How a Newly Married Couple Walk 3500 Miles Across China

What happens when you fired up an old romance? For Lindsay and Abram, their rekindled love proves that they were meant to be together to walk across China. What’s like to be in a foreign place? How about cultural barriers? Let’s read on to find out!

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi. My name is Lindsay Rebekah and my husband’s name is Abram James. We both grew up in a small northeast Ohio town outside Cleveland in the United States.

When we were 8, our moms were friends. We dated at 16, broke up at 17. I moved to Texas and then China and Abram sold his company and moved to Alaska to fish and then onto California. We reconnected in Texas at 25 and were married 6 months later. For full story, go here.

We are currently walking across China! Today, we are in Jinzhou city in Liaoning Province, but tomorrow we will be somewhere else. That’s what this year has been for us, different place everyday. You can follow along our journey here.

Abram plays guitar, piano and bass. He also enjoys mechanics, especially when it involves his 1993 Subaru Loyale. He is always reading, at least, two different books and they’re usually about world history. He also enjoys traveling, being in nature and sipping on single malt whiskey.

I love China and the past 6 years have all had something to do with that. I enjoy travel, art and photography. I’m always capturing details and there’s always an art project in my mind. I’m actually not into sports, which is why I needed Abe to help me walk across China because this is really the first major athletic thing I’ve done in my adult life — believe it or not.

I’m learning to love seeing life on foot and appreciate the detail that goes with that. When we are not walking you will find me experimenting with flavors in the kitchen, listening and learning from NPR, various podcasts and audio books. I love photography and design and incorporate those things in whatever I happen to be doing in each season of life.

Being on a long journey like we are, having a hobby feels like a lifetime ago. Our favorite thing to do together is go to a new place and spend a few days exploring on foot, especially cities. 

Currently, we walk. We raised money and got a few sponsors and are using savings for the rest. Abram used to own a landscaping company but sold his shares, so that’s been helpful. In the past, aside from managing a crew, Abe has fished for cod in Alaska and knows car mechanics. I have done photography work as well as spending several years creating systems in an office setting and being a personal assistant. We are both obsessed with organization.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram 

How did the ‘Walk Across China’ idea begin?

In 2010, I went to China for the second time and brought Peter Jenkin’s book ‘Walk Across America‘ with me. By the end of the trip, I was saying that I was going to walk across China. It sort of started as a joke, but then turned into something more serious. I decided that if I was going to do this I would need to learn Mandarin, so in 2012 I moved by myself to China. I was in a really intensive language internship for two years, and trying to find a team of sorts who would want to do the walk with me.

After two years, I could speak ok Mandarin but couldn’t find anyone who wanted to walk across China. I came back to the States and was really dejected because I thought my project had failed. Little did I know, in order to move forward, I needed to come home so I could reconnect with Abram. Within a week of seeing each other, we were dating and we knew that we were meant to be together and walk across China, it was, for us, a God thing because neither one of us had planned to see each other or anything. We got married at the end of that year, 2014.

In 2016, we moved to a small town in northern Guangdong Province so that Abe could adjust to being in China, since it was his first time! We wanted to get our feet wet, especially for him, before we started the walk. China is an amazing place, but unlike any other, so there needs to be time for cultural adjustment.  During that time, we ended up working on a local, sustainable farm and getting to know the culture, customs and people more. We also used our walk across Hainan Island (China’s southernmost point) as a test run. We knew that we had to be back in the states for a wedding in the summer, so we thought we would walk 200 miles and get a taste of what it would be like and then be able to go home and get the gear we needed (China doesn’t make shoes bigger than a 39….and other gear issues).

It turned out to be a really excellent plan and we were able to work out a lot of the kinks in that time (for example, I needed walking poles to keep my hands from swelling and we decided to get a cart instead of wearing packs, which led to me switching from boots to tennis shoes, etc.). When we returned, we started in Hai’an, the southernmost part of Guangdong Providence and have been going north ever since. We knew we wanted to walk either south to north or north to south and we ended up picking the south to north route because we were going to start in the fall. We went from tropical and we’re ending in sub arctic, so we needed to make sure that when we got this far north it would be summer.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What was your friends and relatives’ initial reaction?

I’m not sure they really believed me, but then after Abe and I got married and said we are going to do it, I think they started to realize we were serious.

We miss home! Of course! We love our adventure lifestyle, but that doesn’t come without some costs. I’m an only child so very close to family and Abram is one of seven so we have a lot of nieces and nephews who we love and miss terribly. It’s interesting watching family and friends through social media, it’s definitely a different way to live life. We wouldn’t change it for anything, but it really teaches you to value the people in your life more.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What has been like to be in a foreign place?

