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Blue skies, the freshest air, mountains, rivers and lakes around the corner – and even the Pacific Ocean only being a 1.5 hours car-ride away. Doesn´t this sound like pure relaxation and summer vacation? The sun is out every single day since we have arrived in Portland, Oregon four weeks ago. It warms up the air, but there is almost no humidity, no melting away when only leaving the apartment.
What seems to be the perfectly planned vacation, is in fact just so much more than that.
It´s these tiny differences, which now feel huge, especially when you are flying out of Shanghai in the middle of the hot and humid summer months. We landed in the absolute perfect conditions to explore Portland and its surroundings. We paid a first visit to the Oregon Coast, went for wine tasting in the Willamette Wine Valley and camping around Mount Hood National Forest on the weekends and explored the urban city vibes during the weeks. Microbreweries, graffiti, street festivals, there is so much to explore. What sounds like a perfectly planned vacation and a lovely break from the bustling city life in Shanghai, is in fact something much bigger!
Packing it all up & ‘bureaucrazy’ once again – We are leaving Shanghai for good
Packing it all up again, organizing a hell lot of things, endless „bureaucrazy“ involved and once more a one-way-ticket being purchased. After 1.5 years living in the bustling city center of Shanghai, we left the 25 million people metropolis and moved on. Smile4TravelinWentWest and we will take all the beautiful memories, crazy experiences and learnings for a lifetime with us. Shanghai has been intense, maybe the most extreme part of our life so far. Not only living far away from family and friends, trying to beat time-zones to stay in contact as well as releasing ourselves into a totally different country, culture and way of living.
Of contrasts, curiosities and memorable Encounters
Extreme seasons and air-quality, density of buildings and people, sounds and scents, food, language, currency – everything was completely different to what we were used to. Shanghai has been a big adventure in all kinds of living, working, travelling. We learned how to talk to people without speaking their language, we lived in a Chinese community in the middle of Shanghai´s Former French Concession, enjoyed the simplicity and the complexity of the locals´ daily way of life. We travelled the country in highspeed trains, visited traditional temples, hunted for Buddhas and marveled at impressive ultra-modern architecture. We hiked surreal landscapes like the Avatar and Yellow Mountains and even climbed the Great Wall of China – one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’. We flew our drone above tea plantations and Shanghai´s rooftops. We tried weirdly smelling and tasting food and loved slurping hot noodle soup and Xiaolongbao. We survived biking around town in crazy traffic and crossing green(!) traffic lights. We gazed and adored the elderly Chinese for their daily morning exercise, Tai Chi and dancing in the park at night, while always taking the ‘bad air quality’ for a good excuse to not work out too much ourselves. We made new friends and memorable encounters, where we sometimes even found ourselves in tapering, skin-softening and eye-opening photo apps. We learned what it feels like to be a foreigner, yet never to be alone, while still discovering ways to beat the crowds. I couldactually list a hundred more things, which made our time in Shanghai really special. Fact is we loved the Chinese for their cuteness, friendliness and inventiveness, but also sometimes ‘hated’ them for their noise and ruthlessness and especially for spitting right in front of my feet. It´s been an intense time, full of adventures, new discoveries and contrasts.
Of endless opportunities and the meaningfulness of little Things
Shanghai gave us the opportunity to discover a country which hasn´t been on the very top of our travelling bucket-list and still isn´t for many foreigners neither. We discovered beautiful landscapes, mystical places, rural villages as well as vibrant megacities and had the chance to explore other Asian countries just in front of our doorsteps. And in 1.5 years I think we took almost all these chances that opened up for us. So of course there is some regret now, when thinking of leaving Shanghai behind. For sure we will miss the craziness and weirdness of China, which always made living there so interesting, often also very convenient and sometimes really challenging. I will definitely miss a lot of the small things like grabbing food at every corner, having all the choices from extremely cheap to freaking expensive, watching the elderly couples dance in the park every night and the smile of our Chinese neighbor.
Back to ‚normal‘
But at the same time our move to North America feels like getting back to a life, which you could probably call a bit more ‘normal’ compared to what we are used to, or ordinary – but in a very positive way – besides all the different kind of craziness of course we’ll get to experience in the US – and the iconic ‘weirdness’ of Portland specifically. We appreciate to breath and inhale the fresh and clean air and enjoy the luxury to live in ‘the land of the free’. Which doesn´t only mean that we will drive our own car and enjoy pure nature by walking on lonesome paths again. It also means to cross the streets without being monitored by a dozen cameras or getting easily runover by a silent e-scooter. It means to use Google, WhatsApp, Instagram etc. without the need to switch on any VPN-client. It also means being able to communicate with people properly and understand what they are really saying, while being sure to be understood with your questions and receiving an answer in a language you are capable of.
Life between past and future in a country full of contrasts
In Shanghai we kind of lived in past and future at the same time. Not only that we’ve been 6 or 7 hours ahead of family and friends back home due to time zone differences. We could see the cityscape changing every single day. Traditional housing communities getting torn down to build up modern high-rising building-complexes made us realize in what a fast growing and innovative country we are located. The use of mobile phones and digital services felt very much ahead of everything we´ve been used to before in Germany or other countries we had travelled to. In China we paid everything with our mobile phone: From the freshly steamed dumplings we bought at a street stand to our dinner in a restaurant, shopping at the supermarket to the utility-bills for our apartment. Now we really need to get used to paper money and credit cards again. Language difficulties were solved with mobile apps and translators everybody used. Delivery services, Didi (the Chinese Uber), rental bikes and a smoothly running subway-system, as well as very efficient highspeed trains made our daily life so convenient. At the same time we saw many people still living a very simple and poor life, in run-down houses without proper washing facilities or even toilets. There were live chicken, ducks and other animals delivered and slaughtered in the middle of our backyard daily, before being hung up to dry between the laundry. Shanghai´s contrasts always have been the most interesting part for us – like ‘the icing on top of our moon-cake’ 😉
After being in Portland for four weeks now, it still feels unreal. Also due to a 15hrs plane-ride, which actually makes you travel ‘back to the future’, as you will touchdown earlier at your destination than you had initially boarded the flight – thanks to the massive time-difference. We arrived with only 2 suitcases packed with summer and some outdoor clothes. We will be staying in a serviced apartment for the next couple of weeks, while waiting for our container to arrive and looking for a new home definitely being up on top of our priority list. Next to the mandatory organizational stuff like opening a bank account, getting a mobile number, signing up for health insurance, finding a Yoga studio, the closest supermarket, bakery or hairdresser. All these things we already went through about 1.5 years ago. Our evenings and weekends will be dominated by driving around different neighborhoods to get orientated, explore our new homebase and hopefully identify the area we want to live in. So not everything what seems to be a vacation actually is one. There is a lot of stuff to organize and things to settle. But we are looking forward to our new adventure and the changes this next chapter of our life abroad brings along with it. There will for sure be new curiosities, which we will need to get used to, new discoveries and new stories to tell. So stay tuned for the latest adventures of „Smile4TravelinAmerica“ and don´t you worry: Not all my Chinese stories are fully told yet, so there will still be content coming up on my Instagram, Facebook and blog, paired with our new discoveries in Portland and surroundings.
QUESTIONS & COMMENTS?
Have you ever lived abroad and know how it feels to move from one side of the world to the other? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!
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