Traveling to Beijing was a game changing experience for me in many ways. First, it was my first trip outside of Europe. Second, it was my first trip where I had the opportunity to choose myself which things to see and do.
So my first travel experience out of Europe was my trip to Beijing, China. I actually didn’t travel all by myself, but went with my class from high school. But we had a lot of free time, which gave os the opportunity to kind of plan the trip as we’d like.
Of course, we went sightseeing as well and had to follow a guide. But who doesn’t want to see the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and have a visit at the pearl market.
Traveling to Asia for the first time was super exciting! It was my first time applying for a visa, and I had no clue if I did it wrong or right. At this time I was 16 years old – turning 17 on the arrival date, so when I look back now, I think I was pretty young and very naive about the world. Applying for the visa was not something I cared much about, I just filled out the form and expected to receive the visa without any problems. I had to send my passport to the embassy, but even then I didn’t really care that my passport might be lost in the mail.
Luckily I ended up getting my visa like the rest of the class. We were good to go!
When we arrived, we were picked up at the airport by some Chinese teachers from a Chinese high school that we had to visit. At that school all the windows were open, even though it was the end of November. They say that you’re able to concentrate much better when you get fresh air. So we sat there freezing all day and learned a bit about the Chinese culture and language.
In total we had 8 days to spend in Beijing, which is just enough to see all the sights of the city. We saw the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympics station, the zoo and some local areas including a visit to a Chinese family.
For families living in Beijing it is very usual to have a very nice house outside the city, where you go on your vacation days. During the work week you have a smaller (and crazy expensive) apartment in the city, which is closer to work and school.
Getting to know the local people from Beijing was really exciting and also very interesting. Their lifestyle is just so different than ours. They work much more and don’t spend as much time with their families as we tend to do in Scandinavia. However, the locals we met seemed to be happy people.
After visiting the local family we had a lot of free time. I chose to spend it with some of my friends from the school in a shopping mall and going out to a Hard Rock Café at night. The other days we went to little local restaurants, where you could get a lot of food for almost no money. It was delicious!
What I liked so much about this trip was that I felt I didn’t have to worry about anything. Most things were planned ahead, but I still got time to do whatever I wanted and visit different places in Beijing.