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Things that I’ve learned from traveling… so far

Traveling to different Countries or even within your own can do so many different things for a person. It can inspire, bring people closer together, and even teach us valuable life lessons. Today we hear one man's perspective and what he has learned from travel. Amahl S. Azwar tells his story:

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m probably one of the worst guys ever to give anybody a piece of advice when it comes to traveling. I’m 33 and so far I’ve only been to a few countries - all of them in Asia.

A friend of mine actually lifted me up when I told him about this. “That’s cool, you know. It means that you’ll still experience many ‘firsts’ in your life… including travel destinations,” he told me, putting things in perspective.

I lived in Shanghai, China for four years, followed by two years residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I did travel to some cities in China as well as several in Thailand. So, I guess, I do have some experience?

Anyway, I’m going to share some of the positive aspects that I’ve learned from traveling.

One time, I visited this island called Chong Ming, which is located off Shanghai and, to reach it, you need to either take a bus or drive. While Chong Ming is still part of Shanghai, the island is pretty much separated from the metropolitan city.

Forget meeting locals who can speak English. On this island, people only speak their dialect in addition to Chinese Mandarin. At first, I was afraid to explore the island but my partner convinced me to just let go and go with the flow, which I did.

Shanghai Another Look

Being in Chong Ming in particular - and being in other parts of the world where the majority of the people do not speak English - taught me to be patient. For years, I thought just by speaking English fluently I would be okay when it comes to surviving foreign places.

I learned to take three deep breaths whenever I was anxious in facing a situation. For example, one time, my partner and I visited this local restaurant that did not have any English menu. I sighed in relief when I found that they hung the pictures of their food on one of the walls. It took a while for the waiter to understand what I really wanted to eat… but she was patient with me.

She later brought me this pork dish and vegetables and, frankly, it was one of the best dishes ever. For me, their food was special because not only did I get to taste the rich flavor of the tender meat and slurping on the fresh veggies… I also learned a life lesson just by ordering food from a total stranger who did not understand my language.

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In China, I also learned to try new stuff. Growing up, I was not able to ride a bicycle. Maybe because I was too spoiled to even bother to learn it or perhaps because my family moved a lot. I have no idea.

When I was in China, I noticed that many people ride bicycles. I asked my partner how much money would we save if I could ride a bicycle like him and he said, “plenty!” :)

So I decided to ask my partner to teach me to learn how to ride a bicycle. Imagine a grown man falling over a few times riding this thing… on a compound in an Eastern Asian city.

For some reason, I did not care. I mean, I was in a new country after all. Surely nobody would really care about a foreigner riding a bicycle and even if they did… they wouldn’t be mad about it or make jokes.

Six years later, I’m quite good at riding a bicycle and can even ride a motorbike with ease. My next goal is to ride a manual vehicle.

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I live in Bali now and the COVID-19 pandemic really hit the tourism-reliant island pretty hard. I hope one day we could soon travel freely again… because there is so much to learn. And this is coming from a guy whose travel experience is limited.

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