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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Backpacker shares life-changing India experience in new book
     2014-December-5  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Traveling India opened my eyes. Seeing how other people live and think helps me better understand myself. I never thought about being a writer before we went to India. But after the experience, I felt compelled to share with others what I’ve been through.”

    — Hong Mei, a freelance writer

    Debra Li

    debra_lidan@163.com

    TEN years ago, Hong Mei had no idea that she would one day live the life of a freelance writer, travel to faraway India and write a book about it.

    In late October, her book “Farther Away From Home, Closer to Yourself” (《走得越远,离自己越近》) debuted in Hong Kong. More than 60 attended an intimate ceremony at Asia Society Hong Kong Center to mark the occasion, including officials from the Indian Consulate in Hong Kong. Similar events were also held in Beijing and Shanghai to launch her book on the Chinese mainland in May.

    Traveling to India

    Between March 2009 and March 2010, Hong and her husband traveled four times to India, covering most pradeshes and reaching corners seldom visited by Chinese people.

    “The biggest reward from my travels is the book,” Hong said over the phone.

    Her husband, Tom Carter, a self-made American photographer, had hoped to go to each of the 27 pradeshes and publish an album, but they failed to make it to each border and Carter gave up his plan. “Luckily, I had taken enough notes and written enough diary entries to write a book,” Hong said.

    In her book, Hong wrote about what they had seen and experienced — an impressive incineration ceremony along the Ganges River, boisterous carnival crowds during Holi and other festivals, poor but peaceful and content Indians and troublesome teenagers from slums.

    To get hands-on experience in Bollywood, the couple even spent a few days working as extras and walk-ons in commercials. During a shoot for a Samsung commercial, the couple met superstar Aamir Khan amid a backdrop that mimicked the interior of a Metro train.

    They also visited hijra, or transgendered people in India, who lead a marginalized life in the country.

    “Traveling to India opened my eyes,” Hong said. “Seeing how other people live and think helps me better understand myself. I never thought about being a writer before we went to India. But after the experience, I felt compelled to share with others what I’ve been through.

    “India is a popular tourist destination for Westerners, with a huge volume of travel guides published in English. But this vast land is still unexplored for many Chinese.”

    For the convenience of future travelers, her book also covers useful information on food and lodging, transportation in India and preparations (vaccines, visas, how to pack).

    “If you are a vegetarian, like my husband, touring India is very easy,” she said. “When I would become homesick while traveling, honestly, what I missed most was the flavor of meat cooked in the Chinese way.”

    Changing her destiny

    Her life would have been very different if Hong had not met her husband. Born in Wuxi, eastern China’s Jiangsu Province in the 1980s, Hong went to a vocational school and majored in mechanics. She did not like the prospects of becoming a mechanic after graduation and decided to further her studies in Beijing. This time she chose to learn English. In 2005, she started working as an assistant at New Oriental School where she met Carter, eight years her senior. He was teaching children at the school.

    “In fact, I thought he was younger than me when we first met. We didn’t talk to each other much, but every time we met, he would give me a broad smile,” Hong recalled.

    Then, one day, Carter sent one of his students, a 5-year-old girl, to tell her, “Tom thinks you are very beautiful.”

    They started dating in October 2005. Then in April 2006, Carter quit his job to travel around China. In June, he was in Tibet and invited Hong to join him. She asked for a three-week leave and flew to Tibet.

    “The trip to Tibet opened a door for me, which totally changed my life. The people we met there were simple, pure, stoic and had faith. The landscapes were grand, serene and beautiful. Previously, I thought I would go to school, graduate, find a job, settle down, get married and have kids, like many others do. But after Tibet, I wanted to go to different places, meet different people, and experience different cultures.”

    Friends and family did not support her decision to quit her job and live like a Gypsy with Carter.

    “I thought she was crazy when she wanted to quit her job and tie her future up with an American,” said a friend surnamed Wang. “But, thankfully, things worked out well for them. They are happy.”

    In 2007, the couple spent a year visiting all the provinces and regions in China, and Carter published an album based on that trip.

    Future life

    With a 2-year-old son, Hong and Carter now call Shanghai their temporary home.

    “We work hard to save enough money to fund our journeys. I envision our future life in various cities around the world, a few years here and a few years there,” Hong said. “And I hope our son will grow into a world citizen, speaking various languages, with an open mind about people and their different backgrounds.”

    There are various ways through which one can learn about the world and oneself, Hong said.

    “You can read books or check for information on the Internet, but there is an old saying: ‘Seeing is believing.’ I always think that going to places and talking to the people in person are the best way to find out the truth about the world and myself. A lifestyle centered on traveling is, so far, good for me.”

    Calling herself an easygoing person, Hong said she does not have strong cravings for material things. “I am not ambitious in that respect,” she said. “All I want is a happy, simple, but rich life.”

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