Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Remote Year

In celebration of AAPI month, we want to share personal stories from across our Remote Nation community.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Month is celebrated each May in the United States. 

The term ‘Asian-American Pacific Islanders’ represents a full range of nationalities, all with their own impactful cultures and rich heritage that has greatly shaped the history of the world. At Remote Year, we have been fortunate enough to learn about the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders cultures by fostering travel for thousands of Remotes to Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam since our founding in 2015.


With collaboration from Remote Year Staff and Nation members across the globe, we are proud to share and honor the stories of our community members in honor of AAPI Month.  

We wanted to spotlight our own Asian American travelers on our programs to understand how their identity affected the way they travelled. We asked each of them the same question, “what does it mean to be an Asian American traveling the world?” and here are their answers. 

Tue Le, VP Brand, Product & Experience (Remote Year Staff)

Vietnamese-America

How has traveling the world as an Asian American impacted your view of your home country?

As a Vietnamese-American traveling non-stop, I have become hyper-aware of my Asianness and, oftentimes, my "otherness". Even when I introduce myself as American, I am immediately asked the follow-up question, "Where are you really from?" That question often makes me reflect on what it truly means to be American and what role I can play more in serving underrepresented communities of color through my professional and personal endeavors so that everyone has a place in America and the world, whether they look like me or are blond and blue-eyed.

What is the biggest life lesson you've learned while traveling internationally as an Asian American?

Through my travels, I've learned that I'm capable of shaping my own identity rather than adopting labels that other people want to give to me. Asians, whether American or not, have been given many stereotypes that have been perpetuated throughout history and media. Rather than latch onto those stereotypes, however, I love doing my part to export and influence perceptions of Asians wherever I go. I tell people stories about the resiliency of our people, having endured so much colonialism and war, about the beauty and diversity of our people, and about how we uniquely are often on the cutting edge of innovation while honoring centuries-old traditions. I'm incredibly proud of being Vietnamese-American and I love that my experiences have helped me shape my own narrative and definition of what it means to be Vietnamese-American.

How important is it to bring your culture to other nations as you travel? Why?

It's incredibly important for me to represent my culture wherever I travel. In many instances, I'm keenly aware that I may be the only Vietnamese-American that they will ever meet in their lifetime. I want to make sure that just as much as my life or perspective is impacted positively by my interaction with new cultures, that every interaction with me or my culture has a positive impact on that person as well.


Zeshawn Ahmed, Remote Year Balboa

Pakistani / American

How has traveling the world as an Asian American impacted your view of your home country?

I think it has opened my eyes quite a bit. America is a great social experiment, and I am very proud to call myself an American. However, my experiences seeing the world has made me realize that we have a lot of work to do Stateside. Being involved, and trying to make real change continues to be a big part of my life.

What is the biggest life lesson you've learned while traveling internationally as an Asian American?

There are so many universal truths we share as people, and traveling the world opened me up to so much. We may have different philosophies, religions, politics, whatever - I found myself looking past all this in search of common ground when connecting with everyone. It was in these similarities that I gained a deeper appreciation for different cultures. Yep, the world is definitely bigger than me.

How important is it to bring your culture to other nations as you travel? Why?

It’s important. You’re a representative of your culture and where you come from. The thing is that you must always lead with respect. The hope is that you do a good job at it.

Tiffany Chang, Remote Year Kaizen

Vietnamese-American

How has traveling the world as an Asian American impacted your view of your home country?

I think that there’s a natural curiosity when people meet me for the first time - no doubt it’s impossible for me to “hide my American-ness.” It’s evident in my speech, my mannerisms - I’ve been told I just carry myself like an American - whatever that means. So when people meet me, their first instinct is to try to fit me in a box - she’s American but she’s not white, or she’s Asian but her English is perfect! And I guess that’s confusing - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stopped by other Americans abroad to compliment me on my English. It’s pretty cringey - but I get it, when we’re out of the US we have these predisposed expectations of the types of people we’re going to meet. But when I’m in Asia, I think that most locals see me as a product of the American dream, which is funny because there’s definitely been a shift in second-generation Asian Americans to come back to Asia and explore our roots, and maybe even plant our own roots in our home countries. My parents have been quite supportive in that - maybe because they moved to the US when they were so young, but I can see how others’ families might be confused or even offended, having struggled so hard to build a life in America and watching their children and grandchildren leave it behind. The privilege I have now - being able to bounce around Asia with my American passport and college education and work remotely for a US company - is a direct result of how hard my parents and grandparents worked to start a new life (for my grandparents, not once but twice!), and that privilege is certainly not lost on me.

What is the biggest life lesson you've learned while traveling internationally as an Asian American?

I first left the US to seek outside perspectives. I was overworked, overwhelmed, I felt purposeless and Remote Year gave me a platform to break away from the rat race. Feeling trapped in the typical corporate life (commute, work, commute, take 2 weeks of holiday when I could, and sometimes make time for friends and family on the weekends), I wanted to explore other cultures - and was particularly interested in their opinions of the US (and maybe break down some stereotypes along the way). Digesting and connecting all of the different conversations, relationships, and life lessons I’ve collected over the last few years has given me much more perspective than I could have imagined.

How important is it to bring your culture to other nations as you travel? Why?

We are a sum of our collective experiences - and engaging with new people and places, both learning and teaching others - to me, that’s what travel is all about. The more I travel, the smaller and more connected the world feels.

Conclusion

Remote Year has been fortunate to celebrate the diversity of Asian culture with a worldly community, but also foster travel opportunities for thousands of members to the destinations that exemplify this rich culture.

If you're ready to experience it all for yourself, check out our upcoming Asia programs here


Interested in learning more?

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