When I was planning my first foray into China, I was a little anxious. Jim wasn’t going with me. Instead I was going to travel just with Devon and Erika, who were teenagers at the time. Three females traveling by themselves. I was so unsure that I almost did sign us up for a tour. I didn’t speak Mandarin (or any other Chinese language), and I was worried. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t book a tour, but I was unsure of how it was going to go.
We flew into Shanghai where we were to change planes. What I hadn’t understood was we were also changing airports, and we were spending the night there. I had no idea. There was an airport worker that without more than a few words in English told us, we were going to take a bus and they were putting us up in a hotel near the other airport. Ok… We just went with it. What were we to do? It was a little scary, but we didn’t feel unsafe just completely useless.
Needless to say, we had an amazing experience. Even though communication was difficult, everything worked out. We met wonderful people, and had the time of our lives. It was a turning point in my life of travel. I had always heard stories of communist China, of this ancient male-dominated, closed-off society. It was worrisome. I thought that it would be strange, foreign, different. I worried that I would have many troubles, as a woman, as an American, all without the comfort of a tour guide telling me where to go, sleep, eat. Instead I found inviting people, the sights amazing, a beautiful countryside, delicious food, and loaded up on memories of the “new”.
Now, whenever I head to a country that holds a bit of mystery, places like Mongolia or Moldova. They are shrouded in the unknown. It could be strange, but it isn’t. Every country I’ve visited, every new culture, has been warm and welcoming, and immediately put me at ease. Now, I crave the “new”. There is no place on Earth that I won’t go!
Do I love Europe? Absolutely, with all heart. But, most of it isn’t new. That’s why Jim and I are trying to explore as much of Eastern Europe as we can. With only 20 years of independence from Soviet control, they are still emerging with their own personalities, and trying to reclaim their cultural traditions. It’s a fascinating area, and we’re excited to be spending some time exploring them this summer! I can’t wait!
How about you? Do you find some places “strange”? Are there some places you won’t travel? Why?