I've been back home in the US for over 3 weeks now. It has given me plenty of time to ponder and reminisce about my 3 month travels in Asia and what I learned from the whole thing. Within 2 weeks of being gone from home I had already felt like a new person. I felt open, flexible, enlightened I dare say. I also felt extremely lonely! From the farms of Japan to the street food of Thailand to the big buildings of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, to the dirty streets of Cambodia, I saw the most amazing things, met beautiful people, and experienced the best food ever. Here's a little of what I learned for myself.
We are spoiled
Especially in big cities like Los Angeles, but in most developed countries we are just spoiled. We can have anything and everything we want. I visited places where most people live in shacks, have no hot running water, and throw their trash right in the street. There wasn't a natural food store in the whole country much less a vegan restaurant. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have these things within reach. And how easy it was to survive without Daiya cheese and 50 different flavors of vegan ice cream. Yes, it's great to have choices as a vegan, but I've come to believe that all the choices we have just fuel us into being bigger consumers, more wasteful, more greedy, and more spoiled. All those things do not equal happiness.
Little things don't matter
I'm not talking about those special little things like the way your dog greets you when you get home or the way your lover looks into your eyes, but I'm talking about the petty little things that consume our thoughts day in and day out…what I'm I going to wear, does that co-worker hate me, which smart phone should I buy, what is that girl wearing, what's the coolest band right now, and on and on. When you live in a country where you barely have your basic needs met you are less concerned with the little things.
When I was staying on a farm outside Tokyo, it was the first time in a long time where my whole existence slowed down and became so empty and peaceful. It was so quiet I could hear my every thought loud and clear. As I picked weeds, my mind became clear and the bullshit just faded away. Most people cannot handle such silence. We pack so much stuff, people, drama into our lives so we don't have to be still and see our true self. We stay in our comfort zones and miss out on experiencing life-changing, mind-altering, enlightening adventures.
I can do anything
During my travels I went through experiences that made me stronger and more capable. Many times I was left in tears with no idea how I was going to remedy my situation. It was scary at times, but now I feel like I could do anything and go anywhere. This trip has left me feeling open, alive, optimistic, realistic, relaxed, peaceful, and trusting. I literally feel like the wool has been removed from my eyes, that I can live each moment in the present, and just be. Trippy, I know!
Life is precious
In Phnom Penh I went to the Killing Fields (death camps) where a memorial stands for the millions of Cambodian people killed under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 70's. In the museum I read about the horrifying things that happened and walked around the site. It was one of the most devastating places I had ever visited. The day after I left Phnom Penh to go to the beach, over 300 people died during a huge festival that happens every year. The news actually showed the dead bodies lying in the grass, unlike Western television stations. It was horrifying and brought tears to my eyes. These two events, among other things that I saw during my travels really helped me understand just how precious life is and how grateful I should be for all the things the Universe has provided for me.
I hope that this post doesn't sound negative or judgmental. This trip was so overwhelming and soul-lifting that it's hard to put everything into words. I'm so grateful that I was able to take this trip and have the experience. If you've never been to Asia I highly recommend it! If you've never been outside the US at all, it's a must do thing before you die. We need to step out of our bubbles every once in a while to see the true nature of things. And to peek inside our hearts and consciousness.
Have you had an experience that opened your eyes, heart, and mind? What was it?