Life is a journey, so travel it well

The winter holiday is on the way. Travel is about more than postcards and selfies, it teaches us a new way to see the world and ourselves.

It’s a big wide world out there. From the beaches of Thailand to the roof of the world at Mount Everest. Travel is about more than postcards and selfies, it teaches us a new way to see the world and ourselves.


Have you caught the snow bug? Breath in the European skies

Every year, Harrow Shanghai ventures to Europe to experience the stunning scenery and beautifully clean air of the first-class ski resorts across the continent.  

Students from the Harrow International School Shanghai enjoy skiing in the Aosta Valley, Italy.

Last year, we went to the Aosta Valley in Italy and this year we are traveling to Fanningberg in Austria. However, maybe a shorter-haul trip will be in our sights for next year with the Winter Olympics practically on our doorstep. The investment that Pyeongchang’s successful bid to host the games has brought to skiing in Southeast Asia means that superb ski resorts are now much closer to home. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will begin on February 9 and run until February 25. Even at this late stage, flights are still very reasonable from Pudong to Seoul. South Korea has invested hugely in making their capital an accessible base for visitors to the Games; the stadiums and alpine centers are accessible by public transport in under 90 minutes. Tickets bought online now vary in price for each event but two seats watching the Men’s Downhill on February 11 are approximately 1,800 yuan (US$281). Tickets can be purchased from ticket offices both in Seoul and at the stadiums if you don’t know what you fancy watching and are happy to just see something.

Charlotte Sleep is head of Prep at Harrow International School Shanghai. 

I started skiing very late in life at the grand old age of 25. I was asked very last minute to go as an extra member of staff on a school trip to Italy. 

Starting to ski as an adult is much harder (exacerbated by the fact that every time I fell, my pupils found this hugely entertaining), as you have the garrulous voice in your head of “Arrghhhh! What if I break my leg?! Or my ankle?! How will I work?! Slow down, slow down, SLOW DOWN!” It was the best thing I have ever done.

And now I can safely say, I have the bug! 

Maybe you will too if you go and watch the world’s finest ski, skate or board in Pyeongchang next month.

(Charlotte Sleep is head of Prep at Harrow International School Shanghai.)

Encouraging your child to discover wonders of the world

Often, during our time in Shanghai, when we plan family holidays we tend to travel to far-flung places and forget that there are a whole host of incredible, diverse destinations to discover right here at home in China. In doing so, we’re missing out on the chance to broaden our children’s minds (and our own!), and to learn more about this remarkably vibrant country.

As the Global Citizenship Education coordinator at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS), I get to see, first-hand, the enormous opportunities for learning that travel in China can offer. We run an Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) program at our school which allows our students to travel to different regions in China while making direct connections to their coursework at school. This year, we’ve taken our Gubei campus secondary students to Lin’an, Tonglu and Ninghai. 

These trips offer so many benefits. They are allowed for confidence building and an experience of independence, particularly for our younger students who may be used to having their parents packing and preparing everything for them outside of school times. Also, the trips facilitate friendship building and even stronger bonds as a year group. Finally, these trips expose the children to ways of life far removed from their own. This builds their empathy, and they come to understand that life in China isn’t just what they’re experiencing in their urban life back in Shanghai. 

Pip Walter is Secondary Humanities teacher and Global Citizenship Education coordinator at the Yew Chung International School of Shanghai’s Gubei campus.

For example, our Year 7 students spend a day in a very small village where they visit a local family’s house and help do jobs around the village, such as planting crops or building small structures. They then receive the local wage for their work — which, on average, is 8 yuan (US$1.27) per day. Later, they are given a food menu and have to decide what they can eat using that salary. It’s a massive eye-opener for them when they see how little they can really buy. 

There are marvellous things to see all around China, and I would highly recommend staying the country for your next family trip and heading somewhere off the tourist trail. Right now you may be thinking, “I don’t know where to start in finding and selecting a rural place to visit!” One idea is to ask a Chinese friend or colleague for help in choosing a destination. Another is to look at tour companies who can help with the logistics — there has been a lot of growth in outdoor adventure and travel companies in Shanghai who would be perfect to help organize a special trip.

