Gillybean in China: What a Trip!

“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.

If Marvel were to create characters who performed superhero feats across the world’s waters, Glen and Julie Bradley could be models.

For seven years, the early retirees defy death more times than cats, always landing, sometimes barely, on their feet. Piloting a French-made Amel Super Maramu, one of the world’s greatest sailing vessels, they visit 63 countries, including Bequia in Saint Vincent, Niue, and the far-from-ordinary Colombia. 

In a pair of enthralling books, author Julie Bradley takes readers on a journey that rarely includes the usual paths of world travelers. They experience adventures that bring pleasure and terror, sometimes on the same day. Between the two extremes, they overcome unpredictable hardships that must make them proud today.

You need no sailing experience to follow the adventures in Escape from the Ordinary and Crossing Pirate Waters. But you will marvel at the exploits of these two American mortals. 

 

Couple Sails Around the World Like Superheroes

Bicycling Crusader Follows the Silk Road

She climbed to a peak of academia as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and later as a scientist/graduate student at MIT. She dreamed of walking on Mars.

But for Kate Harris, work inside science laboratories could not satisfy her need to discover, so she and her best friend Mel set out to get lost in the world of exploration–for a year, bicycling the Silk Road of Marco Polo from Turkey to Tibet.

Thousands of miles, at altitudes higher than 17,000 feet, over every kind of terrain you can imagine, and through blazing heat and freezing snow. They eluded and tricked menacing military and police, adapted to cultures as different as they could be, and traversed geography as foreign to them as Mars. They found human compassion in many places, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Tibet, and Nepal as locals took them into their homes to save them from another night in their tent.

In Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, Harris eloquently and humorously weaves history, science, and compelling anecdotes from her adventure that left my jaw hanging open.

As I have learned while walking the long-distance trails of Europe, the borders of cultures, countries and languages are lost when you step outside the comforts of everyday life and push yourself to, or even beyond, your limits. On the Silk Road, Kate Harris went well beyond the limits of most humans and her book made me want to load up my backpack and leave my borders behind.

(Click on the cover if you want to see the book on Amazon.)