Travel Wisdom: Kids Know Best.

Trekking through the mountains of Laos with my buddy Dave we were staying with small villages of people in rural conditions. We pretty much slept on straw mats and their houses were constructed well, but were pretty much weaved together around a few wooden supports. There was maybe one light bulb in the direct center of the hut if they were lucky, but mostly it was candles. There was a cooking fire in the center that everyone crowded around at nighttime and dinner.  I don’t consider these people poor because they didn’t have modern conveniences, because they all seemed pretty high spirited and rich in happiness. Of everyone in the tiny villages though nobody was in as good a mood as the kids.  You could usually identify them from their giggling which you could hear from any point in the village and their group was usually accompanied by some mangy looking village dog that usually had a gaggle of swollen tits dragging on the ground beneath it wherever it went.

But theses kids man, they didn’t really have much, but that was only how it appeared to my dull perceptions. Upon closer inspection they were climbing tress, building little soldiers out of mud, jumping into creeks, dressing each other up with scraps of whatever they found, and they were happy as hell.  They didn’t need anything to be happy.  They just needed to wake up and have each other and that was it. In all my travels this was a constant wherever I went. It was also a good lesson; you truly don’t need much to be happy if you can just wake up, take a deep breath, and learn to enjoy the things you do have.

Kids chilling and making little soldiers out of mud.
Kids chilling and making little soldiers out of mud.
When I was at the Shaolin Temple there were around 200 kids training there. Almost of all of these kids came from poverty and the temple offered them a second chance at life to learn a skill and get some education, which otherwise they would never have.  They trained, ate, and did everything I did. We walked in the same shoes. And where after an 8-10 hour day of training that started at 4:30 in the morning I was ready to get my bitch storm going these kids were having a ball. They were running around, teasing each other, and playing with the only basketball they had. They live pretty tough lives, but I never once heard them complain. They were happy with what they had. They were happy with each other.  My Master Shifu Hu would always say to me, “You see these children? They’ve learned to eat bitter. They’re strong now, so that everything else in life can be easy.”
Shaolin kids having fun playing some b-ball.
Shaolin kids having fun playing some b-ball.

Almost everywhere I went the people that were among the first of the locals to take interest in me were kids. Adults can be suspicious or don’t want break out of their norm or just want to go on with their day. Kids don’t give a shit and it’s kind of amazing. Anytime a kid would wanna pull on my beard or ask me about my nose ring or tattoos I always had to laugh and usually their parents would start laughing too. It was my favorite icebreaker in a new country. It was a lack of fear, a lack of ego, a lack of class system, and a lack of assumption. It was always something to behold. 

Hypnotizing babies in Mongolia with my beard.
Hypnotizing babies in Mongolia with my beard.

Even when I taught in South Korea, where I had students that came from the wealthiest families in the country, the kids weren’t much different.  When they arrived at the English Summer Camp I worked at for 90% of the day they weren’t allowed to mess with their phones or play video games or mess around on the internet. These kids came from some of the most wired electronically engulfed environments in the world. Ultimately though, they didn’t need that stuff. Kids improvise; they find what they need around them and they more often than not use their perpetual imagination. Whether the girls were practicing synchronized dance moves together or the boys were circled around a single piece of paper drawing Angry Birds endlessly, they were pretty happy.

My Korean students getting crazy on some Angry Birds drawings.
My Korean students getting crazy on some Angry Birds drawings.

It reminds me of something Lao Tzu once said,

“Be content with what you have;

Rejoice in the way things are.

When you realize there is nothing lacking,

The whole world belongs to you.”

So when I travel I try to remember this. When I’m sleeping on the ground or eating with my hands or even bored on a long bus ride. Be content. Be endlessly amazed. Be curious. Be fearless. Be a kid.   –S.T.

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  • Diarmuid Lyng

    Posted on December 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Always wisdom to be gained from the Shameless Traveller! Much love bro!

  • Alex

    Posted on January 06, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    A really great article!! We’ve found it to be the same - kids are kids, no matter where in the world they’re from.

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