CHENGTAO XIAOZHU FOLK INN, GUBEIKOU – We’re independent travelers, which means we make our own way from place to place without using tour companies. 

In other words, we ride the bus and the train like everyone else.

We left Beijing today. We wanted to travel to Gubeikou, a hundred miles north of Beijing, to see a less touristy section of the Great Wall of China.

First, we rode the subway to Dongzhimen Bus Terminal. We found the correct stand, and we rode the 980 bus for two hours to Miyun. We got off in Miyun, made our way to a new bus stand, and rode the 25 bus for another two hours to Gubeikou. We spent $16 on the day’s transportation.

Everything went fine. I’m writing to you now from our new accommodation near the Great Wall. Kate and the kids are asleep. I’m in bed, writing this by the light of my phone’s flashlight.

Here we are standing in line to get on the bus…


With Penny (7), Dusty (11), and Miles (9) waiting for the bus

And here I am on the bus…


We rode the bus for four hours to get to a less touristy part of the Great Wall

We took a brief diversion in Beijing this morning to meet with the founders of a local real estate consultancy firm. We went to their office on the 20th floor of a skyscraper. 

Apartment prices have been soaring in every other part of China we’ve been to so far. I wanted to know how the property market has been behaving in Beijing recently…

“The peak in Beijing was in 2017,” they told me. “Prices have declined about 15% from the peak.”

I’ll share more of what I learned from this interview in future postcards.

– Tom Dyson

P.S. The smartphone is so useful for this style of travel. I don’t think we could make these trips without it. Especially in a country where people don’t speak English.

In the old days, one carried a Lonely Planet tourist guide, but a guide doesn’t come close to providing the level of information we get from our iPhone.


The kids are on many readers’ minds today: How does all the traveling affect them? Plus, one reader wants to know what Tom is learning from his travels through China…

Reader comment: I was intrigued by your notes about leaving the daily comforts of your life and starting fresh, viewing the world with your own eyes and through your own experiences.

Wish you peace and joy in your discovery and to impart courage in your children’s lives! At least they will not feel bored! They will constantly learn to adapt to the changes given to them.

Safe travels, and enjoy the mastery of security in an ever-changing world!

Reader comment: Great read all around. I, like other readers, am delighted Kate is now de-ex’d! Hope this insane world we find ourselves in holds together long enough for your kids to be able to tell their grandkids about it all!

Reader question: Absolutely love the postcards; I feel like I’m a voyeur to vagabonds! My question: Surely your kids must sometimes tire of this endless travel and wish to go home? I personally find that two weeks of vacationing is ENOUGH!

Tom’s response: The kids are so well-behaved. On today’s trip, for example, we traveled on a very crowded bus for a couple of hours. We had to stand in line for an hour at the terminal. And to get to the subway station from our Airbnb, we had a long walk through the city streets, dragging our luggage.

The kids never complain or drag their feet. But they are tiring of the endless travel. They’d like toys, friends, and some good pizza. 

Reader comment: Hi there, beautiful family! Looking forward to more postcards every day! Please never stop! Did you ever think of continuing a website for stories after your trip ends? I’d gladly pay to read them. God bless you and your beautiful family.

Reader comment: Great compliments to you for your expedition. Your approach is exemplary and shows us how to better know and understand foreign countries and their people, lifestyles, and cultures. Bravo!

Reader question: Fascinated by your observations, Tom – especially now that you’re in China – and would love to know if you’ve formed any solid opinions about why you’re seeing what you’re seeing? 

Tom’s response: I assure you I’ve been thinking about things… from every conceivable angle. But my head just spins. The world financial system is so complicated today. The only thing I’m sure of is, it’s terribly broken.

I’ll expand on this in future posts. But I feel like I’m in a packed house party with no fire escapes. One poorly disposed cigarette butt or a knocked-over candle…

By the way, we love receiving your messages. We find them so encouraging, and we read every one. Please keep ’em coming at [email protected]. And please note I’ll never reveal your identity or include any potentially identifying details.