Adventuring and exploring the world feeds Andrea Wang’s soul


Climbing the last of the 60,000 steps leading up the Huangshan Mountain in China, junior Andrea Wang and her family were expecting a grand sunrise that they had woken up at four in the morning for. With their hair frizzy and their bodies aching from the strenuous staircase and the 12-hour time change, their expectations were high for a picturesque sunrise.

Andrea, especially, was looking forward to witnessing a red and orange-hued sunrise that she had seen in photos beforehand. Looking to take a photo of her own, Andrea had the camera ready after the treacherous trek up the mountain.

Her camera was quickly put away once they reached the top of the mountain, though.

“It’s like five a.m.,” Andrea recalled, trying to describe an indescribable amount of stairs, “[and] we’re so tired, and there [are] so many steps– I can’t even describe to you how many steps there were– and we got to the top, and there was no sunrise because the fog was covering it.”

With her camera out of sight and exhaustion taking over, disappointment and defeat coursed through Andrea’s veins. The dismay quickly switched to appreciation, though, because the view was still breathtaking.

“It was disappointing because some of the pictures that I’ve seen of the sunrises there are honestly unreal; it’s kind of crazy how pretty they are,” Andrea said. “We were a little bit disappointed, but it still looked super pretty.”

Andrea wasn’t able to add a sunrise photo to her collection, but she did add an adventure to her ever-growing list.

Having traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the most notable areas of Michigan, Andrea considers traveling a pure passion of hers. Feeding her unadulterated passion and appreciation for worlds away from her own, Andrea enjoys adding adventure after adventure to her list.

In the same trip where the sunrise was less than picturesque, Andrea and her family trekked up the same mountain where a five-star hotel was located.

On the crazier side of her adventures, the climb up the mountain was a trip where expectations were set, yet again, but the outcome exceeded any preconceived notions.

“It was a crazy adventure,” Andrea said. “Our resting point was our hotel, and it was a very nice hotel; it was definitely not what I was expecting at all. You would think that it would be a really bad cabin. [When we went], my mom was telling me, ‘Hey, you can’t expect much from this.’ She was like, ‘I don’t even know if you’re going to have a place to shower or go to the bathroom.’ ”

In order to get to their hotel, where they may or may not have been able to shower, Andrea and her family first had to be transported by bus and cable car and then hike the rest of the way. The beauty of the mountain was seen on the way up, and the magnificence of the hotel– a stone building instead of the expected log cabin– only enhanced the experience.

“[The mountain] is the prettiest thing ever,” Andrea said. “You don’t hike up the whole mountain or anything; [the tour guides] take you up part of the way by bus. That’s the starting point, and then the other part is [where you’re taken] halfway up the mountain, and that’s where you start hiking. You take a cable car up, and the scenery is gorgeous.”

Andrea fulfilled her desire to capture some stunning photos and was able to get pictures of the foggy atmosphere. She feels that the best pictures result from fog because the mountains peek through and create an eerie-looking photo.

Once they reached the hotel, they realized that the scenery was only half of the beauty.

Andrea and her family felt relieved that they would be able to shower– a beautiful occurrence that definitely could not have been done twenty years prior.

“My mom’s business friends from China were kind of the ones who traveled with us,” Andrea said, “because the husband had been hiking on the mountain before so he knew what it was like. Twenty years before, he couldn’t even take a shower. They’ve for sure progressed.”

Twenty years later, Andrea and her family enjoyed the amenities that came along with the modern hotel in the middle of the mountains.

“The hotel was a five-star hotel, basically,” Andrea said. “Even when you go to the Grand Canyon, you just stay in a lodge or something– definitely not resort-like [or] the most comfortable thing. We were so surprised by [the quality of the hotel].”

Surprises and spontaneity make up Andrea’s adventures, as most of them are either unplanned or stick to an unrestricted schedule. Her parents fueled her love for exploring and traveling, and Andrea thanks them for encouraging her to adventure.

A couple of years ago, when they went to New York, the flexible schedule and the bustle of the city captivated Andrea and only strengthened her passion for exploring somewhere new.

