This edition of ‘A world of inspiration‘ is a beautiful travel story by Nellie Huang. Nellie is a freelance travel writer who shares her travel tales via her blog, Wild Junket, and numerous other publications. Nellie’s narrative of a chance encounter on a bus in San Francisco eloquently captures the essence of what travel is all about.

A Familiar Face in a Foreign Land

Sitting in an empty bus, staring out onto the unfamiliar streets of San Francisco, I was lost, literally lost. I had no clue where I was, and what I was doing in this foreign land alone. Craving for some companionship on my first solo trip, I looked around for someone who would return a smile.

Lost in the city.

An old Chinese lady sat down next to me, but didn’t smile or look at me. I was invisible to her, and to everyone else. It was then that I realized maybe it was time to leave, time to go back to where I belong. Looking around, I noticed that I might be on the wrong bus, and so politely asked the old lady beside me if we were nearing Fishermen’s Wharf.

She shook her head and waved her hands, saying that she didn’t speak any English. With Mandarin as my second mother tongue, I had no qualms about speaking her language and she quickly warmed up to me. Initial resistance had faded into warmth and friendliness. I smiled and answered her questions, fulfilling her curiosity – where are you from? Why are you alone? Where are you going?

Bus in San Francisco.

On the long bus journey, we delved into an engaging conversation where I wandered precariously into her life. The lady had escaped to America all the way from China about fifty years ago, during the war when she had no other choice but to run. She talked about the days on the boat, with no food and warm clothes, risking getting caught at any moment. She was a nurse, and after surviving the journey, she fell in love with a man who became her husband, and they sought refuge here in San Francisco. Her life was hard but fulfilling. She never learned English; she didn’t have to, she was surrounded by fellow Chinese in her home at Chinatown. Her son is now an engineer, whom she thought, would be a perfect match for me.

Chinatown in San Francisco

Laughing innocently at her offer, I was taken aback when she grabbed my hand and pushed the bus bell. She had the strength of a bull, and within minutes, we had gotten off the bus, and were standing right along the streets of Chinatown. ‘But I was heading to Fishermen’s Wharf…’, I mumbled. She said there was plenty of time, and she wanted to buy me some of the best dimsum in Chinatown. I followed behind her, as we pushed through the crowd amidst the oriental stalls and chaotic market. It felt like home all of a sudden, and the old lady had become like a mother to me.

Meeting her had awakened that urge in me; that urge to uncover intriguing people and places. She probably didn’t know the impact she made; inspiring me with her zest for life and making me feel warmth in an otherwise strange land. Many people ask me what travelling is about – I’d say, it’s about the people you meet and the experiences you gain. That itself is priceless.

About this week’s guest writer
Nellie Huang is an atypical Asian, who journeys around the world in search of heaven. She finds one too many of it, and has been drunk and dizzy since then, in her love affair with travel. She is a worshipper of the sun, wild adventures, and new discoveries. As a teacher with compassion, she has taught in Spain and Tanzania and lived in Miami and London. Now based in Singapore, she is a freelance travel writer and translator, and continues exploring her thirst for the unknown.

Read more about Nellie’s travels on Wild Junket.

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