Nearly 20 years ago Chris spent a summer backpacking through rural parts of China. I’ve harbored a bit of jealousy all this time. This is my third trip to China and I’m finally getting my backpacking trip in – with 5 kids!

We’ve known we would travel south in order to make a second visit to the orphanage our daughter spent her first year. Other than that – we had no definite plans. Two weeks ago we thought we had a plan (I think I even posted something about it), well, we changed our minds and are doing a totally different type of trip. We taking our kids on their first international backpacking trip!

The next 2 weeks hold 34 hours on hard-sleeper trains (google it). 3 hours on a plane. 8 hours in a van. 4 hours on a day train. And too many hours to count on buses, the subway and our feet. 2 Airbnbs. 4 hostels. Mountains. Lakes. Rivers. Rice terraces. I’m so giddy, I might explode.

Once we get back I’ll write a post about how we planned and booked the trip. I’m sure something will go wrong, so I’ll wait to write those posts when I can include ‘what not to do’ too!

As far as packing goes – I thought I would share how we are doing it for 7 people. We will use 2 large backpacking packs (one for Chris, one for me). Corbett will have a medium pack and the rest of the kids will have small ones.

What we are packing inside:

  • 3 pairs of clothes each & swimsuits (yep, we aren’t going to smell so great)
  • clothespins, rope and detergent to do laundry in available sinks
  • Waterproof bag (for my camera if we take a paddle boat)
  • 7 sleeping bag liners (Sleeping bags are too hot for this season. The hostels and trains have bedding, but I’d rather us have liners to sleep inside too.)
  • Toilet paper – it isn’t usually provided (Sidenote: in public places I have become a 100% fan of the squatty potty #NoSeatGerms!)
  • Wet wipes
  • Swimmer’s towels (the quick drying absorbent kind)
  • Sunscreen, hats, bug repellent, first aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • My DSLR, 50mm lens, 85mm lens
  • 2 headlamps
  • SNACKS. WATER. SNACKS. – keep kids happy not hungry!
  • A few things for the orphanage
  • 2 decks of cards

Of course, we are bringing instant coffee and a variety of snacks (our few remaining CLIF Kid bars and lots of local snacks). My crew can handle just about anything as long as they are not hungry. Once someone gets hungry things go downhill and emotional fast. Our snack bag for the first leg of the trip is nearly as big as the main backpack! We will be able to purchase additional food and snacks, but I’ve learned its better to have dirty clothes than no food with 5 kids!

There is a very good chance we will not be able to access wifi over the next 2 weeks. If I get the chance, I might post something to Instagram, but probably not.

However, when there are no posts on the blog, I hear from the grandparents. SO I’ve already written posts for the next two weeks and scheduled them to go live. You are welcome, Moms.


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  • Debbie C - You all amaze and inspire me! Have a wonderful trip, can’t wait to hear all about it!

  • Tamara - In general I would say that its better having dirty clothes than being hungry… not matter how many kids are involved ;):D

    Have a good trip!

  • AshleyAnn - Tamara – Yes! So true…probably for adults too!

  • Carol - Thank you?

  • kr0zne - im3ycw42a6h2bvwrd6

  • Krystal - I’ve heard hand sanitizer is great for eliminating underarm odor. Just something to think about packing in case there are no showers at some of your pit stops 🙂

  • JuliAnne - Oh my goodness! I am SOOO excited for you all!! I would love to go backpacking with my husband. I’ll patiently await your posts to find out how you managed with 5 kids! You’re a super mom. Have fun!!!

  • Steffany - EEEEEEEEEEE!!!! I am giddy for you! Cannot wait to hear about your two week adventure…safe travels 🙂

  • Se7en's Fabulous Fun Post #355 - se7en | se7enSe7en's Fabulous Fun Post #355 - se7en - […] And if you need to get away then… you really should be following Under the Sycamore on Instagram and their adventures in China… […]

I’m thrilled to introduce the newest SnapShop contributing photographer – Emily Allen. Emily captures every day life with her 8 kids in photos that are both captivating and honest. When I see one of her photos pop up on Instagram, I linger for a while taking it in.


I am honored to have Emily as part of the SnapShop team. In the newest lesson, she shares her knowledge of capturing the magic of young babies – the ones in that stage between newborns and sitting when it can be challenging to photograph them. If anyone is uniquely qualified to teach on capturing daily life during this stage – it is a mom of 8!



SnapShop Photography includes two core course: SnapShop DSLR and SnapShop Phone and new lessons added monthly. Membership includes access to all the SnapShop content, including: 

  • SnapShop DSLR Course (a $200 value)
  • SnapShop Phone Course (a $50 value)
  • Interviews & tips with leading photographers & bloggers
  • Course discussions
  • Additional lessons posted monthly by Ashley Ann and guests!

To see a listing of all the lessons and courses included and a FAQ page answering common questions visit the SnapShop website.

