Over the weekend, some friends and I went to see the famous Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, China. As the story goes, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, had an army created to stand guard in his tomb and protect him in death. The army of statues remained underground and unknown until they were found by some farmers trying to dig a well in 1976. Upon discovery, the pits were excavated and over 8,000 finely crafted soldiers dating back to 210 BC were found. Unfortunately for the farmers, they had to go elsewhere to dig their well.
But today I don’t really want to talk much about the history of the Terracotta Army. No, I’d rather talk about traveling, and how the Internet has made traveling so much easier but also maybe a little bit less interesting. Not much less, but a little.
See, when I came to China, I had never even heard of the Terracotta Army. Then some time went by, and I saw my friends’ Facebook picture albums and I Googled stuff, and eventually I had a decent idea of what the whole thing was like. It took some time for me to finally go, and when I did, I was able to find the location without much of a problem, taking a bullet train to Xi’an and then a bus to the actual site. Just like the Internet told me to. Everything was easy. And then I entered the site and looked at the Warriors, and I found that it was exactly how I expected it would be. There weren’t any surprises at all. Which might be good, or it might not be.
Is there something less thrilling about a plan that works flawlessly? Something a little disappointing when what you see turns out to be exactly what you’ve seen in pictures a hundred times already? Because that more or less describes the trip to Xi’an. It was nice to spend time with my friends and to share the experience with Feng Deng…but a few unexpected occurrences would have been nice. If only to add a little bit of flavor.
Essentially, I’m beginning to worry that the Internet, while wonderful, is also a really big spoiler alert. It gives everything away. Right now, as you read this, you’re seeing the exact images that you’d see if you went to Xi’an. And I can’t help but think, it would be kind of nice if that wasn’t the case. If you could go and have a real mind blowing experience, instead of standing there and looking at this magnificent creation and feeling as if you’ve already seen it. Like Google Images was a trailer that gave too much of the movie away.
For my next travel adventures, I’ve decided not to Google any of the sites. Sure, I’ll get directions, but that’s it. Maybe I’ll go and buy a Lonely Planet book that doesn’t have any pictures. Only words. Because I want an amazing experience. Something like what those farmers in 1976 got when they stuck their shovels into the ground and began digging.
* Special thanks to my friend Jonathan who took most of these pictures.