Find­ing mean­ing in travel

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By Michael Evans

Iwas at din­ner re­cently when a friend shared sto­ries from his two-month hol­i­day. Ev­ery­one at the ta­ble looked at him with a mix of awe and jeal­ousy, but my friend waved it all away. “It got bor­ing af­ter a while,” he said. “Cas­tles, beaches, and par­ty­ing, it was the same thing ev­ery day.”

His au­di­ence was hardly con­vinced, and few of them likely had any sym­pa­thy for him as they looked back on their last two months of monotony at work. But I felt like I could re­late to what he was talk­ing about.

When I first started work­ing in China, I spent my hol­i­days trav­el­ing across the coun­try and around Asia, vis­it­ing sights that I had long dreamed about. But af­ter my first few trips, I found my­self re­turn­ing home less and less sat­is­fied. Sure, I could brag about going to places my friends hadn’t been to and show off some cool pic­tures on my WeChat Mo­ments, but what had I re­ally gained?

Ev­ery­one likes to talk about how travel broad­ens our hori­zons and en­riches our lives, but it’s easy to for­get that this isn’t the “de­fault set­ting” for your av­er­age sum­mer va­ca­tion. A re­ally mean­ing­ful trip takes some thought and, usu­ally, a lit­tle work as well. Snap­ping self­ies in front of a beau­ti­ful tem­ple isn’t going to help you de­velop your EQ, and run­ning from one restau­rant to an­other isn’t going to teach you the mean­ing of life.

All too of­ten, we get lost in trav­el­ing for its own sake and for­get why we headed out to ex­plore the world in the first place.

My friend shared some of his ideas on how to make his fu­ture trips more mean­ing­ful. Next time, he said he might de­vote him­self to learn­ing a new lan­guage well enough to have a real con­ver­sa­tion with the lo­cals or take a cook­ing class to learn how to make the coun­try’s sig­na­ture dishes. That way, when he re­turns home, he can say that he truly came back with more than he left with.

As for me, I’ve started plan­ning my trips based on lo­cal fes­ti­vals. Over the past year, I’ve feasted with new friends dur­ing Malaysia’s Hari Raya Puasa fes­ti­val and watched sa­cred dances and pro­ces­sions at the Mon­lam fes­ti­val in China’s Gansu Prov­ince. I feel it’s helped me bet­ter learn about the lives and be­liefs of the lo­cal peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ence the cul­ture as it is ac­tu­ally lived. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

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