To my surprise, when I first moved to China it was easy to adapt to almost everything. Pollution, dirty tap water, and crowds? No problem, I'll use face masks, bottled water and elbows to get by.
But as a former New Yorker virtually glued to the Internet, I couldn't wrap my head around adapting to a life without Google.
After all, it was my imaginary best friend -- my navigator, my translator, my doctor, my library, my stylist, my therapist and my cooking teacher all in one. But the moment I got to China, I knew we had to break up.
I thus began my journey of adapting to this void in many different ways. I bought a new phone, upgraded my Internet service, attempted to sign up for a VIP plan, and hopped around the city's popular Internet cafes. I relied on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access Google and then bam -- a few weeks ago, most of them shut down.
My next backup plan was to adapt to popular Chinese search engines. Let's just say it's like buying chocolate cake in China. To the expat eye, it may look beautiful on the outside, but the second you take a bite, your taste buds know that it's just... different. Not better, not worse -- just a lot tougher to adapt to.
Slowly but surely, I've overcome my Google addiction, and it's my greatest blessing in disguise. When it doesn't come to the rescue, I've learned to rely on -- god forbid, as our grandparents would say -- my brain.
I study maps and pay more attention to street signs. I force myself to learn and use the language without backup technology. I pay more attention to the people around me to find fashion inspiration on city streets. I talk to a family member or friend when I'm going through a rough patch. I whip up my own recipes. I even think that I've recovered from hypochondria now that the web can't always convince me that a cough is the symptom of a terminal illness.
Who knew that in a Google-less life, memory, creativity, relationships, confidence and courage would abound.
Sure, one day I'll get back on the Google train when it doesn't require jumping through hoop after hoop. But for now, I'm enjoying this refreshing change of pace in life. Plus -- if I had Google at this very second to distract me, I probably wouldn't have thought to write this. I'd probably be too busy Googling how to Google.