Yongxin Chi and the Real America

Most travelers don’t want to spend all their time with other tourists at hotels,  famous landmarks, and gift shops. It’s so much more interesting to meet the local people and experience real life with them. Yongxin Chi is a traveler who takes that attitude to the extreme.

I heard about Chi from a friend of mine who met him through her work with international students at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). In July, when Chi flew from China to New York City, his plan was to attend classes at UCA.  But instead of getting on another plane to Arkansas, he got on his bicycle! Over the next month, Chi rode his bicycle 1,400 miles (2253 km) to get to Arkansas. Along the way, he saw “real” America.

His trip has made him something of a celebrity among the other Chinese students on campus. Some have started calling him “Legend” instead of using his name.

Chi carried about 80 pounds of equipment on his bicycle during the trip. He had a compass, a small tent, some outdoor cooking equipment, digital music, a laptop computer, a sleeping bag and a Bible.

Chi had some difficult experiences.  He got sick from drinking dirty water, rode through storms, and had problems with his bicycle. But Chi’s memories of the trip are mainly of the people that he met who helped him. Friendly strangers opened their homes to him, gave him water, and shared food with him. A family in West Virginia celebrated his 21st birthday with him. There he rode a horse for the first time in his life, and learned to shoot a gun.

Chi is in Arkansas for now, but he plans to hit the road again soon.

His great ambition is to bike across the country, literally from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. After finishing his studies at UCA this semester, he will be back on his bicycle and continuing his journey. His next destination is California, where he said he wants to embrace the famous West Coast sunshine.

I wish you well, Chi. May you travel safely and make many more happy memories.

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What is your most memorable travel experience?

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