How does travel change me?

27 February 2023

Travel implies a change, not just announcing to others that I have been somewhere. People’s temperaments and perspectives are changed by travel. You will observe that different individuals have various habits while traveling and come to the realization that not everyone lives in the same manner as you. Your thinking widens as a result, and you eventually discover how to approach life with a more positive outlook.

I was born and raised in eastern China, and six years ago I made my first trip to the northwest. It was an unforgettable trip, and it made me realize what my main goal in life is. I came to Dunhuang, a sacred place with a long history, an ancient and splendid place. It is located in the western part of China’s Gansu Province and was a strategic town that connected east and west in ancient times. 

A visit to Dunhuang without a stroll through the Mogao Caves is just like going to Paris without visiting the Louvre. Dunhuang’s caves are a colorful part of Chinese culture. The Mogao Caves have held up for more than a thousand years. Their greatness and wisdom have seen many dynasties emerge and fall. The Mogao Caves are the biggest and richest remaining location of Buddhist art in the entire globe. There are 2,415 clay figures, 45,000 square feet of frescoes, and 735 caves. It is known as «the museum on the wall,» the longest gallery in the world, and has a history of images that spans a thousand years.

I saw stunning Buddha sculptures, frescoes, and learned information about the Mogao Caves while there. It was lucky for Mogao Caves to have escaped the wars in Chinese history, but it was unfortunate that it was rediscovered. The cave had nearly 50,000 Buddhist scrolls and other artifacts that had lain dormant for a thousand years and were discovered by a Taoist priest, Yuanluo Wang. In 1907, an Englishman made a deal with him for 200 taels of silver and consequently took with him, taking with him more than 9,000 scrolls of documents and 500 silk paintings of the Buddha. In the following years, people came here when they heard the news and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. As word spread, more greed followed.  There was burning, looting, and damage done to the Mogao Grottos. When I visited the Mogao Grottoes, they were no longer in their prime, with few scriptures left, almost all of the Buddha statues damaged, and the murals beginning to discolor, blur, or even fall off. Many of the caves were closed to the public; some places that could be visited were limited, and visitors were forbidden to take pictures. Nowadays, people are doing everything they can to protect and restore the caves, but the aging trend of the Mogao Caves can only be slowed, not reversed. It has existed in the yellow sand for thousands of years and will one day return to the yellow sand. It is always heartbreaking to watch that stunning scene die out.

Since that trip, something has changed for me. I began to like history and often read history books and watched documentaries. At the same time, I had an idea to be a restorer and restore artifacts that were dying. Many historical sites in the world have been destroyed by disasters, such as the Notre Dame de Paris in France because of the fires that caused its pinnacle to collapse, the Turkish castles that collapsed in the earthquake, and so on. Every time I see such news, I am sad that these artifacts have stretched over thousands of years but ultimately have not escaped the destiny of destruction. I want to protect them so that they can continue to shine on the stage of history and that more people can experience the charm of the past through cultural relics.

Travel taught me to grow and to see the world from new angles. I can appreciate humankind’s wisdom, the world’s magnificent scenery, and the magic of nature while traveling. Everything about this process, the people I encountered and the touching, unexpected, and shocking experiences I had, is subconsciously ingrained in my heart; these are priceless memories.

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