- My first days in 上海 Shanghai -
In September 2015 I spent four days alone in Shanghai before starting university. It was a revitalising experience and it took me a long time to gather all my thoughts and put them into words. I started this post in September, but I never finished and I've postponed it since so here we go.
After rather emotional farewelll with my parents at the airport in Oslo, a cancelled flight in London, a layover in Amsterdam, a 14-hours long flight journey and an acute feeling of homesickness, I finally touched ground in Shanghai. And what better way to be greeted at the airport in a far foreign country where no one spoke English, than by two Chinese taxi drivers literally fist-fighting each other over who could rip me off the most. Ironically, both were illegal black cabs that I had just read about before in an article "Top 5 Biggest Tourist Scams in China". So obviously I didn't go with neither of them, which saved me 500RMB and the potential scenario of ending up in someone's back truck.
Warm, exhausted and jet-lagged, I couldn't wait to arrive at Kingtown Riverside Hotel - my home for the next four days. It had merely gone ten hours since I landed but yet I'd been heavily struck by culture shock. I spent the first night in bed recovering from all of the new impressions and the water poison, while simultaneously crying out of loneliness in-between. With no functional sim-card, a lagging Wi-Fi and no VPN, I had discovered the recipe to complete isolation. But since I have an appetite that needs to be fed every second hour, I was eventually forced out of bed and into the wilderness: the street food markets. I'm not gonna lie, Shanghai was so far out of my comfort zone that I have ever been in my life. To the extent that buying my first meal out was so nerve-wracking in terms of communication that I just pointed at something randomly and hoped for the best.
The next days got better though. I was slowly familiarising myself with the environment around me. The sound of shouting street vendors, the non-stop car honking, the spitting... Mmm, like music to my ears by now. Jokes. But I slowly learnt to enjoy the crazy new experiences, and being in my own company. I got confident enough to take the metro around the city and see different places. I even approached another solo-traveller from South Korea that was my age, and we spent a whole day together being tourists and eating good food. Thanks to her I went places I wouldn't have gone otherwise!
My first time Shanghai was much more than just another travel. It was four days filled with new perspectives, new cultures and experiences, and the start of a new beginning. But it was also the moment I could finally say I had accomplished one of my biggest dreams that I've worked so hard for! And although leaving everyone and everything to move across the world by myself hasn't always been easy, I know it will be worth it. So let the adventures begin!