The pressure is high. Growing up in an Asian household where I worked at my parent’s store starting at age 8 until I moved away for college, I saw first hand how much my parents work to create a better future for me and my siblings.
You get this unexplainable guilt in your throat to do your best because your work is a reflection of their success.
However, travel has always been my obsession. It was something I couldn’t have (visa restrictions) so it made me want it even more. I was confined within the US borders until I finally received my green card in my junior year of college.
My first trip was to Tanzania and Kenya in 2010 with a student group to help set up a computer center and student entrepreneur projects. I told my parents I was going to Argentina and it was part of a school program. It was not.
When I came back for a week, I went straight to Hong Kong for my 6-month study program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I didn’t have to sugar coat this because it was actually for school. I just didn’t mention to them that I stopped by Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
After graduating from college, I started working at a non-profit organization and lived at home for 3 years. I knew I wanted to save as much money as one could from a non-profit. Within the three years, I managed to go to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Amsterdam.
But, the short trips weren’t enough for me. I ultimately wanted to do what my parents did, leave the country, and start somewhere new. The plan has been brewing in my mind for a year. It wasn't until 1 week before my departure that I told my parents I was leaving.
Now, I know this might be absurd for some but it worked for me. I know my parents better than anyone. My mind was set and there was nothing they could have said to change it. If I told them in advance, they would have done everything in their power to stop me. I can’t blame them because they only want what they think is the best for me.
A year and a half later, I am still living in Santiago, Chile.
Here are 3 secret ingredients for Asian wanderers who want to quit their job and travel the world
1. Sacrifice. As a first generation immigrant, you will have to make sacrifices. For me, it was living at home. Having lived on my own for 4 years in college, moving back home was a big blow. But, it was what my parents wanted for me as a good Asian daughter. I complied because I knew I would make a bigger move later on.
2. Little white lies won’t hurt. My parents don’t speak English and they don’t have Facebook (thank Buddha). My mindset is a mix of Chinese and American ideas. With that, I learned to navigate my American idealism (freedom & individuality) with my Chinese narrative (family obligations). I learned to leave out things that would confuse them even more. Hence, mentioning Argentina instead of Tanzania.
3. Giving back. I helped my parents at the family store since I was 8 years old. I paid off my college tuition on my own without their help. I gave small portions of my paycheck to my parents. These were my humble gestures of setting myself free- mostly free from guilt. Knowing that my life has been my own, independent from them, I have paid off my dues as a daughter and can go live on my own.
*This thought piece was adapted and featured on Elite Daily: 3 Ways Asian Travelers Can See the World without Letting their Parents Down. Please like and share it with everyone you love. It would make my day!