A young Chinese woman sets out on an irresistible search for both job and joy
There are big days and there are small days. Which will it be?” When Yu Ying heard those words spoken by Ted Narracott, the main character in Steven Spielberg's recent Hollywood blockbuster “War Horse”, her eyes welled up.
Less than three years ago, Yu, then a 26-year-old white-collar worker, had a big day herself.
It all started, as she remembers perfectly clearly, on January 8, 2010, when she quit her job and began to work on a plan to travel the world.
“It takes a lot of money and preparation, which I was fully aware of,” says Yu, who, after a year of getting ready, managed to travel to Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in Europe and North America all in 2011.
“I had a thought that I might be able to get sponsorship,” she says. “Even without one, I set out to prepare. I decided I’d go with or without sponsorship.”
For her, travelling the world came as the fulfilment of a dream inspired by a job recruitment campaign that she responded to in early 2009.
Tourism Queensland, a travel organisation, was then trying to find someone to be the caretaker of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
Attracted by the chance to hold what some have deemed “The Best Job in the World”, Yu applied for the position and became one of 50 finalists in the competition. As a result, she was able to tour the island and meet other candidates, who in Yu’s eyes, were all passionate about their jobs and lives.
“The trip changed the way I see the world,” Yu recalls. “I thought of myself and my friends in Beijing and I realised that few were happy with their jobs or lives. That’s probably because we weren’t doing something we were passionate about.”
Yu heard an inner voice telling her, “I want to travel the world. I want to see how people in other countries, on other continents, live and enjoy life.”
So she made January 8, 2010, a big day, and quit her job. Not long afterward, she began preparing for her travels, planning an itinerary, obtaining visas and subjecting herself to physical training.
In an attempt at obtaining sponsorship, Yu, a university graduate who majored in communication, scheduled interviews at various times during her trip.
“I am very curious about how people, especially celebrities, live and enjoy life,” Yu says.
“And I think many others are curious, as well. So I think I might take the stories about people that I collected during my trip and trade them for a sponsorship.”
The plan didn’t go as smoothly as she had expected.
“I didn’t know where and when I could find (a sponsorship),” Yu says. “Almost 90 per cent of the responses were negative. Even though I called on every connection I had, I seldom could schedule face-to-face meetings with potential sponsors."
Undeterred, she finally got the promise of sponsorships on the early morning of January 26, 2011, several hours before she set off to travel the world.
“I cried out loud the moment I got the sponsorship,” Yu says.
The following year saw her travelling to 16 countries and interviewing more than 100 ordinary people as well as celebrities such as Princess Martha Louise of Norway; Nick Vujicic, the author of “Life Without Limbs: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life”; street artists in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, a movie theatre in Hollywood; and a snack vendor at the foot of a mountain in Taidong county in Taiwan.
Many people have been inspired by the stories Yu has posted on her micro blog, which has more than 12,000 followers.
“The purpose of travel is to learn about the unknown world as well as the unknown parts of ourselves,” wrote one follower after reading Yu’s story about a Japanese traveller who rode his bicycle throughout the world for seven years.
Yu says her interviewees have taught her the secret to fulfilling one's dream lies in “being a doer”.
To inspire more people, Yu plans to organise an exhibition about the various dreams she has collected in Beijing this year. She is also working on two books about her travels.
“I hope when people walk out of the exhibition, they will begin to ask themselves about their own dreams and set out to make them come true.”
Chen Zheng, a Beijing TV station editor, says she is planning to start travelling in China with her husband in April.
“I made the plans a few years ago,” Chen says. “But it wasn’t until I interviewed Yu that I made up my mind to do it. Yu gave me a lot of courage and confidence.”