Down Tools

Nicholas Quirke was not liking the look of the 38 degrees it was outside and with the numbers of cases of COVID19 on the rise again he decided It was safer to stay in. He would concentrate on trying to finally resolve the issues with his technology and review where he was up to in his travel adventure on 15 June 2020. It was now 5 months, 22 weeks, 157 days, since he had left the United Kingdom in search of an adventure in China. He had traveled through 11 countries to finally arrive, with unexpected permanence, in Beijing. There had been surprisingly few lows in his journey with the highs bordering on the greedy. No one, least of all himself, had imagined the worldwide lockdown the COVID19 pandemic would throttle the globe with. though he himself seemed, mercifully free from any dramatic interruption of his plans, in fact, his placement at the centre of the storm actually benefitted him in unforeseen ways. Not only had seemed to stay ahead of the virus and by escaping to South Korea and Japan for a month and continue to enjoy the irresponsible life of a traveller, but at a key moment on returning to China and Beijing he was offered a temporary accommodation, which may have put him in quarantine for 14 days but by the time those two weeks were up, he had a forged such a friendship that he now had a place to live and was able to see and experience Beijing and the workings of the community and wider country from a unique perspective. From the moment he was released he had seen many aspects of society that were significantly different from the way it operated In the west. Fundamentally the people were the same, with identical aspirations and consumerist goals that drove the society he was familiar with and it was fascinating to note that this flourished within a political system that sought to control its citizens . The controls were evident everywhere he went, from having to report his presence, on a regular basis to the police, for the neighbourhood and communities to be under observation and at this time residential roads closed to interlopers and anyone without a pass checked before being allowed in. It was a life of scrutiny but it felt necessary and not an imposition. As normal life resumed it was good to see these constraints lift and a sense of freedom and movement which meant exploring further afield. He was signed up to a social bike scheme which allowed him, for the ridiculous price of £2.50 a month to get a yellow or Orange bike at any time, for any distance, in any city, for a limitless number of times and his ability to move around was further enhanced with a card to get him on the remarkably easy to navigate subway system. There was nothing he loved more than jumping on a bike and exploring the avenues and boulevards of the metropolis he was now living in. He had been able to go to parks and museums, though there were different rules for foreigners, or, as he had come to talk about himself, Laowai. Not having a national ID meant that he had to get out his passport, a health kit for Beijing, a certificate from the community office proving his status but, to enjoy the benefits of the city and it’s historical legacy, it was a small price to pay. He had used the health service, which involved paying a registration fee and the. Pay per treatment and he felt the pain from his sciatica alleviate, so much so that he was able to climb the punishing Great Wall and hike through mountain landscapes. Travel was possible again and he had been to cities Tianjin and Nanjing. Experimented with all manner of Chinese vegan dishes and the variety and range of food and tastes utterly unique and was quite overwhelming. A cooked breakfast here meant rice or noodles and the discovery of glutinous rice a wonderful thing. Nicholas was still concerned that he hadn’t yet turned the situation to his advantage and unearthed an income stream but he continued to live in hope. For him, the good news was that he had a home a base here now and he wasn’t going to be returning to England having failed to establish himself in a distant and demonised country.


  1. Hi Nick, I am really behind in your posts. But after reading this last post I am so glad I didn’t skip forward just so that I could catch up. I really enjoyed this reflection on your experience over the last few months. Your live broadcasts are very amusing as you would say. 😁 love Grace xx

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