The ability to travel and explore new places is one of the greatest privileges a person can have.
There’s no better way to learn about yourself than by stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a world of unfamiliarity that fills you with curiosity. Only when we take leaps such as this, do we gain a better understanding of the people who share this planet and may have very similar and not so similar experiences in life.
In 2015 I made the decision to leave my full time job and move to China for a year to teach English in a private training centre. I was relatively laid back about the whole thing until it got to a couple of days before my flight to Shanghai. I had gone through the whole process of getting a work visa, packing up and storing my belongings, saying goodbye to my family, friends and colleagues but when I sat down to one of my last meals in Scotland, I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was about to do.
It’s been almost three years since I returned from my year in China and I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I ever did. The city I called home for those 365 days was Nantong and it has a population of around 7 million. Located in the Jiangsu province about an hour and a half north east of Shanghai, it’s a city with very few foreigners like myself and most locals do not speak English. I felt challenged in ways I had never been before and went through terrible periods of homesickness and self doubt but in the end, it was all worth it. The Chinese people I met and worked with were extremely welcoming and taught me many things about their culture surrounding food, family relationships, work ethic and beauty ideals.
For anyone who is curious about visiting China or other Asian countries, I completely understand that it can feel daunting. However, as this world gets smaller and it becomes easier to reach destinations further afield, it only makes sense that we broaden our horizons and immerse ourselves in different cultures. There’s ways of doing so without settling for a backpackers budget or remortgaging your house.
Enter Wendy Wu Tours, a specialist tour company who strive to create tour packages that incorporate authenticity across Asia and South America. With Barrhead Travel recording a 20% increase in the number of Scots travelling to Asia in 2018, the two companies have joined forces to promote and deliver the perfect holiday in Asia. Having announced their new 4-star Victoria Mekong river cruises for 2020, bookings are now being taken for both the three night and four night itineraries between Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.
A couple of weeks ago I actually got the chance to sit down to lunch with Founder and Chairwoman, Wendy Wu herself in Edinburgh’s Chaopraya.
Born in Tibet to Chinese parents, Wendy Wu actually created her own business by accident. ‘I had arranged a four-week trip to show my partner the wonders of China but when he had to pull out for work reasons I put a small ad in a paper advertising his space and ended up getting 16 responses. That was over 20 years ago’ says Wendy.
From then Wendy has carefully handcrafted tours that involve authentic experiences such as eating a meal with local families and stopping by the fishing villages along the Mekong river. Now with Scottish Partner, Barrhead Travel Wendy hopes to reach and encourage even more of us Scots to take the leap and explore Asia either for the very first or 10th time.
Having had my own experience of living in and exploring China, I would thoroughly recommend giving this fascinating country a chance.
After all, your comfort zone is fine but why settle for fine when you can have amazing?
A Mekong Experience 14 days April 2020 features Saigon, Phnom Penh, Temples of Angkor, Victoria Mekong Cruise.
Contact Barrhead Travel
0330 094 0332