When I was 18, I applied for my first passport.
When I was 19, I traveled solo to Thailand with 2 (far too large) bags, and stayed there for 5 months.
In Thailand, I gained a true appreciation for 3rd world countries. I loved the lack of law and order, the hustle, and the ingenuity that comes out when a structured life is not laid out for you. Since my experience in Thailand, I’ve always jumped at the opportunity to travel to a non-Western country. It’s been a few years since I’ve done that, which is why I was stoked to travel to China.
The last time I traveled far outside my known culture was when I went to India with Google for a week of Global Pride events, followed by a week of travel. Ironically, my trip to China was for the same reason: to celebrate diversity and inclusion in a place where it’s often more celebrated to be alike, rather than different.
We had an incredible week of LGBTQ programming; I’ll let this 2 minute sizzle reel sum it up (official version to be released soon, vid credit MJ Newman):
After the emotional and heartfelt week, colleagues quickly became family. And this family went on a family vacation!
We were lucky to make it to Huangshan from Beijing, as Hailey and I found ourselves in quite a predicament. We mistakenly went to the very touristy Forbidden City during a Bank Holiday weekend, meaning we joined the company of 1.2 billion people trying to get a taxi out. No taxis were found. And we tried, oh did we try. Darting in between infamous Beijing traffic for any taxi we spotted, asking people on the street to book us a car with China Uber and we’d pay them cash…bus…everything. No dice.
Luckily, where there is a Hailey there is a way. Seriously, this girl gets shit done. And she speaks Mandarin. And she has zero shame. And she is my heroine.
As I was running down the street with our luggage, she calls me over. She has jumped into the passenger seat of a random car and told the driver “Take us to train station and we’ll pay you 100RMB. When he said no, she responded “But, we really need to go! There is no other way for us.” When he then hesitated, she said “Thank you!!”, called me over and I hopped in. #AssumptiveClose.
The next day, we strap on our hiking boots, excited to escape the hustle n bustle of Beijing and get into nature.
Then this happened:
We were gone for12 hours, and definitely spent no more than 5 hours hiking. Luckily, the splendor of the Yellow Mountains made it all worth it:
The next day, we all writhe in pain during a Chinese massage (and yet go back for seconds every day thereafter), because how can anyone resist a $10 massage?! Esp if it’s a glorious 1 hour naked oil massage that gets uncomfortably close to a Happy Ending.
We also discover the real Huangshan and actual hiking, in the less touristy area of town. Hailey talks our way into multiple roped off sections, assuring the guards we have “special shoes” to avoid slipping on the wet rock. And then I immediately fall, dangerously close to the edge of the waterfall.
Our final day in Huangshan, we brave the Yellow Mountain crowds again to summit the peak that closed before we could make it on day 1. Luckily, the bank holiday is over and there are virtually no crowds. There are so few people that we have a gondola up all to ourselves. Obviously, we have a gondola dance party:
We summit the mountain, where we are rewarded with EPIC views, such as these:
Although the fog prevented summit views, the feeling of hiking through a literal cloud was magical. Some would say epic.
And then the best moment ever happened:
Then another epic moment happens…I eat a meal in China I actually like! When we finish the meal, Hailey asks if we liked it. Dan and I both respond “YES! Finally!”, to which Hailey says “Okay remember the Chinese name so you can order it again”
We are such fucking Americans.
And now, video highlights from the rest of the trip:
No matter what I was eating in China, I put vinegar on it. Especially the buns.
One of my favorite meals of China!
I call this one: “Debating how much farther to hike since I am the only one with water”
Practicing my Mandarin:
Accepting Hailey’s Dares*:
*Note: It was so spicy, even Hailey couldn’t bear her self-inflicted pain
Getting naked in KFC (it’s just like it sounds):
Getting the best haircut of my life:
And now I leave you with a 1 min wrap video (vid courtesy of Hailey the Heroine How):
One thing my trip to China confirmed as the right decision…the ONE WAY TICKET TO COLOMBIA I JUST BOOKED…August 1st. It’s going down.