Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT
Happy New Year! Wait, didn't that just happen? Well, lucky for all of us expats in China, we get to celebrate the holiday again with Chinese New Year, which comes with an extended holiday.
The first question one asks is, "What do I do with all this paid time off?" In true Chinese fashion, some expats use this time to go home and visit family. However, times are changing. With the high cost and high stress of returning home growing each year, I think it is time to make some changes to the usual holiday plans.
I decided to return home for Chinese New Year, but this will more than likely be the first and last time for a while. I bought my ticket three months ago, and it was still over $1,000 to fly back. I also spent a ton of money buying gifts for friends and family, and I have to split my time between my mom and dad, which means I am literally flying across the world and then from one side of the US to the other in 10 short days.
I may be spending more time on a plane than on the ground! Seems to me this trip is going to be a lot more like work than a vacation.
When I overheard what some of my fellow expats were doing for Chinese New Year, it got me thinking. Many of my expat friends, who have been living in Beijing for years, think the time is better spent traveling and exploring Asia and surrounding countries.
I watched jealously as my two closest friends set off on their vacation to India and as my roommate packed her swimsuit and beach towels for Thailand. If you are going to tackle one of the busiest traveling seasons, why not go somewhere new and have an adventure?
Large groups of expats have also decided to stay put. I have heard the unbelievable tales of empty streets and roomy subway rides during the weeklong holiday. Just because the majority of the population has hit the road, sky or sea, doesn't mean that there isn't a plethora of fun and exciting events going on right here in Beijing.
Taking some time to experience some of the local culture and activities associated with the holiday is an experience that can only help you better integrate into the community. Plus, who doesn't like setting off firecrackers!
If you are staying in the city, take advantage of the sure to be wide-open spaces and check out a part of town you have never visited. Go to an art gallery in the 798 Art Zone, or use the time to finally tackle your mounting laundry or rearrange your apartment. Sometimes it is just nice to relax and recharge doing absolutely nothing. Post in your WeChat groups to see if any other expats are staying in the city and plan a KTV night where no one ever has to leave!
I am excited to see my family, but I think that next year I will do something different. Who knows, maybe I can even convince my family to come visit me.
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.