Figure Out Your Own World View
Four young women have designed a mission card that tasks people to summon the courage to get to know the world on a deeper level through travel.
Figure Out Your Own World ViewBy Hsiao-wen Wang , Ching-hsiang Chao
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 575 )
Every trip is like moving out from one's tired old self.
Hsu Yu-hsuan, an experienced world traveler at the age of 24, is puzzled. She asks, "How is that, even though so many Taiwanese travel abroad, setting a new high with as many as 11.8 million individual trips per year, Taiwanese people generally still lack a true global perspective?"
On the road to discovering the answer, four young women, namely Hsu Yu-hsuan, Lin Chien-yu, Yu Chia-wen and Yao Ying-chu, coined a new term to describe the view of the post-90s generation toward travel, calling it "Let's Roll Out."
In November of 2013, the Let's Roll Out project successfully raised over NT$300,000 via the Flying V crowd funding platform. By the end of 2014, with assistance from the government's university graduate entrepreneur incubation program, they were set up and incorporated as "Let's Roll Out Inc., Ltd."
Traveling with a group tour, they say, is really just "passing through" the world: sitting on a tour bus with people you know, seeing only culture that has been packaged for your eyes, focusing on the destination, and either shopping like mad or holing up in the hotel. Whilst it might make for a lovely holiday, it only scratches the surface.
On the other hand, by putting on a backpack and wandering around, one can "enter" the actual place itself – making local friends, paying attention to one's surroundings along the way, taking local forms of transportation, experiencing local life, and reflecting on the differences. It might be a bit uncomfortable or lonely, and it might be difficult to adjust, yet one can more profoundly feel cultural differences, and from such clashes widen one's horizons and learn how to be independent and change.
Making Friends Around the World
In their view, the previous generation stressed Taiwan's ability to compete with the whole world, while the new generation is more concerned with the ability to make friends around the planet.
Four years ago, Lin Chien-yu worked as a volunteer illustrator for the Dongjen Center for Human Rights Education and Action, a human rights organization based in Beijing, through which she made the acquaintance of numerous young locals.
"A lot of people care about and long to see changes in the situation in China, just like the youths of Taiwan," Lin recalls. In that comparatively closed environment, they would try and find as many books on issues like feminism and environmentalism whenever they had an opportunity to go abroad.
Having been to China on numerous occasions, she was startled at the rapid economic development of top tourist destinations, making her feel that the great dragon had finally awoken. But then she was shocked to discover that, beyond the three rings that define modern Beijing, many regular people still did not even have flush toilets.
Yu Chia-wen, a graduate with a degree in education from the National Hsinchu University of Education, yearned for free and immersive travel. During a group tour in South Korea, she realized that she never wanted to travel with a group again.
"It was like all I was doing was moving my car to another country!" she says. On a bus packed with fellow Taiwanese, the only other avenue to get to know the host country was the Taiwanese guide's mouth. And any urge to encounter the hearts and minds of the locals had to be held back.
"As a result of globalization, big cities have become increasingly alike, and now only people's minds are different. Traveling means nothing if you can't come in contact with local people," Hsu Yu-hsuan notes.
Armed with their respective life experiences augmented by observation and study of how seasoned backpackers travel, and returning to the sociology texts they were taught in university, three of the team's members conceived and designed seven mission cards: Itinerary, Exchange, Survey, Rules, Energy, Reflection, and Sharing. "That was the first time I went back and opened up a (university) text book," admits Hsu Yu-hsuan with a chuckle. To date, they have sold 1,500 mission notes and task packs since they began selling them in 2013.
The mission cards come in several kinds. The Itinerary Card suggests trying to get onto a local university campus to sit in on a class, take part in a local wedding or funeral, and take in the most popular theater performance or movie there; the exchange card suggests that you chat with people you meet from different countries about cultural stereotypes associated with your respective countries, give foreign friends a name in your native language, and strike up a conversation with someone on local public transportation, and befriend that person.
Then there is the Rules Card, which dictates: No photographs, instead record everything with your eyes, or no Internet use. When the trip is nearing its end, use the Reflection Card to ask yourself: Why are you here? How do you exist in this world?
Other than "rolling out" overseas, participants can also "roll in" on the streets of Taiwan. Since the end of last year, over 200 people ranging in age from 17 to 40 have taken part in Roll Out to the Streets activities.
Leaving Your Comfort Zone
Roll Out to the Streets events run by the Let's Roll Out Project feature street missions that place opposites together. One female high school student got to know a street person outside Longshan Temple as a result of one such mission. Squatting next to the old man, his hair nearly all gray, his movements limited and hearing impaired, she listened attentively as he told his story.
The spirit of the students' Roll Out to the Streets initiative, calling on people to get out of their comfort zones, has even become a model for others, including a group of teachers.
The National Life Education Sciences Resource Center established a cooperative relationship with Let's Roll Out. On a mid-May afternoon, over 40 high school life sciences education teachers braved heavy rain to go out on a Let's Roll Out mission. There, the teachers suddenly became like children, overjoyed at making new friends, and feeling richer for hearing a stranger's tales.
Some of the teachers said they would take their students out in the rain again in the future to revel in the giddy, carefree feeling. Others said they now aimed to collect the stories of 100 strangers to learn more about other people's lives.
"I look forward to applying the inspiration gathered through experiential activities and sharing in the educational arena to be more keenly attuned to the children and stimulate reflection," says Hu Min-hua, Luodong Senior High School director and event founder.
Exchange, Independence, Reflection, Breakthrough
In order to give more people the courage to break through barriers and limitations, Lin Chien-yu and Hsu Yu-hsuan came up with a Let's Roll Out Ambassador Program using people with no name recognition or previous related experience. "They're just ordinary people, but they all managed to do the job," affirms Lin Chien-yu.
Let's Roll Out ambassador Chung Hsiu-ming, 18, mission notes in hand, set out to work as an intern at a non-profit organization in the Philippines for six weeks.
"It is not they do not have fears, but really brave people are able to see their dreams through in spite of their fear," she states. She recalls clearly how, by the end of her time there, she was able to walk into a local classroom and sit in on a class like it was nothing.
Wu Shuo-pin, 22, still contemplating her future, wanted to go out into the world in search of answers. Thanks to the Itinerary Card in her mission notes, she found herself swimming in the Schlachtensee in Berlin, Germany.
"I really envy and admire the European lifestyle of being close to nature," she says, recollecting that summer day on the lake.
"We're told in school to seek stability, but the world throws us challenges we're unprepared to tackle. But after enduring the challenges and shock, I was finally able to see my true self. I finally realized that the world I thought I knew could be so much bigger," writes Hsu Yu-hsuan in her introduction on the inside sleeve of the Let's Roll Out Ambassadors' Handbook.
Finding the courage to step out and adopting the mindset of making friends with the world, to take an immersive journey in a foreign land… a new generation of Taiwanese travelers seems to have found a way to relate to our times, while also getting along with their own selves.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman