Experience Enriches: How Travel Made Me A More Down-To-Earth, Grounded Individual

A lot of people have told me that I’ve got my head in the clouds because of my desire to travel the world. However, recently, I learned that travel actually kept my feet on the ground. I've learned how to be more grateful in life.

I recently went on a trip to Tibet with my family, finally realizing my dad's dream of traveling to the region. The trip really opened my eyes to a completely different reality.

Having lived in China for the past six months, Tibet showed me a completely different side of the country, and this time, it does not involve construction of a new shopping centre. Tibet has its own colors and its own unique traditions that are still upheld after thousands of years.

I could go on and on about how wonderful and interesting Tibet is, but the highlight of my trip was the Tibetans I met on my journey and their unique stories. The first ever Tibetan person I met was Nobu, who was more that just a tour guide for my family and I. Nobu immediately became a good friend to us.

I learned that she came from a small village close to the border of Nepal, to Lhasa to study English before eventually becoming a tour guide. Once, in a conversation, my mother asked Nobu if she had seen the sea. She said no, and asked, “I’ve only seen lakes; is the sea similar to lakes?”

For a moment, I genuinely did not know how to answer her question. I grew up knowing how salty sea water tastes, and how it stings your eyes. I knew how nice it felt to stand on wet sand and slowly sink into it. The sea is so familiar to me, yet I couldn’t find words to help Nobu picture what the sea is like.

In that simple, very short conversation, I realized how lucky I am to have seen a lot of what the world has got to offer. Meanwhile, here on this side of the world, there’s someone who has no idea what other places look like or how they feel because she just couldn’t afford these experiences.

It was during this conversation that I told myself I should be more grateful about what I have in life.

I was also fortunate enough to meet Tenzin, who owned the travel agency that arranged my travels into Tibet. Upon meeting him at his office, where he invited us for lunch, he quickly became an inspirational figure.

Before becoming the owner of a tour agency, Tenzin was a monk and lived in a monastery. Tenzin also didn’t when he was born, as he came from a remote village and there was no one who registers births in the area.

He told us about the Tibet of the past, where education is really limited and one’s path of life is determined by what your parents told you to do.

Tenzin was told to go to a monastery, so he went. He was probably 10 at the time. Despite the fact that being a monk turned out not to be his path, he never regretted the times he spent there. “It was in the monastery where I learned how to read,” he told us.

He didn’t really make it clear when he decided that the monastery life wasn’t for him. Upon leaving, however, he started working odd jobs and went to night school to learn English. Once he perfected his English, he started working as a tour guide before eventually setting up his own company.

“Life in Tibet is so much better now,” he told us, “Tibetans are becoming well-educated.”

Just like Nobu, Tenzin’s story shed a whole new light on the world we live in. Through Nobu and Tenzin, I discovered a whole other reality, one that is completely different from mine.

They made me think about how I have lived my life, and whether or not I have spent enough time being grateful about the opportunities I have been given.

We live in an era where we want more things and to spend more money on materialistic stuff that we may not need. I think the luxury of travel isn’t in the fancy resorts you stay at or the souvenirs you buy.

It’s also not just about checking famous sights off of a list. The luxury of travel lies in the people you’ve met along the way, and how their stories will teach you a little lesson or two about life. Those people could be a fellow traveler, the hostel owner or a local villager.

It also doesn’t matter where you go. I believe if you were to go to your neighboring town for a quick road trip, there would be people with stories that would shed a little light on your world.

So, yes, people with a strong desire to travel do have their heads in the clouds. However, I have to admit that the true desire is to learn, not to list down famous places we have been to.

When you have learned valuable things, such as gratefulness through your travels, that’s when you truly realize travel has actually made you richer.

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