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Published: December 23rd 2019
December 20, 2019
Somewhere over Russia
Season’s Greetings! I hope everyone is having a wonderful December, no matter where in the world you may find yourself. I am writing to you on a flight to Beijing, where I will continue on to my final destination of Shanghai, China. Shanghai has always captured my imagination since youth, and a little bit of research into the city proves to me that it is a jewel of Eastern Asia. My hero Anthony Bourdain once said Shanghai makes New York City look like a third world country, and from there my fascination exploded. From what I know so far, it is a juxtaposition of the absolute modern with classical Western art deco architecture. It has former European style neighborhoods, which is in contrast to what Cheryl and I experienced in Beijing. What? How is this possible? A quick read over the Wikipedia page (I know, comical – I will do better with museums and tours once I get there) stated that Shanghai had a darker history than I realized… I hope to learn more once I arrive and I will report it back to you. Nevertheless, the more I learn about this incredible city, the more excited I am to see it for myself.
Friends, this is solo trip. After my father’s successful heart surgery (in which anything that once seemed important felt incredibly trivial) that concluded an otherwise emotionally taxing year, I realized I needed to have some alone time. And not just a hike-in-the-forest-with-no-mobile-service alone, but real alone time where I am on a flight for 12 hours, followed by a time difference of 16 hours, to a place where no one knows me and I do not speak the language. A true stranger in a foreign land. So I am here for more than a rendezvous with cultural emersion – this is also a journey towards personal growth. Throughout the year, I finally figured out who and what was important to me, and this trip will help me put all those pieces together. And it will be a reset to my own clock because I have a feeling some big changes are coming my way in the new year.
My heart ached to return to China – I love this country. I appreciate the society, I admire the language, I respect its history, and I enjoy the food. I love how it’s on the edge of modernity, while remnants of its impressive past remain. I love its traditions and know that we as Westerns can learn so much. I love most that no one seems to care that I am here, that I am just another person in this world of seven(?) billion. As a lowly little explorer, I appreciate that anonymity so much.
Finally, a good traveler listens, observes, and absorbs from what they see and feel around them. A good traveler does not judge or impose their beliefs – after all, you are a guest in their
house. We learn, we are gracious, and we take all the good we see while remaining cognizant that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. We also understand that no society is perfect, but maybe if we open our minds and hearts wide enough we will pick up on some good things, change a little, and become a better human being from what we experience. And isn’t that what traveling is all about?
So if you stay with me throughout this trip, maybe you too will learn a few things as I do. Maybe you too will change and grow with me. Please consider it my Christmas gift to all of you 😊
I leave you with a Chinese proverb I feel is most fitting for this journey: Do not listen to what they say, go see.
Shanghai, I see you.
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