My journeys always begin the minute I turn the key in the lock of my front door and walk away from my comfort zone.
I've only been to southern China, so this new adventure was viewed with some trepidation. No real pre-conceived ideas.
As the train pulled out of the station to take me to the airport (1 1/2 hours away) I knew I would have time to sit and wonder what was ahead - it's still dark and there is just a hint of mist as we cross the river - the colours are softened by the lingering rains of the past week. I am surrounded by sleeping commuters on their way to work and I am left alone with my thoughts - to re-awaken my travel spirit - to re-align my being - as the name suggests - I am a Distant Traveller and love the thought of another journey.
Today I will not be boarding the plane alone. I have a travel buddy, a friend who is just starting her world adventures and she asked me to come along as her "guide". How could I say no? I organised the entire trip so she just has to turn up at the airport on time - she is excited but nervous - I am glad to be her guide on this trip.
The schedule will take us to Shanghai, Qingdao, Ningbo and Beijing. And I have decided to document the journey - the sights, the sounds and the smells and the emotions.
The mist still hangs low as my thoughts are brought back to the moment - the street lights shine orange against the grey sky. As the rain beats against the window of the train I can see, reflected in the glass, my fellow passengers and my surroundings - I wonder many things - why do people think it's OK to vandalise a train? - pulling into a station I witness the expressionless faces of those waiting to board the train - the slight panic as they search for a seat - this is a journey they are committed to on a daily basis.
And then I am at the airport - my travel buddy has just arrived, we have our boarding passes, we proceed through Immigration and to our gate for departure - we are on the plane, seated, ready for take off. And then after movies and much talking, we are landing at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and are immediately struck by the enormity of the terminal, followed by the efficiency of EVERYTHING.
We are in the taxi line, we are surrounded by noise and lights and we are on our way to the hotel - great position, across the road from People's Park and the Metro (yet to be discovered) as, after check-in and a bag drop we are off to explore - into the night.
Nice to know we don't need to go far for a chocolate fix. Just around the corner from the hotel.
It strikes me, as we wander along the footpaths and tackle the infamous Chinese traffic, that people are staring at us - foreigners in a foreign land - and I realise people are amused by us and as I look around, yes, in a city the size of Shanghai, we are a novelty.