Misadventures in Travel: China Edition

My “gym” for the afternoon here in Beijing – the cars made things interesting.

I have to apologize for the complete lack of updates this week – I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off over here in China.  Thanks to a few very late nights, an overnight train ride, some technological fails, and hours upon hours spent wandering around wondering where the hell I am and what the hell I’m doing, things have been slightly hectic.

Not that this is anything new.

Yes, I decided to devote the majority of my remaining days abroad in China, though I’m trying to squeeze in a few days in Japan at the end.  I figured if I was going to have to drop 200 bucks on a Chinese visa regardless, I better use it, right?

I knew it’d be difficult to get around China because I don’t speak the language (or have a map, or a guide book, or  any semblance of a plan, common sense, or strong directional skills, etc), but I didn’t realize just how challenging it would be sometimes.  In many other countries if you don’t speak the language you can usually at least make out the meaning by reading the word and making an educated guess.  Thailand was relatively difficult, but there was English writing almost everywhere along with Thai (especially in the touristy southern islands like Koh Phi Phi , which could have been a Caribbean island it was so westernized), plus my 30 minutes of a Thai language mastery podcast allowed me to become completely fluent (not).

Here in China however, you only get the English version of a word on a few street signs and menus, but not in many places. This means I’m often just absolutely lost and have no clue what’s going on.  Unfortunately, these moments of “I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m supposed to do” generally coincide with me lugging around my big backpack and my small backpack (AKA my life and my business).  I’d imagine they weigh no more than 30 pounds combined, but after two hours in the sun they start to get heavy.  If I can find free wifi (which is a complete crapshoot), I can usually Google something on my iPhone, take a screen capture of the street name, and then wander around until I find a sign where the Chinese characters look like the ones on my phone.

It’s almost like one of those educational games from grade school where you have to match up the ancient hieroglyphics in order to solve the mystery.  Which reminds me of that game…Crypto-Quest or something like that?  Where the thief always stole precious Faberge eggs?  Anyone? Bueler?

With that being said, I’m having a blast! Today I explored Beijing’s Forbidden Palace and Tienamen Square, and tomorrow I’m off to do a 3-hour hike on the Great Wall of China (I hear it’s kind of a big deal).  Big shout out to Richard R., a fellow masshole but 15-year Chinese resident for yesterday – he helped me figure out Beijing and really made me feel welcome – thanks man, go Bruins!

Thank You Kindle

Whenever I get caught in a difficult situation, my Amazon Kindle has always come through for me. Just last week in Bangkok I used the free 3G on my Kindle to look up critical information to complete my Chinese Visa form.  I’ve used it to look up street names in Bangkok when I was lost, find hotels when I arrive into a new location at 2AM, etc.  Here’s the best one: While RUNNING to my gate to get on the plane to Singapore last month, I had to prove that I had a flight OUT of Singapore before they’d let me board – with no physical proof I pulled up my itinerary on my Kindle, BAM!  “Welcome aboard, sir!”

“Thank you maam!”

So the Amazon Kindle with the worldwide 3G has saved my ass on numerous occasions. It’s also provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment and education, as I’ve cranked through probably 20 books in the past three months on this trip.  Lots of waiting, lots of long bus rides….lots of reading.

Which brings me to why there’s been no update this week.

Reading Machine

Last week, I downloaded Gary Taubes’ Why We Got Fat. I’m a big fan of Gary’s previous book Good Calories, Bad Calories, but found it to be WAY too dense and thick for me to fully enjoy/understand all of it.  However, Why We Got Fat was described to me as “Good Calories, Bad Calories for normal people.”

Hey, I’m kind of normal!

I breezed through this book in about a day and a half – I just couldn’t stop reading. My plan was to do a review on the book this week along with a greater overall look at our diets, but I wanted to make sure I did my best to critically approach the article from all sides.   This lead me down a wormhole of rebuttals, retorts, pages of analysis, debates, and hours spent sifting through hundreds of comments and webpages.

I can honestly say that I’ve easily spent fifteen hours doing research outside of reading Why We Got Fat since last Thursday, and I’m still not done.  To get all sides, I’m currently reading The China Study, as well as The Vegetarian Myth, along with substantial critical reviews of both (like this blogger’s fascinating analysis of The China Study, the author’s rebuttal, and then blogger’s rebuttal…along with the 500+ comments in each article took up about six hours of my time in the Hong Kong airport).

I have 4,000 words written on our diets and Why We Got Fat, and I was was going to post it today after I finished exploring Beijing. However, I sat down to start pulling some quotes and research from the book on my Kindle, I couldn’t get the darn thing to work!  Ruh roh. After reading every “kindle-help” website on the net and trying many different hard resets, I actually gave up and started trying to figure out what I was going to do for entertainment on my six hours of bus rides to and from the Great Wall tomorrow.  Then out of the blue, it started working again.  WOOO!

However, it’s now two AM, I have to be up very early for my hike, and the diet post deserves my undivided attention; I’m going to hold off until I can do it right.

