Guest post: A friendship discovered in a remote region of China

China's Yading Nature Reserve
China's Yading Nature Reserve. Photo by Brown Gal Trekker.

One of the most interesting and fun things about traveling is the people you meet during your adventures. It’s an incredibly enriching experience to connect with people from all over the world. And it’s even better when that turns into real friendship. Here’s a guest post from Marinel de Jesus, a blogger at Brown Gal Trekker, about how she made a friend in an unlikely place in China while traveling solo.

Meeting May – A fellow hiker and friend

It was in October of 2014. I was in one of the most remote regions in China. I didn’t expect to meet other English speakers on this solo trek in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). I was on my way to Yading Nature Reserve from Siguniangshan National Park when I met May from north Thailand. She was easy to talk to from the start. May was traveling in China alone for a few weeks, like me. She told me stories of her prior experiences on the mountain trails. She had trekked to Nepal’s Everest Base Camp in the past.

China's Yading Nature Reserve
May and Marinel in Yading. Photo by Brown Gal Trekker.

May and I were on a shuttle bus en route to another city in TAR. From there, I had to take a bus to Yading. May wanted to go to a town called Soda to witness the sky funeral, a Tibetan ritual. However, May decided to join me in my plan to trek in Yading, a lesser known path to trekkers outside of China. You can do a 30-kilometer holy pilgrimage trek above 4,000 meters, circling the holy peaks of Chenresig, Chana Dorje, and Jampelyang.

I was doing it solo until May decided to join. What was supposed to be an overnight trek turned into a long one day hike of 30 kilometers since we weren’t able to find tents to rent or buy along the way. Despite her passion for hiking, May hadn’t been trekking since her trip to Everest Base Camp at least five years back, while I had been trekking for 10 years at that point. I was nervous about May joining me knowing that most likely we won’t see any other hiker on this isolated trail, and exit points from the trail were unavailable. Also, we were hiking in October, and snow had already started coming down.

China's Yading Nature Reserve
Holy Peak in China’s Yading Nature Reserve. Photo by Brown Gal Trekker.

Despite the cold, wind, and snow, May trudged up the two summits along the trail without a problem. It took us 11 hours to finish the trek as we braved the winds and snow. I was proud of May and was so grateful that we completed the pilgrimage safely.  The trek lived up to its reputation for being a sacred place for walking where one could easily reconnect with nature. 

As May and I ventured to the small town of Daocheng, we enjoyed an authentic Tibetan meal as our last meal together while talking about the trek we just completed, life, love and the future. We bonded as hikers. We became friends. The next day, we parted ways. I left for Chengdu, and she headed to Soda.

May visited me in Chengdu just before I started a train ride to Lhasa. Four months later, we reconnected again when I visited her home in Thailand. We ventured for a beach trip to the island of Ko Chang. It was the last time I saw May. However, since my return to America in August of 2015, May and I continue to write to each other. The mountains and the peaceful experience of Yading never left us.

May and Marinel in northern Thailand. Photo by Brown Gal Trekker.

Because of what I experienced on this journey, I decided to work on a film project that will include photos and videos of female hikers from all around the world. The finished product will be distributed to various film festivals in the U.S. and beyond. As to May, I plan to hand her a copy of the film myself as a gift and token of gratitude for our friendship. If May can’t trek up mountains given her location and lack of funds, I’ll bring the mountains to her myself, even if only through a video.

The journey taught me friendship can develop from any corner of the world, even in places that are least likely of all, and that taking a risk together to dive into an unknown path can further cement the initial bond of friendship. A smile can start the process while trust in the flow of the experience and in your newfound friend can build the bridge to a lasting connection. 

More about Brown Gal Trekker

Brown Gal Trekker started her blog to focus on her passion – mountain trekking. Her mission is to support her social enterprise, Peak Explorations, which promotes local tourism in remote mountain regions globally, while connecting avid mountain lovers with trekking in lesser known parts of the world. This enterprise, in conjunction with the non-profit Trails Without Borders, focuses on the often neglected mountain and rural regions worldwide by supporting local tourism and social projects, such as trail building and maintenance. To see more posts from Brown Gal Trekker, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

A friendship discovered in a remote region of China.

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  1. This is a lovely story, and definitely a reminder to seek friendships wherever we travel. The film idea is sweet, and I hope you succeed at highlighting female mountain trekkers.

  2. I’ve said it before that the people you meet along the way when you’re traveling are truly what make these trips worth it. I’ve seen and done some of the coolest things in the world but it’s the people I’ve met that make it all worthwhile.

  3. Mountains are for us the best place to make friendships and meet interesting people (yes, we are hikers so it would be weird to think otherwise :D). It is hard to pretend somebody else there, so you can truly see the person as he/she is… That’s why we love mountains so much!

  4. Friendships made on the road are soooo amazing just because you already have few things in common – you both love to travel (solo – since most of these friendships crop up during solo escapades) and same activities (Atleast one as thats probably how you meet) So lovely to hear you made a friend for life too, that too while trekking – something u both enjoy 🙂

  5. Awwwiiee this is such a beautiful story. Travel does bring people together unexpectedly and I love that I could read experiences like this!

  6. The people we meet along the way are what makes our trips individual from the hundreds of other people taking the same path! Great post!

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