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Xièxiè for the ride!
I mentioned hitchhiking alone in China on today's show about trusting strangers when you're traveling. Here's the full story: I'd been shoestringing it in Africa and Asia for months, intending to head south from Bangkok, bike in New Zealand, then head home to Oregon for a full circle around the globe. But a chance to visit Vietnam presented itself (this was in 1990, before the U.S. had relations with Vietnam) and I figured I couldn't pass up that opportunity. So I decided to take a U-turn and go home via train across Siberia. To catch the train I had to go through China ... and along the way detoured to visit tribal (non-Han) villages in southern China.
I traveled to that area with some other young Americans, but when we wanted to go different places I wound up alone. We had easily caught rides with long distance truckers, and I decided to keep traveling that way. But it is very different traveling alone in a place you don't speak the language compared to traveling with companions you can communicate with.
After about a week alone, meeting no one who spoke English, I was desperate for a connection. So the poor driver who picked me up next got an earful! Using just my tiny Chinese phrasebook, I explained my whole life story to him. Where I was from, my family, why I came to China, where I was going next, what I ate for breakfast, anything I could think of. I asked him a lot of questions too, and although I probably actually understood nothing, I made up enough to feel like we were having a conversation! And I felt better.
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