MOUNTAIN STREAM HOSTEL, YANGSHUO – We watched a speech by Nick Vujicic on YouTube today.
In case you haven’t heard of Nick, he is a famous motivational speaker. He is fantastic… one of our heroes.
The video we watched today was about teasing…
Kate and I are divorced. We spent five years living separate lives with separate partners, passing our three kids back and forth at weekends, like every other divorced couple.
We only saw each other when we collected or dropped off the kids. We only spoke to each other when we needed to make arrangements relating to the kids.
It wasn’t acrimonious, but we weren’t friends.
Then we did something crazy… and impulsive…
We got rid of all our possessions, handed in the keys to our apartments, said goodbye to our friends, and hit the road with our three kids in a small rented van.
We had no plan or itinerary. We didn’t even know how the sleeping arrangements should be. We just threw a tent and some clothes in the back of the van and took off…
That was 18 months ago. We’ve been traveling the world together ever since… living out of a suitcase… staying in cheap hostels… homeschooling our kids… and having the time of our lives. (We ditched the van after 35 days.)
And as for Kate and me?
We’ve fallen in love again. Now we plan to get remarried… and make this a permanent arrangement.
Out of the Matrix
Today is our last day in China. We rented bicycles and pedaled around town. Then we ate a big pile of fried gyoza. Here we are…
Riding around Yangshuo – our last stop in China – on rented bikes
We feel like we’ve completely left the matrix…
I’ve described how our cost of living is much lower than it was in America, how 20 years of work stress has completely evaporated, how the kids are getting an incredible education… and, most of all, how we’ve “found” each other again as a family.
Another big benefit of this lifestyle is how much free time it gives us…
We usually spend the first four or five hours of the day relaxing in our hotel room. I write in my journal, drink Nescafé… and create these postcards.
Kate and the kids do schoolwork. But it’s not like regular school. It’s more like YouTube school.
We watch videos about history, science, geography, stand-up comedy, and cookery, as well as nature documentaries and motivational speeches. Often, we watch these videos together and then discuss them.
Nick Vujicic, the speaker we listened to today, doesn’t have arms or legs. He makes a powerful point about turning weaknesses into strengths. He’s also very funny.
His talk was on bullying and teasing. We discussed it afterwards for half an hour.
Then in the afternoons, we go out for activities and food. Or we hang out in the common area of our hostel, playing games (like yesterday) and talking to other travelers.
In the evening, we’ll let the kids use the phones. Often, Kate and I will go out for an hour on a date.
Then we’ll all go to bed at the same time.
It’s such a difference from the lifestyle we had when we were married, with school, job, chores, to-do lists, shopping, driving around, and social engagements… which sucked up all our time and kept us apart from each other…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. We climbed to the top of a karst formation today too. Here’s Dusty (11)…
Dusty getting a nice view of Yangshuo’s famous karst formations, which look like dragon’s teeth
Readers want to know more about opening up to strangers on the road (how does the Dyson family do it?)… and whether China’s currency is really overvalued, like Tom claimed on Monday. One reader even takes issue with Tom’s description on Monday of the Chinese currency zone as a “plastic tub with no leaks”…
Reader comment: Please tell us more about your interaction with the locals. For instance, the Chinese lady who appeared so happy and appeared to be talking to or at least admiring Penny.
As a logical and careful person, perhaps to a fault, I am slow to talk to strangers as I travel, but it is important and often some of the best parts of the trip, so I could use some lessons.
Tom’s response: Ha! Children are the best icebreakers. We meet far more people as a family than I did when I traveled on my own. People are always talking to us.
Sometimes we are the unfriendly ones because we think they might be trying to scam us or sell us a tour or a taxi ride or something.
However, here in China, there’s a huge language barrier. Most people you come across on a daily basis speak absolutely zero English, including the people on the train you reference.
Google Translate helps. It’s useful mainly for ordering in a restaurant or instructing a taxi driver. It’s not so helpful for more complex conversations.
Reader question: Since you are getting hotel rooms for about $20 a night with three beds, why would you say the Chinese currency is overvalued?
Tom’s response: Great question. Accommodation here costs about the same as in the other cheap countries we’ve been. But everything else is more expensive. I wonder if it’s because of the low rates of apartment occupancy?
Reader comment: Thank you for sharing your travels with us. I enjoy each postcard. You are writing from a very proud communist country and need to protect yourself and your family by limiting criticism. We want you to return home with good memories of where you travel.
Reader comment: I applaud your adventure and am so happy that you are sharing it with us. Maybe other adults will follow your example to connect with family and be adventurers.
Reader comment: Apparently the Chinese government expects the empty high-rises to be filled by all the people from the rural communities. Family farms are not very economical. But they don’t want to leave their villages.
Reader comment: I enjoy your daily postcards. We saw the plentiful construction of the empty concrete apartments 25 years ago. When our tour guide proudly said he owned three units – each without windows, doors, fixtures, etc. – we were dumbfounded.
In subsequent trips, we have again seen, as you are now seeing, the incredible empty buildings. And we’ve seen the ghost cities on the internet.
Reader comment: It’s good that you’re doing the Postcards series from China; every little bit of real reporting from the ground helps. But it’s hard to combat against the overwhelming tide of propaganda.
Unfortunately, even with “boots on the ground,” it’s challenging to make sense of the shifting sands in such a short period of time. Just to cite one example, the depiction of the Chinese currency zone as a “plastic tub with no leaks” is extremely inaccurate, to say the least.
Understandably, your assessments are still influenced by the assumptions you brought along, and these are inevitably highly flavored by the relentless Western anti-Chinese propaganda. And at least in one respect, the Chinese government is complicit in this, because it suits its interests to drastically understate the size of its economy.
Reader comment: Enjoying the postcards. My husband spent several years in Taiwan and has some familiarity with Chinese culture. He said that, historically, the Chinese would buy (and hold) SILVER. If I remember correctly, gold was reserved for the emperor, but regular people would stash silver in case of emergency. Perhaps you should be asking people if they are holding silver.
Tom’s response: Thanks for the suggestion. And as always, please keep writing us at [email protected]. Your messages are an integral part of this project, and Kate and I read every one.