“Is it alright if we join you?” said the tallest of three lanky guys in their early 20s.
“Er, uh, yes, of course,” I stuttered, exhausted after an exhilarating day touring Shanghai with California college students I had accompanied on a three-week study abroad journey. I sat in our hotel bar, enjoying the opportunity to recharge with a Chinese beer. My students were upstairs in their rooms, giving their professor a break.
“Thank you,” the young man said as he and his two buddies sat with me in chairs around the low-profile table. “What a day!”
To heck with recharging. I was curious. “Tell me about it.”
I ordered three beers and leaned forward to hear their story. The Norwegians had flown the previous day to Germany, where they looked up at the departures board for a place to go. They found three seats on an overnight flight to Shanghai and off they went, without reservations. They had grabbed the last room in the downtown hotel and, as we sipped our beers, they picked my brain for ideas for their weeklong adventure.
When she turned 60, Scottish native Gill Puckridge planned to leave her life in South Africa for three months in Central America, but got sidetracked by a cheap flight to China. Three months later, her experiences had exceeded her expectations and she left China a changed person and traveler. She has been on the road ever since (for six years) and I eagerly await her next book.
Her story is Gillybean Goes to China: The Adventures of a Wandering Sexagenarian. The book often made me wonder, “Could I do that?” as I read about her daily adventures, accommodations, social life, and much more.
Gill Puckridge did not share the youth of my three fellow beer drinkers in Shanghai. And she was alone in a country that can intimidate even the most worldly traveler. But she packed courage and a thirst for new experiences in her seventh decade of life.
Her story is captivating. Like the Norwegians, she embraced China as a place full of opportunity while she employed her natural charm and curiosity.