Soon, she made up her mind: Once her grandsons entered preschool, she would embark on a trip of her own. She had bought a small white Volkswagen hatchback several years earlier, with her savings and a monthly pension of around $300.
Her family was resistant. Ms. Su reassured her daughter that she would be safe. She ignored her husband, who she said mocked her.
On Sep. 24, she fixed her tent to the top of the car, packed a mini-fridge and rice cooker, and set off from her home in the city of Zhengzhou.
She posted video updates as she drove, and in October, one of them went viral on Douyin, the Chinese TikTok. In it, she described how oppressed she had felt by housework and her husband.
“Why do I want to take a road trip?” she sighed. “Life at home is truly too upsetting.”
Millions watched the video, sharing it with hashtags like “runaway wife.”
Ms. Su continued across the country, visiting historical Xi’an, mountainous Sichuan and the old town of Lijiang — covering more than 8,500 miles so far. She saved on highway tolls by taking country routes. At night, she unfolded her tent atop her car like an accordion, feeling safer up high. Before setting out again each morning, she draped her wet towel on a clothesline strung across the back seat.
In her videos, she marveled at her newfound freedom. She could drive as fast as she wanted, brake as hard as she liked. At each stop, she made new friends, she said. Wrapping dumplings on camera in a Hainan parking lot in February, she laughed when tourists passing by asked who was traveling with her.