In late 2020 Su Min left her sad marriage behind and hit the street. The 58-year-old retiree had raised her household and executed her duties, and her husband, she says, was treating her badly. So she studied on-line movies about street journeys and set off throughout China alone in a VW hatchback together with her pension and a rooftop tent.

As she travelled, Su filmed and posted movies and diaries of her journey, talking candidly of her dissatisfying life of housekeeping. She additionally marvelled at the fantastic thing about the nation she was lastly exploring, and made new pals.

Su constructed a following of thousands and thousands and repeatedly trended on social media, that includes in a Net-A-Porter commercial for International Women’s Day.

As Su travelled and her fame grew, many ladies noticed her as an unintentional feminist icon, for rejecting the conventional expectations of a housewife and grandmother and taking management of her life. She shyly dismisses the moniker and says she’s not that well-known, however enjoys how usually she is stopped on the avenue, and the way older girls particularly have associated to her story.

“As an ordinary housewife, someone who no one pays attention to on the street, to now have a lot of people see me and recognise me, this means there is an improvement in my life ,” Su tells the Guardian by way of Zoom. “I am at least acknowledged, and I think a life in which you are acknowledged is really good.”

Su had married in her early 20s. After rising up in Tibet and shifting to Henan after highschool she married after assembly her future husband only a few occasions. She says the marriage quickly turned sad, however she didn’t depart, fearing the robust social stigma round divorces.

Su Min
Su Min, a 58-year-old retiree from Henan, discovered fame in China after she left her sad marriage and spent two years driving round the nation, documenting her experiences. Photograph: provided by Su Min

Her husband has not spoken publicly about her journey or her accusations in opposition to him.

Change got here in 2019 when Su noticed a web-based video about somebody residing what has been popularised in the west as “van life”, and decided: when the grandchildren she was serving to to look after entered kindergarten, she would go away, and he or she has barely appeared again since.

“I met many like-minded travel pals, and fans who like me, so my life is wonderful on the road,” Su says. “I am very fulfilled, and so there is no feeling of loneliness or discomfort. On the road, my friends keep me company.”

Along her journey she upgraded the hatchback to a campervan. “I finally have my own home,” she instructed viewers in a single publish. “In the past, many things don’t belong to me in my family. There was not my name on those things. But my name is finally on this van now.”

Last month, after two years, 80,000 kilometres, 10 provinces and 200 cities, Su got here dwelling.

She returned to Henan province to spend the mid-autumn pageant together with her household, and to inform her husband she needed a divorce. Su says her husband made no contact together with her the total time she was away.

Su Min
Su Min has been on the street for 2 years, travelling by way of 10 provinces. Photograph: provided by Su Min

The reunion, filmed and uploaded to her social media, seems awkward and hostile. In the video her husband appears to make feedback about her return, saying she couldn’t survive on the market any longer. One Weibo dialogue hashtag about the video has been considered greater than 380m occasions, with streams of largely supportive feedback.

“I’m so happy for her! Su Min has changed,” mentioned one commenter. “She can finally be free, so she is changing her fate. Go, Su Min!”

Su says she has the assist of her youngsters in looking for a divorce, and hopes her husband will grant her one. But if he doesn’t, she’s going to simply proceed her travels.

“Divorce is just a piece of paper, it doesn’t have much meaning,” she says. “I won’t have a second family or seek other partners anyway, I will rely on myself … My husband did not interfere with my travelling, so if I go on the road again, he will just let me be.”

Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu and Chi Hui Lin

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