THE COOK’S WORLD
n the year 2007 I cut all strings to the life I knew
and purchased a one way ticket to Asia. I had no
job there, no apartment, no return ticket and no fixed
itinerary. These seemed to be the perfect conditions
for starting a new life. The day of departure approached and
I waited excitedly for my great escape.
I’d promised myself I would be open to new experiences
and spontaneous adventures, but the beginning of my
odyssey was ill fated. During my stay in a rural village in
China I became seriously ill.
It was the first time in my life I had to depend totally on
strangers. My hosts, a local family, took care of me with
great patience. These people didn’t know me but seemed
ready to sacrifice their last bowl of rice to me. Although
we spoke no common language, our communication
transcended words. Never will I forget their kind smiles
and hospitality. Deeply touched, I realised how lucky I was
to receive so much love far away from home. Though they
never knew it, these people and their generosity taught me
valuable truths about love and compassion. I felt liberated
by a newfound knowledge of what is important in life.
Once recovered, with this flame burning inside of me I
travelled slowly and deliberately through eleven Asian
countries, using only local transportation. My first choice
of accommodation was always a family homestay in the
countryside. Candle-lit wooden homes became my new
classrooms, and I found lesson after lesson in appreciation
The longer I was en route, the more I realised that I did not
really need much in order to be happy. I gradually reduced
my luggage to travel more easily. By the time I reached
Bangladesh I was equipped with only a cotton sack and five
items of clothing. Surprisingly, I felt richer than ever.
I started reading the literature of the great philosophers and
spiritual leaders in the hope of finding confirmation of my
thoughts in their writings. And I found confirmation! The
Indian philosopher Swami Vivekenanda once said: Service
to mankind is service to God! This beautiful phrase has
influenced me ever since.
Motivated by my reading, I wanted to transform knowledge
into action. I never forgot the generosity of the family that
had taken care of me when I was ill.
by Michael Saatkamp