A Modern Day Silk Road Journey

Miles Jenner had always dreamed of traveling the world. But for 15 years, he was stuck in a routine of working long hours in the hospitality industry, barely making ends meet. He felt like he was missing out on life and learning. He wanted to see new places, meet new people, and experience different cultures.

That’s why Jenner decided to do something radical. He quit his job, sold his car and most of his possessions, and used his savings to embark on a journey of a lifetime. He wanted to follow some of the ancient routes of the Silk Road, a network of trade routes that connected Asia with Europe and Africa for over a millennium.

Once China re-opened after its Covid-Zero policies Miles decided now was the time to retrace the mythical Silk Road.

“I was fascinated by the idea of the Silk Road, how it was a bridge between civilizations, how it fostered cultural exchange and innovation,” he says. “I wanted to see for myself what traces of that history are still visible today, and how the regions along the Silk Road have evolved over time.”

Jenner started his trip in China, where he visited the famous Terracotta Army in Xi’an, the former capital of several Chinese dynasties and one of the eastern termini of the Silk Road. He marveled at the thousands of life-sized statues of soldiers, horses, and chariots that were buried with the first emperor of China in the 3rd century BCE.

Jenner then traveled westward, flying from X’ian in China to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Not all of the ancient routes are open to foreign travelers but as Jenner said, “Determination matters, as I wanted to experience as much of the journey as possible.”

Crossing the vast and rugged landscapes of Central Asia. He stopped at various cities and towns that were once flourishing centers of trade and culture. He admired the stunning mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas that showcased the art and architecture of Islam, which spread along the Silk Road from the 7th century CE onwards. He also learned about the diverse ethnic groups that inhabit the region, such as the Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyzs.

He continued his journey through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where he basically followed the Pamir Highway ay one of the highest roads in the world. He enjoyed the breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, lakes, and valleys. He also encountered nomadic herders who still live in traditional yurts and tend their flocks of sheep and goats.

He then flew from Dushanbe to Istanbul, skipping Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq due to security reasons. He reached his final destination: Istanbul. The city was formerly known as Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and one of the western termini of the Silk Road. He was amazed by the Hagia Sophia, a former church and mosque that is now a museum, and a symbol of the coexistence of Christianity and Islam in the city. He also enjoyed the vibrant nightlife and shopping opportunities in Istanbul’s bazaars.

Throughout his trip, Jenner encountered many surprises and challenges. He says he was impressed by the hospitality and kindness of the people he met along the way, who often invited him to their homes or offered him food and tea. He also faced some difficulties with language barriers, visa issues, and security concerns in some areas. In a stoic tone Jenner explained he “quickly learned to be flexible and adaptable to different situations.”

Jenner says he gained a deeper understanding of himself and other cultures. He says he realized how much he had in common with people from different backgrounds and beliefs. Jenner now says that he, “Deeply appreciates the diversity and richness of Asian culture and its contribution to the world.”

“I think traveling the Silk Road was one of the best decisions I ever made,” according to Jenner. “It opened my eyes to a whole new world. It made me more curious and more respectful of other cultures. It also made me more grateful for what I have and more hopeful for what I can achieve.”

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