I arrived in Beijing after 12 grueling hours on the packed China Air flight from San Francisco. I had been squeezed into the middle seat between two native Chinese people that were headed home after their visit to the States, oh and did I mention that they didn’t speak a lick of English. The language barrier would have actually been tolerable if there was a common understanding of a little thing I like to call “personal space.” It was interesting to say the least; maybe even God’s little way of preparing me for what would later become the cultural shock of my life.
The next week and a half not only involved travelling from Beijing to Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Shanghai; but more importantly, I was forced to release all expectations and cultural norms I may have still held onto in order to experience all that China and its people had to offer me. You see; I grew up in the suburbs of a fair-sized North Texas town and had never traveled outside of the U.S. before. Needless to say, my visit to a country of over one billion people halfway across the world was the most exhilarating, meaningful experience of my life. Even though I signed up for this trip with the idea that I would be able to view many of the historical and modern buildings I had been studying since the beginning of my architectural education; I came back from China with more cultural experience and understanding than I would have ever thought.
This trip has helped to form a strong belief of mine today: I believe that international travel is the path to the true understanding of the meaning of life. I have found that culture, diversity, and the exploration of these aspects of human life, can bring about a better understanding of the world and why I was given the gift of life in the first place. I feel like travel is my way of connecting not only with other people and cultures, but also with myself and the things I want for my life. It has helped me to find out that my meaning in life is to travel, learn from others, and use the knowledge that other cultures have to offer; because for as many other countries out there that I still haven’t visited, there are just as many life lessons for me to discover from the amazingly diverse people that inhabit this Earth.
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