I feel naked

“I like to hold the microphone cord like this, I pinch it together, then I let it go, then you hear a whole bunch of jokes at once.” – Mitch Hedberg

Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and many other sites are blocked here in China. Gmail only kind of works half of the time.  I feel so disconnected from the world currently as I’m used to constantly posting Twitter updates, connecting with rebels on Facebook, and watching stupid videos on YouTube when I should be doing something productive (one of the great pastimes of our generation).  Now that I can’t do ANY of that stuff, I feel like I have all of these cool little updates that I don’t get to say on time.

So, here’s a quick look back over the past 48-hours in “what would have been Steve’s tweets:”

  • Wow China is awesome!
  • Wow I have no clue where I am!
  • I’m getting really good at foreign subway systems.
  • I just ordered chicken and even did the proper chicken signal (GOB’s dance from Arrested Development),
  • (20 min later) – I ended up with something that definitely isn’t chicken.
  • I wish I was in Boston right now to watch this Bruins game!
  • Hey Red Sox are above .500!
  • Forbidden Palace: awesome.
  • This is like a really big version of a small Chinatown.

And so on. It’ll have to be the same way with my epic quest photos, I’m just behind and only getting more behind as the days go on.  I haven’t updated my pictures since Australia (which seems like four years ago).  I promise all of these updates are coming, I’m just running on fumes at this point and probably won’t get to it until I’m back stateside.

Google and Exercise

Just under two weeks until I give my talk at Google! Because this is my first presentation of any kind since college, and apparently many people have heard of this Google, I’m doing my darndest to make you proud and represent for the healthy nerds!  I won’t let you down.

I am proud to say that despite the crazy travel and work, which has certainly taken its toll after four months on the road, I’ve managed to follow my workout routine (the Road Warrior workout part of the Rebel Strength Guide) for the entirety of my trip. I’ve only had to push back a few workouts due to various travel circumstances, but never by more than a day or two.

So, it turns out this whole “consistent exercise” thing actually works. I’ve managed to pack on somewhere between 6-10 pounds of muscle (can’t tell because I don’t have calipers with me) and have made incredible gains in my strength in the past three months.  I can now do 7 handstand push ups in a row and 20+ chin ups in a row.  I’m also dangerously close to cranking out sets of one-legged squats, and I’ve begun work on 0ne-handed push ups, planches, and front levers (up to level 2 for both on this progression).

It’s been awesome to see steady, consistent progress as this trip has gone on, and it’s been great to use my workouts as a “constant” when everything else in my life changes drastically almost every day.  I’ll be doing a full write up on travel and exercise in the near future.  If you bought the deluxe version of the Rebel Strength Guide, sorry I haven’t updated my travel workout log yet!  I promise I’ve been working out consistently and have ALL of the workouts recorded, just not uploaded yet.  Thanks for your patience.

June is a big month

June is gonna get crazy in a good way.  Here’s a rough itinerary:

  • June 1 – talk at Google
  • June 2 – Fly to Portland
  • June 3 – Jump out of plane
  • June 3-5 – World Domination Summit
  • June 6 – Fly to LA maybe for a few days?
  • June 8-17 – Spend time in Atlanta
  • June 15 – The one-year anniversary of my decision to quit the day job and focus on NF full-time.
  • June 18 – Fly to Boston
  • June – 19 – My 27th birthday (whoa)
  • June 22 – Best friend’s wedding – not related to Julia Robers in any way.

On top of that, somewhere in there we’ll be FINALLY launching Nerd Fitness hoodies! Samples are on their way to my folks’ place in Massachusetts right now, and hopefully we can get these suckers available for sale within the next few weeks.  They’ll be super high-quality like the t-shirts, reasonably priced, and kick generous amounts of ass.

So, life is hectic, but it’s also amazing. I miss connecting with people on twitter and facebook though, so feel free to email me and let me know what you’re up to and if there’s anything I can help you with!  Nothing makes me happier.  So, thanks for putting up with me over these past few (and next few weeks) – normalcy is around the corner.

For the Rebellion!



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7 thoughts on “Misadventures in Travel: China Edition

  1. great post Steve – awesome to hear how things are going (even if you have no idea what you’re doing).

    your mention of Taubes’ work totally reminded me of a video I watched that helped me understand more about diet (and based on his work): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNYlIcXynwE

    also just found out my blood type, which is O+, and from what I’m reading, emphasizes a diet low in grains and legumes – go paleo! 🙂

    see you in Portland.

  2. It’s fascinating to hear about your adventures, but I’m a bit curious about the air quality in China.  Maybe I’m just being a nerdy OCD kid, but I’ve always been reluctant to travel to china because of the pollution.  Are you taking masks or anything?  Are you avoiding major industrial areas?  Or are you just chillin and living life like any normal person:)

    I’m also curious if you’ve met any Chinese fitness geeks over there. With over 4 billion people, there must be a few!

    Great work Steve:)

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