For Dou Haobei, who runs a clothes shop in south China's Guangdong Province, the outbreak of COVID-19 has offered him a chance to carry his four-year-old daughter to Tibet on a bicycle, a journey that he had long dreamed of.
On one hand, Doudou, which is his daughter's pet name, did not have to go to kindergarten; on the other hand, Dou had few customers to receive.
"I'd rather pick up the dream of cycling to Tibet than sit there idly, playing with my phone all day," said the single father, 26.
It took them 72 days to travel from their home in the city of Dongguan to Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, before they returned home by airplane earlier this month.
Dou is a sports lover and rich in outing experience. At the age of 20, he rode a bicycle to Tibet. "Just like what a song has described, every man who has been to Tibet has always expected to return someday," he said.
Dou decided to take his daughter with him, as he believed that nature and the company of parents are the best teachers for children.
Before departure, he bought a bike trailer to put his daughter in, packed enough clothes for four seasons, drafted a detailed route with accommodation plans and prepared necessary medicine as well as snacks and toys for Doudou in case she felt bored on the way. He also bought a drone that was used to take photos of them.
On the journey covering Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and Tibet, they saw golden wheat waves, starry skies and wildlife -- views that were totally different from those near their urban home.
"Doudou had never seen such scenes before. I could feel she was very excited," Dou recalled, adding that he even joined her singing loudly on a starry night at the lakeside of Erhai in Yunnan Province.
The trip was not always easy. Sometimes when they were late to arrive at the lodging site, Doudou would get impatient and whine.
Once as they traveled along a steep road in the mountainous area of Yunnan, it started raining. Everything was wet, and Dou had to drag the heavy vehicle while watching for falling stones.
"We trekked all the way up to the village, only to find the inn I found on the internet was not open," he recalled. Luckily, a local Tibetan villager took them in.
"The journey mirrors life. You can succeed eventually if you keep moving ahead," he said.
Every evening when they arrived at an accommodation site, Dou would select, edit and share images on his account on the video-sharing platform Douyin, also known as TikTok, which has drawn nearly 2 million followers.
"On the days without updates because of no internet access, some netizens would leave messages asking us whether we had trouble and to take care."
On the way, they met many cyclists. Some had followed his account online, and many others were strangers.
"Many encouraged us and treated Doudou with snacks, which made her very happy," he said, adding that so many small gifts had filled the trailer that it almost had no room for Doudou to put her feet.
Their journey drew criticism as well. Some people, including their relatives, worried that the young father was unable to take care of the child on the way, while some others said it was improper to take a four-year-old girl to Tibet, a high-altitude region that may sicken the child.
Dou shrugged off the comments as he believed the trip would be beneficial for his daughter's growth. "I want to take her to explore and find out what the world is like. With me being her guide, she will find her own life," he posted on his WeChat account after returning home.
Dou dropped out of college during his sophomore year to start his own business. With the many hardships he has been through, he wanted to educate his daughter in a more open way.
Dou was proud to find Doudou acquired perseverance thanks to the trip.
One day when they went shopping, Doudou helped carry back two giant packs of tissues. Despite being tired, she walked and rested alternately, carrying them home, instead of returning them to her father halfway.
"Look at me, dad. I can make it if I hold on a little longer," Dou remembered his daughter saying with a smile across her face.
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