China is what Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that China was not mentioned anywhere in my original itinerary. I was supposed to be headed to New Zealand for the month of October (Sorry Matt). I’d done the research, made connections, and was getting psyched to go sky diving to celebrate my 26th birthday. I came thisclose to buying a plane ticket. Only about a month before departure did I make the decision to trade all of that for China- a country I’d barely ever even considered visiting.

Chinese Empire

So what happened?

The most obvious, unexpected thing in the world: I met a boy.

Yes me, Miss “Being single is SOOO great, I’m not going to wait around for anyone, I’m going off to see the WORLD.” I still believe what I said completely. I was all set to ride off into the sunset on my own, but life had other plans for me. In fact, if I had to guess, I would say it was that independent will and attitude that attracted this guy in the first place. Funny how that works.

I had, I still have, big plans, but I am not so set in my ways to recognize a golden oppurtunity when it is smacking me upside the head. A guy who understands, and shares, my passion for travel and philosophy of life. Someone in the throes of his own world exploration. Someone who thinks I’m capable, not irresponsible, and sees my independence as an attractive quality. And the bonus: he’s smoking hot. Someone like that does not come along every day.

And when, after a perfect summer, someone that awesome invites you to come visit him while he’s teaching English in Xi’an China, you find a way to make that happen!

As I said above, it has never really crossed my mind to go to China. It seemed closed, remote, the kind of place you would be lost without a tour guide. But aside from a frustrating afternoon at the visa office so far things have been startlingly easy.

Auf nach China

photo credit: Max Braun

It’s going to be really great actually: I’ll be ferrying from Osaka into Shanghai, catching the tail end of the World Expo, before heading up to Xi’an for a couple of weeks and then onto Beijing. Instead of bungee jumping for my birthday I’ll be stuffing myself with Chinese food and hopefully getting to visit some pandas (I LOVE pandas). New Zealand isn’t going anywhere, but China is a dynamic, rapidly changing country, and I’m excited to peak inside.

This unexpected, but totally awesome turn of events has been a real game changer for me. I thought I knew where I was going, what my life for the next year was going to be about, and how it would look. I forgot that life has a funny way of laughing in the face of know-it-alls.

So my trip has already changed before it ever began. I was looking at the world from one perspective, and now I see that I need to be more flexible, and open ended in my planning. I can read all the guides I want, try to plan ahead, but in the end I ust don’t know what’s going to happen or where I’ll end up. At this point I know where I will be up until New Years, but after that we will just have to see.

And once again travel takes me places I never thought I’d be.


89 Responses to China is what Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

  1. JoAnna October 19, 2010 at 9:48 AM #

    Isn’t one of the best things about travel the fact that you can be spontaneous?

    Go. Enjoy. And have a good time with the smoking hot boy.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:51 AM #

      haha thanks- I do think that’s one of the best bits!

  2. Audrey October 19, 2010 at 9:50 AM #

    It’s funny, we never planned to go to China either. Then we met some crazy Brits in Turkmenistan who had just come from there and they convinced us to visit China NOW as it was changing so quickly. We’re so glad we did – it’s a fascinating place and it’s really hard to understand how China is developing and its role in the world without seeing it. In fact, we went back twice.

    I think it’s awesome that you’re changing plans on the fly and doing what makes sense and aligns with what you want in the moment. You’ll likely find a lot of other previous plans go out the window as this trip progresses. That’s what makes it great.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:53 AM #

      I can definitely tell that China in 10 years will be vastly different than the China I’m seeing today. Even after just two weeks here I feel like I understand the country so much better, it’s so unique.

  3. The Jetpacker October 19, 2010 at 10:02 AM #

    We’ve had that happen to us before. Except it wasn’t someone of the opposite sex that persuaded us to change our plans. It was food. It was a passionate love affair while it lasted.

    Enjoy the dim sum.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:54 AM #

      omg the food here is to die for. Every single meal is heavenly, it’s absurd.

  4. Candice October 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM #

    Hehe, Cailin and I were talking about this the other day. We’re both incredibly happy for you. 🙂 Sigh, now where can we find one?

  5. Candice October 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM #

    Wait, not ONE, I mean two…no sharing.

    • Cailin October 19, 2010 at 1:31 PM #

      hahahahahahahahahaha no sharing Candice, you drink enough of my beer as it is I don’t need to share anything else with you! haha
      So happy for the both of you Steph! and to think you have #tbex to thank for all of it 🙂

      • Steph October 21, 2010 at 7:44 AM #

        You think Kim would let us be in a #tbex commercial or something?

