Our project is simple. We will hitchhike the 4,000 kilometers of the Silk Road in China,
from Xian to Kashgar, stopping at each of the National Parks along the route to backpack across them, filming the entire thing. As we travel, we will explore how China’s break-neck growth is affecting China’s natural spaces and the way the Chinese think of those spaces. We want to understand what the Outdoors means to the Chinese.
Most Americans have an impression of China as a country crammed with people. This is
largely true of the eastern half, where more than ninety percent of the nation’s 1.3 billion people live, but, as you journey westward along the Silk Road, leaving the cities behind, it becomes a land of mountain and desert. Our route will take us through the Taklamakan Desert and the Tianshan Mountains, where the Chinese live with a mélange of ethnic minority like the Uighurs, Kazaks and Mongolians, an empty landscape reminiscent of the red deserts and green mountains of Utah.
This is more than just an outdoor adventure. Certainly, hiking across the National Parks
along the Silk Road will be important, but we also want to know what the Chinese think of their outdoors spaces. Millions of Chinese tourists are beginning to fan out across the globe, and they will use the Outdoors differently than we do. They have a different understanding of how they are supposed to use their Outdoors. As China’s role in the world increases, their understanding of the Outdoors will increasingly affect our Outdoors, everywhere from Yellowstone to the Serengeti. Our goal is to figure out what that understanding is.
We chose hitchhiking as our method of travel because it will put us into contact with large numbers of everyday Chinese people, giving us the opportunity to question them about
what they think of their Outdoors (though, due to logistics, we understand that when going
to certain places, like Tianchi Tianshan National Park, we may have to find other means of transportation as there is little normal traffic in the area). Combining what people tell us while hitchhiking outside the parks with what people tell us while hiking in the parks, we will have a well-rounded understanding of what the Outdoors means to an average Chinese citizen.
The two of us have the experience necessary to complete this project. First, Lee Moore has lived and worked in China for more than two years, doing graduate work entirely in
Mandarin at Nanjing University. With his experience, he will tackle the cultural, linguistic and logistical issues as they travel. Galen Burke is a professional photographer and videographer who has been concentrating on outdoor and sports photography. He will be filming the whole journey.
Both have worked for the National Park Service earlier in their careers, and both are avid
outdoorsmen, having hiked the entire Foothills Trail and parts of the Appalachian Trail together.
The next blog post was first published on Hitchhiking the Silk Road and is republished from My Travel Bay. Find more on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC2lBgepUEI