In 2006, I got accepted by a small liberal art college in America. I bought a one-way ticket flew from China to the U. S. with two biggest check-in suitcases the airline allowed, and settled in the Mid-West for four years.
The first trip is for adventure, a new life. Along the way, I learned the American culture, religions (mostly Christianity, some Muslim, Mormon, Buddhism). I earned dual degrees in Accounting and Philosophy (mainly because I couldn’t decide to either go with my passion or have a secure job).
I was hungry to learn every aspect of being an American, and what the American Dream really means to an immigrant. I made a lot of friends, who taught me how to drink, what ‘formal’ is, kept me on track with homework, and how to find a summer job.
Years later, I took a month to visit Europe. I packed everything I needed for a month in a backpack and visited London, Edinburgh, Paris, Florence, and Venice.
I was going through some emotional pains in my life and feeling some turmoils from my career. I decided to quit my job and say goodbye to my marriage. After the two big pillars of my life, marriage and career, crumbled to the ground, I wanted to put my own needs first. I didn’t know exactly what I need, but I thought it’d be cool to see Europe. I realized for the first time that I have been rather harsh with myself in the past, holding myself up to a ridiculous standard trying to be a great worker and a fantastic wife. As it turns out, I should care less about what others perceived of me, and treated myself with more kindness.
This trip taught me to look at myself from a loving friend’s perspective. In turn, I am more patient and understanding of other people’s turmoils in life, and I understood more on the importance of mental health. I learned to enjoy being alone with myself.
Over time, looking back on all the travels I have done, I have grown tired of visiting the famous sightseeings / instagram spots of the world. I started to appreciate the smaller things in life, the way people live in different parts of the world, sometimes by choice, sometimes in their own circumstances and limitations. In Japan and Europe, people living with minimal possessions, with more intentions; in Lesotho (Africa), people trying to survive only on eating local fruits and grains while struggling to find clean water; in China, people submerged in capitalism while desperately looking for the purpose of life; and in New Zealand, people who touches every tree, every patch of grass, completely immersed in nature. It is mind blowing to see that one culture’s taboo is another culture’s treasure.
We can choose to live however we want despite the society and the people around us. It is hard when you are the abnormal one in comparison, but it’s a choice you make. Do you design the life you want to live, or let others tell you what a perfect life is suppose to look like? What is the way you want to live?
For me, the exploration of different ways to live a life never stops.