How do I put into words the experience that was my trip to Asia and how do I make it applicable to all of you lovely readers?
If you were following along on my Tumblr page, you know that for two weeks, I voyaged to three amazing places: Shanghai China, Langkawi Malaysia and Singapore. I stayed at some of the most beautiful hotels in the world, had amazing excursions to explore the areas and mind blowing meals – it was a deliriously amazing trip that I am so grateful to have experienced. And let’s be honest, every post and pic was basically a humble brag. I seized the glorious day.
But I’m back, and forced to face real life again… but instead of trip ennui, I’m trying to mutate my experiences into lessons and life changes. For what are foreign travels for but to reinvigorate the soul and bring a new perspective into your regular life?
So what did I learn? First off, I’m going to point out that I didn’t use the word vacation. A vacation is where you check out, disconnect, simply veg; It’s being ‘free from duty’. Someone in a 9-7 office job NEEDS a vacation — As a storyteller, it is my life’s work to always be taking things in, analyzing the implications, learning something new.
So what did I take in?
I’ll call these random travel observations and then see how they connect.
1. People in all 3 places I went all had theirs face buried in a mobile device.
2. Kids, no matter their culture, ethnicity or upbringing, scream in airports.
3. There is a Starbucks on every corner (though I refused to take a picture of any). Even in the small tourist village on Langkawi.
4. Cab drivers are insane.
5. Consumerism is rampant — Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach, Zara and H&M are everywhere.
6. There is a surprising number of ex pats and foreign residents making for a more multi-cultural landscape than I would have thought.
7. A lot of people speak English.
8. Nature, especially when left alone, is powerful. It survives and thrives in surprising ways.
9. A centralized government has the ability to shape an entire city into a sprawling metropolis in merely a few decades.
10. But Art and the discourse it generates DOES occur in China.
11. An ancient building can coexist beside a skyscraper.
12. Our bodies are meant for exploring.
13. If you ‘explore’ enough, you can eat pretty much whatever you want.
14. Sometimes a taxi driver is passing across a double line, a truck is coming towards you and a scooter is beside you, and you just have to trust that you’ll be ok and that he knows what he’s doing. But he still might be insane.
15. Saying goodbye to someone or someplace that you experienced but know you will probably never see again is a powerful thing.
16. Being in the moment is as wonderful as they say it is…
What did 1 – 7 all have in common? You could use those observations for almost anywhere in North America (and even most of the places I’ve been to in Europe). The world is indeed turning into a global village, driven by multi-national companies, intertwined financial markets, commercial and luxury goods, mobile technology and the entertainment industry. (Mario Batali even opened an Osteria Mozza in Singapore, who knew?) Everyone is connected. Granted I couldn’t access Twitter or Facebook on my iPhone, but the Chinese have their own versions of the social networking services… believe me, they are connected. They’re just monitored. Wait… just like us.
Let me be clear: the cultural (and sometimes religious) differences between our countries were still apparent. Throughout our trip, there were most certainly some language barriers, and we went to local temples, mosques and museums which revealed the country’s complicated and rich past — thousands of years older than our own. The ‘old areas’ like the French Concession and Jade Gardens in Shanghai are over 150 years old and vibrate with history. Time is trapped in their street corners where an old man rides by on a rickety bike; it’s there that you feel like you’ve jumped into another world. But in a moment, you can be out in the present, running into a Starbucks or a Jazz bar to pick up some wifi and post an Instagram. At least where I visited, it felt overly ‘safe’ to go to the unfamiliar… because the familiar always seemed to be just around the corner. The cultures weren’t, for lack of a better term, so ‘foreign’.
The imaginary lines drawn on maps are starting to disappear, just like they do when you look down at earth from Space. The hot core of our Earth has moved the tectonic plates throughout our planet’s life, changing the shape and location of our continents, one day maybe even driving them all together again as one big land mass.
The more you realize that we are a citizen of the world and open yourself up to the magic of other cultures and countries, the bolder you will be in your own choices. Taking a risk, if you know and appreciate the entire landscape isn’t a risk at all. It’s a calculated big bold step that puts you ahead of the curve. And believe me, there is an entire generation of smart talented innovators in China that are taking those risks. A stunning city has sprung up around them because of it. We don’t have the monopoly on Metropolis anymore. And that drives innovation, which is exciting.
So I challenge you to become an explorer. Even just for a weekend into a new area of your city.
The word ‘traveling’ originated from the French term ‘travail’ which means ‘to work’ — because traveling used to be arduous, people walking hundreds of miles for a pilgrimage, people voyaging on a rocky rat infested ship across the seas. But not anymore! (unless you have kids and then I tip my hat to you). You have the ability to get in a car, a train, a last minute Priceline flight, your credit card works everywhere, as does your phone. And at the very least, jump into that travel browser called Google maps and the web. Research a dream trip and put the itinerary on your vision board.
There are countless stories I would love to tell you about my trip which don’t tie into this theme, so they will have to wait. But every moment reinforced that primal desire to move, to explore and experience new things, I wanted to understand and see ‘it all’. And when I did, I realized how close we are all becoming. It took thousands of years for our species to cross the globe; innovation has reduced that down to a day.
I think we should take advantage of that, don’t you?
all pics copyrighted to Taryn O’Neill