Sometimes, I find myself looking back on the last few years and I realise how life is in fact a roller coaster ride that has more inversions than you can count. Often, I would hear the phrase “life is like a roller coaster” but only felt how truthful that is when I found myself stranded at an airport in a relatively small Chinese city.
When I was a university student in the UK I was part of the international community. At the community I had the chance to meet people form all over the world, and through their stories my desire for travelling grew exponentially.
During my second year I was privileged to meet an amazing young woman from China who is now part of my family. Unfortunately, her time at university was only a year therefore we didn’t have much time together, but our bond was strong thus until today not only have we kept contact, we also had many opportunities to meet up again while travelling.
As a young student I wished for a trip of exploration and discovery and I felt that China could be a good start. The decision was not an easy one, mainly because of my parent’s protest. Nonetheless, my parents had the chance to meet my friend when she visited my home country thus knowing that she would be there as my guide they felt reassured and they finally relented and let me fly over Eurasia as a solo traveller.
The trip indeed seemed scary, but even before meeting my friend I’ve always wanted to travel to Asia. Furthermore, most of my university friends had Asian origins and their stories, personalities, and friendship gave me the desire to learn more about their cultures. So, my journey for greater knowledge and experiences started.
My trip started in Beijing. By the time I had arrived, I was already exhausted from lack of sleep and the long hours in trains, airports, and planes. Nevertheless, only by the thought of arriving in Beijing, my body was vibrating with anticipation. My exhaustion was long forgotten, and I was ready to explore. Overall, my experience in China was incredible. My stay lasted a little over two weeks, and I had the opportunity to travel in several parts of the country. The last stop of my trip was my friend’s hometown, Liuzhou in the province of Guanxi.
Undoubtedly, my favourite part of the trip was visiting my friend’s home and meeting her family and friends. It’s an experience that rarely travellers have the chance to live. Waking up and following their routine of getting ready, having breakfast, and living as an ordinary citizen gave me a sense of belonging. The welcome that I received filled my heart, and until today whenever I think of them, a big smile spreads on my face.
And then two weeks had come and go without realizing it. My trip to Asia had not finished yet, though. I had booked a flight from Beijing on the evening of my last day to fly to Seoul in South Korea. Firstly, though I was supposed to fly from Liuzhou to Beijing. But unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned.
Because of weather reasons, my flight had a four-hour delay. The wait was not long but being in a tiny airport as the only foreigner you end up being stared intensively. In these situations, you find yourself getting lost in thousands “what ifs” or in the past. In my case, I ended up in the latter.
This tiny airport that is thousands of miles away from my own home and family felt cold and unwelcome. Although strangely, it also made me feel at home. I was the only one with wavy light brown hair, big green eyes, and whiter skin. But like everyone else, I was waiting patiently to get to my next destination. Every person in the airport was different and unique, but we were all in the same situation.
Similarly, thinking back to my last two weeks in China, I encountered both familiar and unfamiliar situations. Through my friend, I experienced the family and working culture of China, and by being a tourist, I experienced the long history and culture of the country. I have to say that I was very fascinated by the beautiful culture of China and impressed with historical monuments. I could sincerely feel the uniqueness of the country.
But then I also realized that people will always be people. No matter where you are from, we all have the same feelings, expectations, desires, and dreams.
While sitting in the waiting area at the airport, I couldn’t stop myself remember my last few days in this beautiful city. While I was in Liuzhou, I stayed at my friend’s family home. In total, I spend four days in the city. Even though Beijing and Shanghai are the most famous and most prominent cities in China that all desire to visit, I honestly loved my time in this not-so-big-for-Chinese-standards city. During my time there, my friend’s family and friends toured me around the stunning sights and parklands of the city. But what I felt mostly amazed at was their attitude towards me. I felt like another daughter to her family, and as if I’ve always knew her friends.
One of my favourite moments if not my favourite was the family dinner I had with my friend’s entire family. They booked a private room at a restaurant, and their sincere welcome and happiness created a festive atmosphere. I was so surprised and thankful for their hospitality. That’s when I realized that when it comes to humanity, there are no barriers such as race, nationality, language, or culture. A good example would be when your eyes meet with a stranger, and they give you a sincere smile, you can’t help it and give it back with the same force. Sincerity, humanity, and happiness are, after all, contagious.
Remising my last two weeks at the tiny airport in Liuzhou, I was reminded of how life can be like a roller coaster. Two weeks before I was nervously waiting for my flight to Beijing, not knowing what to expect. And two weeks later, my trip to China was already over with experiences that I never imagined I would have. Like a roller coaster, everything went so fast, but my excitement never stopped, and even when it was over, I was still dizzy with enthusiasm.
If anyone told me at the age of eighteen that I would have a second family in China, I would have laughed in their face. However, today, my family has expanded tremendously. Not only I have a second family in China, but I also acquired more friends, sisters, and brothers all over the world. Moreover, thanks to my first solo travel in east Asia when I was twenty-one, I am now much more confident and independent, and I’m not afraid to ride roller coasters. After all, life needs some excitement.
Some of my favourite moments in Liuzhou!!