OK, I admit, this post doesn’t technically relate to any of the subjects this blog is about. But it’s also about pushing your boundaries and having adventures. And I did plenty of that during my tour of China! 

I just got back from 2 weeks in China where I was on a volunteering trip sponsored by First Hand Foundation, the charity my company, Cerner, started. It was an incredible trip through the interior of the country that most tourists never see. I think between the 4 different cities we were in we saw just 3 non-Chinese people that were not on our team. Even our team was made up of people from Hong Kong and Singapore, so the 7 of us huge, white Americans stuck out like a popsicle stand in Antarctica.

This was also my first trip to Asia, and I consider myself incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to experience an entirely different culture in a country with such fascinating history and kind people. As with any of the service trips I’ve done, I’m sure I got a lot more than I gave.

I could tell you lots of stories about the inspiring work, beautiful sights and amazing people of China and on the volunteer team… but not even my long-winded recounting (a specialty of mine, according to Elizabeth) could do it justice. So instead I thought I would have a little fun and highlight a few tidbits of the trip and subsequent 4 days I spent touring Beijing through Tweets. Of course Twitter is blocked in China (along with Facebook, Instagram and all Google), so here’s my 22 Tweets that never happened:


1. First view of #Beijing from the plane. Immediately noticed the big groups of identical high-rises. Central planning at its finest.



2. My first day in Beijing I saw blue sky. All other 5 days it’s had a thick blanket of gray – even at the Great Wall! #SmogIsReal #SmaugIsNot



3. Driving in China is beyond crazy – stoplights, lanes and pedestrians crossing mean nothing. I may have PTSD from constant honking.



4. #Beijing is nothing if not secure…security/military guards all over tourist spots and everywhere has an x-ray checkpoint.



5. Haggled 2/3 off the price of my off-brand #GoPro in the #SilkMarket to $60! Plus Chinese brand #FitBit for $20! #KnockOffCity



6. Finally found my Beijing #hostel, @365Inn! Hopping music, open-air bar, writing covering all the walls, 10-person room = #GoodVibes



7. In the Beijing #NightMarket with all the crazy eats – silk worm, scorpion, dog, spider – but the scariest of all…tofu!



8. Saw a huge crowd gathering around flag at #TiananmenSquare 2nite. Waited for 1 hr b4 discovering twas just the daily flag lowering. #Curious



9. Just counted 35 cranes in one view! High-rise construction is EVERYWHERE (and vacant) in interior China and no one knows why. #mystery



10. I gagged when I found this rag among other fine donated clothes. But I don’t blame someone for wanting rid of it 😛 #BorderWar #MizzouAlum



11. Love riding subway, but it is always so stinkin packed! But Beijing does get credit for phone signal strong enough everyone streams video.



12. Chartered taxi to #GreatWall & while stopped in traffic on the highway our driver got out and picked a flower for the gf he’s visiting because his wife is working. #Classy





14. If there’s one cultural thing I would take back to the US it would be meals. Delicious, variety, family-style, & slow enough I can keep up!



15. If there’s one cultural thing I would leave it would be bathrooms: squatting toilets, no provided TP and showers right in front of toilet. << no picture 😉 >>


16. On the sidewalk, porch, or anywhere ppl squat here with their feet flat. But I find it very hard and uncomfortable. It must be #genetics.



17. Visited the Lama Temple in #Beijing today and saw an amazing design of Buddhist sand art. #HouseOfCards anyone?



18. Big day – saw my first detached pig head. They were burning off the hairs to cook it up for dinner. Sadly, we declined the invite.



19. I expected a lot of things to be different here, but the bee hives?! However the honey our wonderful hosts provided was sweet as ever.



20. Bird’s eye view on the Bird’s Nest! #Beijing #OlympicPark



21. Can’t imagine climbing to the base of the #GreatWall, let alone fighting off defenders & climbing up to invade. I took a ski lift up 😉



22. When I grow up I want to be the emperor-You not only get the #ForbiddenCity, #SummerPalace & #TempleofHeaven, but buried in a jade suit.





Written by Cole

  • Mary

    Found your blog through a friend’s facebok page. Just wanted to say enjoy every minute, the mishaps make the best stories, and living for your passion and using it as a way to help others is the secret to life! You are lucky to be so wise at a young age. If you have never heard of Chris Guillebeau, you might like his blog and his book (your quest reminded me of it – “The Happiness of Pursuit”). Cheers!

    • Cole

      Thanks so much for following along and your very kind words, Mary. I agree that mishaps can make the best stories, so we’re counting on having a lot of good ones over the nest year ;). I’ve heard of Chris Guillebeau, but just in passing. It looks like he is a big proponent of some of the travel hacking stuff that I’ve been reading about from all kinds of blogs for our trip. It was like a whole new subculture! But we working on using some of those travel hacking principles to fly us to the 3 parks in Hawaii and American Samoa, so stay tuned. There’s always a new adventure to be had!

  • Clarence Tong

    Love your blog bro! I’m glad u had an adventurous trip in China lol..
    I’ll be visiting Hawaii in Nov. also

    • Cole

      Thanks Clarence! It was a great adventure and one of my favorite parts was definitely getting to know people like yourself and learning about their countries and cultures. You’ll have to let me know how the trip to Hawaii goes! What islands are you planning to hit? We will be flying into Oahu in either January or February and then going to the National Parks on Maui and the Big Island.

      • Clarence Tong

        I love your adventurous spirit ! U must visit south east Asia and Singapore one day! U will love it lol..
        I’ll be going to Oahu , Maui and Big Island also. I’ll keep u posted about my visits .