"I was 22, fresh out of college, and landed my first job. I didn't really like it, but I had no clue what other careers I should pursue. The job was okay, but I always felt like I was destined to do something else. I just couldn't figure out what. Then, on my way to my hometown, I met this guy on the plane.
I don't normally start a conversation, but he opened up first. An unassuming man in mid-40s of Indian heritage, he told me his story. He's a son of an ordinary store owner who had big dreams. He wanted to travel the world. He didn't have the means, but he was strongly motivated and found some help from a relative.
He studied and worked hard, just to earn enough money to go to Germany and lived there for several months. There he had to work two jobs between classes to support himself. He made it. Seven years later, he graduated with a diploma in Electrical Engineering. He worked in a company for a while but, figured out structured, ordinary life didn't suit him, so he began to travel. He'd spend his time in public libraries researching about his destination countries. He'd use most of his savings and when he ran out, he'd stay for a while in one country and work. He'd do any job basically, from harvesting crops in Italy to writing freelance to becoming a ship crew in Micronesia. He'd been to the world's most magical places and seen some things along the way. He continued his journey world for the next 12 years.
His story was exciting and captivating. I've never heard anything like it in my life. I thought life was about graduate from school, get a job, get a partner, have kids, settle down. I never thought there's more to that. It's possible to choose a non-ordinary path. And despite the risks it poses, it can be more fascinating and enriching. When we parted, I felt enlightened. Now I had a purpose. I want to travel and experience it for myself.
Fast-forward two years later: I got a scholarship to Japan. From then on, I started traveling to different countries. A few years later, I wound up in Germany, in a place where it all began for him. By the time I turned 30, I spoke four languages, lived in five countries, and visited no less than 15. This may not sound much, but for a girl born and raised in a small town in East Borneo, from an ordinary middle-class family, this way of life is unthinkable.
The day I took the courage to follow in his footstep was the first day of self-discovery. The more I travel, the more I realize about who I am and about my place in the world. So far, my experiences have been eye-opening, humbling, and enriching. I grew more self-assured, knowing that it's okay when you value different things in life compared to most people. I'm glad I met and spoke to him."