Travel As A Way Of Life
My name is Rebekka Lien, I was born in Hamburg, Germany. I moved to Taipei, Taiwan when I was 5 years old and eventually immigrated to Los Angeles at the age of 8. I didn’t know that my love for travel would be birthed from an unstable, migratory childhood. Later I learned that I was a Third Culture Kid, a kid who grows up primarily in a culture different from their parents’ especially in the developmental years. My most prized possession is my passport; I salivate at the thought of a new stamp on it.
Travel is about growth
When you’re solo backpacking, you grow mentally, physically and culturally. The summer of 2012, I decided to go visit a boy I sponsored in Tena, Ecuador. I remembered the beautiful pictures of blue rivers and purple mountains that he drew in his letters, stories of his life being transformed into reality before my eyes. Although “alone” in a foreign city, I felt that everyone I met was a long last cousin or friend. The roads were filled with big rocks, meant more to massage your feet than to provide a paved road.
The taxi driver asked me where I was from and taught me a few Spanish phrases such as “where is the bathroom” and cautioned me not to go out at night in the dark corners of Quito. When I got to the hostel, a colorful reggae man opened the door, swaying his dreads aside. This was my first encounter with an Ecuadorean Reggae man. His ears were filled with painful home-pierced wood splinters. He was a true Raggae man and I respected that. That night consisted of a rooftop hang out with Raggae man and a Spaniard; staring into the abyss of fruity colored houses and the angel watching over the city. She was like my guardian angel, making sure that my time traveling alone in a city of graffiti, salsa and morning Fantas would conjure true revelations of life and love.
After a few days in Quito, I attempted to contact the organization that was planning my meeting with Marco. The phone booth was not so convenient since none of the Ecuadoreans spoke English. It was only the beginning of a prayerful trip. Who else could I rely on? I walked into a pharmacy to ask how I could get to the bus station, which would take me to Tena.
A drug dealer (the ones that sell pharmaceutical drugs of course) offered to give me a ride. I was about to hitchhike with a complete stranger. He walked beside me, shielding me from the homeless man that tried to flash his privates at me. He said, “I am so sorry for this, this is my country and I am proud of it”. If only Los Angeles could have such gentleman. I was pleased and impressed by his sincerity.
Mid- ride, the drug seller asked me if I wanted “Cervezas”, beer. It was 10 in the morning. My mind tried not to run into dark possibilities of “is he trying to get me drunk?” I politely declined and said another prayer. We safely arrived and after a few minutes of “baby-sitting” me, he returned to his work while I breathed in relief. I was the only Asian person I had seen since 10 days of being in Ecuador. Over the course of my ride and attempt to find streets that did not exist, I finally arrived alone in the city of Tena. At the front of the building, I saw Marco and his mom. A sweet black haired boy hid behind his mom, blinking one eye at me. Here was the little boy I had been writing letters to for 2 years. He was a lot shorter than I had imagined, but filled with glee and excitement.
That day we visited the zoo, his house, ate fish, saw free monkeys running around, and attempted to speak through a translator. About 5-6 people lived in one house, the beds didn’t look very comfortable. He even let me hold his monkey, which they found in the jungles and was leashed to become a domestic pet. The monkey quietly slipped into deep sleep in my lap, just like a baby would.
Traveling has made me a deeper and wiser person. My trip to Tena was a spiritual and personal one. I realized that I wanted to visit Marco because I wanted to show myself that every kid is worth the visit. I didn’t see my dad for 10 years and he did not attempt to visit me in America. This created a void in my heart. I needed to know that I was worth the visit and by visiting Marco, I was filling a void for myself. It was an act of reconciliation for my soul.
Sometimes that is what travel is about, not just about sight seeing, but filling a void or writing your life story in ways that sitting at home cannot do for you. Every person I have ever met on my travels taught me something I needed to learn. Sometimes they are angels sent by God to give you comfort when you have death-like food poisoning in the Galapagos and you’re utterly stranded, alone with no one to speak English to; Sometimes they are companions simply reminding you that you are changing the world by simply being authentic to who you are.