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An awfully big adventure

“To live is an awfully big adventure.” -JM Barrie

I’m writing this somewhere between Austin and Los Angeles, daughter to the left of me and my boys to the right.The pilot is telling us we’re at 34,000 feet, and though the cabin is dark, none of us can sleep. Part of it is because the boys are watching Cars, the girl is sketching and the grownups are working, but I’m pretty sure we also all have a slight case of the butterflies.

We are officially on our way. We’re doing this round-the-world thing.

As I mentioned on The Art of Simple yesterday, we feel that this year we’ll simply continue to live our small-but-lovely lives, albeit in different locations. Keeping this perspective is phenomenally peace-giving. I’ve been asked countless times this week if I’m nervous, and I can honestly answer no. I’m not. This feels right and good, and in a surprising way, normal. We’ve been planning this trip so long, it’s more of a sigh of relief that we’re finally headed out.

This whole thing is completely unknown to us, though, so the butterflies remain. No matter how many countries we’ve already visited, we simply haven’t lived out of our backpacks for a year, headed westbound. We’ve essentially jumped off the high dive and are mid-air, waiting to plunge into new waters.

This isn’t a vacation for us. This is an exploration. Yes, we’ll have fun, but we have to continually work to make this happen, and the kids will use their passports and two feet as their textbooks. I’m doing research for my next book, we’re visiting our nonprofit organization’s guest houses, and Kyle’s doing a little artistic soul-searching. We all are, I suppose.

This is most definitely an exploration.

We hope to post here as frequently as we can, but China, our first stop, can be a bit unpredictable with its Internet reliability. Fingers crossed we’ll be happily surprised, but our philosophy here is to expect the worst; hope for the best.

To live is an awfully big adventure. -JM Barrie

First up: Beijing for a week, then on to Xi’an to visit friends, Yangshuo for a few days to escape the big cities, and Hong Kong to see what that’s all about. Then we’ll land in one of our happiest places, Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we’ll park for several months to explore more of Southeast Asia and enjoy a slower pace of life, working and learning.

We’ve got a general plan for China, but I’d love to hear from you: any must-sees for a family in Beijing, Xi’an, Yangshuo, or Hong Kong?

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28 Comments

  1. Laura Susan

    One of my favorite places in Beijing is the Temple of Heaven. We traveled to Beijing and Tianjin several years ago, and both places captured our hearts. I hope your family loves China as much as we do!

    • Leah Chambers

      I couldn’t agree more, Laura! My husband Brian and I lived there for 7 months and one of my favorite memories is strolling through the Temple of Heaven park on a weekend – watching the choreographed dancers, listening to groups loudly sing national songs together, and pondering the ribbon dancers next to the jianzi (chinese hacky sac) players. I think I smiled the whole time.

      Tsh, hope you thoroughly enjoy! China is raw, but in such an interesting way…you can’t help but stare at everything.

  2. Christina

    Beijing is great. You’ll love it. +1 on visiting the Temple of Heaven. Make sure to get the the English audio radio things if you don’t have an English guide. Super Interesting.
    I’m sure you’re going to the Great Wall, but did you know that you can actually camp on sections of it? That’s on our bucket list. 🙂

    One of our regrets from our visit to Yangshuo 7 years ago, was that we didn’t spring for the hot air balloon ride above the city. At the time we were broke students, and it seemed like so much… but in retrospect, we wish we would have just done it.

    Just outside of Guilin (the big city near Yangshuo) there’s a Tiger and Bear Park. Somewhat sad …because most zoos here are a little sad… but worth a visit, and I think the kids would love it.
    Much better than the Butterfly park that we went to, where all the butterflies were mounted in the gift shop. 😉

    We’ve been living in China for two years now with our small girls (3 & 5). China is wonderful! I hope you really enjoy it!

