Su Min was approaching a wharf in the southern China city of Shantou when we contacted her. By then, she'd traveled some 8,000 kilometers on a solo road trip. 'I'm heading further south to Hainan. It's warm there in the winter,' she told us over the phone while she kept cutting in and out due to bad cellular reception.
Three months ago, Su, 56, left her home in central Henan Province, took the car she had bought with a loan, and drove down south. Her decision was not made on a whim, but instead an enactment of a meticulous plan to flee from an abusive marriage of 30 years during which she made several suicide attempts. She started preparing for the trip in the winter of 2019 when she came across an online article in which a blogger talked about driving through the country alone. 'Suddenly I realized life could be like that!' Su said.
Since then, she'd been spending spare moments amid the hustle and bustle of daily household chores to look for destinations and travel gear ranging from tents and mini fridges to cooking utensils. Day by day, she'd gotten everything ready in secret for her road trip. On September 23, when her twin grandsons entered kindergarten and no longer needed her daily care.
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- On many services, one needs to notify the bus driver verbally if they would like to alight as the buzzers are inoperable. Metered taxis exist, but rarely will the driver use the meter. The fare needs to be negotiated, preferably before the trip to avoid arguments later. Traffic in Shantou, as is common in this part of China, is chaotic at best.
- Shantou Car Service provides chauffeured business sedans, luxury sedans, limos, vans and buses. We offer airport pick up and car rental with professional drivers and guides. We service Shantou and other major cities in the Guangdong region, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and Hong Kong.
'I've fulfilled my duty as a wife, a mother and grandmother,' she told us.
Asking for leave from life
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'I want to ask for a temporary leave from my usual life,' Su said in one of her first short videos documenting her new journey.
The life she was trying to break free from was a marriage of convenience. Su, born to an average family in a small town, was considered a leftover woman at the age of 23 in the 1980s. She rushed into marriage after meeting her husband only twice, whom she got to know through a blind date. 'At the time, almost every woman around walked down the aisle like that. I didn't realize there was something wrong,' she said.
Her life, nonetheless, didn't take a bad turn until two years later when she moved to the Henan capital of Zhengzhou following the closure of the fertilizer factory where she worked. She began to really know what kind of man her husband was only after moving to the city where he lived – he was more or less a stranger in the first two years of their marriage due to their long-distance relationship.
'He's stingy and picky. When I had no job over the first few months in Zhengzhou, he was keeping tabs on everything,' Su sighed. 'If there was a problem with our spending, there would be a fight.'
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The days of being a stay-at-home mother didn't last long. She clung to her pride in the face of her condescending husband, looking for a way to make her own living.