Trading Fear for Passion
I’m adventurous and I love to travel. However, the only time I travel alone is for business. Initially, the prospect of going to China alone made me uneasy. I wouldn’t be where the tourists are, so I would have to be extra careful. I’d never been to a communist country. I most certainly didn’t speak the language and, other than my occasional trips to Mama Fu’s Chinese restaurant, I didn’t really know much about the culture.
I didn’t want to go to China. I really didn’t want to go alone. But I was determined to build the perfectbackpack for kids and the Animal Packers Brand, so I was willing to do whatever it took, even if it scared me. If traveling alone is what needed to be done, then I’d do it.
All of us women know we should always be concerned for our personal safety. We must be vigilant about our surroundings, aware of where we park, especially at night, and careful with whom we talk. Traveling alone is not a problem for me, but I know when I travel alone, I have to be fully alert and on-guard.
While planning my first solo trip to China, I built certain things into my agenda that I wouldn’t have if I was traveling with a companion. I spent a bit more money on hotels in better areas and gave myself more time to get things done.
The Journey Begins
My solo journey in China started in Hong Kong (which isn’t China, surprising how many Westerners don’t know that). There was a sourcing fair in Hong Kong that I wanted to attend and I thought it would be a way to adjust to the time difference while also working. China is 14 -15 hours ahead of us, so when I landed in Hong Kong it was already tomorrow.
A wave of relief poured over me as I began to meet a selection of educated vendors who fortunately spoke English well enough to be able to hold a decent conversation. WHEW!! That sure made things easy when talking to potential factories and explaining the story behind myanimal backpacks. In fact, all the factory representatives I spoke with asked me to forgive their ‘bad’ English!
I spent the day at the sourcing fair and headed back to the hotel to get some rest. My agenda had me flying into the mainland the next day. The next ‘morning’ (not for me, I wasn’t on China time yet), I boarded a Chinese plane to head to the factories.
The flight only cost about $40. For such a cheap flight, what would I actually encounter? Old, un-maintained planes? Musty, smelly, crowded cabins? Since it was the only way to get to the factories, I didn’t have much choice. I needed to go and this was the way to go.
A Big Surprise
When I boarded the plane, it was one of the cleanest airplanes I’d ever been on. The helpful stewardesses, who all looked like beautiful China dolls, offered perhaps the best in-flight service I had ever experienced, and they understood English. I had a warm meal, great service and a row all to myself!
When we Landed at the Chinese airport, I was greeted with signs written only in 中文 (zhōngwén). I was tired, alone, anxious and, as a woman traveling alone, I didn’t want to attract any more attention than I already did. I didn’t want to appear scared, but in reality, I couldn’t decipher ONE sign. No icons, no Latin characters, nothing that would help.
I had a bit of a ‘holy crap’ moment. I didn’t check bags when traveling to Hong Kong and China. It’s just one more thing to worry about, and truly I didn’t want that stress. Since all I needed to do once the plane landed was find the taxi stand, I just followed the crowd of dark heads. They were all moving in the same direction, so I joined in.
Eventually, the crowd led me to the airport exit where finding the taxi stand was easy because there were about a million taxi cars waiting!! I’m telling you, one of
the most impressive things about China is the population density. People, people, people! Seas of people. The population density alone was fascinating. Seriously, there were people everywhere!
I climbed into the taxi, handed the driver the name of the hotel (I had printed it in zhōngwén) and sat back to watch the streets. After a short 30 minutes ride the taxi pulled up the hotel. I could finally relax.
I had made my way to a factory province in Mainland China that is not frequented by Westerners. I had managed to find my hotel safely. I was excited to visit the factories tomorrow, but for now, I needed sleep!