Traveling for work can often mean long hours, and many days away from home – but you do get to see things that you might not have if you were to travel on your own. After a long day of photographing meetings during a trade mission to Beijing, China, I was relieved to see that there were some cultural activities scheduled in.
After walking through the beautiful grounds and serene gardens of the Temple of Heaven, I noticed a lively group of people crowded around sets of cards and board games. After our translator explained the game they were playing – Xiangqi or Chinese chess – I took some time to really watch and interact with some of the players. It was refreshing to see people step away from technology, especially in a modern city like Beijing, and just appreciate spending time in a beautiful garden and enjoying each other’s company over a simple board game.
This moment taught me the importance of diving into local culture. I think sometimes traveling to a new place can be overwhelming, and it’s really easy to get sucked into seeing all the tourist attractions. It’s not uncommon for people to rush through these things, and not look beyond their guide books. When I think back on my most memorable travel experiences, they’re often the times I was able to connect with the locals in a way no tourist attraction could ever match. Watching something as simple as a game of Chinese chess, observing the level of excitement rise as the games got tense, and seeing people smile as each game ended with a new winner, was something special that I will never forget.
This photo essay was a finalist in the 2018 World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship.
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