The folks back home sometimes tell expats: “You’re so lucky to get to travel so much.” They don’t realize that most of us go to the same job every day, eat in the same restaurants every day and sleep in the same bed every night — just like they do. Shenzhen expats envy those who actually travel, just as the people back home envy us.
This writer envies Pittsburgh native David Learn.
Before his arrival in Shenzhen in 2002 to teach English, the sum of Learn’s experience abroad was one semester of college study in Germany and a couple of short trips to Europe. Most of his friends were Americans.
In Shenzhen, things changed — a lot. What began as one year of teaching became more than 10 years of work. Learn went on to work in sourcing and product management.
“I enjoyed learning Chinese and living in such a different culture,” he said. On holidays, there was also plenty of opportunity to travel around Asia.
Another reason he stayed: “The friends I made.”
His yen for travel led to his departure from Shenzhen in March 2013. The people he knew from Shenzhen helped him plan his journey and have been supporting him during his trip.
His trip began in the Philippines and has stretched into more than 30 countries over two journeys.
The first journey was from the east to the west. He went through South Asia and the “Stans.”
After that he went to the Caucasus region, then to Turkey, Bulgaria and London. After that, he headed home to Pittsburgh for a year-end break.
In January 2014, he headed south, going through Mexico and Central America all the way to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of the Americas.
He’s still on the road and working his way north again through several more countries.
The trip has been financed by money saved while he worked in Shenzhen.
Along the way, friends from Shenzhen helped him. He met up with people in India, Kyrgyzstan and Colombia. In Brazil, he stayed with friends of his Shenzhen friends during the World Cup.
Friends all over the world are following his travels on Facebook and viewing his stunning photos on Instagram.
With the help of Shenzhen and the people here, he’s come a long way from Pittsburgh!