We get a lot of people staring and gawking, in China we’re sort of a rare sight, especially in the rural areas. People are always taking our photo, smiling and saying hello or just staring with their mouths open or yelling ‘laowai’ (means foreigner) to whoever will listen.

Over all, aside from frustrating bureaucracy, people are incredibly kind. We’ve seen a new side of hospitality, and that’s been amazing and life-changing.

Learning the language is so challenging because each province has its own dialect and most towns within the province have a variation on that. Abram is doing amazing and is picking up the language a lot. It has been really helpful being able to communicate with the locals. Some days I’m not sure what we would do if we didn’t have any language.

To overcome language barriers, we use the Google Translate app and the instant translation feature a lot. I can’t read Mandarin (instead of an alphabet they have a different character or drawing for each word, takes a lot of time to learn), so it’s very helpful when ordering food or trying to navigate a Chinese app. We also love the Pleco app. If we are really stuck we just ask one of our Chinese friends for help. 

We love Chinese food. We actually miss it when we return to the States. There was about a month in Shandong Province where they didn’t have any rice and we couldn’t believe how much we missed it! It was such a surprise. It came back in Hebei Province and we were so happy. The food here surprisingly simple, it’s all fresh, from the market, and the way they use the flavors of soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, sugar and garlic really can create a lot of different combinations. We find that when we return to any western influenced countries we end up getting sick from the food because our bodies are just used to the more natural food here (for ex. They don’t eat dairy or bread very often).

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

Where do you shower and where do you wash your clothes? Where do you sleep when the night comes?

This is something we learned on our trial walk through Hainan Province. We thought we could just camp, but because of the laws in China and being a foreigner, that’s illegal (you must register with the police in every town you visit. If you stay at a hotel, they register for you so it’s much more convenient. Even when we have gone to the police to register, they didn’t know what to do, so it’s a bit confusing and always extremely frustrating).

Also, China is extremely populated, even in the rural areas it can be hard to find a place that would make camping easy. The nice thing is, China has a lot of inexpensive hotels and places to stay from 10-20 USD a night. We’ve been able to shower and do our laundry by hand every night in these simple hotels. In Southern China it wasn’t a problem, but as we get north, and closer to Beijing, the laws are a lot more strictly enforced. We have definitely found this a challenge because sometimes you can neither stay in a hotel or camp.

You can read about some of our challenges in this area and how we overcame them on our Facebook and Instagram through our daily updates.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What have been the most memorable part of your walk across China?

The diverse people we have met. Truly Chinese have taught us what it means to be a loyal friend, even to someone you just met. Also, the beauty and diversity is not only in the people, but the landscape. There are some breathtaking views.

What have been the most difficult parts of your walk across China?

Navigating certain Chinese laws that there is no way to learn about, they are enforced differently in every province and the people themselves aren’t even informed. We find this so confusing and frustrating. These laws are very black and white and if you don’t fit into the box/situation they’re planned for, you will find it very hard to proceed.

Also, we have 10-year 60-day visas, so having to leave the country every 60 days has been an expensive challenge, especially the more rural and north we get. Also, the pollution. The reality of China’s pollution crisis is daily staggering. This was never something on our radar, but it is now and I hope we can bring awareness through our photos and our personal experiences. We hope that through life changes we make can impact those we come in contact with, even if it is just a local seeing us pick up a piece of trash.
 
As far as pollution, we wear masks, we cough and we appreciate clean air when we get it. 
Here are two recent examples: (Here) and (here)

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What have been the top 6 ‘must have’ items for your adventure?

  • The cart: Chinese brand Baobaohao
  • Walking poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
  • Abe’s boots: this pair of Salewa gortex boots actually guarantees no blisters (when worm properly with good socks), and truly they work so well. Abe didn’t get a blister until he had walked over 1,000 miles and the shoes really aren’t meant to last that long, but they did! He’s now on his second pair.
  • My mini backpack: I love my Boreas Taurus. It’s an ultra-lightweight versatile daypack, 201. It packs up tiny, is thin, has a place for my camel pack (water carrier) and it has a snap at the shoulder to redistribute the weight. Boreas is one of our sponsors. We won their monthly travelers grant
  • Sun gear shirts: we are obsessed with our Sol Cool Ultimate Hoodies from Exofficio, they protect us from the sun but also keep us cool. Very neat technology. Sun protection is extremely important to us. I liked my shirt so much I had Abe’s sister ship one for him to HK. Abe also wears sunproof gloves, I just put my walking poles through the thumb holes on my shirt (which I got a few sizes too big), which hides my hands well. Can’t recommend this shirt enough.
  • My point and shoot: G7X Canon PowerShot, although the lens has a scratch (sadly…happened sometime on the walk) this has been a great, low maintenance way to capture the trip.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

Why did you choose to walk with a wagon and walking poles?