  3. Ashley R

    I second (third?) the Temple of Heaven in BJ. It’s may favorite place. In Xi’an, the city wall is really cool, the history museum is quite good, and Small Goose Pagoda is one of our favorite, peaceful parks. It also has a good city history museum and the park and museum are free with a passport. You have to pay to climb the pagoda. If you go in the morning, you can buy fish food and feed the hordes of goldfish. It’s just up the bus route for us, so it’s a regular outing. And we live next door to the friends you are visiting, so if you need internet access, let us know. We have four boys, so not a quiet place to work!

  4. Morgan E

    Hong Kong–my favorite city! I’ll be there in early October myself. Stuff my kids love:

    -The Peak (take the tram up)–amazing views
    -Star Ferry across the harbor (do it at night for an amazing view of the city all lit up)
    -Ladies Market at Mong Kok (the busiest district in the world with over 300,000 people per square mile)
    _Hong Kong Museum of History–it’s fabulous, a must-see. Prehistoric HK all the way to modern day, with amazing exhibits on the Opium Wars, WWII occupation, and traditional life. Lots that kids would love. And it’s cheap (and free on Wednesday, like most HK museums).
    -The Symphony of Lights (a light and sound show on the harbor) is every night at 8 pm. Best viewed from Avenue of the Stars on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront
    -Mid-Levels escalators–the longest in the world
    -Dim sum! We like Maxim’s at City Hall (1st floor, low block) for its bustle, ambiance, old-school trolleys, and views. Get there by 11:45 or wait a long time.

    Have fun! We’ve lived in East Asia for over 10 years (China, HK, Taiwan) and I love it more every year.

    • megan

      Yes! for Hong Kong everything Morgan E recommended! We are living in HK now so shout if you need a hand with anything! (or like wanna do a meet up like you did around the States that us expats missed out on! 😉 HK will be a breeze after your China travels! It’s all going to be so amazing! Bless! Megan 😉

    • Emily Willmann

      Yes yes to The Hong Kong Museum of History. It is very cheap (free one weekday a week… I can’t remember which) and so great for kids. I loved taking the ferry across Victoria Bay and going up to the peak. Hong Kong was my first grown up adventure traveling alone. I lived there for 8 weeks last summer and volunteered for a home for the severely disabled.

  5. Debbie

    An awfully big adventure indeed. I am praying that God’s blessings will shine upon you and your fellow explorer’s where e’er you go, throughout this amazing year. Thank you for writing “home” to us here. I am looking forward to reading every word and already thankful for the wonderful gift of it! It seems to me that butterflies accompany the beginning of anything great. Let them help you fly across that first big ocean. : ) Bon voyage!

  6. Jill Foley

    Praying for your family right now and will continue to do so throughout the year. We took our littles to Chiang Mai earlier this year…to visit our missionary friends and meet our Compassion child. So I smiled when I read that you will be parking there for a while. In the meantime, Oregon misses you….

  7. lynne oliver

    Ban Po Museum in Xian. your children will love it. safe travels..

  8. Marla Taviano

    I have butterflies FOR you!! Seriously, this makes me so giddy. Chiang Mai is one of our happy places too! I have a dear, dear, wonderful friend, Faa, who used to live there (now lives in Chiang Rai). If you’re looking for local people to connect with, I’ll hook you up. And our exchange student last year is from Hohhot, China, but I have NO idea where it is in relationship to where you are. If you want me to ask her for ideas, I will!

  9. Annaliisa Hartfiel

    My kids loved ocean park in Hong Kong – a great place to see pandas too. Have a great trip!

  10. Amanda Donovan

    I’m so excited for you and your family, this is such a wonderful thing you are doing and I can’t wait to hear your travellers tales. I only hope I have the confidence to embark on similar adventures once my children are old enough to appreciate it – it’s certainly on our radar. I’ve never been to China so I have no tips but have fun soaking up the history and culture and creating wonderful memories.

  11. Marisa Lerin

    My favorite thing to do in Hong Kong is ride the Star Ferry. Great view, and it’s cheap, which is a definite bonus.

    I also love the market town of Stanley, which is a little more relaxed than the big city, and if you keep going around the island to Tai Tam, there’s a reservoir park where you can walk around, with very little sign of habitation, which is a great contrast to what most people usually see in Hong Kong.

