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Palmer Mathews

Interrailing through Southern China

by Palmer Mathews Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For spring break, I went on a solo trek to through the Guangxi and Hunan Provinces of China.  Given my limited Mandarin skills and unfamiliarity with the country, I was a little nervous about my trip.  However, everywhere I went I was pleasantly surprised with smiling faces, kind locals, and incredibly beautiful scenery.  The trip was challenging, but immensely rewarding – arguably my favorite trip I’ve ever taken.  Here are some highlights of my adventure, and, of course, a few pictures.

  • Biking through rural Guangxi, playing with kids and watching families set off firecrackers for the Qingming Festival
  • Meeting and traveling with a recent university graduate from Malaysia, engaging in deep conversation about culture and beliefs, and forging a solid friendship
  • Chatting with two friendly university students on the subway in Changsha who were overjoyed to practice English with a native speaker for the first time in their lives
  • Getting invited to join a small group of Chinese backpackers to a 2000-year-old ancient village.  They couldn’t speak English, nor I Mandarin, but we were still able to become a close-knit crew, laughing and enjoying life for the entire two days we spent together.  “We team,” they said as they kept handing me more snacks.

Traveling gives you the opportunity to learn things about the world that a textbook cannot teach you.  Even though my trip was only 10 days long, I know that I matured and grew as an individual.  These kinds of experiences are what make studying abroad so profound.  I’m so fortunate and humbled to be able to have these opportunities, and I encourage everyone to plan an adventure at least once in their lives – or better yet, just study abroad.