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:55 AM #

      haha, love it… my only suggestion is start looking at TBEX… worked for me 🙂

  6. Allen October 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM #

    I met a girl – she met a boy.. in a hostel… we then went on to travel for 10+ years (still at it – sort of) and we never intended to go to China either – but we did, and LOVED it. (NZ-UK with no flying!) have fun!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:56 AM #

      What a beautiful story! travel definitely brings people together.

  7. Ryan October 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM #

    Haha… Funny title: “China is what happens when you’re making other plans” … Maybe instead: “plans are what happens when you have a crush?” hahaha. Have fun on your trip.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 5:56 AM #

      haha, that works too i suppose….

  8. Rebecca October 19, 2010 at 12:55 PM #

    Changes are good and heaving to China is awesome (so jealous!) but does that mean NZ is off the list now?! You are just getting into the BEST! time of year to visit. The window is so small to have fab weather for travelling in NZ, I’d say skip Australia (too much like America anyway and great weather all year round) and hit NZ when you are done with China, what late this year, early next?!

    Can’t wait to hear about everything!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 7:40 AM #

      Unfortunately NZ is out for now… just no time to squeeze it in before the Great Australian Road Trip. Definitely will make it there someday though!

  9. Amanda October 19, 2010 at 1:03 PM #

    And you were worried about this post. Pshh. Things happen. LIFE happens. And I’m glad you were wise enough to just seize the opportunity and go with the flow. Like you said, NZ will still be there when you’re ready to visit.

    Have fun with the hot boy in China!!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 7:41 AM #

      Thanks! I agree, life happens and all we can do is adjust our plans accordingly.

  10. Michael Tyson October 19, 2010 at 1:04 PM #

    Awesome, Steph. Our travel plans are constantly thwarted. Basically as soon as we make them somethings comes along to irrevocably change them beyond all recognition. This usually means we’ll be spending time somewhere that was never a priority – 3 months in Tunisia, North Africa when we weren’t even planning on going to Africa! Fourteen months on the road and we still haven’t covered all our priority countries! Glad to hear you’re going with the flow!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 7:41 AM #

      I’d love to see a mash up of people’s planned itineraries versus what actually happens. Very few people seem able to stick to the plan for long!

  11. Connie October 19, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

    Wow! What a GREAT reason to be going to China! It’s great that life works the crazy ways that it does! Enjoy it and way to go for finding someone who thinks you’re just as amazing as you are! I’m looking forward to hearing about the adventures you two will have in China!

  12. Adventurous Kate October 19, 2010 at 2:35 PM #

    Love this post! 🙂 Very happy for you two. And I think it’s great that you made a choice to be serendipitous — after planning your RTW for years, making a major change on a whim was probably exactly what you needed!

    My aunt made me promise one thing: that I won’t come home with a weirdo (pronounced wee-ya-do in Bostonian). 😀 We’ll see how it goes.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 7:50 AM #

      My mom’s greatest fear is I would fall in love with some australian or something and never come home! At least I’ve got an American now (although we still don’t want to ever come home)

  13. Hogga October 19, 2010 at 3:00 PM #

    AWWWW!!!!! Good for you! Sometimes you just gotta dive in! And China is awesome! The food, oh how I miss the food!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:51 PM #

      The food is just so stunningly amazing! Every meal is a treat.

  14. Annie Bettis October 19, 2010 at 4:38 PM #

    Funny how that happens the second you leave home!! Yay for being spontaneous!!

    It sounds like a great story in the making! Can’t wait to hear more! Have fun in China!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:52 PM #

      Haha, actually it happened over the summer, but I think it is good proof that if you are moving in the right direction, life will provide!

  15. Jenny October 19, 2010 at 6:06 PM #

    Kudos to you for going with the flow. If I met a boy who I thought was awesome and I could potentially make a life with I’d make the same decision you are. Love how you express that life was laughing in your face. el oh el.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:53 PM #

      Yup, it’s a lesson to me to not be so rigid to plans that I miss out on hte really great things.

  16. Jade October 19, 2010 at 6:29 PM #

    Isn’t it funny when that happens? I met my current boyfriend walking to orientation for my first college class- ready to be the single college girl, I ended up dating him the entire time (and still do!) Good luck in China. I know a really great Mexican place for when you get sick of Dim Sum!! 🙂

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:54 PM #

      Haha I feel like this sort of thing happens to me a lot- I met a boyfriend at the start of my last big trip too! Funny how life does that.

