East Coast Excursion ’09

Posted in Announcements, Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 10:22 pm by Benjamin Ross

This past Thursday I sent in my last grad school application. On Friday I turned thirty. And tomorrow I am embarking on my first significant journey of my thirties. It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled extensively in the United States, with my last major trip being my road trip from Kansas to California in 2003. And with all the China excursions in the middle, it’s due time to explore more of my home country.

One of the most crucial skills I learned during my 3 plus years in China was the benefits of efficient circuitous traveling. In other words, choosing a starting and ending point, then traveling from start to finish with short overland trips, stopping frequently along the way, and always leaving room for improvisation. By my measures, the only region in the US which this can be accomplished with any degree of efficiency is the East Coast. So here’s my itinerary.

I fly into Boston the morning of 12/23. I head back to Chicago from Baltimore on 1/5. In between, I’m also planning multiple day stays in New York City and Philadelphia.

The reasons and goals for this trip are multi-fold. First and foremost, over the past year I have been reading extensively from the literature of urban sociology. As this is my hopeful future field of study, I want to take the chance to experience some of the earliest examples of urbanization in the Americas. Thus, I’m going to be shying away from the typical tourist draws and instead focusing on ethnic enclaves, transportation systems, sites of gentrification, areas which have experienced significant urban decay, and several of the districts and neighborhoods specifically studied in Sociology texts I have read. And yes, I will be visiting multiple Chinatowns along the way.

I’m also going to be catching up with various family and friends whom I haven’t visited in a very long time. My uncle my six cousins will all be in Boston for the holidays; Yueting, my best friend from Fuqing, is currently studying in Philadelphia; and I have various friends from college, Kansas City, and Jewish summer camp smattered throughout the East Coast. I’m also going to be scoping out several of the schools where I applied.

From a logistical standpoint, I am curious how my travel methods and techniques I utilized in China will translate into American public transit systems. I have lived without a car since I moved to Chicago in 2007 and am eager to further test what I hope will be the future of transportation in the United States. The circuitous travel method would never work in the Midwest, South, or West without a car, but I am confident I should be able to make all my destinations out East via subways, commuter trains, and of course the now-famous Fung Wa Chinatown bus service.

I’m going to be writing updates along the way, but probably will hold off on thorough write ups until I am back home since I’m going to be squeezing a lot into 2 weeks. I’ll also be tweeting a lot, so follow @BenRoss if you want to keep tabs. Oh, and as for finishing 《奋斗》, that’s going on the backburner until I get back. More updates from the road. Leaving for Boston in less than 12 hours.


  1. JB United States said,

    December 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Let me know if you’d like any recommendations for restaurants in manhattan chinatown, that is my hood !

  2. Evan Singapore said,

    December 24, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Enjoy your trip Ben. Check out if you are interested in Philly:

    monk’s tavern in center city to see the chill bar scene.

    Chickies n petes for the local sports scene and fresh crab.

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