One night last summer we were discussing destinations for our next family trip. The kids had a week off school in November. We were thinking of Costa Rica again, or maybe Mexico. Definitely somewhere warm. Then Aric happened upon The Seat Sale. My husband is well known for his 'economical' trip planning and surveillance of airfares, but when he discovered that flights to China from Canada cost less than flying within our own country, he was ecstatic. He even calculated out the cost per kilometre. "Look how far we can fly for so little!".
It didn't take much to convince me, honestly. Neither of us had been to China before, we knew little about travel there, but it seemed like it would be interesting and safe. We were willing to trade a warm vacation for the unknown. And so, on a bit of a whim, with some nervous laughter, we bought tickets that night. The week off school expanded to three. A plan was formed.
Fast forward a couple of months, we were knee deep in research and we realized what a huge and diverse country China is. We tried to plan a rough itinerary, applied for visas, ordered Mandarin language books, researched train routes, sought advice from friends who had gone before us. There was a fair bit of concern from friends and family. I spoke to one friend several days after returning home, and she admitted that she really wasn't sure how it would go for us...
As these stories usually go, we had the best damn time of our lives. The kids weathered the long flights and 10 hour time change exceptionally well. Nobody got sick. We muddled through Mandarin with a little iTranslate and a lot of sign language. We learned a little about a very complex and beautiful country. We ate amazing food and had no idea what it was. We met wonderfully kind people. We learned to make dumplings. We ate in villages. We flew a kite on the Great Wall of China. We saw Tiananmen Square. We rode rickshaws, subways, boats, bullet trains, and roller coasters. We hiked through ancient rice terraces. We spent all day, every day, together as a family. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I'm working on a photobook, and thought I'd share some favourites here. I can hear you all saying, "tsk, tsk, why aren't you in any of the photos, Jen?". I can assure you I am in plenty of iphone photos that will be in the album. Never fear. I am part of these incredible memories, too.