With its rise, the sun slowly warms Mu Li Hong village and the surrounding mountains. The morning clouds lift and the mist remaining from the cold, damp night is burned off. Men and women toss empty bamboo baskets over their backs and head down to tend to their fields. Roosters dart between the buildings, making sure everyone hears their calls. A toddler runs ahead of his mother along the path leading across the village. It is that exquisite moment between the calm and chaos, just minutes before the village springs fully into life. In southern Anhui province, from the mountaintop communities – or cloud villages – the horizon bursts with bamboo forests and tea plantations. My guest house is situated on a hill a little above the village, so I can look down, seated on a wooden stool that feels as if it may at any moment snap into 100 pieces, and watch people going about their morning rituals in the courtyards of their homes. In a reflective mood, I sip on steaming mountain green tea, a high-altitude version that is harvested in these hills. How an impulsive trip to China turned into a lifetime of travel A sense of peace washes over me, an unexplained familiarity. As the hustle of a day of filming is about to take hold, this moment, these mornings, as a village awakes, are when I reflect on my path. We have chosen to film Mu Li Hong (for a yet-to-be-aired television programme) because of its setting. There are dozens of villages like this one in this region, but Mu Li Hong is deemed to be special – perched quite beautifully, it’s the most precariously located of the villages – so it is now on the tourist map. Residents are making an effort to spruce it up and prepare for the high season, which is just a few months away. As I watch, an elderly woman prepares a bowl of warm water in an open courtyard, mixing in medicine for her husband, who appears to have lost many of his motor skills. She moves the bowl up to his mouth and helps him drink. Mountain-village life has many unique challenges and people must play several roles within their community in order for all to survive. The moment is humbling. With more than a decade of contemplating “lifestyle” under my belt, I have only now managed to craft an opinion on the subject. Throughout our lives we play many roles, in the same way an actor plays different characters in different stories. We’ll play hundreds of roles and not all will bring us happiness, but to varying degrees they all must be played. At some stage, we’ll play the role of a child, a best friend, a lover. We may spend the bulk of our waking hours as an employee, employer, carer or educator. The most important role for any of us might be that of a father, mother, husband, wife, brother or sister. Throughout it all, it’s important to carve out a niche role that is special for you, something that no one can take away from you. It took me years of contemplation to come to terms with this; the role, and the lifestyle, that I’ve crafted for myself is that of traveller and storyteller. It has given me a voice and a purpose in life, something that I always come back to when I fail in efforts to play other roles or other characters. This role, I believe, represents the truest version of myself. My role has allowed me to explore the world and come into contact with amazing people from every walk of life. Our new friends in Mu Li Hong, who have welcomed me and my film crew with open arms, who make sure we are warm and well fed, are the latest. When I am out on a great adventure, travelling, exploring and understanding the world around me, I am at my best. When I am in remote places, when I am meeting new people, I feel a sense of confidence, humility and empowerment as I try to learn and embrace the unknown. These experiences leave me full of energy and this fuels my curiosity to continue to travel, film and explore. The village roosters are now in full chorus, the bamboo basket-wielding villagers hard at work in the fields. The camera team has returned to our humble guest house after filming sunrise on a nearby hilltop and it is time to head out into the village, meet the people and tell their stories … Ryan Pyle is a Canadian adventurer, television host and author. His latest series for BBC Earth Asia, Extreme Treks 3 , began on September 17. This is the first instalment of his new column, The Nomad .