Couple prove age no barrier to globe-trotting

Updated: 2016-07-18 09:41

By Liu Kun in Wuhan and Liang Shuang in Beijing(China Daily)

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A retired Chinese couple have just completed a 19-day driving adventure through the western United States - despite being able to speak almost no English.

Chen Aiwu, 64, a former bus driver, and her 66-year-old husband, Wang Dongsheng, spent just 10,000 yuan ($1,500) on the road trip that covered thousands of kilometers.

To cut costs, they slept in their rented car and ate from a portable rice cooker, which they filled with rice brought from home and free water provided by convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.

"We used to drive to survive. Now, we drive to enjoy life," Chen said after the couple returned to their native Wuhan, Hubei province.

She and her husband have previously driven cross-country to the Tibet autonomous region and through Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Laos. Next year, they plan to drive along the old Silk Road through Central Asia and on to Europe.

"We're not afraid. We're just as adventurous as Westerners," said Chen, who added that her job as a bus driver inured her to long spells behind the wheel.

The couple flew to Los Angeles in June and in almost three weeks drove to Las Vegas and San Fransico, also taking in the Hoover Dam and Yellowstone Park.

Chen said they prepared thoroughly for the trip, which included booking a rental car, and buying SIM cards and a navigation system online in advance after heeding advice from fellow travelers. As neither know more than a handful of English words, they wrote down all the addresses and useful dialogue they might need. Once in the US, they also got by using the Baidu online translator.

"We couldn't understand them, they couldn't understand us," Wang said. "So we had to use hand signals, but this worked out just fine."

Naturally, there were a few bumps in the road.

Chen remembered that two men had to lead them out of the woods after they had wandered more than 60 kilometers off course in the mountains of Arizona. "Americans are quite warmhearted," she added.

The couple are an example of how China's growing population of over-60s (now an estimated 222 million) are changing the way they spend retirement. Instead of the traditional approach of staying at home and helping to raise their grandchildren, many are now grabbing a backpack and heading on overseas adventures. A Beijing couple said they are also fulfilling their dream of touring the world. Wang Zhongjin, 65, said she and her husband have backpacked on all seven continents and are now planning a vacation in Israel.

"Many people at our age would say they have to stay home to help with the grandchildren, or that they wouldn't dare go overseas because they don't speak English. But these are not obstacles," Wang Zhongjin said. "It's whether you have a heart that longs to see the outside world that really matters."

Couple prove age no barrier to globe-trotting

(China Daily USA 07/18/2016 page1)