The intrinsic commitment of Chinese people to return home for the Spring Festival remains steadfast. Despite the challenges in the journey, the desire to reunite with family in their hometowns persists.
As living conditions and transportation improve, traditional modes of travel are fading, making way for fun and trendy alternatives favored by the younger generation.
Since the early 1980s, Guangdong's booming labor demand drew tens of millions of migrants to the Pearl River Delta for work. During the annual Spring Festival travel rush, the number of travelers from Guangdong to the rest of the country hit record highs. Going home was a persistent challenge for migrant workers, prompting a novel solution—riding motorcycles back with fellow villagers. At its peak, over a million riders returned to various provinces, as reported by Guangdong's transportation authorities.
Wang Zhengnian and his wife, migrant workers in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, are part of the motorbike convoy. In 2008, they bought their first motorcycle, opting to ride back to their hometown with fellow villagers for the next three years. The choice was driven by the difficulty securing train tickets and the higher bus fares during the Spring Festival travel rush.
Wang noted a decline in fellow villagers riding motorcycles back to Guizhou. Nowadays, most prefer driving. Even among motorbike travelers, it's mostly the younger generation, often on bikes worth tens of thousands of yuan. "The new generation values the journey experience and the feeling of freedom. In our time, it was about saving money and convenience. The contrast between then and now is stark," Wang said.
In the past, people typically chose long-distance buses for intercity travel, and during the Spring Festival travel rush, very few opted for cross-province journeys on public buses. However, in 2013, a young man from Shandong made an unconventional choice. He embarked on a 660-plus-kilometer trip from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, back to Linyi, Shandong province, taking a total of 7 days. His route spanned three provinces, involving 35 bus transfers.
At 27 back then, Xu Zhengguo studied in Hangzhou and then co-founded an e-commerce business in the city with friends after graduation. Opting for the bus to return home, he cited difficulty in buying train tickets and aimed to derive motivation from accomplishing an improbable task, fueling his resilience amidst the challenges of entrepreneurship.
On January 27, 2013, armed with a detailed roadmap, Xu embarked on a journey, live-streaming his trip home on Weibo. Enduring hardships, he stayed in inexpensive hotels, ate budget-friendly meals, and navigated between bus stations. On February 2, he reached his hometown of Linyi.
"This journey was incredibly enriching, both mentally and physically demanding – a must-have experience in one's lifetime," Xu summarized on Weibo. He took 35 bus rides, spending just over 140 yuan ($19.47) on fares and around 400 yuan on accommodation and meals, making it a cost-effective choice compared to cars or planes.
In the past, walking was a last resort due to inconvenient transportation. Nowadays, people choose to walk for health and, in some cases, for various purposes. In 2020, Ma Mingsong and his wife Liu Yujiu, villagers working in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, became internet celebrities by returning home for the Chinese New Year.
In 2019, 33-year-old Ma Mingsong, who was working on a construction site in Zhanjiang, proposed walking 2000 kilometers back to his hometown in the Kaizhou District of Chongqing. Starting on November 22, the couple embarked on this challenging journey, live-streaming the entire adventure.
While livestreaming and pushing a cart, Ma Mingsong carried essentials like water, dry food, a tent, and clothes. Despite their modest education, he and his wife worked hard on construction sites, earning a decent wage. Driven by a desire for new experiences, Ma Mingsong decided to learn live streaming and become an internet celebrity.
On their journey, they extended stays in picturesque villages and shared kindness through live streams when helped by villagers. They slept in bridge caves and cowsheds and camped outdoors, persisting through challenges without giving up.
On the afternoon of January 18, 2020, after 58 days of walking, Ma Mingsong and Liu Yujiu finally returned to their hometown. Eagerly, they excitedly opened a livestream to introduce their hometown to their online followers. The journey gained them 170,000 fans. Upon returning to Kaizhou District, Ma Mingsong's supporters came from various places to praise his courage and offer Chinese New Year blessings.
In the past, due to limited transportation options, people often chose bicycles for short distances. Now, cycling back home is a necessity and a way to strengthen willpower and stay fit. Recently, Zhang Yingjuan from Shanghai started a bicycle journey back to Hubei province with her elementary school-aged son to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Zhang and her son embarked on the bicycle journey from Shanghai's Pudong New Area on January 17, reaching Feixi County in Anhui province on January 27. Zhang chose cycling back home over driving, finding it more engaging. She also saw it as an opportunity for her son to exercise and avoid spending too much time indoors playing games.
The estimated route from Shanghai to Huanggang, Hubei province, is nearly 700 kilometers. They aim to cycle over 40 kilometers each day. However, in reality, it varies. They just set a general direction and decided on accommodations based on their daily stamina and nearby locations.
Zhang recorded daily videos of this unique journey, featuring cycling challenges and precious moments like drones spraying pesticides and low-flying planes. They also capture simple joys, such as stopping to blow dandelions and her son throwing stones into water pools.
(Liu Meihui and Liu Yujing, as interns, also contributed to this report.)
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