By: Lily Jang
There is no known author for this quote, but it could not be truer: “Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” Travel is my prayer, my meditation. That is why it is such a privilege to write a column in CKW Luxe Magazine about the passion I enjoy most in life. Traveling is the greatest teacher and improves your quality of life.
In my nearly 20 years in Broadcast Journalism, I have reported about wars in countries I have been fortunate enough to see in person. I have covered strife and crisis where millions have fled their homes to escape persecution in the very country where I was born (Saigon, Vietnam). Maybe that is why I have what you call a case of fernweh for the ends of the earth. This wanderlust has improved my life in several ways, and it can enhance yours as well.
1) GIVES YOU TIME TO REFLECT
You get to break away from the daily routine and stress back at home and gain an opportunity for introspection and reflection. Time away from the day in and day out gives you perspective about the life you are leading and the decisions you are making. Go to a place where time stands still, which is a different place for each of us, and then enjoy the silence and freedom from worry.
2) TEACHES YOU TO LIVE IN THE MOMENT
This is what they mean by “stop and smell the roses.” Enjoy the here and now. I took a spur of the moment train ride from London, England to Bruges, Belgium in the summer of 2013 and spent the entire time looking out the window of my train while passing through the scenic French countryside. It was just me and my thoughts. I lived in the present, and it was cathartic. Once I got to Bruges, I stood on a bridge and enjoyed watching people take a leisurely boat ride on the river below. Even if all you can do is get in your car and drive to a nearby city for a day trip, do it. Enjoy the road trip and crank your favorite music. Car dance, if you dare. Just make sure you are too busy to look at your phone.
You learn to live in the moment
Street corner near
"Cholon" in Saigon where I was born
3) HELPS YOU DISCOVER YOURSELF
My friend Miranda and I backpacked our way through Southeast Asia in early 2012. I spoke Vietnamese the entire time we were in Saigon and visited the neighborhood where I was born. My parents had always told me stories about my birth place, but I finally stood on the street where I spent my first year of life. It was full-circle to go back to a country I fled as an infant during the Fall of Saigon in April of 1975. For you, discovering yourself might be driving to the beach on the Texas Gulf Coast and eating a picnic lunch. It might be a spending time in church. Spend some time alone and get to know yourself no matter the destination.
4) GIVES YOU AN EDUCATION
The world is your classroom. I learned that Paris in the fall is no different than Seattle; both are rainy and cold, yet both are magical. I would have never believed that Houston and Saigon are quite similar in climate until I went there. This is why so many refugees settled in Texas after the Fall of Saigon because it was familiar. On the remote island of Ko Samet, Thailand, where my friend Miranda and I spent the day, we learned that people who live and work there make an average of $5 US a day. It is more than enough to support a family of four for a week. Traveling to the corners of the world is enlightening. It is the ultimate learning experience, and it feeds more than just your mind. It feeds your body and soul. Traveling won’t earn you a degree, but your new experiences could potentially lead to a career!
5) HELPS YOU BE MORE COMPASSIONATE
Seeing the world outside of your bubble will force you to care for issues that are bigger than yourself. Your heart might break. Mine did when I left a mall in Saigon and met a petite woman whose legs had been amputated. She was holding a crying baby with another toddler by her side. She was not begging for money. She was selling chewing gum to make money to feed her children. I had never felt more connected to a fellow human being in such a deep way.
6) TEACHES YOU TO LIVE SIMPLY
I backpacked my way through Eastern Europe. In reality, we only needed 1/3 of the items we pack in our suitcase. My rule of thumb is four tops and four bottoms, and then mix, match, and repeat. You can wash cotton items in the sink and let them air dry. Moving around at airports and on planes, trains, and automobiles are easier and faster with less to carry. You only need one pair of shoes: sensible ones for walking long distances. Shampoo, toothpaste, and soap are all typically provided by the hotel.
7) IMPROVES YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS
Going to new places allows you to meet people from all over the world who you would not encounter under normal circumstances. You learn how to connect with anyone, no matter what their
Backstage at the Justin Timberlake Concert in London
background and life situation is. You can step out of your comfort zone and make friends on your journey. This is especially true when you travel alone. On my solo plane ride from Dublin, Ireland to London, England in 2013, I made friends with a rowdy crowd sitting around me on a British Airways flight. By the time we landed, I was invited backstage to their London concert. I had no idea these new friends were backup singers for Justin Timberlake (who was on my plane with his wife, Jessica Biel). I am secretly hoping for another concert invite one day.
This dish is called "Mi Xao Don" in Saigon, Vietnam
8) EXPANDS YOUR PALATE
I am a foodie, and there are flavors I did not know existed until I traveled the world: the taste of genuine Indian curry, authentic Italian pizza, or hot and spicy coconut Thai soup. Tacos in Costa Rica taste different than those from Mexico. Be sure you find out the specialty of the region while you are there. I know from experience that street food in Asia is as authentic as it gets. Try as much as you can and be adventurous. You might discover your new favorite food!
9) MAKES YOU YOUNGER
It is true. Studies show adults’ sense of time is more “compressed” than children’s, but traveling to new, exotic places is an equalizer of sorts. Go somewhere where you can let go. Throw caution to the wind. Do cartwheels on the beach. Ski the highest mountain in Whistler, Canada and conquer it. Have an extra pint of beer in Germany. Find your smile. It does not have to be international travel. Enjoy a day of wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country with close friends. Take a trip to surf camp in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Go back in time and visit a city you dreamed of as a child. When you feel younger, you look younger.
10) GIVES YOU A BETTER APPRECIATION FOR HOME
You become grateful for what you have in your life. I have seen the mightiest mountains and the most pristine beaches, but I always miss home after time away. You begin to see the good life you have at home and learn not to take it for granted. Meeting people in less fortunate situations than yourself and learning about their perspective on life will teach you to appreciate all the good things you have in your life. So I say to you, travel wide and far. Go with reckless abandon. This is where life begins. Find your soul’s purpose.
I leave you with my favorite Henry Rollins quote:
LILY JANG is a news anchor at KHOU, the CBS Affiliate in Houston, Tx. She’s worked all over the country in Seattle, Birmingham, Alabama, and Amarillo, Texas.
Lily is an Emmy-nominated journalist who leads the country when it comes to social media interaction with viewers. She is an avid social media user with a loyal following on both Facebook and Twitter.
Lily has been honored twice by The Huffington Post as a Twitter Powerhouse. Lily is happy to donate her time and energy to charities in the community. On a typical weekend, you will find her emceeing a non-profit, throwing a tweetup or speaking on a panel about social media. Lily is also fluent in Cantonese and Vietnamese.