China has never been at the top of our travel to-do list. I don’t know much about Beijing beyond the fact that it’s polluted and more crowded than I can possibly imagine. Of course there’s more to the city than that, but these two factors alone discouraged Ashley and I from traveling there in the past.
Ashley and I typically pick tropical destinations where we can spend at least part of our vacation relaxing on a beach. Both of us are stressed-out, busy professionals and having that relaxing beach time is important to our mental health. It keeps us sane.
“…beach time is important to our mental health. It keeps us sane.”
Ashley has plans to visit family in Arizona and to attend a bachelorette party in San Diego. This leaves me with a week by myself!
I figured I would ask some guy friends to go to New Orleans or Las Vegas. We would see the sights, gamble, and drink far more than is healthy. Tickets to New Orleans were fairly costly and it’s easy spend a lot of money in Vegas. This wasn’t too tempting as we dropped some serious cash on our trip to Sri Lanka in February. Then I asked myself, “What about somewhere overseas?” Maybe there’s something affordable. I doubt it, but maybe…
I picked a ticket budget of $500 as that would be cheaper than New Orleans. Since I only had a week, I didn’t want to spend 20+ hours on a plane either. That eliminated Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, India, and many others. I also didn’t want to waste time with long or multiple layovers. I only had a week and every hour was precious. Is there anything left after you account for those various factors? There were a few possibilities.
“Add in ‘London prices’ for everything from a bottle of water to a gas station sandwich…”
London for $580. Not bad, but slightly over budget. Add in “London prices” for everything from a bottle of water to a gas station sandwich and this could quickly get financially out of hand.
Amsterdam at $500 per ticket. Perfect price, but I had been to the Netherlands before, although it was many years ago. Plus, there was a layover in either London or Paris.
Paris for $536. Go to a romantic city without my wife? That was never going to happen, not if I wanted to live.
Shanghai for $497 or Beijing for $447! Incredible prices and they were both nonstop flights from Seattle!
I went to the bookstore and poured through the pages of the Beijing and Shanghai guidebooks to help me make my decision. I briefly toyed with the idea of both as there’s a train to connect the two, but thought that may be pushing it. I didn’t want to spend a day on the road and both cities seemed to have plenty to offer to fill up my week.
After planning various itineraries, I came to one unshakeable conclusion. You cannot go to China without seeing The Great Wall. Seriously, who goes to China and doesn’t see The Wall? As this was my first and possibly last trip to China, Beijing was declared the winner.
“You cannot go to China without seeing The Great Wall.”
I called a few friends. The responses were mixed. I said, “it’s an adventure of a lifetime!” and I heard “no” from three different people. One would prefer to go to a beach versus a busy city. I don’t blame him for that. The second and third were both incredibly busy at work and couldn’t get away for a vacation without their spouses.
It looks like I’m going to Beijing…alone. <GULP> Traveling alone at 37? Do people do that? I mean, besides weird creepy dudes, do normal 37-year old males travel alone? I’ll find out soon.
After consulting several Beijing guide books, I ultimately decided on Lonely Planet Beijing as it was the most recent. It’s small, compact, and has a lot of great information. I’ll let you know how it what I think when I return.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com.