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Open Letter

"Such a feeling's coming over me. There is wonder in most everything I see. Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eye, and I won't be suprised if it's a dream...I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation as the only explaination I can find...It's the love that I found ever since you've been around. Your love put me at the top of the world."
- The Carpenters

Dear Prospective Travelers,


          These past one hundred days traveling around ten countries have been simply thrilling. I have gotten a marvelous glimpse of Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Burma, India, Egypt, Turkey, Croatia and Spain. I have met people of many ages who have taught me so much without even saying much at all. These individuals of the world - a mother, father, sister, brother, distant cousin perhaps, a potential friend - have showed me how the lines of destiny and fate have profoundly altered the course of our lives. One mere decision, made complete in a matter of seconds, generations ago by my ancestors have changed who I am by 360 degrees: my culture, values, opportunities in life, even the language I speak! It blows my mind to think how I could have been living the lives of anyone I met had that one decision not been made, or had it been made differently!


I will always remember one girl who befriended me at a girl’s orphanage in Burma.  She was so excited to meet me because I was Chinese and so was she. I was her long lost sister and she was mine. She conversed to me in Burmese, the little English and fading Chinese that she knew.  I communicated back to her in the English, little Chinese and virtually zero Burmese I knew.  She told me that she had moved to Burma with her little sister and parents when she was very young. Although she was Chinese, she was much more Burmese. With a beautiful, shy smile filled with humility and excitement, she shared her culture by teaching me spoken words and fluidly writing Burmese characters into my journal. As I watched in amazement, thoughts that marveled at our differences also marveled at our similarity. Although generations-old decisions and my own have affected who I am and the way I am, I noticed a universal human spirit within us both. We were both, in essence, people - with same basic desires, needs, dreams…

          My travels by foot, air, automobiles and ocean has shown me different facets of a world so vast. Yet through meeting people of different faces, values, cultures, languages, who are the reason for making my journey purely indescribable and unbelievable, I am humbled by this revelation: that it is truly a small world after all. We are all people. Just people, who are decorated differently. This is our strongest connection that defies all boundaries, allowing us to appreciate our unique designs instead of being threatened or distanced by them.

          With all I am, I encourage you to travel. Your adventure does not have to be traveling around the world, or visiting multiple countries. It could simply be visiting a place that puts you out of your comfort zone, in the best way possible. Lessons are lurking around every corner, waiting to be discovered and ingested. Stereotypes are waiting to be broken, as tolerance is waiting to be formed. By you and for you.

Going to another country, another culture, will change you. For the better, I believe, especially if you have an open mind and take risks to indulge into the culture. The best way to delve into the culture that I have learned is to travel independently, away from the tourist track, throwing away your inhibitions and extending yourself to others. Merge into local life, and be as “Un-(your cultural identity here)” as possible! And get lost! Run off schedule! Don’t even plan a schedule! Enjoy the unexpected twists that lead you to another face of life that you never knew of or planned on seeing. In Vietnam, my friend Laura and I rented bicycles from locals, and spent five hours biking around the Mekong Delta! We biked into an alleyway and came across a world of hidden houses and children who were so excited to meet foreigners! We were just as excited to meet them. Getting lost and going into unknown places off the map was one of the best memories of my trip.

Your fears may not necessarily be valid in another country as in your home country, so do not let them hold you back. Many times, I have learned that the risk taken in trusting people has rewarded me with the best experiences and memories. The locals that you will meet are ambassadors who will give you the inside scoop and truer perspective of their country. They will show you life as it is through their eyes. And you will see life at face value, without the conformity of what tourist agencies want you to see. (Plus, they know all the fun places to go and fun things to do!) Don’t forget that you also represent your own country, too! And that the way you act is being processed, scrutinized, and shapes people’s perceptions of others in your country. The good and bad that you experience as you travel will allow you to have a wider perception of the world, which may confuse you or bring clarity at times. Either way, you will definitely grow and help others to grow because of this. Exploring life is enriching. So I highly encourage you to take this opportunity of a lifetime and travel! This small world that we live in is so big, and all of its greatness is waiting to be explored by you!

PS - Don't forget to bring an extra big suitcase, enough to sneak a person inside, so that I can come tag along with you too!

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