The Road Too-Traveled

It’s almost National Day holiday in China. That means wacky vacation schedules (it’s not too bad this year, though) and tons of Chinese people traveling. Those of us that have tried traveling within China during the holiday tend not to repeat it too many times (or at least not to really popular tourist destinations).

This year my wife and I are going to make a trip out to Chengdu. Should be fun (as long as the crowds aren’t too overwhelming). We’re going to try time-shifting our holiday a bit (leaving early and coming back in the middle of the holiday) to offset the holiday rush. We’ll see if that works!

Recently I saw this advertisement, which I assume was timed to appeal to would-be National Day travelers:


The text reads:

> 没有起点 没有终点 路线你定!租!

> There is no starting line. There is no finish line. You set the route! Rent!

Of course, the first thing that went through my mind when I saw that ad was, “you’re never going to find a road like that in China.” It’s not that the “open road” doesn’t exist at all; they’re just way too remote for the average driver setting out for Shanghai, that’s for sure. A Chinese “road trip” tends to feel more like driving in the city than like the “open road.” I’ve been on a few road trips in China, and I can now appreciate why the road trip is a great American tradition and not a Chinese tradition.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Took a “busy season” holiday in Chengdu a few years ago. I think you’ll find it surprisingly pleasant 🙂

  2. A study in concentration, John. I have quite often been in this situation of wanting a photo but being unable to avoid a picture of myself because of the reflection.
    I have also tried to explain road trips to Chinese people without much success.

  3. David Sprenger Says: September 21, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    As far as I know the concept of roadtrips is also not really wide spread in Europe. Although driving long distances is definitely different from driving through cities, it will never ever be that empty on a motorway. Such long distances are usually only covered by car to go on holidays with the families….but in those cases I don’t think there is an overall sentimental concept behind it. It’s just considered a cheap but tiring method of getting to your destination (not really a matter of the jorney being the goal).

  4. Great roadtrips in Xinjiang!

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