Nick Ward, a music teacher from a small town in Oxfordshire, took The Dragon Trips’ China flagship tour in 2016. Deciding to head off to Asia was a bold move for Nick, considering he had never travelled extensively before in his life. He was placed in a mixed group of 25 guys and girls, ages spanning between 20 and 33. We sat down to chat with Nick to find out more about the experiences he shared with his travel buddies, how they bonded, and how they all became friends for life.
It was by chance that two of the other trip members live in the same area of England as him. A year after the trip, the travel buddies from The Dragon Trip still meet up most weekends. And the rest of the group? Several of his trip mates are planning to do a tour through the UK soon, visiting different members of their adventure group. Nick and his travel buddies have had over twenty meet-ups since their trip to China in 2016.
So, how do friendships like that form in just one month? “The group bonded right away… we were all in it together,” Nick said, describing how everyone was in the same position trying to navigate an unfamiliar country and language. “The trip fostered inclusiveness among group members. One moment people would be joking and next, they would be making heartfelt comments.”
The Dragon Trip provided free Mandarin lessons for the group which Nick said were very useful. They learned fun phrases like “you’re beautiful” (nǐ hěn piàoliàng) that they practised out and about in Chengdu. Everyone failed the delivery, but it made for good stories, Nick relayed.
There were lots of different times on the trip for the group to bond. On the train rides, they made quizzes about music, sports, and other subjects to pass the time. The group used their Chinese snacks as prizes for the winners and would carry on playing for four to five hours. When Nick’s group stayed overnight on the Great Wall, they had to stay in their tents due to a thunderstorm, but the next morning the sky was completely clear to watch the sunrise. The Shanghai bar crawl and biking the city walls of Xi’an were some other favourite activities of Nick’s.
For Nick, taking the trip was about growing confidence. He was looking for something akin to how he felt leaving home for university, but one that would push himself further out of his comfort zone.
“You can do anything by yourself once you know you can get around where people don’t speak your language… Unlike university, where you can pretend to be someone you’re not. When you go travelling, you’ll be yourself. It was great to see people’s natural personalities.”
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