The vague imagination of a soon-to-be experienced adventure is a familiar one.

Excited. Curious. Nervous. Hopeful.

A unique combination of emotions that overwhelm one’s sensations. Whom would I meet? How different would it be? Would the trip be void of major setbacks?

It’s these standard questions that a traveler faces regularly. It’s these feelings that we thrive on. The journey to the unknown often awakens our senses beyond any other experience. They are what brings us to be leading lives of thriftiness, budgeting for our escapades. A life full of experiences, not possessions.

My imagination usually occurs most vividly while amidst the first place of transport, in this case the Seoul airport. An all too familiar place these days, the airport felt like a comfortable place to sit and journal my thoughts.

China, of all the places in the world, was one of the last I ever thought I’d visit. Not that I wouldn’t visit, I had just assumed it would happen much later, on the back end of my list of places to see in the world. But that wasn’t the case.

I had barely prepared for this trip. It was decided upon a month before by a spontaneous comment my friend Spencer put forth via Facebook. The most I had done pre-departure was booking my flights and hostels and throwing together a short checklist and bag. Three days in China and 6 in Mongolia was the plan, and the only major sights to see were the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and horse trekking on the steppes of Mongolia near the capital Ulaanbaatar.

Outside of this, we were leaving it open-ended which, outside the occasional mishaps from lack of preparation, is my favorite way to travel.

So, as I sat on the deep cushioned leather black seats in the spotlessly clean Incheon Airport, I hoped the trip would go smoothly. Taking advice from a recent blog post I read on note taking, I decided to put together a quick list of things to accomplish while in China:

  1. Take notes regularly
  2. See the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square
  3. Find one idea for a story
  4. Find two ideas for a blog post
  5. Get lost at least once
  6. Try at least two new things
  7. Have one good conversation with a Chinese person
  8. Buy one Chinese girl a drink
  9. Meet one new “friend”

Although I failed to regularly look back upon this list during my travel and inevitably didn’t achieve all these tasks, it still helped to keep the most important of them in the back of my mind. This routine will undoubtedly be adopted into my travel preparations for the future.

A loud burst of Korean from the PA system broke my concentration, followed by a translation in Chinese, then English. I checked my watch, it was 5:20pm. Right on time. From the numerous rumors, I was surprised at Air China’s punctuality. I would arrive in Beijing at 7 it seems, so I packed up my journal and my phone charger and boarded the plane.

Departed Seoul at 5:50pm and arrived in Beijing at 7. Luckily, Spencer had left days before me, spending some time in Shanghai with a friend before heading to Beijing the day before I did. Conveniently, he sent me a text with info on how to get directly to the hostel where we were to stay, possibly knowing I might not had figured that out already. He was right.