Tibet: When Travel Took on a Meaning Beyond Myself

Mt Everest Tibet

It’s been the most incredible journey these past 8 years crafting my own experiences around the world to travel, live, breathe, soak in, and observe different cultures and people – or “life travels,” if you will! 

But there was an traveler before that – the foundation laid by all the family trips since the age of 1. Here’s an insight into when travel experiences ventured into a space beyond myself.

Captured a piece of me at 17 and submitted as my college/uni entrance application essay:

An old belief of mine was that children living with limitations, whether it be financial, physical or otherwise, must also have limited happiness. The legendary Mt. Everest provided a fitting backdrop for the day I finally grasped the conviction with the help of a young Tibetan girl that one must see beyond the mountainous wonder to observe how the people lived, to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary, to discover the majestic in the prosaic.

“Cheap souvenirs!” the Tibetan girl shouted as she jumped over large rocks, scattering pebbles as she landed. She joined in my search for the perfect rock, quickly forgetting the items to sell in her red shoebox. “Pretty rock! Ten dollars!” Amidst laugher, she briefly held up the new rock before adding it to her box. The next rock she found, however, was not given a price tag nor waved into the air, but rather placed in her palm and handed to me. “This is the prettiest one.” I saw how darkened her palm was from the harsh sunlight and rough from laborious work. After returning my thanks with a small giggle, the satisfaction in her eyes did not disappear as she bid us goodbye and was whisked away to her family’s tent.

In that moment, I realized children knew something invaluable we seem to overlook. They can create joy out of almost nothing, and I felt compelled to take something out of my humbling experiences with them. The commonality among kids is visible in their eyes. The innocent nature of those running barefoot in villages situated along train tracks or those bathing in the Nile is not one of defeat nor frustration.

The spirit of these kids and their fortitude often falls shadow to the limitations we assign them. The true miracle lies beyond their confines, that they still find opportunities to laugh and play as children despite the extent of their circumstances.

It is the same thrill and admiration visible in the eyes of the kids I visit living with developmental disabilities whenever they bowl a strike; the same satisfactory delight in the eyes of the teens in special ed I peer mentor whenever someone bumps another back to start playing Sorry!; and the same excitement captivated in my eyes when I celebrated the privilege of crossing the street alone by skipping off to the nearby school playground after looking both ways.

The children I work with and those I’ve met abroad seem to be the happiest people I have met. What they understand about life many of us might never, as they focus on things we have forgotten. With limited privileges, they must look to something they already have to be grateful for. Everything is precious, and it is indeed the small things that keep them going.

Limitations are not perceived by those living with them, but rather by the onlooker. Where one might see mud villages, a world built of dust, or a lifetime confined to a wheelchair, the kids see just another opportunity to seek laughter or get to know the person helping them. Where I might have once looked and seen children with a bleak future, I now see them just as they do, people with a great hope for tomorrow.

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