On August 5, 2011, my family embarked on an adventure. Our adventure would take us to five continents, 16 countries, and countless cities and towns all over the world. We spat in the face of normal as we packed our lives into huge hiking packs and skipped town for a year, ready to take on whatever the big, round Earth had to throw at us. We knew there would be challenges, but as we stood at the crowded airport gate waiting for our flight to Tel Aviv and the beginning of a crazy journey, we didn’t care. All five of us were ready. For what, we weren’t quite sure, but even my eight-year-old sister, knew that this was going to change us forever.
The superhero act wore off quickly, though. By the time we rolled into China, after three months of traveling, we were all feeling pretty irritable. There were a lot of silly disputes for even sillier reasons. We all craved more alone time, which was nearly impossible in the hostel room with six bunk beds where we were staying at the Beijing Downtown Backpackers. Plus, by the time we got to Beijing, the weather in Northern China was cold and dreary, which didn’t do much for our spirits or group harmony.
The guidebooks say that the Great Wall is the most amazing sight in China, so we signed up for a tour with our hostel in Beijing. We were already annoyed at each other by the time the bus dropped us off, but it was too late to back out now. The bus drove away and the five of us, along with a handful of other tourists and our bubbly guide, Emily, were left shivering in the freezing rain, while middle-aged Chinese women tried to force us to buy t-shirts saying, rather bluntly, “I Climbed The Great Wall”.
Then there was a rare quiet moment when we stopped our bickering as we stared up at the enormous wall looming above. It stretched so far that the ends seemed to dissolve into the distant mountains. I soon found myself standing on top of the Great Wall of China. I had to take a minute to appreciate this: the Great Wall is the longest man made structure in the world, and can (allegedly) be seen from space. From outside of the Earth! I just couldn’t believe it. I was standing on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA, something that, a year before, I had been reading about in a textbook! All of the stress of the trip melted away as I stood there, in the rain, gazing out at the countryside. Finally, this trip seemed real. I was glad I was where I was. Of course, I knew this didn’t mean I wasn’t going to fight with my sisters or parents. I knew it wouldn’t make trying to fit a year’s worth of clothes in my pack any easier. I knew it couldn’t change the time difference between wherever we were and home. But I did know that everything would be okay, and that I would benefit from this trip in the long run. At that moment, I was alive, happy, and in awe. I was in China!
Special thanks to Bernard Goldbach for the photo.
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