I am at home, preparing for an unreal place I’ve only ever heard of. Just some fantastic black hole where clothes are made. Even though it isn’t a reality, I continue to plan outfits and spending. Is it bravery? Curiosity? Blind trust? Who is Cathay Pacific Airlines that I should trust them with my life? I cannot consciously conjure up a reason for going so far away, to a land that only exists in my thoughts. But I go, and when I return I am endowed with the answer to this question of my unknown logic behind traveling to China. Alone. With a suitcase and a plane ticket.
On June 30 of 2009 I departed from my sleepy town of Bluffton, South Carolina into the massive Los Angeles Airport. There, I was overwhelmed by the excitement and passion in the faces of my peers with the same intention as me-to have free roam of China. As I became more involved with these young people that are supposedly just like myself, I grew only discouraged at their passion for travel and intense desire for discovery. My discouragement was rooted in jealousy that every one of them had a driving reason behind traveling from their own “Bluffton” into this mystery land we called China.
After I got past the underlying issue of why I was there, I began to feel at home with these bright scholars. We were chosen from the Global Young Leader’s Conference because of our academic abilities, so we all had some common ground. I made a point to find similarities with each of them. After all, I was spending the next ten days with them, with China as our stomping ground.
After a cramped 14 hours in economy seating, we landed in Hong Kong, and I took a deep breath as I stepped into the airport. Where was it? The the feeling of anxiety, excitement, freshness, and unknown I hoped I would get was missing. I decided it was because we weren’t outside yet. On the ride into Beijing, I was dizzy and jet-lagged, with only endless hours of sleep on my mind. There I felt it, it was everything I dreamed of, shivers ran up my spine as I realized how far away I actually was, and in the same moment, I knew why I was there- to have this realization that my God would always be with me no matter how far away I ever was.
That thought stayed with me the entire trip. I visited decrepit villages, local restaurants and shopping centers. In Hangzhou’s West Lake, I experienced serenity like nothing I had ever felt. From there into Shanghai, we endured a train and yet another bus ride. Blended in on Shanghai’s bustling, Manhattan-like Nanjing street I felt a sense of oneness with every being in the world, which gave me the passion I have today for traveling.
Before China, my reason for traveling was to see the world’s cultures, understand how and why they differ. But during my stimulating, 10-day adventure across the globe, I realized that it is immensely more than that. We travel to feel how much this world is the same, that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves, created by one amazing God, that we are in this world together, no matter what petty argument we bring upon ourselves. Travel heals the breaks between cultures, and this feeling of peace and oneness is something I hope to find again in adventures into the unknown, into unreal places I’ve heard of but have never existed outside of my thoughts.
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