The People You See When You Drive

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The only problem with mass public transit is the immediacy of arrival. Although I find trains romantic, planes quick and comfortable, buses affordable, you do see a lot more when you travel by car.

Such was Jon Faine’s experience on his road trip. He and his son, Jack, made a six-month-long journey from Melbourne to London, allowing them to encounter unique experiences on the roads less traveled. In an edited excerpt from his upcoming book in the The Sydney Morning Herald, he explains an up-close look at the difficulties in China. One of them was just getting in:

I tell Jack to sit up in his seat, to turn off the music, to take his feet off the dashboard and put his shoes on. I am nervous and half expecting to be told to go away. Several travellers have warned us about Chinese border checks, seizure of guidebooks and laptops, satellite phones being confiscated and eternal searches for contraband or politically sensitive materials. I am prepared for an argument, determined not to lose any of our gear.

A foreigner driving through Chinese borders is not common practice and usually discouraged by most travel guides. Still, Faine found a way in via a tip by a local guide: China caters to groups from Europe traveling east to west. Faine threw them for a loophole: “I cheekily suggested that we could be a group if that was required – a group of one. The reply came through that my joke satisfied the bureaucrats.”

If he did not do that, he and his son would not have had the experience of driving through jungle brush, twisting through traffic blockades, and feasting like kings in the land of emperors. They would not have met a little girl, eyes wide and blind. The mother said that she adopted the little girl because she had been abandoned. The mother began to cry and explain that the girl was losing her sight and will permanently lose it because they cannot afford to fix it.

After doing what they could, Jon and Jack guiltily drove away, tears streaming. They were “the luckiest of the luckiest” but that didn’t help her.

I don’t think they should feel guilty. I feel lucky to heave read this and know that people’s hearts are still affected. Perhaps he would not have been so affected if he took the plane.

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog,

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