Life Lessons From Mama Wong

By Ying Wang

Mum always pounded into me (not literal pounding, but the non-hurting nagging kind) that I should travel before I get tied down to the successful lawyer type Papa Wong hoped I’d marry.

And even though I hate to admit it. By George, she was onto something.

Mama Wong would sip herbal tea in the teacup painted with frolicking reindeer my brother gifted her one rushed Christmas.

“Before you get a real job, before you have a kid and work full time; go see the world,” she crooned through camomile mist.

As I got older, and I like to think wiser, I realized the beauty and fabulous freedom from ‘real life’ obligations youth entails.

Young people of the online world, listen up to Mama Wong. We don’t have mortgages, seven hungry thirsty children or a business we can’t leave. We may not have a luxurious flow of cash moneys either, but we save those hard earned bills through countless shifts at one of two supermarket chains in the Coles Woolworths oligopoly, or Maccas.

The roaring twenties are prime years for travel, exchange and international rendezvous.

“But why?”  A modest and meek thirteen year old me asked Mama Wong years ago.

She peered from under tortoise frame glasses with the kind of look you give to pesky half evil toddlers.

When you’re young, you really are less restricted from the stifling claws of real world obligations. Chances are you’re not married and frankly still working out who the hell you are.

Traversing foreign laneways in bustling cities seas away invites a sense of mystery and unknowing. You push yourself to plunge into an abyss of unknown, eyes half closed upon descent.

Himalayas, Nepal

Uncertainty is a hulking factor in the prospect of a solo travel expedition. There’s no one for constant support, no one to make you Milo when you’re feeling rough or to watch your back for looming attackers.

But since when has anything previously been completely certain? Why should travel be any different?

Mama Wong never got to go see the pyramids of Egypt or set gritty foot on the Inca Trail like she wanted to. Now she’s fifty, supporting her ageing parents, two kids and playing the good wife role too.

Truth is, many people put off travel for work, study and love. Fear in storm cloud shapes shroud them, in fear they’ll lose a chance at a decent career, fear of forgetting knowledge learnt, fear your man or woman will leave you should decided to take off and globetrot. And so most never do.

But the greater truth is this.

Should you travel, I guarantee  in twenty years you’ll have a job, have studied what you planned with love on the way to finding you. These things happen naturally as the product of long term effort and good old fashioned elbow grease.

But, in twenty years, you won’t want to be thinking about what you missed out on. How travel could’ve changed the way you looked at the world.


Travel claims your riches but enriches you in every other way. New perspective, independence and self motivation are all to be gained. The comfort zone is discarded and vulnerabilities are exposed, but it’s through this rather concerning sounding ordeal you begin to mould a cast for the person you aspire to be.

These gains never fade. To not travel is to see only a tiny portion of the world, to ignore everything lying outside its encircling boundary.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” Saint Augustine was born in the mind numbing year of 352. And even then, before aeroplanes, high speed rail and buses he understood the importance of travel.

Thirteen year old me took Mama Wong’s advice not knowing the impact it would hold.

I am twenty one this year. I have climbed the Great Wall, surfed in Hawaii, seen the sunrise over Everest, travelled through the Underground, glided in a Venetian gondola, seen Paris on Bastille Day, ridden an Indian elephant, drank beer amongst Germans in lederhosen and seen a piece of the world from atop the Swiss Alps.

I am not rich or anything but ordinary. But I worked hard, saving pennies, taking a leaf out from Mama Wong’s gingham printed Life Lessons book.





About Ying Wang - Avid ukulele player and full time creative. Ying's a jet setter with a love for global culture, design and the outdoors. She's a notorious Pun Artist and commonly perceived as a vegetarian much to her confusion.