  17. ehalvey October 19, 2010 at 7:08 PM #

    Woo-hoo! My good friend is in China right now visiting her family. It sounds like an incredibly interesting place. I’d be stoked for the food, but I’m not sure I could cope with the whole basic bathroom sitch. Have fun!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:54 PM #

      It’s definitely a challenging place, very different from anywhere I’ve been before. the food almost makes it worthwhile though!

  18. Dan October 19, 2010 at 7:25 PM #

    Nothing against NZ but something tells me that whatever happens you aren’t going to regret going to China instead.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:56 PM #

      Yeah, and NZ will always be there for the future…

  19. ayngelina October 19, 2010 at 10:04 PM #

    Good for you for taking a chance and just going with it. Solo travel will always be there for you, in the meantime go have fun with this boy!

    Oh and if you fight, write about it, I find they are the funniest posts.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:57 PM #

      Haha I will keep that in mind.,..

  20. Jaime October 19, 2010 at 10:36 PM #

    Oh i love this!!! Way to go you have a man and are traveling the world. Lucky for you he understands that. I know if i met a guy like this one I would change my plans as well. In the end travel is exploring the unknown and well China was unknown to you~

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:57 PM #

      Thanks! You never know what may be awaiting you on your own trip…

  21. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 20, 2010 at 12:59 AM #

    Ha! This post made me laugh! Good for you for following your heart! Isn’t that what traveling is all about anyway?!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:58 PM #

      I think so!

  22. Unbravegirl October 20, 2010 at 1:16 AM #

    Yay! Very happy for you! Have an awesome time in China! I’m hoping to get there sometime after the New Year, so if you’re still around maybe we’ll get to meet!

    • Steph October 20, 2010 at 4:45 AM #

      Where are you going and for how long? I’m leaving at the end of the month but I’m coming back in the spring!

      • Unbravegirl October 20, 2010 at 10:09 AM #

        No idea yet. Need to find a job! But I’ll keep you posted!

  23. Scott October 20, 2010 at 2:47 AM #

    Those damn boys, we always get in the way. Relationships, Romance, and how it affects travel is really a blog that needs to be written … I volunteer!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 8:59 PM #

      Haha, your lot are quite troublesome!

  24. Garreth Lodge October 20, 2010 at 7:32 AM #

    Can’t wait to read your posts on China. It’s my first port of call when I leave next year!


  25. Gray October 20, 2010 at 9:31 AM #

    Awesome! Good for you. 🙂 And great that you have the flexibility to change your travel plans spontaneously like that. You can always go to New Zealand later on.

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:06 PM #

      Yup- I figure NZ really isn’t going anywhere just yet…

  26. Joel October 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM #

    On a similar note, I met someone in Shanghai the other day. We’re hoping to get together in Thailand in a few weeks.

    I think I just missed you in Shanghai – see you in Xi’an, hopefully!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:06 PM #

      Exciting! and I’m going to write you an email shortly about meeting up.

  27. DTravelsRound October 20, 2010 at 1:06 PM #

    Oooooh!!! I LOVE it!!!!!! Have the TIME OF YOUR LIFE!!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:07 PM #

      And you were there from the beginning! Emotionally anyways. Mwah!

  28. Abbey (@cudawudashuda) October 20, 2010 at 1:07 PM #

    What a wonderful turn of events … China was a place that plesantly surprised me … always wanted to go but didn’t realise how much I would treasure it until I was there… lots of ups & downs but my year-in-training in Korea prepared me for it 🙂 …. on the second note, so glad you’ve found someone who understands your path .. i cherish having someone to share all of this wonderful life choice with…. (

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:08 PM #

      China is definitely challenging but I think it has the potential to be very rewarding as well. Thank you!

  29. Emily S. October 20, 2010 at 5:16 PM #

    Good for you. Just go with it! We’ve all made crazy plans because of a boy before. It’s always the right decision!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:08 PM #

      haha i dont know if it’s always the RIGHT decision, but it’s always the memorable one!

  30. kirsty October 20, 2010 at 11:28 PM #

    China is amazing, we fell in love with the place when spent our first 5 weeks travelling there. We’re already making plans to go back!!

    We’ve changed our plans so much – we have decided not to have any anymore!!!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:09 PM #

      haha that sounds likea good plan to have!

