Back in China


“Get me out of here.” Those were my first thoughts upon landing back in Beijing after the pretty painless 12 hour non-stop from San Francisco.

It’s not the first time I’ve had moments of instant regret of sorts when arriving in a place that’s dirty, dangerous, poor, or some combination. It’s usually followed by some immediate action toward following through on the regret — checking to see if I can change flights, change hotels, or in some other way improve my situation. I remember settling into my “bed” in the hut that was planted in the water deep in the Amazon jungle in 2008, bugs all around me, and thinking, “Why oh why did I leave behind my nice lifestyle in the U.S.?”

Usually, though, things improve, and I look back and feel proud and glad I did it.

In Beijing, I think my early discomfort stemmed from sleep deprivation more than anything. I’m still recovering from South America. But there are also real things about China that make life difficult, and no matter how good the “moments” are, China will never be one of my favorite countries. The smog and pollution in Beijing is insane; the language is absolutely foreign to me and I have trouble communicating even basic things; the food is decent but usually too spicy, even in the east (the west’s cuisine is crazy spicy); there are holes not toilets.

My first two weeks in Beijing I will enjoy the soup-to-nuts services of my hosts and fellow delegates here. Thinking back to when I was here solo in 2006, I am absolutely amazed I got around and functioned on my own. I think once you have a host or someone who knows the ropes, you immediately cede control of the situation and become pretty helpless on your own. You’re in “follower” mode. Had I landed in Beijing knowing I’d be fending for myself, my attitude would be different and more aggressive toward making myself get to where I need to go.

In 2006 I was in China in October. Now it’s August. Then, the weather was pleasant, save for smog. Now, the weather is miserably hot and humid. If I’ve learned one thing through travel, it’s that I really do poorly in extreme temps in either direction. I’m a man of moderate temperature and regular fog.

The good news: I think I’ve gotten most of my negativity out of the way, the sky is actually blue today in Beijing, and I’m beginning to get some sleep on my rock-hard mattress of sorts. I feel like better times are on the way.

Ben Casnocha
Ben Casnocha is the author of the bestselling business book
'My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley", which the New York Times called "precocious, informative, and entertaining." He founded Comcate, Inc., an e-government software company, at age 14. Ben's work has been featured in dozens of international media including CNN, USA Today, CNBC, and ABC's 20/20. At a conference in Paris PoliticsOnline named him one of the "25 most influential people in the world of internet and politics".

BusinessWeek recently named Ben "one of America's top young entrepreneurs." He writes prolifically on his blog which the San Jose Business Journal called one of the "Top 25 Blogs in Silicon Valley." He's also a commentator for public radio's "Marketplace."

In addition, Ben has given speeches at dozens of universities and organizations around the world. He has traveled to more than 25 countries and he also co-runs the Silicon Valley Junto, an intellectual discussion society for business and technology executives. In his free time Ben enjoys playing chess, ping-pong, reading, and writing.

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