For more on SnapShops: Website | Instagram

Use code EMILY15 for $15 off your registration, (expires 6.20.17)

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  • windie d - so I am excited about this new lesson! my baby is due in October and I look forward to the tips & tricks.

For the most part, we are eating as local as possible. I’d be fine avoiding all western food until we returned, but the rest of my crew needs a little taste of familiar every now and then.

We eat out a lot. This is a HUGE change from life at home, where we rarely eat anywhere but home. It turns out that we actually are saving money by eating at local restaurants than cooking at home. We do eat breakfast in our apartment and lunch at New Day, but dinner is different most nights.

I don’t miss cooking. I miss chocolate chips cookies and baking, but cooking – not so much.

When it comes to cooking in our apartment, I pretty much just make breakfast! Our fridge is smaller than the one I had in my college dorm room. Funny how back home I thought we needed a bigger fridge. It is about a 3 mile round trip walk for us to get groceries and then up 6 flights of stairs…so when we shop we only get what we can carry. So much different from home.

6.11eatingout-1One of my favorite things to do is get on a bus and pick a random stop to find somewhere to eat. So far this has worked perfectly….so much good food! We typically can eat as a family for $7 (total).
6.11eatingout-56.11eatingout-66.11eatingout-86.11eatingout-36.11eatingout-10My kids take advantage of drinking all their water when we are walking or on the bus, so when we sit down they are out and get to have a pop – also so different from home. Better sugary pop than contaminated water!6.11eatingout-116.11eatingout-13I met up with my friend Meredith for a little exploring and coffee at Central Perk. It was in the most random location – 6th floor of an office building. Reruns of Friends play on a tv and the entire shop is decorated like the show. 6.11eatingout-156.11eatingout-16Fried grasshoppers and donkey burgers. We went with a group of teenagers and the peer pressure to try them was strong. The Campbell guys all partook. The girls didn’t want to try it and I thought it was best to demonstrate how to stand up to peer pressure, so I didn’t eat one. 😉 (I do want to mention, most of our Chinese friends here have not tried these…just in case someone was thinking grasshoppers are a standard dinner dish).6.11eatingout-17The donkey burgers were good. Just a little fyi – don’t use Google Visual Translator at a restaurant with donkey meat – donkey is not translated as “donkey”. I’m still laughing at parts of that menu translated in English!6.11eatingout-186.11eatingout-19

The top of the food list is: Dumplings. Fried Rice. Cilantro/Cucumber Salad. Sweet & Sour pork. Duck Tacos. Noodles. Soup. Kung Pao Chicken. And Churros with Ice Cream.

We’ve pushed the kids to try new things, but also let them order their favorites regularly. Last time we were in China, Corbett and Hudson found a favorite fried rice restaurant in Guangzhou. They still talk about how good it was. When you ask them about their first trip to China – it is the first thing they bring up. Next week we will be back in Guangzhou and we’re hoping we can find it again! Food is a big deal 🙂

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  • Nicolet - food is indeed a big deal. It absolutely my favorite about holidays, going to a local market and finding lovely foods. Can’t wait till its summerholidays! Enjoy your weeks there.

  • Steffany - The food sounds DELICIOUS! with the exception of grasshoppers. Just don’t think I could do it, I’m with the girls on that one! 🙂 And thanks for clarifying that the locals don’t eat them either, I always wonder these things.
    As I read your posts – walking an average of six miles per day, smaller fridge, only able to buy what you can carry groceries, eating out everyday – what do you think will change about your lives once you return? 10 or 11 weeks is a long time. They say it takes 20 days to make something a habit…maybe walking more will find it’s ways into your days? Will you walk to that chick-fil-A next time you go? 🙂
    I love your families adventure, their courage, and your love. It shines through your photos and posts. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing adventure 🙂

  • Jessica - I am loving these glimpses into your time in China. What an amazing experience!

  • Donzel - This is the blog post I was both dreading and looking forward to! I love to eat and try new foods, and since I’m in a cooking slump this post is pure torture. BUT, it’s so great that your family is trying new foods and being adventurous! My husband and I still remember the tiny fried fish we had in Greece – it was such fun to eat everything except the tail!

  • Caroline - What an incredible opportunity this is for your kids! I love that you’re there for long enough that they truly get to immerse themselves in another culture. My sister and I are headed to China in November for two weeks and will be in Beijing for 5 days, so I’ve loved following along on this journey! We’ve travelled pretty extensively in Europe but have never been to Asia. Needless to say, we are super excited! Do you have any tips for choosing more authentic restaurants and places to eat? We typically try to get away from the city center to find where the locals go but I’m not sure how feasible that will be in a city the size of Beijing! We love little hole in the wall type places, especially those with no pictures that cater towards tourists. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  • susie - Looks yummy! wish I could eat out like that too! I spend so much time around food in the summer.

  • Bianca - I love reading your posts from Beijing! We are heading there in January and would love some recommendations of good places to eat!