How I Choose to Experience China

Written by Tim Foley, Program Manager

May 2013–It’s my first time back in China since a semester abroad in 2010. I’ve been back for one week and I’ve already spent more time in the mountains north of Beijing than I have in the city. Three days after I land, I’m hiking up to HuangCaoLiang and the Seven Towers, inspecting the trail before we take a group of 20 high-schoolers out on a trek. We’re hiking along the ridges and breathtaking peaks just two hours outside Beijing. This is how I want to experience China.


Taking It All In

We spent the first night at a guesthouse in CuanDiXia village. Before it got dark, I had a chance to wander around the mountainside village, see the community beehives, talk to the locals, and appreciate the fact that not only have I made it back to China, but I’ve already gotten to see a brand new side of this country.

Over the next few days, I trekked through landscapes that sometimes looked like postcards from the Alps, rolling Irish hills, or a scene from Lord of the Rings. Each time I’ve done this hike, I’ve walked through a different palette of flowers in bloom. The feeling of finally making it to the top of a tough climb and taking in the scene is one I will never forget, and one I will always associate with China.

Huangcaoliang Beijing

Photo credit: Tim Foley


Sharing My Experience With Others

Bringing a group of high-schoolers out into the mountains is an even more rewarding experience. Some of these kids have lived in Beijing for most of their lives, and are totally surprised by what they find. Aside from a few crowded, noisy trips to the most popular Great Wall sites, they have no notion of natural China so close to home. Some students start the trip anxious, and a little scared at the thought of sleeping in a tent, carrying all their food, water, and gear up and down mountains. There’s nothing better than watching the whole group supporting each other, seeing the looks on their faces after each victory.

This is how I choose to experience China.

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