“New York is, honestly, one of my favorite places on Earth,” Andrea exclaimed with a wide smile. “The city, in general, is just… there’s so much more happening. It’s more exciting than what we have here. Grand Rapids [is] fun. I love it here, and we have the Great Lakes– but, New York… you know, it’s the city that never sleeps. I love that; I love that it’s— I don’t know— 12 a.m., and you can’t sleep or you’re just bored, and you look outside your window, and there [is] so much that is going on.”

Andrea has been immersed in both urbanized and rural areas and can honestly say that there isn’t a side of the spectrum that she prefers. Because New York is on the top of her adventure list, bustling cities and the experiences they provide will always scratch the restless itch to travel outside of Grand Rapids, but a quaint town can offer the same in Andrea’s opinion.

“Yeah, [New York] is really urbanized and dirty, and there [are] rats everywhere,” Andrea laughed, “but I don’t know. It’s one of my favorite places, and there’s just so much to do. I don’t have a preference, I’m not like ‘Oh, yeah, I hate big cities, and I love rural places.’ I kind of feel like I like a good balance between really peaceful, quiet places and then just loud and [lots of] people. I like a good mix.”

No matter the area, immersing herself into new worlds and cultures will always remain a constant source of fulfillment for Andrea. From mountain climbing in China to Shake Shack dining in New York, Andrea feels that there is always a chance to learn something new about some aspect of the trip.

Traveling is more than seeing something interesting to Andrea– it’s seeing something interesting and learning everything about it, too.

“There’s so much history and culture [in the world],” Andrea said, “[Traveling] is a whole learning experience, too; that’s also what I love about it. It’s not like school, where you’re stuck to [the] curriculum and tests and everything. Traveling gives you the opportunity to learn, and I think it’s super fun that you can just relax, but also learn about different countries or cultures at the same time. There’s so much history behind it.”

Most of the culture-rich and history-packed trips were in the earlier years of Andrea’s life, which she thinks could have been appreciated more if they would have happened later. While Andrea is appreciative of the opportunity to travel all across the world, she finds it saddening that her younger-self may not have appreciated it as much as she could have now.

“It’s kind of sad, because [my family and I] went to all these places when we were a lot younger, and now, we don’t remember it as much,” Andrea said. “When you go somewhere when you’re really young, you just don’t remember anything. You want to go back and be able to remember it all.”

Smaller-scale adventuring and spontaneous local trips occupy Andrea’s free time in order to create more memories and appreciate the little worlds inside of Michigan. Often accompanied by juniors Amanda Bartolovic or Olivia Luplow, Andrea hikes in local state parks or explores the beaches of Lake Michigan.

Adventuring is a constant state of mind for Andrea, and she fuels this passion by exploring crevices of the world with her family and friends.

“In the summer,” Andrea said, “my sister and I, and even with Amanda, are always like, ‘Oh, my God, we have to go on an adventure– we have to do something fun together. We love hiking and even just a trip to Lake Michigan is so much fun. It’s beautiful and so peaceful by the lake, and in the winter, it’s super pretty when it’s frozen over. Honestly, that looks the coolest.”

Satisfying her love for the more small-town side of the traveling spectrum, Andrea spends her summer days in the laid-back town of Grand Haven.

“[I love] the whole vibe and atmosphere of Grand Haven,” Andrea said. “It’s [a] beach town, you know. It’s super relaxed, and you can have a good time there in the summer. My friend, Olivia, and I go to Grand Haven every once in a while, and her [family] has a boat, so we’ll go boating. [It’s] super fun.”

From small beach trips to out-of-the-country mountain climbs, Andrea is always on the lookout for a new adventure to add to her constantly growing list. Combating routine and boredom, exploring every part of the world is a true passion of Andrea’s, and she hopes the list of adventures never comes to a stop.

“When you go to new places, normally you travel to see something exciting and different from where you’re coming from,” Andrea said. “It’s just being in the culture and [with] the different people. I just want something exciting or interesting to explore; I love exploring and just seeing everything that’s out there. People that live in different countries, especially, lead such different lives than us, and we have no idea what other people are doing. We’re kind of in our own bubble, and it’s so cool to see how other people live and what they do every day.”