Life on the Road

Bus Station, Uruguay, 2015

Bus Station, Uruguay, 2015

I am one of these people who drag a battered backpack all over the world.

Yes, there is a Canadian flag on it—why do you even ask?

I have the travel bug, and I can’t explain why. However, I know exactly when it started: in Beijing, China, in 1999. Still in high school, I was studying Mandarin and I attended summer school at the Capital Normal University (北京首都师范大学). This was not a backpacking trip—I was just a sixteen-year-old teen and I was under instructions to study and please come home at the end of the session.

That summer, I met the world. I discovered a new culture, I experienced what being a minority felt like and I hung out with other travelers from all over the world. I also met a guy… yeah, typical, I know.

At the end of the summer, I left China in tears. I wanted to travel the world. Inconveniently, I had yet to graduate from high school and I had no money. My plans would have to wait for another two years.

In 2001, I passed the French Baccalauréat and applied at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations, in Paris, for a major in Chinese language and history. I made a deal with my teachers: since I already spoke Mandarin and I had no intention (nor the financial means) to live in Paris where the university was located, I would study course materials alone and take the finals in June (it worked out just fine, I graduated in 2005).

Meanwhile, I found an internship in Hong Kong and lived there for a few months before accepting the fact that it was nothing like mainland China and that Cantonese was awfully complicated.

So I changed my plans. I embarked on an epic backpacking trip through Central and South America with Feng, a Chinese-Canadian I had met in Beijing in 1999, another lost soul addicted to traveling. He became my boyfriend, then husband. Life works out in funny ways—I had always thought I would live in China but I am in Canada with a Chinese husband.

Feng and I kept on traveling the world, whenever we had a chance and enough money saved up—Latin America, South Pacific, Asia…

For a long time, I was traveling because I was looking for a new home, a country to adopt. I found it: (O) Canada. I became a Canadian citizen in 2009 (you can read my immigration story here) and we are now based in Ottawa… yet the urge to pack a bag and hit the road is still there.

And now there are three of us.

We conceived during one of our trips and I did not stop traveling until the very end: at 6 months pregnant, we explored New York City, and at 7 ½ months pregnant, we went to London and France.

Then came Mark.

Was it time to retire our backpacks?

No quite.

We took our first trip with him to France when he was eight months old. Then we headed to Mexico after he turned one, then to China before he turned two, then to South America a few months later.

We are the two backpackers with the kid who screams “I want to go plaaaane! Take bus, nooooow!”

Nope, didn’t stop traveling.

And hopefully, we will never stop.