  12. Marisa Lerin

    I can’t believe I forgot, but my family’s favorite thing to eat/do in Hong Kong is go to afternoon tea. Most of the big hotels have an afternoon tea buffet, which is wonderful, relaxing and gives you a little bit of a posh feeling (which is important to an HK trip). You can also have high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, which is a set meal and more traditionally British, but we always enjoyed the wide selection of foods at the buffets.

  13. Leiden Reitz

    Definitely the Temple of Heaven in Beijing! If you go during the week like we did, they have senior clubs that meet there probably in the mornings where locals go to play music, cards / games, and exercise. They let you join them too 🙂 In Xi’an, you can rent single or double bikes and ride around the city wall. Great experience and views! So jealous (in a good way) of your trip and hoping to do it with my family one day.

  14. Sharon Holbrook

    Just learned about Xian’s role as part of the ancient silk road. I wonder if there is any trace of that history left? I’m sure that would be fascinating.

  15. Emily Klinkhammer

    So excited for your family! I will enjoy following along with your adventures.

    If you are visiting the Great Wall (which I’m sure you are), I might avoid the over-touristed Badaling and possibly Mutianyu sections. They do offer activities that would have appeal for children, but they are busy, crowded, and loud! I spent the day at Simatai, encountering just a handful of other visitors and enjoying lunch in a little farmhouse kitchen. It was an incredibly beautiful, relaxing, reflective day and one of my favorite travel days ever.

  16. Fawn Carriker

    I will be traveling with you and your family in spirit…what an incredible, life-changing adventure for all of you. Godspeed. – Fawn

  17. Breanne

    In this weird world of online blogs, I feel like I know you a little bit and am so excited for you guys.
    As already mentioned- the Great Wall in Beijing and just travelling around the city to see the bicycles and little crowded streets. In Hong Kong- the Peak tram, the Star ferry and stay for the light show at the harbour front. It’s an amazing array of lights/music on the skyscrapers and is worth it.

    What an incredible adventure!

  18. Amanda Kendle

    I’m so excited that you guys are on your way. The moment of departure is always such a relief for me – there’s nothing else you can worry about and you just go! Super-exciting and I hope there is enough internet access in China that we get to hear heaps about what you’re up to! Have a *wonderful* start to your trip.

  19. Jane

    Happy trails to you! Nice Tom Bihn bags, by the way! Looking forward to reading of your adventures.

  20. Cujo

    Aeronaut FTW! I sure do love that bag.

    Bon voyage!

  21. Joke

    Going to Beijing next month, as a final stop on our transmongolian trip. Would love to hear your favorites!

  22. Alissa

    No recommendations, but your description of the plane is now running through my head to the tune of Reservoir Dogs’ “Stuck in the Middle with You.” Their version (Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you) might still apply to being sandwiched between the kids on an airplane. =)

  23. Amy

    So excited to be following your travels over the next year! Our family has been taking baby steps toward travelling more, sorting out what we really need to pack and what can be left at home. We’re also learning how to travel comfortably with four kids (one a toddler), and multiple food allergies. We’re planning to explore Vancouver, BC next which is WAY out of my comfort zone having grown up in the more remote areas of British Columbia.

  24. Andie Eggimann

    We LOVED yangshuo mountain retreat. It’s about a 30 min bike ride out of town, is very community supporting and environmentally-conscious, and is just magical. Drink the ginger tea and consider the fan-painting workshop in nearby Fuli. It’s in an outdoor studio of a family who has been painting since the Han dynasty. It was an amazing experience and the hotel has partnerships with many local activities that are family-friendly. http://eggtropolisrocks.blogspot.com/2014/03/painting-fans-in-fuli-town.html?m=1

  25. David Greer

    Thrilled for you. We lived on a sailboat in the Mediterranean home schooling our three kids from 2001-2003. We learned so much about ourselves and now have an amazing family legacy that we continuously draw on. Trust yourself. Explore. Enjoy. And thanks for sharing your adventure.

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