"How well do you even know Jim?" my mother asked me before I moved to China.

"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.

Sieh
Sieh

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.


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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.

Follow former nightlife columnist Alexandra Sieh's adventures overseas: www.coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk her: twitter.com/ansieh.