Travel blogs have been such a hit these days, and with the Instagram posts of bloggers, it’s so easy to pick up travel envy. Scrolling my Instagram feed these days made me remember my own travel experiences. One funny one (well, now it’s funny) was of my first ever solo trip abroad.
I was 21 years old fresh out of college, and so I had this crazy instinct to assert my independence by going on a trip abroad alone. My parents were pretty used to my antics by now, since I’ve always been the independent child in the family, so they agreed to fund my trip as a graduation gift. I picked Shanghai, China, of all places. I’ve heard a few interesting things about Shanghai in one of my classes in my last year in college, did my research, and was promptly enthralled. I made my itinerary, secured travel documents, booked my tickets, and off I went.
The moment I got out of the plane in Shanghai, I felt real fear for the first time. You know when you do something your entire life you hardly ever notice while you’re doing it… well,, communication is one of those things. I was so used to being understood by anyone and anywhere I go to, so not being able to communicate in English almost got me jumping back in the plane. In Shanghai, very little of the population can speak English, and most won’t understand you, even those who work at the airport. Despite that, though, I soldiered on and mustered enough determination to step out. I figured I would just have to get by with my precious little Shanghainese expressions.
Thankfully, the tour guide from the hostel I checked in at spoke English and got me acquainted with a few English speakers as well. Getting a cab was a harrowing experience, since you’d need a translator, but most restaurants have staff that can speak in English. I opted to rent a bike for my stay there to eliminate the need for cabs, and an American I met in my hostel who has been in the country for a few years taught me how to navigate the subway. I got by with those two modes of transportation and saw for myself the beautiful hidden treasure of Shanghai.
They have the most serene parks and friendly people. I biked around the city and went to their old shopping districts, visited museums, and also went into a few university campuses. They were amazing! The food was divine – it had a touch of Middle Eastern spices. The food stalls at night sold these grilled mushrooms and spiced lambs. I couldn’t get enough of those!
I fell in love with Shanghai from my very first visit, and since then I’ve been back about 5 times, 2 for business trips and 3 for leisure. It’s definitely a place I’d keep coming back to, pollution or no! It’s a lovely place.