My personal recommendations are Moganshan if you’d like to stay somewhere close to home, Lin’an, where we went on a student trip, or the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan. It’s so rich in culture and has ethnic minority people who all bring their own cultural colors to an already spectacularly vivid area of natural beauty.

Having made a shortlist of places, I would encourage you to sit down with your children and ask them where they want to go and have them help make decisions on the activities they want to do. This way, they’re not just passengers but active explorers who feel there’s a real purpose to the trip. Then, during the trip, it might be fun for everyone to keep a journal of the fantastic things they have seen and experiences they have — and to talk about how those are similar and different to their life in Shanghai! No matter what, taking the opportunity to see more of China will help everyone in your family learn more about their host country all while having fun and making memories that will last a lifetime.

(Pip Walter is Secondary Humanities teacher and Global Citizenship Education coordinator at the Yew Chung International School of Shanghai’s Gubei campus.)

Sand between your toes and clear waters

If you are searching for that perfect holiday destination then I strongly suggest that you make a trip to Krabi, Thailand, all too often in the shade of the better-known Phuket. The sand on the beach sinks in between your toes and the crystal-clear waters are exquisite, as well as the many tropical birds and fish.

My family has traveled there at least five times in the past couple of years. The place has grown on us and every time we go we love it even more. You can go scuba diving, snorkeling or just play on the beach. 

Madaline is a Year 9 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.

A lot of the time the resorts have surf boards and sailboats. If you really want to go out and about to explore more, there are places to ride elephants and lots of temples to see. You could develop a new hobby and take up some photography or try a cooking class, there are many new flavors that you can learn to cook with, like lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and the Thai basil or maybe even you develop a new love for something that you wouldn’t really go for.

You can try the different types of food, like the Massaman curry in the shade of Pad Thai, and the fresh exotic beverages, like the Nom Yen but you can still get a taste of home with a drink in the evening breathing in that fresh ocean air. Imagine waking up in a beautiful sunny day, with the sound of the ocean washing up onto the beach and the birds chirping. It does not take long to get there, only four hours on the plane and you are at the perfect destination. 

No more stressful wake up calls or alarms just the beautiful sound of nature and relaxation just outside your window. 

So, pack your bags and enjoy your winter holiday in relaxation and tranquility.

(Madaline is a Year 9 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.)

A place for snow angels, hot tubs

Want a good winter holiday? If so, I suggest you book flights straight away because where you will actually want to go by the end of this article, will be fully booked in no time. 

The ideal place for you is Whistler, Canada. It has one of the best resorts in the world, with great snow and, the best part is, you can just walk out of your hotel and the ski lifts are right there. Let me guess, you think you are “too good” or not good enough at skiing, well that is not a problem, for less advanced skiers there are really good ski classes for all ages. I learnt how to ski a black run (one of the hardest ski pistes) after my first five days with the ski school. And if you are a good skier, there are terrain parks, double blacks, and even offsite skiing with the smoothest powder imaginable.

Julian is a Year 9 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.

So what is special about this place? Well there is a really idyllic village at the bottom of the ski pistes where everything is in walking distance. There are so many things to do there after a fun day of skiing (or snowboarding) that vary from going to a night club or a cinema to eating at exquisite restaurants. And if going out isn’t your thing, there are private jacuzzis on your balcony at the hotel, where you can relax in the hot tub watching the beauty of the mountain and the stars. If you are up to it, and you want an adrenaline rush, you can take a step out of the warm water where you can mime a freezing snow angel in the snow and then jump back into the jacuzzi to the soothing hot water.

(Julian is a Year 9 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.)

Los Angeles: It’s not just all about malls and Disneyland

What do you instantly think of when you hear Los Angeles? Large shopping malls? Blinding beach sun? Those are all true, but what I was most impressed about was not just that. My memory of LA was filled with views and landscapes of nature.

