It was May 12th, 2009 and I was about to embark on a round-the-world trip with my first stop being Beijing, China. As I was going through security I turned around to wave good bye one last time to my family. I noticed my brother in the distance crying and at that point I broke down inside. For a minute, I thought I was making a huge mistake. I was nervous and scared. I wanted to turn around and not go. I had been planning this trip for so long time and here I was. I stayed on the line and held in my emotions the best that I could.
I was an ambitious backpacker ready to take on any challenge, but I quickly realize I was really unprepared. I had directions printed out to the hostel to take public transportation out of the airport. It was around 4am in Beijing and buses were not running yet because it was too early. I had to wait a few hours for the buses to start, but the directions I printed were unclear which bus to take. There were a couple buses I thought that maybe would take me where I ended to go but even if I knew the bus, I didn’t know when to stop.A man came up to me and asked if I wanted a taxi. I pretended to act cool and said no thanks. I realized though I had no idea what I was doing. He goes on to say 500 RMB to take me downtown. I learned from my research to bargain down so I thought I’d try 200 RMB. He says 300RMB and then I said yes. Being the idiot that I was, I had not bothered to convert that before entering the taxi. I later realized it was a $50 taxi ride which is a huge markup simply because I’m a stupid tourist that didn’t do enough research.
I got into the black taxi and gave him the address. He had no idea where it was but he was familiar with the temple that it was close by. I was calm during the ride confident that I’d find my way somehow, but my calmness didn’t last long once I arrived. The taxi driver had no idea where the hostel was and decides to drop me off at the temple to figure out where the hostel was on my own. There was an issue where he didn’t have enough change so I lost even more money, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I walked out.
I walked around the block a few times trying to figure out where I was according the map I had printed out. Nothing made sense. I began thinking I may have to sleep out in the streets that night (it was only 6am). I was exhausted, tired, and jet-lagged which mean I was not in the right state of mind. I had just arrived and I was already lost.
A few hours later stores finally began to open and I asked for directions. While no one spoke English anymore, I eventually found someone that was able to point me in the right direction by pointing to the street I needed to be on. The hostel was down a short narrow road that I would never found on my own. I checked in and immediately slept for a few hours before starting my day. Once I woke up, I felt relaxed once again and quickly got use to my new life out on the road. I’ll never forget saying goodbye to my family for the first time and how unprepared I was for my trip.