A Chinese couple, who recently completed an epic 19-day, 4,850-mile driving adventure across the United States, warmed hearts online and became media darlings upon their return home to China.
Retirees Chen Aiwu, 64, and her husband, Wang Dongsheng, 66, spent several months of meticulous planning and preparation before they arrived in Los Angeles in June for their mission to discover America, according to Washington Post.
Upon their arrival back home in China, the couple was welcomed as heroes and was greeted with praises from the media and social media users, and even landing them a profile on state-run media China Daily.
“Couple prove age no barrier to globe-trotting,” the news agency proclaimed on its headline.
“What a great couple!” a user on Weibo was quoted as saying. “I wish I could be like them when I’m old!”
Armed with very little English, a rice cooker and some pickled vegetables, they traveled from city to city learning new things and observing the entirely foreign country that previously felt very distant.
Their road trip saw them drive in a rental car from California to Las Vegas, Yosemite, and Yellowstone before heading back through the same route.
Spending only 10,000 yuan, or $1,500, the couple cut costs by sleeping in their rented car and cooking their own food with rice brought from home and water they asked from fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, reported China Daily.
“We used to drive to survive. Now, we drive to enjoy life,” Chen, a former driver said.
Before the trip, they bought SIM cards and a navigation system, following recommendations from other travelers.
Using Baidu online translation tool, they listed some useful dialogue they thought they might need wrote wrote down all the addresses they wanted to visit. They also depended on the web translator when communicating with strangers got tough.
“We couldn’t understand them, they couldn’t understand us,” Wang said. “So we had to use hand signals, but this worked out just fine.”
Meeting new friends along the way, the couple were amazed of the kindness of the people they encountered.
“Our only regret on the journey was not having the opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ and take a photo with those who helped us. We were afraid we might offend them by asking to take a picture together,” Chen said.
She recalled how two men helped them find their way out of the woods after getting lost in the mountains of Arizona. “Americans are quite warmhearted,” she added.
In 2012, she and her husband also drove cross-country in Tibet and through Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Laos. They also plan to drive along the old Silk Road through Central Asia and on to Europe in the near future.
“We’re not afraid. We’re just as adventurous as Westerners,” said Chen, adding that her previous job as a bus driver trained her for long drives.
Overseas adventures, such as the couple’s trip, are becoming a more popular alternative than the traditional way of staying at home, for China’s increasing population of citizens over 60. Now numbered at an estimated 222 million, the Chinese pensioners are showing a shift in how their retirement are spent.