On Getting Into The Spirit of Adventure Travel
Whenever I travel on long trips, there always seems to be time that needs to go by before I can really settle into the experience. On this trip, it’s taken almost three weeks to fully focus on the wonderful experiences, sights, sounds, and smells that every new day brings. I’ve been thinking about why it works out that way, and I’ve come up with a few ideas.
A short trip is entered into with a sort of twitchy excitement – surely, almost anything can be enjoyed and appreciated for a couple of weeks or so… And I have a “hold your breath and before you know it, it will be over” mentality that’s very powerful, strong enough to overcome the dislocating affects of strange beds to sleep in, unusual food to eat, days packed with activity that can quickly leave Tali and me exhausted, and so on. A short trip is over before we know it, and it’s easy to adjust to an experience when you know you don’t have to live with it for too long.
But, on a longer trip, like this one that will last for sixty days, we instinctively know that this short, twitchy energy will not be enough to get us through such a long period of time. Coming from two very rural homes – Kohukohu, New Zealand, with a population of just a few hundred, less than are walking on one block of the night market here in Dunhuang, and Sweetwater, Colorado, with less than a dozen neighbors’ houses along a miles-long stretch of dirt road – we find the energies of all the people we encounter daily can easily lead to colds or flu, as on this trip, when we both got sick, Tali for over a week, and me for a day and a half. A long trip is like adopting a new life style, one without most of the quiet, intimate, and restful hours we are careful to put into most of our days, and it does take a while… But once that adjustment has been made, and this time, even though it’s taken a few weeks, there are still about six weeks to go, a trip like this one is nothing but pleasure, excitement, joy…a real rush!
On How China has Changed for the Western Traveler Over the Past Five Years
China, outside of the big three (Beijng, Xi’an, and Shanghai), that already have a fairly high standard of tourist services, has changed a lot in the five years since we’ve visited last. For the better, I’m happy to say!
I’ve seen so many changes…
The streets of most all of the cities we’ve been to are clean, due to a large number of people who can be seen almost everywhere working every day to keep them that way. The only towns that aren’t kept clean are the ones that have road improvement projects ongoing – and those, as you might expect, are dusty and dirty.
There have been an enormous number of trees, bushes, and even flowers, planted throughout the parts of China I’ve seen, especially along almost all of the major highways and provincial roads. China has implemented a major national beautification program in the past five years, and not just in Beijing!
There are many more three, four and five star hotels in larger and smaller cities in China than five years ago, and most of these have been renovated in the past couple of years. Yes, this star system is not the same in China as it is in the West, agreed, but still, tourist accommodations are far more plentiful, and far more comfortable now. Also notable is the fact that virtually all the hotels we’ve stayed in now have clean and fluffy duvets on their beds, not scratchy wool blankets!
Public restroom facilities have also generally improved in many places, in terms of cleanliness. The one exception would be in gas stations, where they are still really basic.
Wireless or cabled internet access has popped up as a feature in many hotels and even tea houses across the parts of China we’ve been so far. Five years ago, the only places to get online were in smoke-filled Internet cafes, and those were only in the larger cities.
Young people in China are resembling their counterparts elsewhere in Asia more and more, in terms of fashion, hairstyle, and personal freedom to pursue their dreams.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve been encountering the changing face of China on this journey.