Tired after years of living “for others”, To Man decisively left, starting a journey to inspire millions of Chinese housewives.
To Man, 56 years old, never thought one day she would feel this kind of freedom. She finally got her white car Volkswagen Polo bought with her savings, and worked in the supermarket for two years.
No need to worry about having her husband snatched the car keys, or no one else chirping on the side of his ear just going this way or another, you can even freely eat whatever you like, not eat according to your bland taste. husband, To Man freely added chili to the hotpot, sweating while eating.
On the morning of September 23, 2020, To Man drove out of the garage, watching her daughter fade away in the rearview mirror. She left the apartment gate, joined the busy traffic on the street, then took the highway, speeding out of Zhengzhou city, Henan province, central China. No longer preoccupied with being a wife, mother, child, or grandmother, now she’s just a traveler.
Wherever he went, To Man also took videos and posted them online, becoming an inspiration for women stuck in marriage across China. Others realize the plight of their own mother, who quietly assumes the countless obligations Chinese society imposes on her, or some is just surprised that a middle-aged woman is a symbol of a good family. determined to leave, choosing his own happiness.
To Man’s life was always in control. As a child, she had to restrain her urge to do so as she watched her two brothers happily play, slid down the mountainside of Qamdo in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, then quietly went to wash the dirty clothes for the two children. At the age of marriage, she quietly endured her husband’s indifference and violence so that her daughter could be raised in a family full of parents. When her daughter graduated and looked for a boyfriend, she did not dare to leave for fear of her embarrassment. By the time her two grandchildren were born, she continued to burden her with taking care of her.
One winter afternoon in 2019, she accidentally clicked on a link on the internet, reading someone’s article about sharing a trip alone. The door to To Man’s inner world seemed to be opened. She never thought that such a thing existed.
“I can do it too”, To Man told herself and immediately told her daughter, but she just thought her mother was joking.
Her daughter has twin sons and needs her mother’s help with care. But at this time, To Man insisted on taking care of her only until the following year, when she reached kindergarten age.
She was quietly preparing to move for the year, while still taking over the housework. To Man goes online to search for essentials to travel alone and when she finds something useful, she adds it to her shopping cart on the e-commerce site Taobao.
To Man has never looked forward to spring in her life. But the Covid-19 pandemic surprised everyone. The two children cannot go to kindergarten, and the husband sarcasm: “Let’s see how she is going to go!”. She did not argue with her husband, just continued to buy more items in the shopping cart.
By September 2020, kindergartens nationwide reopened. To Man felt that her obligation to be a mother and grandmother was finished. She pushes the checkout button for all items stored in the shopping cart.
When the shipper returned home from one dish to another, her husband was a little confused. Without a wife, he knew he couldn’t be with his daughter, who was too busy taking care of two children, unable to take care of his father.
“He realized if I left, he would also have to move out of his daughter’s house and no one would cook for me,” To Man said.
Her husband tried every way to stop his wife, mainly with provocative words. He even tried to get an ETC card, which helps pay for high-speed fees, and only gave up when his son-in-law discouraged.
“I can’t continue to live like this anymore”, To Man told herself.
Finally, the car is also filled with necessary supplies. Food, small gas cylinders, water, pots and pans were in the trunk. The back seat is a suitcase containing a sweater and pants, because she is not planning to return before winter ends. She also brought a small solar-powered refrigerator, and even a wireless GPS machine had to pay six months’ worth of data.
From Zhengzhou, she drove to the west, to the Three Gates, a city along the Yellow River, then to Xi’an, a famous ancient capital of China to see the terracotta horse statue under the tomb of Qin Shihuang. She sleeps the night at the car park, the campsite for free, and even sleeps at the service station along the highway. Initially, To Man was still afraid of passersby looking at her, so she often hid when it was time to eat. But after that, she ignored others.
She refills free drinking water at the service stations. Cook yourself to save money, find public bath deals on the app, order a shower voucher for about $ 1.5 / time.
On the way through many dangerous ramps, she did not feel fear, only freedom. In the first month, To Man drove more than 1,000 km, fueled 5 times and had 9 points deducted on her license for violating traffic regulations, but since getting married until now, this is the time when she laughs a lot. Best.
Having lived with her husband for 30 years, she knows that he does not eat spicy, knows that her husband likes to fish and likes to eat fish. She knew he switched between sports and news every time he watched television, liked to watch fighting news. She understood her husband’s history of heart disease and blood pressure, knew how many table tennis he won, but never understood what her husband really thought.
Most of the time the two live in a parallel world. When the child was a child, she used to hold his hand in the front, and the husband linger behind. When the daughter entered boarding school in her senior year of middle school, the two slept separately. Every time she heard her husband close the door outside, she knew she could finally sit on the sofa watching her favorite TV show.
After the daughter got married and gave birth, the two shared a room. They buy a bunk bed. She slept on and he slept under. At night, everyone wears headphones and plays on their own. At home, she does not often express her thoughts, because her husband’s greatest joy is to blame everyone, including the way she takes care of her grandchildren. Once, when she scented me, he said her saliva would make me sick.
