China A bridge near Lijiang, China

I used to actually abhor the stack of magazines sitting in my room queued for me to read when I returned home from a long trip.

The mountainous pile, composed of freebies, trade journals, and three different flavors of National Geographic (Adventure, Travel, and the original) would sit on my desk for months, quietly outdating, making the transition from enjoyable to burden.

That wasn’t the case with the latest National Geographic, which is completely dedicated to China. The feelings that the photos, especially of Yunnan, give me are indescribable — and the articles are just as pleasing. So many things in this issue have taken me back to my recent three months in China and expanded the things that I learned about the country and the massive changes going on there.

Yunnan, China

As enjoyable as this issue is, it is still bittersweet as well. China was my last great adventure for a while. Looking at a photo of the Forbidden City in Beijing, a filthy, obnoxious place that I just couldn’t get enough of, I find myself hurting but yet still unable to look away.

That is my favorite thing about vagabonding: one day I could find myself living in a dumpster, imprisoned, paralyzed, or whatever disaster that life can think up, but no one can ever take away my memories or experiences in a place. Travel is money well spent and an investment that will give returns for the rest of my life.

My only caveat with this month’s China issue is that on page two there is a giant spread advert by Dow Chemicals — one of the typical bandwagon “green” ads that always read something like: “yes, we are a giant corporation that produces an ungodly amount of waste and deadly chemicals, but we love the earth…yada..yada.” I threw up a little in my mouth when I read the bottom of this one — “…China’s own commitment to conservation and reuse.”

Have these guys ever even been to a provincial capital in China? Surely they might have noticed the ubiquitous plastic bags roving around like street animals, or the skyscrapers composed of stinking rubbish and plastic bottles?

Maybe someone from Dow should head down to Yunnan where the Tiger Leaping Gorge is being dammed up this year, creating one of the largest ecological and conservation disasters in the world — all to produce electricity for factories that generate plastic rubbish as fast as they can get it on a boat to America.

Oops…enough preaching, China is still my favorite travel memory in the last two years, and I would close my eyes, tap my flip-flops together three times, and do anything to wake up to the smells of fried rice and motorcycle exhaust once more.

Greg Rodgers
Greg Rodgers

Greg is a full-time vagabonding writer and adventurer who escaped the corporate world. Now he helps others begin a life of travel.