Traveling has many incredible benefits, some that you might think about before your journey, some you realize as you’re traveling, and some that don’t even hit you until a long time afterwards.
You look back and reflect on yourself as a person, who you were before you left and who you are now after you’ve come home. To have the privilege and luxury to be able to say “Yes, let’s go there!” is something we should all treasure, not everybody has this opportunity.
Every journey is special and we are constantly learning and growing everyday.
So what does being rich mean to you? Is it all about the $$, how many cars you have, how big your house is? To some people, yes absolutely. Money is the only form of happiness in life for them.
For me, being rich is about having a happy, loving life. To have people who love and care about you, to be in good health, and most importantly, to love yourself.
How Traveling Increases Confidence
Learning about My Roots
I think everyone has self-esteem and insecurity issues at some point in their life, whether it is caused by social media, high school or a mid life crisis. I was always a shy kid and going through middle & high school comparing myself to the “popular” girls didn’t help at all.
It wasn’t until I made my first journey abroad to Taiwan after I graduated high school that I started seeing more of the world outside my hometown and learning more about who I am. I was exposed to people and places that taught me a tremendous amount about my own limits, my likes and dislikes and the type of people who I want to surround myself with.
I joined Overseas Compatriot Youth Formosa Study Tour or more commonly known as Loveboat. It was a program that allowed kids born to Taiwanese parents outside the country to learn more about their heritage and their roots. After 18 years of going through the “who am I?” stage, it was something I had to do. I had to go back and meet my Taiwanese family and learn more about who I am and where I came.
It was an eye opening, mind blowing, and life changing experience.
However, I have to admit that my first couple days there were terrifying, I was in a country and a culture I knew absolutely nothing about with people I didn’t know. I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school and 100% in the US bubble. Family members treated me with kindness yet I saw them as strangers, having not seen them since I was two years old. The language and food were familiar yet everything else was like alien.
Why is everything so loud here? Holy crap there are a lot of scooters! Don’t people say “excuse me” when they accidentally run into you?
Camp was also a completely different experience. I met girls who came from extremely affluent places and it was the first time in my life that I felt incredibly out of place. I’m not the typical girl who likes to party or do crazy stuff, I was always kind of quiet and preferred to be alone. Yes I am an introvert and to fly across the world to join a camp full of 200 other “ABC’s” (American born Chinese) that I didn’t know was something that pushed me to my limit.
However, I made one amazing friend in particular who till this day am grateful for. Without her by my side, I probably would have had a miserable time. She didn’t care if I was rich or poor or where I grew up. She encouraged me, listened to me and boosted my confidence to be a more open and free person. Just by being the happy, beautiful and carefree person that she is.
The trip was perfect timing, the summer before college when I would move away from home. I’ve always been and still am very attached to my parents but have grown into my own and into an independent woman. But even throughout college, I still felt unhappy with a big part of me.
I have always battled with being Asian growing up in America. My hometown was mainly Caucasian and I read Seventeen and Glamour like every teenage girl, comparing myself to the beautiful white girls. I am dark skinned, with small eyes and straight black hair. Not what was gleamed beautiful in American or even Asian society. (Asian society sees white skin as beautiful.)
The never ending question that ran through my head almost everyday: “Am I American or am I Taiwanese?”
Logistically speaking, the answer is American. I was born and grew up in the United States so that automatically makes me American by papers. But why didn’t I feel like one? The American Revolutionary War was the history of the country I grew up in but not of my family. I could never be considered for a period movie since I’m not white. And Asians were not seen as attractive or beautiful where I grew up.
Then there was my Taiwanese side. I spoke Mandarin at home, I went to Chinese school, I ate Taiwanese food at home and had mostly Taiwanese/Chinese friends. I felt more connected with other kids like me, Asian growing up in America.
It was a battle I never won.
My Central America Experience
I went to Central America back in 2012 to experience a new culture and this was when I met Yeison. And boy has it changed my life. Being with him and traveling with him during our 2 years of long distance opened my eyes to more thoughts and beliefs of different cultures and different people.
During my first week in Masaya, Nicaragua, my host family took me to their favorite local restaurant and the first reaction I got from the grandfather was a gasp. I prepared myself for what I thought would be comments about why wasn’t I white if I grew up in the US but instead I got a “Que bonita, que linda!”
This was a pivotal moment of my life as to realizing that I didn’t need to be white with light hair and light eyes to be beautiful. I was so used to the “blonde hair, blue eye, big boobs” stereotype of beauty that I would put up my shields anytime someone mentioned anything about my looks. But what I learned was not the whole world thinks that way.
I grew up in a culture where that was the beauty standard but after my trip in Nicaragua and Honduras, I decided to break out of it. I stopped being afraid to look in the mirror and disliking what I saw. It wasn’t easy and it’s still something I struggle with but now I embrace myself. I embrace my own beauty, inner and outer and am grateful everyday for what I have.
Instead, the urge to learn and see more of the world became my motivation and inspiration to stop hiding and DO. I was self conscious of my smile but I realized that I look and feel happier when I smile and it was easier to reach out to people.
Nothing breaks the ice better than a big smile and warm hug. It’s important to focus on the connection and the bond you make with people instead of worrying if they think your nose looks too big or if your hair is not perfect.
Once I took a risk and stepped out my comfort zone, I felt so proud of myself and it is so rewarding. Even just going up to someone and starting a conversation has led me on paths that I’ve never dreamed of and created lasting friendships.
Little by little, step by step, my confidence increased each time.
Beauty comes from the inside more than outside. If you are happy, confident and love yourself, people see you as a beautiful person. You can be the most gorgeous girl in the world with an amazing body but with a bad attitude and personality can make you ugly in the first ten seconds somebody talks to you.
Traveling has given me an amazing boyfriend, new friends, new hobbies, and a new perspective on life. It doesn’t even have to be far, some of the best memories I have are short camping trips in WA and blueberry picking adventures with my best friend across town.
It’s hard but once you free yourself of all the insecurities, learn to accept who you are and love your flaws (everybody has them), you will feel like a heavy burden has been lifted off your shoulders.
You will be amazed at how much confidence you have gained, the less stress you have and the freedom that is given to you, unrestricted by fear and self doubt.
Traveling makes you go out into the world and participate. Learn. Think. Do. Expose yourself! Take risks!
You can’t hide if you want to see what else is out there.