How Traveling To Southeast Asia Taught Me The True Meaning Of Success

by Emily Brookshire
Julien L. Balmer

I was sitting under twinkling lights at a little restaurant in Hua Mak, crickets were chirping in the background and the humid air making my dress stick to my back in that comforting Thai way.

We were all just sitting there, talking about nothing at all, eating far too much and sharing beers as the night grew longer.

It was such an act of normalcy — a dinner with friends, but it has become so much more in my memories.

It was that moment when I felt like I had made it; like I really did have it all.

Before traveling across Southeast Asia and sitting at that dinner, my success felt different.

Back at home, it had always been competitive, all about the next job, the next house and the next bullet point to put on the résumé.

Success was about the Facebook status you would post before graduation to declare your fabulous job in a fabulous city, so all of your friends would know that you were equal, maybe even better, and living every Millennial’s dream.

It sounds like a cliché that traveling changes your views of the world and grounds you more and more every day that you are roaming new streets, but clichés really do stem from truth.

For me, in that restaurant, success changed from logistical to loving.

I had it all: not money, a job or even a path in life, but, instead, I had friends, laughter, good food, stories to hear, memories being made, hands to hold and that feeling you get when you know you have finally come home after a long journey.

Success is truly measured in miles walked, sunsets seen, glasses of wine had with friends, laughter, tears, moments of fear and the friendships that form the fabric of your life.

It is measured in those moments when you see people for their eulogy virtues, not their résumé virtues.

That night, my people were more than college students and competitors.

Instead, they were witty, loving, generous, warm, enthusiastic, incredible listeners, loud laughers, happy and carefree women.

And, we didn’t need one thing more than each other and this simple moment to be actually, truly happy.

During my time abroad, a Vietnamese priest told me: “We share our lives with others, not because we need to, but simply because it enhances our life.”

The advice wasn’t about how to best my peers, make my money, stand out in the job market or how to be a more competitive person in this ever-competitive world.

Instead, he said success comes from sharing with others in any way you can and allowing them to share with you.

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong at all with ambition; it is one of the qualities that makes me who I am.

That dinner just reminded me that I want to be known for being more than ambitious.

That dinner just reminded me that not all of my goals need to be corporate.

My journey to success should make me want to share more than I take, to be more present with friends I love and to not always be looking for the next thing.

Most of the time, the best thing is right in front of you, laughing into her plate at dinner.

It might be glamorous or exciting, and it might sound like every fortune cookie you have ever read, but true success is felt in life, not seen after a bullet point on paper.

It just took Bangkok to remind me.