“Can’t say this, can’t say that”, To Man said. She felt like a spring was pressed for so long. “Can’t talk freely in his house”.
She was beaten by her husband, back pain for many days. To avoid repetition, she learned to speak as little as possible in front of her husband. “Living with him is always as tight as a string,” she said.
Once while having dinner with a classmate, her husband burst into a restaurant, telling everyone “my wife has a mental problem”, asking them not to invite her out to eat again.
“He just wanted me to feel ashamed,” To Man said. After her husband left, some of her old classmates could not accept it. They told her “get out of that marriage, I’ll help you find a better person”. She just smiled and did not reply.
Chinese people usually prefer boys over girls. A woman who cannot produce a son will be despised by her husband and in-laws. So To Man always wondered if the relationship between the couple came to this country just because she gave birth to a girl?
The first two years after she got married, she quit her job because the factory was closed. There was a time To Man was at home. Every month, her husband gives her her salary and carefully checks every penny she spends. She took a selfie and then made money to spend it herself. To Man has always been jealous of his close friend, neighbor for 10 years, when your husband always never hesitated to give his wife money for shopping.
“She really has a lot of clothes,” she said.
Doctors diagnosed her with depression in 2019. When in the worst condition, she often cried alone and had to take medicine. To Man realized she would never be able to answer her question. She gave up looking for the cause, no longer delusional about her husband.
Only after driving for hundreds of kilometers did she call her mother for the first time. She said she needed to go to clear her mind, not saying more specifically. Her mother’s worldview always obeys the traditional concept of “harmony between all kinds of mankind”.
To Man knew that in her mother’s mind, there was no reason to break up a family as long as he didn’t betray her or ask for a divorce. Nor would she ever tell her mother that since she was 30 years old, she and her husband were basically separated.
Every time To Man falls apart, she calls her mother to complain and only receives a cold answer, “Do it yourself”. To Man always felt that she could not meet her mother’s expectation of “finding a good husband”, a man who has money, rights, and can help his family.
She grew up in her mother’s sternness and to get rid of it, To Man got married at the recommendation of the factory where she worked. She realized she was only leaving from mother’s supervision to a marriage without love. So in the life of a girl, she always let her be free, without any pressure, as long as you find someone who is kind and treats her well.
After giving birth, her daughter stayed home with depression after giving birth, often blaming her husband for not taking care of her when she came home from work. Her daughter’s anger worried her, and felt her son-in-law starting to look at his wife the same way her husband looked at her.
“I am very afraid of men when they are angry, worried that my son-in-law will look down on my daughter for not making money,” she said.
Therefore, the grandmother helps her children look after her grandchildren so that she can find a job and become financially independent soon. Because of her children, she always tries to maintain harmony in front of her son-in-law, often asking her grandchildren or her daughter what she wants to eat today.
“I really don’t care at all,” To Man said.
During the trip, her husband did not question his wife. The two of you avoid talking directly. If there is something to discuss, they will text the family chat group.
During 30 years of lonely and boring marriage, To Man never thought of a divorce. She has too many things to consider. In a way, she felt she had no personal property. The house is in the name of the husband, and the car is in the name of the daughter.
“Think about it, if I get divorced and I move, how much will it cost to buy a new house? What about my daughter? On holidays, who does she know about the house? This also worries my kids.” Looking for another husband? For what? ” she said.
The most important thing is that she overcame the most difficult days while looking after her children while looking for work. Now I have grown up, have a better life than my younger grandmother. She has a car and can travel alone.
To Man thinks that her husband’s decision to stay with me is similar. He was full of sickness, and no one would be willing to bear him when he calculated the cost of every penny.
Before going solo, she often read time travel novels. She likes to read stories related to the medical profession. In the present, they are not attracting attention, but when they go back to the past, they are considered the medical genius. Time travel gives them complete control over their fate. She also wished to travel back in time and, if possible, would marry the person she truly loved.
During the trip, she also changed her mind about her husband and felt sorry for him. She can go out freely, but he is not due to sick people. She is very close to her daughter, while the child is unfamiliar with her father because she saw her father beat her mother when she was a child.
But now conflicts with her husband are no longer important. To Man just wanted to “live for himself”. She feels free when freed from the burden of motherhood, from false intimacy, from the obligation to cheer others up.
After sharing a video of his trip online, someone posted it again and To Man immediately had thousands of followers overnight. They wrote a message to her, sharing how jealous she felt because “she was lucky to be able to drive, and I wanted to go but could not”.
She planned to go to Kunming, then to Lijiang and Dali, camp by the lake and fall asleep while singing birds. Finally, she will go to Hainan on the Lunar New Year. The son-in-law wants his mother to return before Tet, but To Man “does not want to work for other people.”
She did not think she would go home at any time, nor did she think about her future plans. The only thing To Man was sure was that he was driving a small car to the warm south.
Hong Hanh (According to the Sixth Tone)