. I used to think the phrase "time flies when you're having fun" was somewhat untrue. I never found myself losing track of what day it was. I just never knew what it felt like to live like this. To have so much fun, and meet so many people that helped me grow as a person, all while the clock ticks by at what seems to be quadruple the speed. Some people like to stay settled, and some people like to live like what I've described. I'm one of those people, just as the other models I've met overseas are those people, and that's a huge part of the experience of modelling internationally.
Joe MacMillan is an Hi-Fi model, currently in China.