Once upon a time, the rulers of China, especially the Ming Dynasty emperors, decided to build a very big and very long wall, in order to keep the Manchurian and Mongolian raiders at bay. Maybe you’ve heard of this “Great Wall of China?” It’s kind of well known.

If you find yourself in China, in or near Beijing, you could do like the most of the tourists do and visit a famous portion of wall for an afternoon, like the sections at Badaling (八達嶺), Mutianyu (慕田峪) or Simatai (司马台). You’ll walk up and down snaking wall-covered hills with thousands of other people, and have your photo taken with your friends, while making the international peace sign with your fingers. Yes, you could do this, or you could opt for a multi-day trek along the Great Wall of China instead, getting you away from the tourist crowds so you can really soak up the magnificent sights.

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Sleeping on the Great Wall used to be prohibited for foreign visitors (the author had to bribe a guard in order to do it), but tourist money reigns supreme, which means you can now book a lengthy hike along the Wall for a varying amount of days, and camp out in a watchtower while sleeping under the stars, or if the bugs scare you, safely inside your tent.

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Your best bet is to organize a trek and tour with a reputable travel company, thus avoiding any hefty fines you might incur if caught camping solo. Since 1,500 miles of Great Wall are still intact, it’s entirely possible to get a map, find a starting point away from prying eyes, and head out on your own. The rules governing different sections of the Wall tend to vary, making it hard to predict where you might run into problems. You’ll only get into real trouble if you get caught, and can’t sweet-talk the guards out of hitting you with a fine. If this happens, we recommend you play the “dumb foreigner” card.

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Regardless of how you manage your trek along the Great Wall of China, you’ll be glad that you put in some extra effort and experienced this manmade marvel away from the tourist throngs. Then you can stand on top of a watchtower at dusk, and in the words of Roger Waters, yell out, “All in all, I’m just another brick in the Wall!” You're so dramatic.