  31. Kelsey October 21, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

    I think that this will really work out well for you. Maybe you’ll even find a place to come back and teach after you’re finished with your travels!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:13 PM #

      Or maybe I’ll find a new traveling partner!

  32. Emily October 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM #

    Life is just full of surprises, huh? It’s very cool that you were open to changing up your itinerary and followed your heart, and ended up somewhere you hadn’t planned for. I hope you have a wonderful time!

    • Steph October 21, 2010 at 9:17 PM #

      that’s what makes life so exciting, isnt it?

  33. claire October 22, 2010 at 9:14 AM #

    you just described the absolute best part of traveling! enjoy China–it’s a magnificent place to change your plans. and do tell more on the boy……??!!!

    • Steph October 26, 2010 at 5:03 AM #

      haha the boy is the talk of twitter! Think he’s loving the attention….

  34. AdventureRob October 24, 2010 at 1:31 AM #

    This is exactly the sort of reason I advise people not to bother so much with plans for long term travelling. If you stick strictly to a plan when travelling, then you’re not doing it right and enjoying yourself in my opinion 🙂

    • Steph October 26, 2010 at 5:50 AM #

      I agree, but it’s definitely the sort of thing everyone has to discover for themselves…

  35. Leslie Forman October 24, 2010 at 11:33 PM #

    Yay! I look forward to meeting you (and maybe even him) here in China for the best holiday of the whole year!!

    • Steph October 26, 2010 at 5:58 AM #

      I’m excited to meet you as well (although I will be leaving the boy back in xi’an)!

  36. Craig October 25, 2010 at 2:37 AM #

    I’m obviously late to this comment party, but … Good stuff 🙂 Have fun.

    • Steph October 26, 2010 at 5:58 AM #

      Thanks Craig!

  37. Brooke, WhyGo Australia October 27, 2010 at 10:47 PM #

    AH! I AM SO LATE TO THIS! How exciting a romance is now tangled into this crazy web travel weaves 🙂 Yep, so glad you WENT to be with the boy. It always seems crazy in your own mind… at least it was for me to come to Oz. All of my friends were like GO TO OZ – it’s amazing, you’re young and you’re in love! And, now I just put in my partner visa here! So interested to see where this takes you 😉

    • Steph October 29, 2010 at 10:42 AM #

      Yup- I feel like risks like that are always well worth taking. It’s always a battle for me between being open to romance and not sacrificing what’s important to me, but I seem to be striking it right this time.

  38. Gaijinchic November 5, 2010 at 7:41 AM #

    China is a great place to be right now. It seems to be the place no one planned to come to, but somehow ended up. Chinese New Year is the best time to visit New Zealand. Good summer weather and long holiday escaping the cold for those of us working in China. Have fun!

  39. Kyle November 17, 2010 at 11:07 AM #

    BOO YEAH! That’s awesome that you stopped looking and then he popped into your life unexpectedly. Isn’t that how things always go?

    Can’t wait to read about your China travels…and do we get to see a picture of you and this strikingly handsome fellow traveler?

    • Steph November 18, 2010 at 4:44 AM #

      Haha I’m sure some pictures will emerge shortly…

  40. Priyank December 30, 2010 at 11:36 AM #

    Hi Steph!
    Wow that was spontaneous! I hope you got to hug pandas!

  41. Hallie January 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM #

    Hahaa! Love it! There’s a reason why the phrase, “I met someone” packs such a punch.

  42. Alex January 18, 2011 at 9:34 PM #

    I went to Asia two years ago for a big solo trip around the world, and met the guy who is still my boyfriend today my second night there! Oh and I changed my plane ticket home so we could go to Malaysia together, at which point my closest friends asked me in the nicest possible way if I had seen Brokedown Palace. Ha! All’s well that ends well!

    • Steph January 23, 2011 at 1:22 AM #

      Very nice- good job! it’s funny how life does that huh.

  43. Marina K. Villatoro February 15, 2012 at 10:38 AM #

    Sounds very similar to me. I had a plan to see the world, met a guy in Guatemala and have yet to leave Latin America – 10 years later.

    In my opinion, this is the only way to meet someone, when you least expect it! And it’s the best way by far.

    There’s a saying:
    If you want to make God laugh – tell him or her your plans!

    • Steph February 16, 2012 at 7:10 AM #

      I agree, I also think it’s easier to meet someone when you are already pretty happy by yourself- then the guys seem to flock!

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