Living in China is dangerous

.. isn’t it?

Most mornings, I listen to podcasts as I scooter to work. Most of the podcasts are about food (, some are about old Hollywood (, but my favorite to listen to are the ones about travel (ok, food travel, but travel nonetheless).

But the more I listen to these podcasts, the more I pick up this pervasive theme of ‘isn’t it crazy that these people, who are so not like us, go on crazy adventures halfway across the world?’. I’ve listened to accounts of of photographers hiding in trucks from the Taliban to document saffron harvests. I’ve listened to stories of single women travelers having to fiend off Mongol teens on horses, drunk on mare’s milk. And it’s not the stories themselves that bother me, but they way they are framed, from the interviewers who see these people as themselves foreign, from having foreign experiences –  as if going to another part of the world to travel or to start a new life is out of our reach of an everyday person. There’s this implication that although we can read about it in books, we can never do it on our own: “Now, of course the majority of us can’t imagine stepping on a plane to an unfamiliar country..” or other such nonsense. But isn’t the whole point that we can all have extraordinary adventures, even if we start off as ordinary people?

Okay, climbing mountains is a little dangerous..


Getting to be abroad and starting a life here is a huge hurdle, but once you’re past it, things just somehow start feeling easier. Everyone I know in Shanghai has had one of those situations where you get into it and then think “Shit, there’s no way I’m getting out of this one alive, not this time.”. But when you do, getting over the next hurdle just continues to get simpler. Whether it’s getting stuck in the Incheon airport hotel for 72 hours with no directions to get to a new job, making that flight-bus-train-bus connection despite hours of delays, or hitchhiking from the New Orleans airport with a stranger, I feel these situations make the prospect of living abroad less unattainable. It can feel terrifying to leave your city and start something new, and it still is, even to people who live abroad, but knowing that no matter what, you’ll likely be okay, makes that first step easier to take.

And so, I don’t think living abroad is dangerous (okay, living in some places abroad is dangerous, but no more dangerous than say, Detroit). What’s dangerous – in my mind – is imagining what it’ll be like to fail.

5 thoughts on “Living in China is dangerous”

  • Part of our government cuts has done away with an integrated travel website (because they say it’s unnecessary and all the information is “out there” – when it isn’t) to the result that just travelling in this country has become a nightmare.

    Trying to line up trains with connecting buses that you’re relying on is almost impossible now. Certainly knowing the pricing. And I have to spend hours beforehand worrying about all this. Doubly so now they’ve done away with later buses. More cuts.

    So to think of doing that in a foreign country, with foreign languages, flying by the seat of your pants… You are braver than most!

    Saying all that I do harbour the desire to do the extraordinary sites of the 48 states of mainland America someday. Writing about it as I go. I’ve just picked up Dave Gorman’s book America Unchained where he sets out to travel across America without giving any money to “the man” and only spending money in independent “mom & pop” shops. Crazy adventure, I imagine, and I am looking forward to the adventure but it is something I aspire to myself in a few years… although not quite that extreme.

    • I’d love to read that book! I’ve added it into my amazon cart. I do absolutely agree with the transportation. Busses in China are a nightmare and unless you can sort of bully yourself into a seat, you may need to wait for hours, or take a 50USD bus ride for something that should be a 1.5USD ride..

      • I can’t vouch for the book as I haven’t even started reading it yet. I’m looking forward to it though and am savouring it and working up to it.

        Dave Gorman is a sort of comedian / presenter over here and he hit the big time with his stage show / TV series ‘The Dave Gorman Collection’ which was released as a book called ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ in which he was bet he couldn’t find and meet 54 people called Dave Gorman (one for every playing card, including jokers). If you like his America book I would recommend this too. Another fun adventure.

        He also did some other more dubious books (looking for that big hook) about playing people at board games (which I seem to have read but have no clue where I borrowed that from) and one about computer googlewhacks which sounded so spurious that I’ve never tracked it down.

  • “But isn’t the whole point that we can all have extraordinary adventures, even if we start off as ordinary people?” I stopped in the middle of reading your post to write this down in my planner. This sentence sums up what I hope all our friends a family back hope can understand. It is scary (I brought along 3 kids) but like you said, it gets easier. Soon, it starts to feel “normal”.

    • It’s really scary, and sometimes it doesn’t get less scary the more you do it, but it’s incredible that you already made it here, especially with 3 kids!! good luck with the move back!

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