Are you a Tourist or a Traveler?

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I do a lot of traveling back and forth from Houston to Shanghai as part of my job as CEO of Avela Corporation. My trips involve traveling with clients to do final negotiation on sourcing deals that the Shanghai office has spent weeks and months setting up. Our travels take us to all parts of China, from futuristic mega-cities like Shanghai to tiny towns where you can find people living at a much slower pace, as it was fifty to one hundred years ago.

On this last trip we traveled with clients to a small village outside of Changhsha China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changsha), about 3.5 hours west of Shanghai. The factories we visited were all we had hoped for and we had some down time to relax and take in some sites. Our hosts took us to all the local tourist sites, which were interesting, but basically an experience a tourist would have.

But this beautiful mountainous countryside is famous for growing China's strawberries. Every valley for miles is covered with strawberry greenhouses. Suffice it to say we did something most tourist do not do, and went strawberry picking. We visited with a local farmer and he took us inside their greenhouses to pick strawberries. This was an almost magical thing to do, picking strawberries with the local farmers. My two clients, Nancy Li, my director of operations, and I each  picked a quart of strawberries and devoured them on the 3.5 hour car ride back to Shanghai. How fantastic. The strawberries will be the lasting memory we treasure on that trip.

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A couple of things struck me on the ride back. I have a hundred  stories like this one that I have accumulated throughout my 9 years of traveling in China. I really love getting past all the tourist stuff. In fact, I go out of my way to do so whenever the opportunity presents itself. I am a traveler, not a tourist. I get involved. I dive into the deep end and do not wade in the shallows. I always have. I guess I always will. It explains a lot about me.

How about you?

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Gary Young: Founder, President and CEO of the Avela Corporation Gary Young CEO of the Avela Corporation helps companies source produces and services in China with offices in Houston and Shanghai since 2002. Mr. Young’s experience extends from sourcing both commodities and unique OEM opportunities, to intense product development projects. His relationship with China extends into his personal life with his daughter-in-law Eva who is from Shanghai and the newest addition to the family Aiden ,who is presently learning English, Mandarin and Shanghainese. Mr. Young is a Vistage Member since 2001.

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