The cart/wagon is actually a baby stroller/bassinet. It saved our lives! Truly, I don’t know how far we would have gotten without it. The extreme heat we were experiencing in the south, along with the weight of the packs really look a toll on our physical bodies, which then impacted our emotions and made simple setbacks much harder to get through with a smile.

With the cart, we were able to get less intense shoes, save our ankles, backs and shoulders from serious rash and infection and be able to carry more stuff like extra water, food and small comfort things like our own pillow cases and conditioner (these go a LONG way on a trip as long as ours). The poles helped me a lot, if I don’t use them my hands swell and become really uncomfortable, especially if it hotter than 80 F. Abe pushes the cart, so he doesn’t use them.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What kind of footwear and clothes are you wearing for this walk?

I change shoes every session, but have done the best with a brand I found in Hong Kong called, TrekSta. They have this Nest Fit technology that my type of feet need. I have really wide feet that, due to all the walking, have actually lengthened over the course of this walk! Because of that I need some tight support for the middle of my foot, but lots of room for my toes, these shoes are a good remedy to that. 

Abe is sticking with his boots (see above).

He wears Arborwear Men’s pants (which Abe just informed me is a company that started in our hometown), which just started making woman’s sizes and I wish I had a pair. He’s had his for over 7 years (full time landscaping and the walk, etc.).

I’ve gone through a pair of my prAna Halle Women’s stretch pants and the second pair already have two holes near my ankles where my feet sometimes rub. Check out Arborwear.com, a quality company.

Exofficio Sol Cool hoodies and undies.

Smartwool merino base layers – used in cold weather and for sleeping. Amazing comfort and they are essentially odorless. 

Abe also finds Duluth Trading underwear brand quite good, they have a 7-year warranty and we’ve never had to use it.

Smartwool PhD Outdoor light socks, of course.

We chose these for washability, odor resistant and overall long-term wear quality. But like everything, we learn and try as we go and have made a lot of changes to arrive here.

More here. I haven’t updated this since September 2016 when we started, but we make changes almost every visa run due to gear and/or the changing seasons. After the walk, I will be posting those updates and doing official and more in depth reviews on all the gear, so if that’s something you’re interested in be sure to check back.

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

How do you finance your walk?

We did fundraising and tried to get sponsors, but ended up getting a small few, which we are grateful. I think most people want to see what you’ve done before they give, and since this was our first endeavor, it was hard to get people on board.

I think a lot of people say and plan for big adventures but I’m not sure how many people follow through. We have gotten a bit more interest since the project is now well underway, but have yet to see any financial gain from it.

We decided early on that this wasn’t going to be our focus – like ‘how many followers can you get’ type of thing, so we just write and post photos for each day and that’s about it. For startup costs and gear, we had the best success with individuals who were interested in the project and in our lives personally. Check it out here!

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What would be your best advice for people who want to follow your footsteps?

Make sure you know why you’re doing it, build a strong foundation before you even start because when the going gets tough, and it will, you will draw from that early determination and reasoning. Surround yourself with people and opinions that support that. For us, it has been deeply spiritual and we find ourselves drawing on that and our walks with Jesus for inspiration, motivation and encouragement.

Also, culture shock is very real. Do yourself a favor and research this topic and make a plan on how to deal with it. We have physical rest days, and sometimes culture rest days. It’s ok to have strong feelings, but be careful to label it for what it is and not get bitter about the culture you’re in.

A thing we like to remind each other is, ‘It’s not bad, it’s just different’ and ‘They do everything we do, we just need to learn more about their way and incorporate that into our lives’. Not everything can be ultimately accepted or learned, but the more you know about the reasons behind certain things, the easier they are to understand- like most things in life I guess. And just like culture shock there is re-entry shock and the adjustment returning home is. Just give yourself lots of grace and find someone who’s ‘been there’.

Lastly, get travelers insurance that will cover flying you out of country in case of an emergency. I love China, but man, their healthcare sucks. 

Walk Across China with Lindsay and Abram

What will the future bring

We want to start a family! We have already decided we want to maintain this adventure lifestyle and travel attitude toward life. We would love to raise our kids in China for at least a few years to give them a bigger world view, different languages and cultural experiences, which if you love to travel, you know there is nothing quite like it. So it’s going to be China for the next chapter of our lives, and after that? Only God knows.


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3 Comments

  1. Kim Allen says:

    Love your story! Have really enjoyed following your walk…

  2. Lisa Storey says:

    Love your story and love you both even more, Lindz & Abe!!❤️❤️

  3. Bethany Mariano says:

    Incredible, Beautiful, Inspirational, Proud!!!!

    Love you both! So fun to have this record of the memories and details.

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