Hitchhiking in China

Story by: Eliana Lorenzo     Date: 7 April 2022    Image by: Canva | XiXinXing

5 minutes reading time China

When I started planning my trip to China, I was living on a small island in the Australian Barrier Reef. On rainy days I used to read on the internet about cities near the Himalayas because I dreamed of visiting this magical place in the world.

Laos

Laos

My route started in Laos, an Asian country very close to Thailand, just because I had gotten a very cheap flight ticket that would take me there.

I traveled around Laos for a month when I finally crossed the border into China. It felt immediately a shot of adrenaline and uncertainty and I honestly did not understand anything of what was happening around me. I only knew people were smiling at me, and that couldn’t be a bad thing.

Kunming

Kunming

I started my trip through the city of Kunming, where I stayed in the house of a Chinese student. She made up the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, we cooked together and shared some laughs. It was only one day but I felt at home. And feeling at home in such a different country is simply a gift of life. I continued my trip to the city of Lijiang, where I would meet some travelers like me, hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Magically, I listened to a song from my country, Argentina, in the hotel corridors. I couldn’t believe that in the middle of a town so close to Tibet, there was another Argentine making the same trip as me. It had been a few days since I spoke Spanish, so I decided to find this person.

Finally, it was a woman, and her name was Paz. Peace in Spanish, and that was a good sign. When we started talking she told me how she hitchhiked along the routes in China, and that she did not understand very well how it worked but that people simply helped her and she reached all the destinations.

So, it was thanks to Paz that something began to take shape in me. The desire for a new adventure, unknown and unthinkable until that moment: to travel to China by hitchhiking.

So the day after, I hit the road with a map of the cities. I just stood and waited, with my finger up. I wasn’t even sure if the people were understanding what I was asking for. Many people looked at me or maybe turned their heads, but just a few people stopped.

People in China

People in China

What I felt in China is that people sometimes just feel embarrassed to have ways to communicate with you. But in fact, I was the one in a country that wasn’t mine pretending to talk in a language that is not even mine. It was weird for them also to see a woman in the middle of the road, with that cold weather and alone, standing in the middle of nowhere.
Some people just looked at me confused and when I pointed to the map, they just said no. It was hard to explain that this was my final destination, but that maybe they could just take me closer to it.

Despite these difficulties with the language, since no one speaks English, people’s desire to help was always stronger than any cultural differences. And that’s what I wanted to prove. Bad things that happen in the world always have more repercussions than good things. But that is simply crazy and unfair because I believe good things are happening all the time, and so much more often.

Image by: Eliana Lorenzo

Of the approximately 2500 kilometers that I hitchhiked through China, the experience that I enjoyed the most was a couple that I met near the city of Kangding. They were coming from Lasa by car, singing songs very loud and with the windows of the car down. They looked at me as if I were an endangered species and talked to the cell phone’s translator to discover who I was and what I was doing there. They did not even know my country, Argentina. So I showed them on a map. We talked a lot, and that shocked me. Their curiosity was stronger than all the language barriers ever seen. And I had never loved more the technology that allowed me to get to know these people when the circumstances were practically impossible.

The final destination was Chengdu, but it was already nighttime. So, we went to eat at a restaurant. I was introduced to many people in the place. I did not understand anything but everyone seemed to be happy with my presence and gave me a lot of food.
I couldn’t stop feeling grateful and flattered, and I tried to remember everything very carefully because life was just being too good to me.

Image by: Eliana Lorenzo

Finally, they decided that that day had been enough hours of driving and we stopped to rest in a nearby hotel. They paid me for a night and I slept better than ever in my life. I only occupied 1% of that huge bed that was in the room.

The next day, before starting the trip, we went together to the hairdresser and then to the mechanic. We had a kind of a family Sunday. Then they finally took me to Chengdu and I said goodbye to them with a big hug at the train station. They were surprised at my ease in giving a stranger a hug, but I explained to them that in Argentina we are like that.
It is today that I remember them, I am not sure if they remember me.

Surely they do not imagine that I am writing about them, but I hope that all the good they did to me has come back to them, but multiplied.
Hitchhiking in China wasn’t part of my plan, but that’s the beauty of plans. That can be modified, over and over again. And meet people like them.

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