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Follow your heart to discover the world

By Chen Yingqun (China Daily)

10:22, April 05, 2013

White-collar worker quit job to start a journey of self-discovery, fulfillment

Four o'clock in the morning and a slim Chinese woman jumps off a truck stacked with cabbage in the wilds of Kenya, her face covered with dust from the road and around her nothing but darkness.

For many it could be a moment of worry, alone in a foreign land, but for 27-year-old Yuan Tian it was another part of a great adventure that took her deep into the culture of the African country.

"That was the best part of traveling in Kenya," she says, speaking from a cafe in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. "I got to see the most primitive tribes of the country, which most travelers may never see."

Jack Kerouac's On the Road with its tales of a trip across the United States inspired generations of Americans and Europeans to travel. Now Yuan Tian hopes do the same in China with her African travel story.

"Many Chinese fly over Kenya to see the wonder of animal migrations every year," she says. "But Kenya not only has animals, it also has brilliant culture and sincere people, which are the more touching and impressive things about this country."

Two years ago, Shenzhen-based Yuan was working in the offices of a financial company, earning an enviable salary compared to many of her contemporaries. In material terms she was well off, but despite this she often questioned if she was truly happy and whether there was more to life.

"I felt that I didn't belong there, that this was not the real me," she says. "I didn't want to repeat the same work day after day."

She became increasingly unhappy with her situation and eventually, after much thought, made the bold move to quit her job and travel, heading first to India.

"My whole family was shocked, they thought I was crazy," she says. "But the trip to India was like a rebirth, which helped me find the courage to face the real me inside. Moreover, before that, I didn't know whether I could be a travel writer, but this trip helped me to find my future direction."

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