While the coronavirus stifled many opportunities, a single dad in China came up with a unique solution: He took his 4-year-old daughter on an inspiring 2,500-mile cycling journey to Tibet over two months.
Dou Haobei, 26, decided to make the most of the recent downturn in business during the pandemic and bring his daughter, Dou Chenxi, on a journey she is likely to never forget.
Dou, who owns a clothing business, bought a child-seat trailer for his daughter, whom he calls Dou Dou, and hooked it up to his bicycle.
They set off from Dongguan in south China’s Guangdong province on April 2 and spent 71 days cycling to Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the southwest of China in the valley of the Himalayas.
The impetus for the trip? Simple: “Because of the pandemic, there was nothing else for us to do,” said Dou, who documented the journey on Douyin, the original Chinese version of TikTok.
“There was no business, and my daughter’s nursery school had closed. We were staying at home every day.”
Dou rode his bike or pushed it up steep roads with help from Dou Dou on a journey covering 2,571 miles (4,139 kilometers). Lhasa, one of the highest cities in the world, sits 11,990 feet above sea level.
Dou Dou spent her fourth birthday in the city of Nanning, capital of neighboring Guangxi region, on April 12.
“I know it’s very common for Westerners to go on long cycling journeys and bring their kids with them, but very few Chinese do this,” Dou said. “We like our comfort and generally don’t put ourselves or our children through these sorts of experiences, which can be really tiring and challenging. But this is a promise I made to her, so I wanted to keep it.”
The route to Tibet is popular and “mature,” Dou said, with plenty of places to resupply and find accommodation along the way. He had cycled there with friends in 2013, before his daughter was born.
Though it involved crossing high-altitude motorways and mountain roads, Dou Dou remained safe and healthy the entire way inside the waterproof child trailer.
“Because we didn’t have a strict schedule or decide beforehand how many days we wanted to cycle for, we chose our stops every morning,” Dou said. “One of the most memorable moments was the evening we were cycling around Erhai Lake in Yunnan province.
“Dou Dou looked up and gasped when she saw stars. Living in a large city like Dongguan, she’d never seen such a clear sky before. I’ll never forget when she started singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’”
He and his daughter managed about 40 miles a day and finally reached Lhasa on June 12. They took a flight back to Dongguan after spending about a week sightseeing in Tibet.
“Dou Dou is back at nursery school now,” her father said, “but she wants to go again. I don’t think I’m capable of repeating journeys like this too often.”
After their long trek, Dou has had time to reflect on its impact on his daughter.
“Although she knows I’ve pictures from our trip online, she doesn’t yet realize the significance of our journey,” he said.
“I wanted to teach her a lesson in persistence and how to meet challenges head-on. When she’s older and has a chance to look back at the experience, I’m sure she’ll understand.”
Edited by Judy Isacoff.