How My Experience in Myanmar with Where There Be Dragons Expanded My Life

Location: 
Myanmar
MM

As college students, we’d like to think we understand what life is and what our role is in it. In the words of Steve Jobs, “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life.” Jobs goes on to describe how “life can be much broader” when you realize that you have the power to change the world. Life can be much broader when you realize how much the world has the power to change you.

This past summer, I went on an educational, immersive, rugged travel experience throughout Myanmar with a company called Where There Be Dragons. Dragons, according to its “Mission & Values” page on its website, is an “environmentally conscientious, culturally self-aware,” travel company that is “focused on developing mutually meaningful connections with local communities” with a goal to “to build empathy and foster a feeling of shared responsibility for our collective future” as citizens of the world. 

My experience with Dragons is one that changed my life in a way I don’t believe can ever be undone. Some would assume that I came back to “reality” with a taste of a different world. On the contrary, I came back to a different space within a broader reality that I hadn’t known existed. I gained the feeling that I know little to nothing about life, that I have so much more of life to explore. I looked fondly at my bug bites, chacos foot tan, notebook flowing with journal entries that perfume of sandalwood, and Myanmar milk tea that I drink when I yearn for that mystical other land. For when the world around me here at Colby makes me feel anxious or bored, these things are evidence to me that all of it was even real. I did fly halfway across the world to a place called Myanmar and felt my heart alive. I did. I took a chance and left my bubble to explore new edges of what seems like a different world but, in reality, exists inside mine without me ever knowing it before. 

So I say to you, take a chance on bamboo shoots and catfish soup, on taking a picture with a random little boy on the street because he wants to see your digital camera. Take a chance on climbing a 777-step mountain while sneaky monkeys grabbed at your purse, and taking a bucket shower in the middle of the village for all to see. Take a chance on planting rice at 4 am in the mud fields, and on cooking freshly slaughtered chicken over an open fire stove. Take a chance on abandoning toilet-paper and living for days off of only the woods. Take a chance on life, on you, and on the world being bigger and better once you get to know it. 

I wouldn’t give back what Dragons gave me for anything in the world. So, I implore you, as a fellow college student who once thought she knew all that life had to offer her, take a chance and explore the world while you can because the world is beautiful. Just when we think we’ve seen it all—we haven’t. So take a train to a city you’ve never been to before, start writing to a pen pal in Bali. Watch documentaries about faraway lands. There’s so much to experience, whether you’re there in person or there in heart. Because once you bash your walls down a little bit, you will realize that life is only as small as you make it. So take the leap, see what else is out there. I can’t say it’ll be easy, but you’ll live.