What travel means to me?

After I decided to stay at Toronto for two more nights after my business trip, my husband threw me a question “What’s the meaning of travel?” He continued “Unlike people living in 50 years ago, people nowadays could just sit in front of their computers, open Google Map to “walk” into a city; to see a tour attraction by viewing pictures from social media; To learn more about a place by reading reviews and travel diaries. You could be so familiar with somewhere without being there in person. So why you have to go?” I disagreed with him immediately, even though it seemed that there was nothing wrong with his point of view.

He also thought that people might lose their interest if no travel photos could be shared on social media. I admitted that travel is seen by some people as a mean to showcase their social status and to boost self-esteem. However, I still believe that the meaning of travel is much more profound than we might have noticed. English novelist David Mitchell said that “there aren’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

For me, travel made my life complete and made every “now” matter. There was a popular song in China in the 1990s named I want to go to Guilin. Guilin is a beautiful city where the crystal clear Li River twists and turns among verdant mountains. The song goes like this lyrics: I want to go to Guilin. However, when I have time, I don’t have money. I want to go to Guilin. However, when I have money, I don’t have time. It was quite a classic piece. However, I believe if you really want to go somewhere or do something, most of the time, it will eventually happen, if you make enough efforts.

So, I just go. I never wait. I followed the popular song and went to Guilin and felt that my mind and my body were purified in the dawn mist over Li River. I got lost happily wandering the lanes and corners of Venice, realizing that life is an adventure. I cherished the moment when embracing my beloved one in front of the sparkling Eiffel Tower, feeling the romance beyond my imagination. Swimming with colorful fish in Langkawi, embededMalaysia connected me to nature more closely and made me genuinely feel that human beings are just a part of nature that we should respect all living creatures on the planet. All those glittering memories embedded in my mind, becoming part of me. If tomorrow is not given, I had no regret today.

Travel broadened my mind and gave me new perspectives of happiness. It was four years ago, when I worked in Hong Kong, while my husband moved to the US to pursue his career. I was the one who encouraged him to go. However, living in Hong Kong alone and managing a team of 15 people at work was quite challenging for me at that time. According to my colleague, I always looked serious and stressed. I could still recall the anxiety and worries, as an inexperienced manager who happened also need to learn to make a long distance relationship work in life. I decided to flew to Kyoto and spent a week there with my girlfriend in summer that year.

Kyoto is such a lovely historic city with a lot of temples, shrines and beautiful gardens. I found peace of my mind when walking into the seemly endless Arashiyama Bamboo Forest on a breezy day. The bamboo leaves were swaying in the breeze elegantly. Bamboos on both sides of the trail bent over towards the middle that they almost connected at the top. Sunlight filter through and scattered on the trail. I felt totally relaxed and melt into nature. Happiness was pouring out from my heart.

What impressed me the most is the amazing smile of the local people! We rested in a small eatery and bought some steamed buns. The lady who sold us the buns was also the one who made the buns and steamed the buns. Even though it was such a small eatery, she was very busy. However, she was smiling to every guest and passing them the buns politely. Her smile was so warm that you could tell that she was very passionate about what she was doing. I saw the same passion from another young fellow – a rickshaw puller. He is so agile and lively. His passion shined through his smile.

People always say that happiness could be this simple. That’s the moment when I felt it. Like the lady in the eatery and the rickshaw puller that I met, I am also a person who loves her job and her life. I am passionate about it but probably worried too much! I was inspired by their smile and decided to just focus. Focus on what I am passionate about and be happy about it.

After I returned from my Kyoto trip, I felt lighter and treated my work from a new perspective. I empowered my team and delegated tasks effectively. I was not easily irritated by minor mistakes but gave the team more trust and guidance. I focused on every project and task but call it a night at 6pm without pacing around to monitor the team of the evening shift, unless they asked for help. On the other hand, I saw the long distance relationship as an unique experience of our young marriage. If I were happier, it was also a relief of my other half that he could focus on his work rather than worrying about me. Turned out things were better than I initially thought. A happier team delivered better results. A happier couple made their relationship stronger and healthier.

I am not sure if my scientist husband, who is always rational and sometimes contemplative and judged things mainly based on facts and data, could understand my points about the meaning of travel. But I do want to share the below quote from the movie Dead Poets Society with him:

“And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Travel is for us to feel the beauty, the romance and the love. It could be a little part of what we stay alive for.

Maggie Shi

Maggie Shi

You can contact Maggie at maggie.shiqianqian@gmail.com.