Travelers: Rebecca Leu and Jane Park, both high school
students at the International School of Beijing (ISB)
Destination: The Yanshan mountain range past Badaling
Dates: June 3-6, 2013
Travel plans: Leu and Park went on a four-day trip with three other students as part of ISB’s International Youth Award (IYA) program. The trip was organized by Journey Wilderness
Cost: The total cost was RMB 4,000 per person, including food, equipment and guidance throughout the trip.
Can you imagine a day without a shower? There was a time when we couldn’t, but our trip to the mountainous regions of Beijing made things that seemed previously impossible possible.
Over four days, five high school students from the International School of Beijing (ISB) went on a hiking trip to the mountains northwest of Badaling, a two-hour drive from Shunyi. The trip involved eight hours of hiking every day; most of us did not have prior experience with backpacking, which made the first two days of the expedition especially difficult. Specifically, we weren’t accustomed to the heavy bags, which contained our tents, equipment, and four days’ worth of food.
A typical day of the IYA expedition involved waking up with soiled clothes and scraggly hair in foggy, cold air, sending chills down the back of our spines. Pushing through the drowsiness, we would divvy up various chores such as making breakfast at 6am, packing up the tents, and retrieving water from the natural springs and filtering it for drinking. Despite our lack of experience, we accomplished each day’s tasks thanks to the collaboration of our teammates. Every day, two or three student leaders were chosen to lead the group, navigate to a final destination on the map, treat injuries and blisters, and – most importantly – keep team morale up.
The experience was challenging in many ways; it not only taught us useful skills for surviving in the wilderness with limited resources, but also helped us become better individuals within a community. Between the pre-trip trainings that JWA provided (including first aid, wilderness navigation, and camp craft) and the actual trip, we learned to collaborate, persevere, and unite through teamwork. We became proficient in solving problems through various approaches, such as using a compass to find our way in the mountains and distributing weights among team members when hiking up steep slopes.
The best part was waking up and falling asleep to the sounds of nature, the teamwork abilities we developed alongside our peers, and building confidence.
The IYA program also has a part called the “the adventurous journey,” which requires students to be on their own for the last two days of the trip. Before setting out, we feared it would be lonely, dangerous, or both – but it turned out to be the most enjoyable time.
The weather was definitely a challenging and unexpected aspect of the trip. No matter how much theory we knew from our pre-trip training sessions, it was near impossible to prepare for the extreme weather we experienced. In only four days and three nights, we experienced rain, frightening lightning, numbing cold, and fog; only on the final day did we get to experience a cheering breeze, but it was a perfect end to our journey. For those who are interested in this expedition, our main advice is to make sure to pack everything in zip lock bags!
To find out more, check out Journey Wildness Adventures at
Photos courtesy of Mark McGarigal
This article originally appeared on p32-33 of the beijingkids April 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com