My fingers grip tightly around the plastic handle as I drag everything I own behind me. My suitcase is just half my height and half my weight, a capsule of all my material possessions. Looking down, the ground beneath my suitcase is a flurry of colors, scenes, and textures. It could be gliding across the smooth tile of an airport, trudging along a rugged dirt path, or rattling across a cobblestone street.
When I was eleven, my parents and I left everything I knew to travel the world. Having been born and raised in Hong Kong up to that point, my world was constant, stationary, and just 34.1 square miles. My life was predictable, or so I thought.
With the stench of cardboard and the screech of duct tape, my expectations for the future—secondary school with friends I had grown up with—were packed, sealed, and stacked away. Before leaving, my eleven-year-old self reflected on what lay ahead in the inaugural post of my travel blog, “Our future is unknown and full of possibilities, but I hope it's some kind of happily ever after.” I was wrong, however, in thinking that my journey could simply culminate in some kind of happy ending.
In the first 365 days of our travels, we visited over 30 different countries across the seven continents. Marveling at the ruins of the lost civilizations of Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Angkor and being transported through time. Witnessing the recent scars left behind by World War II in Poland, the Netherlands, and Germany. Feeling the eyes of its victims bore into mine. Searching their faces frozen in photographs for an answer as to how the horrors inflicted upon them were allowed to happen. Taking in history as it came alive before me.
Connecting beyond words with a reindeer herdswoman deep in the Russian arctic tundra who gestured at our similar Asian faces. Discovering the commonalities we have with others even without sharing a language, a country, or a culture. Recognizing my privilege in being able to travel and appreciating the people and places it has given me the opportunity to meet and see.
Feeling the blubbery skin and bristly hair of a gray whale calf meeting my palm as its mother playfully nudged it toward us in the lagoons of Baja California Sur. Feeling humbled by the whales’ gentleness despite the violence humans have inflicted on them.
Awestruck by the beauty of the seemingly untouched ecosystems of the Amazon, the Antarctic, and the plains of Botswana. Reckoning with the environmental destruction that was truly affecting them. Finding hope in the mutually beneficial relationship humans and the nature of the Galapagos share, where ecotourism and environmental preservation encourage one another in a positive feedback loop. Coming to understand the intimate relationship that humans and nature have, but confronting the distinct disconnect between the modern and natural worlds.
Looking back at my first blog post, I had hoped for a happily ever after because, at the time, all I could see were endings. The end of childhood friendships, the end of that physical structure called home, and the end of the only world I knew. Only in hindsight have I learned that my path should not be defined by endings. It is rather marked by the discovery of new beginnings. The beginning of a new worldview, the beginning of finding a new community at my online school, and the beginning of a new sense of home unconstrained by physical boundaries.
My world is shaped by the volumes of experiences and memories that fill and build up my perspective. It is hence fluid, bound to change as I continue into the next chapters of my life. As I go off to college and take my suitcase to my next beginning, I look forward to continuing to fill up my experiences in my next home at UC Berkeley.
Although I will not be traveling nearly as much while I'm at college, I hope to continue adding our past trips to the blog and revisit all the amazing experiences I have been lucky enough to have had.