Ceiling in the entrance to the Griffith observatory

“If every person could look through that telescope,” declared Griffith. “It would revolutionize the world.” In 1912, Griffith worked to bring the experience to Los Angeles. He expressed his willingness to donate US$100,000 (worth US$2.3 million today) for an observatory that would include an open-access telescope, a theater capable of showing “motion pictures” and a science hall with exhibits. More than 80 years after this iconic building opened, the world remains unrevolutionized, and the city smog means that the views are not as crystal-clear as they were in Griffith’s day. After visiting the observatory, I truly understood the significance of these words. What I saw made me feel significantly small, but also grateful to be part of this world.  

Kelly is a Year 12 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.

This is not a type of observatory used solely as a professional facility, but has free public telescopes that are open each evening. I highly recommend arriving before dusk to watch the sunset. During the sunset, an orange haze would light up the sky as if lit by fire. Random colors of hot pinks, reds and even hints of purples and blues with the hanging clouds formed a gradient. Colors gradually faded away until the sky reached the state of inky blackness. I headed inside to learn about the sun, the moon and the stars from the museum exhibits. 

My ultimate tip for traveling in America is to rent a car. You can save a hefty amount of money and also enjoy the views along the road. You will have your private isolation, have time to think and have your own healing moment of your life.

Traveling is often underrated by many people in their busy daily routines, but these experiences are truly valuable and would leave you an unforgettable piece of memory that will stay with you for a lifetime. How about exploring a different side of Los Angeles for this vacation?

(Kelly is a Year 12 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.)

Sometimes, the best trip is just staying at home, exploring

Warmer. Colder. Warmer. Colder. The impossible dilemma. You could cherish the winter spirit and drudge through mounds of frozen snow with arms clutching your sides. Or, bring out the rebel within you and visit somewhere sunny all-year-round. The third option of course is to forgo the decision entirely and stay here, in Shanghai.

Most dismiss the notion of “vacationing” where you live as either a lack of funds, or pure laziness. Yet, how often do you explore the city anyway? 

As your legs navigate the maze of brick-layered streets, merchants’ yells permeate the overflowing marketplace and huge crates of vegetables began to appear. Pickled cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, radish and the list goes on. On the ground below a man pours out a pile of waste corn kernels and it and other birds dive down to earth to make sure they get first choosing. Progressing further down the market’s sea of people, you arrive upon rows of billboards.

Yanhe is a Year 10 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.

Blinking, shining, blinding, the billboard population rival that of the teeming shoppers around you. Fine scrolls of silk and cloth are laid in pyramids in textile shops and fiery red Chinese lanterns shine proudly in the dimming light. Plumes of exhaled smoke remain rampant in the hubbub of mismatched scarves and thick fur coats.

Woks clang hard against the sides moving food stalls. Vendors wrestle over the blazing air with ringing shouts and slamming bells.

As your eyes dance, along with the flaming woks, snaking lines begin to form and sidewalks become packed with busy commuters squeezing their way through the sudden flood. Fleeing, you once again submerge yourself in the cracked, brick streets. Perched upon a power line, a pigeon watches you from above. After a hasty escape under a bird’s watchful eye, a gushing wave threatens to flood your vision.

Collections of skyscrapers were gleaming masterpieces during the night, a beacon in the heart of an ever-thriving megacity.

(Yanhe is a Year 10 student at the Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong.)

Learning lessons from life at the top of the world

The Christmas holiday is always a special one for our families and staff at BISS Puxi. This year, my wife Emma and I resisted the draw of a family get-together, unlimited calories in the seasonal food, the need to find some relaxing winter sun and the offer of daily pampering in a hotel somewhere. Instead, we opted to ignite all five of our senses with something that challenged us physically, socially and emotionally. We chose the Himalayas and a winter hike to Everest Base Camp.  

Being well read and having watched plenty of documentaries that detail the majesty of the mountains and the people who live in them, I remained slightly sceptical about how much I would learn about the area or learn about myself on this journey. I was wrong! The whole trip had a profound effect on me as a person, as a school leader and most importantly, as someone who is privileged enough to have great influence over the lives of many wonderful children. 

Jared Nolan (right) and his wife Emma proudly fly the Nord Anglia BISS Puxi flag at Everest Base Camp.

