I have been reading as much about China as I can in an attempt to better understand the country that we will be visiting in less than two months time. There is a dichotomy between the guidebooks and the travel tales. The former excites me about the many sights to see, food to eat, adventures to experience. After reading the Lonely Planet I want to extend our trip and see more destinations in China. The itinerary is in flux, I have many Firefox tabs open with pages of train and airline timetables, of hotels and tourist information.
The picture from other authors who have travelled within China is very different. Yes, there is beauty and, but also hardship and many barriers to enjoyment. For the vast majority of Chinese daily life is a struggle. Few ever get a chance to realise their potential and competition for limited resources and opportunities is the norm. No country is free from such struggles, but the fact that there are so many Chinese means that it seems difficult to escape from the consequences of the hardships they face.
Should a holiday be an escape from the realities of daily life or an opportunity to experience real life in a different setting? I believe that both may true. Relaxation is important, a break from our own struggles and a chance to re-evaluate the life we lead. Yet it is also important to understand the lives of others, for more information will hopefully lead to better understanding and decisions.
I have decided to try, as I do in my daily life, to face the Chinese experience head on, but come the end of the day I would like to retreat into my hotel room, my own space, and spend time as me and not as a foreigner in life.