With my passion for traveling, for discovering new cultures and tourist destinations, I couldn’t justify any longer that I had never been to China. There’s not a country in the world that changes, grows and goes in new directions faster. So I resolved to visit China in 2018. Even though I love traveling solo, immersing myself and processing all the new experiences, I didn’t want to be away from my husband and children after a busy year, so we went for a family vacation to the rising superpower, with metropolises Beijing and Shanghai as our main destination.
When we landed it quickly became clear that visiting China is an exercise in patience, improvisation and adaptability. For starters none of the apps on our smartphones worked. All family members were pressing the icons to no avail. Even Whats App didn’t work. And that was just the first chapter in the big book of ‘communication hurdles’. The salvo of questions I asked as usual, shattered on a wall of silence as almost no one speaks English. Being prepared with the written address of your hotel when you get in a taxi, doesn’t mean that you can sit back and relax. Our cab driver was unable to read roman characters, so we performed a circus act using our hands and feet to get to the hotel.
Did we feel alienated or lost? Not really. Our two sons with their Dutch looks and their blonde hair were gawked at like rock stars. Some girls even seemed on the verge of fainting. As parents we looked on with growing amusement. Especially because the boys feigned indifference. And posed rather professionally for selfies with Chinese passers-by.
After a few days, do you start to understand China better? That seems an illusion. Everything is so new and impressive. The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, the heavy traffic, the shiny new plexiglas towers dwarfing the old dilapidated streets and alleyways, it all shakes up your senses and hurls your thoughts in all directions. Everything feels extreme. There seems to be no middle ground between a rickety bike and a high speed train, between rural farmland and metropolises full of high rises. Around every corner awaits a surprise. For example when I tried to use a public toilet on a tour of the hutongs (neighborhoods of Beijing) and discovered three Chinese women squatting out in the open.
‘Why would you want to take your family to China?’ people asked me before our trip. The answer is, that I felt the pull of the dynamics and vital force of China. A country where the future is not on the horizon, but right here and now, with new buildings going up every day, with new plans and new solutions, seemed to me the ideal whirlwind to experience together. To break free from the shackles of routine.
Back at home I still feel the afterglow of the the electrifying energy of China while I am thinking about the next step for my business.