Fresh air, exercise and cold 

My journey started with taking what I can only describe as a bus with wings from Kathmandu to Lukla Airport. Often described as the world’s scariest airport, the runway at Lukla sits at nearly 3,000 meters, is at an angle of 11 percent and is only accessible by helicopters and fixed-wing, short-take-off-and-landing aircraft such as our Twin Otter. Once in the Everest region of the Himalayas, there are no roads. It means that all cars, busses, trucks and their pollution are replaced by Mule, Yak and human porters carrying super human loads. The opportunity to inhale pure air immediately hits your senses and your lungs.

For our 193-kilometer expedition, I used nothing more than my feet to carry me. As expected, the first few days were hard on the muscles and the feet, but by day four, my body began to adjust to the terrain, the constant exercise and of course, the lack of oxygen. Perhaps the greatest challenge was the cold. At this time of the year the wind is biting with the daytime temperature on Christmas Day as low as minus 27 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures inside our bedroom of the tea house not getting above minus 10. This often meant no running water, frozen water bottles, and having to defrost your wet wipes around a “Yak Dung” fire before being able to wash. 

Culture and people

The daily lives of the people in this region is driven by their Buddhist beliefs. This is not just evident in the prayer flags and “mani stones” all along the route, but also in the way in which they treat each other and their environment. I have never come across such welcoming, happy and attentive people; made even more amazing by the challenging circumstances in which they live.

Of course, being a school leader, it was the children we met on the journey that spoke loudest to me. From the 4-year-old girl who had set up her own mud kitchen to make a Nepali curry, to playing football with local village children at 4,000 meters, there was a simple joy to be found. This joy and gratitude was even evident in the 13-year-old boy who lost his father in the earthquake and in order to survive was carrying incredibly heavy loads for miles between villages, at altitudes that make it difficult for most of us to carry ourselves.

I returned from Nepal changed. The time to walk and think, the majesty of the mountains, the hardiness and friendliness of the people and of course, the joy in the children have all encouraged me to consider my own life and values with a little more clarity. The trip gave me some of the best memories of my life and a personal sense of achievement. It also gave me the chance to take a little bit of the job I love and the people I work with along, by proudly flying the Nord Anglia BISS Puxi flag in one of the most extreme and spectacular settings on the planet. 

(Jared Nolan is head of 
Primary at British International School Shanghai, Puxi.)

Just an hour away, the myriad joys that are Hangzhou

One of the great things about living in Shanghai is that there is a myriad of travel opportunities near the city offering rich history and wonderfully beautiful landscapes. 

Our first weekend getaway was in November to nearby Hangzhou. We traveled there with some good friends/co-workers of ours who have four children around the same age as our own.

A short, one-hour train ride took us to Hangzhou. 

My husband found us a sweet little hotel (Tea Xiang Li She Residence) that had interesting outdoor spaces for the kids to explore and an indoor kid play room.

We headed to the park on the west side of West Lake to play. The east side of the lake seems like the place everyone goes. It is the side closest to the city and was packed with people. The west side has long stretches of parks and walk ways wrapping around the lake. 

Kate Klein is a history and geography teacher at Shanghai Singapore International School. 

West Lake has long inspired the poets and artists of China. It is an inspiration for many Chinese gardens and picturesque temples, pagodas, and bridges wrap dot the landscape around it. There were far fewer people on the west side and the scenery was beautiful. 

On the west side of the lake there was plenty of room for rambunctious kids. As they played, the parents talked, walked, sat and drank coffee.

We took a boat (not the Dragon) into the center of the lake to see the man-made island with Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, and then floated back to the east side after hours of playing and fun.

The following morning, we headed up into the mountains around the lake to hike through the tea plantations. We stumbled upon the China National Tea Museum. Once again the kids ran and climbed. Trails wove through rows of tea, trees changing color in the autumn sun, and up to temples that overlooked hillside tea plantations while the urban skyline of Hangzhou loomed in the distance.

After a nice lunch it was time to head back to the train station for the trip home. We left Hangzhou feeling refreshed and content.

We look forward to our next adventure around Shanghai.

(Kate Klein is a history and geography teacher at Shanghai Singapore International School.)

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