Preparing to Travel to China

Next week, my brother Tony and I will depart for China. This will be the first trip either of us are taking to Asia. We have each been to Europe – I was there in 2000 on a study abroad program in Spain (with side visits to London & Paris) and he has gone on two separate trips to Amsterdam and Ireland with various friends. In 2004, the two of us went to Europe together for four weeks – traveling to France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. That was actually my brother’s first trip to Europe (and my last one). It must have given him the worldwide travel bug.

But China is a different world. First, it’s half way around the world and it is one of the oldest and most prestigious civilizations in the world. It’s also a radically different language and culture. And, from San Francisco (where we will depart from), it’s a 13-hour flight!

What prompted our interest in China? A few things. First, my brother moved to San Francisco as a sports writer with the Associated Press (yea, a dream job if you ask me – but he swears it’s hard work). I believe he began his work out there in January 2011. Since being there, he is now just one direct flight away from many different hot spots in Asia. As mentioned previously, we’ve also both been to Europe and are interested in seeing a new area of the world.

Around the same time my brother was moving to California, I made a new friend who was already living in China. One of my friends (and former JMI interns), Alex “Swiss” Hochreutener, introduced me to his friend Gianni Breuer, who was raised in North Palm Beach, FL. As I got to talking to Gianni, he told me he had been living in Beijing for the past six months, working in the import/export industry since he had graduated from the University of Richmond earlier that year. I was intrigued and asked if I could interview him about his experiences for a blog post for The James Madison Institute. He agreed and in fact already had plans to visit our mutual friend “Swiss” here in Tallahassee just two weeks later (January 2011).

I ended up interviewing Gianni on my birthday over lunch at Chipotle. I was fascinated and intrigued and turned what was supposed to be a blog post into a lengthy interview article titled, “Interview with a Floridian…Living and Working in China.” We published that article on The James Madison Institute’s website. I encourage you to read it if you have a few minutes.

Almost a year later, I introduced my brother Tony to Gianni while they were both in South Florida during the Christmas holidays. Gianni told us more about China – he had since moved to Shanghai for a job with Honeywell. He invited us both to come visit him in China. With Tony being in San Francisco – just a direct flight away from either Shanghai or Beijing – he was ready to go then! I needed a little time. And time it has been.

This past December Tony and I decided we would indeed carve out some time this summer to go to China. Around that same time while Gianni was in South Florida again for the Christmas holidays, I met up with him to discuss specifics. He has given us a lot of inside information to which we are very grateful – including the suggestion to add the city of Guilin to our trip (in addition to visiting Shanghai and Beijing). Gianni has now been living in China nearly three years, and almost two years in Shanghai. He has even been so kind as to invite us to stay with him during our first four nights in China – during the time we are in Shanghai. I think it will be nice to have a familiar face to show us the ropes during our first days ever in China and Asia.

I will post a little bit more about our general itinerary and some sights we plan to see in my next post. And of course updates from China either during or right after our trip. Stay tuned!

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