spon·ta·ne·ous [spon-tey-nee-uhs] adjective coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural andunconstrained; unplanned.
As a child, spontaneous was my middle name. Although I can’t deny it’s easier to be spontaneous in your youth, before the burdens of adulthood, before you learn the severity of the consequences that accompany certain actions.
But with age comes responsibility. Bills, a job/career, relationships. You waste your time contemplating the what if’s. Looking instead of leaping. The inclination to act without premeditation sometimes gets lost along the path to becoming a “grown up”. Or does it?
Before I began this trip I was wondering if I’d lost it… you know, that sudden inner impulse, that inclination to act without premeditation, that unplanned performance that makes your heart racing, the ability to engage in unrehearsed and impulsive acts because you only live once and f*ck it why not? Now that I’m waist deep in the unknown, I realize that’s not the case at all.
Traveling reminds me I’m still just as spontaneous, hungry for trouble, and a miracle worker when it comes to making mischief.
After a lot of adventures, spontaneous escapades and trouble chasing, I have to say that my favourite so far has happened in China.
I mentioned in an earlier post, “8 top places to visit in China”, that one of the highlights of my adventure in China happens in Beijing.
But what was it?
Short answer; the history. But Neither Mao’s fabled Forbidden City nor my visit to the Great Wall allowed me to really soak up said history the way my visit to the Olympic City did. The reason for that is simple.
None of those places had a pool!
Being Michael Phelps for the day, which almost costed me a trip to a Chinese prison was my highlight in China.
So it’s me and Aidan, a fellow Londoner and my partner in crime in Beijing, where for a week we explored all the corners of the capital. But the big mischief happened at the Olympic City.
Most visitors are interested in the Bird’s Nest Stadium. I, however, am NOT most visitors. Having grown up swimming, all I wanted to do was to check out the pool.
When we finally reached it I was in awe. A pristinely clean blue and glasslike surface. A delicate silence like crystal was shattered as we giddily imagined the history making events that occurred at that very place six years ago. And although this was where Michael Phelps had won his 8 gold metals it looked like it’d never been swam in. I knew I had to do something about THAT.
I was quite blinded by the moment and suddenly, I felt this thing…. this feeling that can be described as butterflies in my belly, because the moment I laid my eyes on it, I just knew. And it was so clear: I wanted … actually I needed to swim in it, and I already knew I would.
“Dude, this is stunning. We are going to swim in it now”
Convincing Aidan was the easy part. Sort of. Even tho he really thought I was joking.
So we started our adventure, which required a quick plan of action:
1st – how do we get there, as we were on the top level, the only one accessible by visitors and even this was already hard to find
2nd – what to say when we get caught, because surely we will get caught (eventually I got Plan A and Plan B)
The hard part was actually reaching the pool. It took us over forty minutes of maneuvering through narrow hallways clearly meant for employees, entering doors marked “no visitors beyond this point”, riding a lift for “staff only” and losing our bearings in the basement of the building before we found the actual entrance to the pool; which was surprisingly unlocked (just as it should’ve been)!!! Especially after all the effort we’d put in to find it! But was actually good it took us so long as the building was closing down, so no more visitors and hopefully not as many security guards (we were wishing).
A few feet from the pool where Olympic history was made, we didn’t waste any time.
I told Aidan “Well we’ve probably got about two to five minutes before security are on us, so let’s do it!” And so we did. I jumped in fully clothed, my thinking being that if security caught us I’d just say “ooops! I fell in!” And if they asked what Aidan was doing in there with me, I’d just tell them “he’s saving me! DUH!” (this was Plan A)
And so there we were, swimming in a pool reserved for a small handful of people. And not just any people, the greatest swimmers in the whole world! This was a pool reserved for greatness, and frolicking in it with reckless, childlike, abandonment felt like absolutely the right thing. After all, I am living my dream! I’ve worked my whole life to be able to see the world the way I’m seeing it now. I walked away from everything I knew to reacquaint myself with adventure in ways that most people never even dream of. I’m not an Olympic Gold medalist, but I’m a part of a small handful of people too – those who are true to the dreams of their youth!
After about thirty or so seconds of splashing and backflipping in the complete and utter rightness of it all, Aidan and I got a little taste of the wrongness offered up by two Chinese security guards heading our way. That was faster than I thought.
Sadly, unimpressed with our Michael Phelps impersonation, I undertood it was time for my Plan B – being dumb, so I tried to play it off like “Ohhh, you mean I’m NOT allowed to swim in the Olympic Swimming pool?? Really???” After all, I DID buy a ticket. I’m a foreigner! I didn’t know!!!” So through broken English on their end and broken Mandarin on ours we all came to an agreement that perhaps it was best if we vacated the pool. And the Olympic City. Immediately. And so it was that Aidan, half-naked and a bundle of clothes in his hand, and me fully clothed but soaked to the skin, made our way to the exit as fast as we could before the two angry security guards or somebody else in the building decided we deserved a little more then a Mandarin tongue lashing and animated gesticulations of disapproval. Our hearts were racing and filled with the child-like joy and jubilation that comes from sharing a once in a lifetime experience that could easily get you arrested and making an (!!almost!!) clean getaway.
The excitement of our aquatic adventure stayed with us long after we left. The cherry on top was the tube ride home; both of us completely elated with the level of mischief we’d made, each sitting in our own respective puddles. I’m almost certain that no one in Beijing will see two foreigners so happy to be riding the tube soaking wet ever again.
Before this trip I was wondering if spontaneous was still my middle name. If I still had that devil-may-care, cavalier attitude. The will to be wild and make mischief wherever I go.
Did I still have it in me?
After reading this post I think you can answer that question!
…and you wonder why that was one of the highlights?!?! 🙂