By Julianne Keskey
Ah, finally, the time has come! It’s March 1st (well, barely… it’s 1am) and I can finally say it. I’m going to China this month. It sounds so much better than saying, “I’m going to China next month!”
It’s been just over a month since I found out that I would be taking a business trip to China. Not only is this my first time traveling to China, this will be my very first time leaving the country! What’s even more exciting/terrifying… I’m traveling to China… alone.
There have been so many thoughts I’ve had in these fleeting past 34 days: Are the airport signs written in English? How many basic phrases do I need to learn? Will I survive 24+ hours of international travel? Luoyang, China is HOW many hours ahead of Salt Lake City? How much cash should I bring? Can I use my credit cards? What if I can’t hear my fiancé’s voice on the phone for 10 whole days? What kind of outlet adapter do I need?
But, the silliest one of all, the one that has been piercing my thoughts like a parasite is, “What am I going to wear to the Shaolin Temple?!” As asinine as this thought first seemed, it makes complete sense that this would be a focus for me. A place that is 1,522 years old should be visited with honor, grace… and an amazing outfit! I’ve always had a very weak spot in the depths of my heart for vintage furniture, but I don’t own anything beyond the 1940’s! How does a structure stand the test of time? And most importantly, what do you wear to such a place?? I haven’t figured it out yet. But you can rest assured I’ll document every moment of myself adorned in my very well thought-out garment of choice.
My first purchase in preparation for this trip was a new set of luggage. When I say new, I also mean my very first real set of luggage. Upon arriving home with my shiny closets on wheels, I ran to my room to toss away a piece of my past. For the past 10 years, I’ve lugged a horrendous, oversized, blue duffle bag rested atop two tiny wheels- that never could manage the task of keeping it upright. The thought of trudging this thing around made me nauseous. But, it had taken me to so many great places! Only around the country, of course. But that hideous, unpractical beast had moved me from Upper Michigan to New York City, to every little apartment from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn, and finally from New York City to Utah. How could I part with the thing that was responsible for carrying my precious stuff through all my travels? The answer is, easily. It was time for that monstrosity, and for me, to move on. I’m grateful for the thrift store donation bin just one house down from me. China deserves to meet me with real luggage.
While scouring the internet for any piece of advice that will prepare me for my solo-trip to China, I found the most useful bit of information- red is the color of luck. I have red hair! If anything, I’ll at least be seen as a good-luck charm, right? Maybe locals will just look past me coming off as a completely clueless tourist because my hair is the equivalent of a four-leaved clover. Note to self: dye gray roots before leaving.
Another bit of information I found useful, but maybe not quite as important, was this fun slice: bring your own deodorant. I didn’t just notice this in one or two travels blogs, I noticed it in three! The thought never crossed my mind, not even for a second, that I wouldn’t be able to find such a common, everyday product over there if I happen to forget it while packing. Apparently, the idea of forgetting my Secret became so frightening to me, I wrote it on my packing list twice. It’s all too possible that I may find myself lost, confused, full of excitement, maybe a little fear, and I’m even betting on developing a sense of enlightenment and spirituality during my travels in China, but rest assured, I won’t smell bad.
I’m preparing myself as much as I can. You could even say that I’m probably, maybe just a little over-preparing. I’m nervous, anxious, excited- all the feelings that envelop you when traveling so far away from home for the first time. But, I’m most looking forward to the things I can’t prepare myself for. Those experiences tend to be the things that resonate within you most in the years after returning home.
I’ve said China so many times in this post, I can’t help but be reminded of this lovely video!
Stay tuned to hear about my experiences in China!