The long way home

Updated: 2013-07-23 10:13

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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The long way home

Photos Provided to China Daily

She met a cycling team in Yicheng, Hubei province. The uncles and aunties brought her meals, gave her herbal teas, and accompanied her to the outskirts of the city.

"I felt a strong sense of belonging when I suddenly met so many similar people in a strange place," Liao says. "After that, I received their text messages, with concerns about my safety, every night."

Liao says the strangers' caring gave her lots of motivation.

The long way home

To make sure she could find a hotel in a city or town around 6 pm, Liao planned her daily route and destination every morning with the GPS software in her smart phone. Receiving their daughter's calls and locations every day, the parents hadn't been concerned until they learned she was all alone at the end of the sixth day, when she arrived at Xiangyang at midnight.

"We were so worried about her," says her father, Liao Qiujing, who drove more than 700 km the next day, hoping to bring his daughter back.

"I didn't tell her I was coming, but tried to convince her that she had already gone through the adversities and fulfilled her target. But she insisted there was no room for discussion and she would keep going," he says.

The daughter agreed to make more contact with her father, and he deliberately kept himself a certain distance behind and found a place to catch up again at the end of each day.

"The child wanted to taste hardships, so we should support her. In this way, we can also feel rest assured," the father says. "If I followed by her side, she could have missed lots of experiences."

Many Chinese parents keep their children away from social experiences because of safety concerns. But Liao Qiujing, who is a teacher, says that parents should allow their children to experience more instead of protecting them completely.

"Sometimes the gains come in proportion to the risks, and we should allow them some space to create and explore."

The elder Liao admits his daughter surprised him with her perseverance - that she didn't give up midway.

The father and daughter urge any youngsters who want to imitate Liao's cycling to be rational and well-prepared before setting off.

"Some people told me they want to try the Sichuan-Tibet route, which is far more difficult. Some said they already bought a bike," says the daughter. "Maybe my journey looks quite smooth from the photos I posted on the Internet, but there were many hardships and potential dangers.

"I had prepared for eight whole days, and imagined various dangerous situations. I was also lucky that when my tire blew out at the foot of the Qinling Mountains, I found a repair shop at hand, and I didn't meet one bad guy," she says. "So remember to be fully prepared and find other people to ride with if you are without riding experience."

The long way home

The long way home

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