Taking vacation wasn’t so big in China when I grew up. More than a decade ago, China was still experiencing open and reform. People were trying to make ends meet, leaving them with little disposable income. At home, my parents are quite opposite in terms of travel: my dads went to so many places mainly on business trip. He might have been to most provinces in China and he loves travelling. Even when he was a college student, he would pop on a train and went to explore nearby cities. My mom, on the other hand, wasn’t much into travel. She got car sick very easily and generally disliked the idea of being away from home. The strangeness of places make her nervous.
Long story short, I didn’t get to step outside of my hometown till I was almost 10 years ago. That means I’ve never taken a train or flown anywhere till I was 10. Why did I remember so clearly? Well, it was because I got laughed at on my first vacation for having never taken a train or been on a airplane. For our first vacation, we traveled with a family who are friends of my parents. Due to their work, that family happened to travel quite a lot, at least more than we do. The boy, at the age of 14ish, naturally has been to many places either by train or airplane. When he learned that I had never even been on a train before, he lashed out with astonishment:” WHAT? You’ve never been on a train before? Wow, I can understand you’ve never flown on a airplane, but train?!”
Then he added something even more offensive:”This (meaning this vacation) must be quite an experience for you little country girl.” He used a phrase from a famous Chinese novel which used to describe an unsophisticated or inferior person got an opportunity into the upper class. I tried my best to translate into English.
As you would imagine, I’ll never forget that.
While in college, I was able to travel to more places. A special one was a trip with a group of delegation from the UK. This group are mostly young active volunteers in the UK. It’s part of a government exchange program. That was the first time I really talked to any English speaking people. It was a very energetic group. We went to the Great Wall, Shanghai and a couple of major cities. I learned about their culture, learned for the first time that not everybody speaks London English that we heard on the tape when learning English.
Without that experience, I’m not sure I would opt for going abroad for graduate school. Travel opens your eyes up to new people, new places, most importantly, new way of thinking. Sometimes, traveling alone enables you the time to think especially when you try to make sense of a busy life. I did a solo trip in September, 2013. I always wanted to go to Texas but it’s not a popular destination among my friends. So I just decided to go by myself! I picked 2 cities for my 3 day trip: San Antonio and Austin. It was an interesting experience – you can feel a bit lonely at the beginning. Having no one to speak to or share what you’re seeing. Gradually, you start to notice you’re more observant and aware of the surrounding. Here’s a picture of me in San Antonio visiting the National Bridge Cavern. I remembered speaking with this tour guide. She was a high school girl who was working part time. I was her only guest for that tour so we got to talk a lot. She told me she has been to China before where the local people were so interested in her blue eyes and blond hair. It’s been two years but I can still remember scene by scene of that experience.
So, what was your travel experience? What’s your favorite destination so far and have you tried travel solo?