"I've been close friends with him for about eight years now, mom," I said, for the 27th time that week. "Plus, it seems too risky a con to trick me to China just to kill me. He knows you'd find him."
"Damn right I would," she said, under her breath.
I couldn't blame her. Her eldest was about to move across the Pacific for at least a year. She was going to worry.
I probably should have worried more. But it wasn't only that I'd known Jim for years — I trusted him.
That's one thing I've learned in my three months overseas: Living abroad is an exercise in trust.
For instance, while signing up for a Chinese gym membership, I shot a friend a concerned look. She and I had equal comprehension levels of Mandarin (we could almost say our names and nationality correctly), but she assured me the gym contract was legit. So I signed where they pointed and handed over the yuan.
Or, when prices aren't clearly marked in nearly every market, I trust they won't overcharge me, the unwitting foreigner.
Or, as Jim and I wind through old hutongs (alleyways) chatting politics, relationships and our favorite beers, I trust he knows the way — or, at worst, we'll eventually come across a subway station.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to trusting yourself.
Of course, you don't have much choice when your phone is dead and you need to make it across town before the subways stop for the night. Or when you're in a crowded restaurant, assuring the waitress that what she just asked you about your order is correct.
Last month, I traveled to South Korea for a weekend. It was my first experiencing traveling alone — nonetheless, to a country I knew nothing about. As I stood on a crowded street in Seoul, searching for the turn to Changdeokgung Palace, I felt old self-doubts stir.
Could I get by alone for the whole weekend in Korea if I couldn't even find this tourist site?
As I stared at a street sign I couldn't read, I repeated my new mantra: What's the worst that can happen? Surely it will all work out for the best.
But the real question running through my mind was: How well do you trust yourself, Alex?
To which I confidently responded: Don't worry, I know what I'm doing.
It all worked out for the best and I have the pictures to prove it.