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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

A step into the mind of a young traveller

Photo by Ella Williams, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:“Man.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.  And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Growing up is never an easy experience, there is far too often a line between what we want to do, and what society expects us to do. We live in a world where individual minds are no longer valued; a world where different is not seen as unique and amazing, but rather as “weird.”

For a large part of my childhood, my main goal in life was to become the richest man in the world. My thought process was as follows: It’s nice to have nice things and having nice things makes me happy, therefore, if I can live a life where I obtain as many material goods as possible, I will be happy as can be. Little did I know.  I would have to say that the most amazing part of a program like Andes and Amazon is challenging what you have been taught, and doing so with a group of amazing individuals. Everybody is given the opportunity to succeed, for it is in our best interest and in the group’s best interest to all get along with one another. We are forced to spend time with people we wouldn’t normally get to know back at home, and in doing so, we realize how complex of a place the world is. Everybody on this earth has a completely different story, and everybody has within them the ability to amount to great things, but society often blinds us of this inner power we all possess.

Travelling for 3 months with the same group of people can be overwhelming, but it can also be unbelievably eye-opening. We are all given the chance to be ourselves, and not be judged for it, rather, be loved for it. The type of confidence obtained can then be taken back home and can be a part of the rest of our lives.

Just recently, A&A semester B just got back to Cusco from the rainforest. My experience there was unbelievably powerful and very eye opening. We all spent a few days in a small amazonian village called Boca Inambari. On our final day there, we had a conversation with the leader of the village, many topics were covered, but the one that really stuck with me is the influence western culture has had on their lifestyle. We asked him the question: “are you a more happy person now that your village has started developing into a more western and less “indigenous” village?” His answer was very clear: no. They no longer value their culture as much as they did before. But why? Isn’t development supposed to be an unambiguously positive aspect to the advancement of the human race? Unfortunately enough, we live in a world where success is far too often measured by how much money you make, how many people you know, or even how nice the clothes you wear is. Oftentimes, people come across these kinds of realizations and simply look right past them because they are scared to step off the very straight path society has thrown in front of us, a path that we are expected to follow. In doing so, people get so caught up in what others think of them, and this creates a huge barrier between an amazing mind and a life of success.

When a lot of time is spent travelling throughout third world countries, it is hard not to question your life back at home, and many ambitions you may have. People in these countries may not have a lot of money, but they have smiles. They may not have a lot of land, or a big house, but they have loving families. They may not have a job that pays exceptionally well, but they have enough to provide for themselves, and enough to allow them to enjoy the real pleasures in life, the pleasures money can’t buy.

So, do I still want to be the richest man in the world? Yes, I do. The only difference is that my perception of what it means to be rich has changed. I have first handedly experienced happiness with very little to no money, a kind of happiness that cannot be found in many places in our culture. It’s not about what you have, its about who you have to share it with. Relationships are too often not valued as they should be, trips like this make you realize the value they hold. Being around so many inspiring individuals has made me realize that you should always do your own thing, and walk the path you are destined to walk, not the path everybody expects you to walk. This trip has taught me that success is a choice, a choice that anybody can make, all it takes is a little modification on what it means to be successful.

“Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Do whatever it may be that you are passionate about, but do so with care. If you heart is in it, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. The best part about a trip like this is that I am not the only one who has had these kinds of realizations. We are all in this together as a team; have been from the start and will be until the very end.