Travel Seek Explore.
The great JRR Tolkien once penned these words: ‘It’s a dangerous business, going out the door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.’ The sky is the limit every time you make the conscious decision to venture out of the door. True, not everyone will turn out to be the key to casting a destructive, kick-arse mood ring into the fiery pits of Mount Doom. But who’s to say your journey won’t be as exciting (though hopefully not as perilous to your health).
Magic does exist in this world and I believe fervently that it’s most apparent when we travel. It’s so fucking wonderful and awe inspiring. Adventuring means more than just the potential to post countless selfies on your Instagram account. Stepping out the front door and hopping onto a plane (or ship, boat, car, train, whatever really) could spark off countless possibilities. Who will you meet? What will you see? That’s magic, pure and simple.
The fact of the matter is that traveling is profound and very, very personal. Two people traveling on the same road will inadvertently be drawn to different things. The soul takes what it needs out of the experience – there's lots of joy to be had when on vacation but there’s also the potential it could be a life-changing experience as well. But don’t take my word for it. In the words of Sam, Liroy and Lisa, here’s their take on travel.
Sam is the quintessential Aussie bloke. He loves sports – both playing and watching – and nothing beats a great hang out with mates and a beer or two. Sam travels around Australia with family and friends for sport and leisure. So far, he’s not traveled out of the country but that’s definitely something on the cards for the near future.
What does travel mean to you?
Travel normally means a "release" from what I'm doing here in Melbourne. I never travel for work purposes, so therefore, it's normally for some form of leisure activity.
What has been your best travel experience by far?
Definitely when I headed to the Gold Coast with my mates after year 12 finished. We went to the theme parks, nightclubs, beach etc. It was heaps of fun and very relaxed!
What is your main reason for traveling?
I normally travel to watch sport, but now that I'm working full-time as a teacher, I use my end of term break to travel somewhere domestic for a few days to relax. During the summer holidays, I plan on going to the UK for a few weeks as we have a bigger break.
Describe your dream vacation.
My dream vacation is being somewhere for two weeks where the water is crystal clear, the weather is warm, and the drinks are cold!
What’s your next travel destination?
I'll be traveling to the gold coast in two weeks for three days. Just a relaxing trip after the term at school. It'll be nice to be in some warmer weather also!
When it comes to traveling, Liroy has pretty much done and seen it all. From South Africa and of Portuguese descent, he’s been in Australia for nearly three years. Travelling has taken a (slight) back seat while he pursues his studies but the thought of adventure is never far from his mind.
What countries have you traveled to prior to your stop in Australia?
I grew up in South Africa and I’ve been to Mozambique, Egypt, UAE, England, Wales, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Vatican, USA, Canada, South Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most of these countries were for holidays but I had longer stints in England, South Korea, and Thailand.
Which of these were your favourites?
My metric for judging my favourite places are if I could live there or not! I don’t do countries either because typically they are too diverse to generalise. To answer the question though I loved Paris, Boston Bangkok and San Francisco.
Complete the sentence: To me, traveling is …
… learning more about yourself and the world in 3 weeks than 5 years at university.
What is the most profound moment you've ever experienced while traveling?
I have a few, I guess. I was in Cambodia. We were on a bus and we stopped at a service station to use the bathroom and it was the first time I had to use the little pot thing to flush the toilet... and I walked out and the sun was setting and I knew that I was far away from where I grew up and I just remember loving it. I think it was the moment I fell in love with travelling.
Korea was good cause I committed more time to it than any other country and with that came a greater depth of relationships and a more meaningful experience.
What's the next holiday / travel destination? What are you most excited about?
Turkey in two or weeks’ time. Istanbul is one that I have been wanting to do for a while now! Mostly because of its rich history. That’s something I really like when I travel; like just having history 'laying around' and it’s particularly noticeable in Europe. Especially when it has a religious element to it. For this trip, it’s the former city of Constantinople, the political birthplace of Christianity. And the food obviously. Also, it’s an interesting time to go with the political situation in Syria and being Ramadan.
This is and isn’t true, but I don’t get SUPER excited anymore because I have been on the road on and off, for more than a decade.
Name one place in the world you have never been to but would love to visit. Why?
There are too many it’s ridiculous. My next priorities are the Northern Lights, Maldives, Germany, and Qatar. Why the Northern Lights? Have you seen them? It’s crazy – purple and green light in the sky just hanging out. It just also combines a lot of things I love like physics/space, travel, and the religion/beauty/awe thing.
How have your travel priorities changed as you’ve grown?
I started off as a sort of bohemian globetrotter type person. I was on a search for the 'truth' and I was in love with 'love' and it was always very romantic. It’s still kind of true but I’m more cynical and pragmatic now. So out of this whole journey, I’m here now in Australia.
Throughout the years, the religious/philosophical stuff have been replaced with physics/engineering. Perhaps to find the balance, I guess I am experimenting with humanitarian engineering. The idea was sowed a few years ago when I repeatedly applied to be a volunteer with the UNHCR. Due to my music qualifications, I was unable to pursue that avenue. So part of the reason I went back to uni (apart from my interest in Physics) was so that I could get skills that they (the UN) wanted. And all this led to a two-week study tour in India for the EWB 2016 Humanitarian Engineering Design Summit.
You’re apt to find out more about yourself when you travel. But when it takes you back to your cultural roots, suddenly there is a deeper meaning attached to the experience. Lisadid just that and this is what she has to say.
Can you please share a little about your travels back to Iran?
My journeys there are both different and the same every time. Despite the distance, I’ve always been pretty close with my family there. The part that changes and is challenging for me is that usually around 5 years passes in between each trip. Being in between cultures, I find I get especially culture-shocked there because the culture and customs are closer to me than other tourists, yet I don’t identify with them so I need to find my balance.
Did the trip affect your perception of yourself / your culture / your identity?
Every time I travel I realise that my image of myself and my identity does not match up with the image that others see. Sometimes I’m perceived as a foreign tourist – usually by strangers who pick up on my clumsy Farsi, or my differing dressing habits or mannerisms. One time at the museum a lady didn’t want to give me a local’s ticket price because I had an accent.
My family however, need to be constantly reminded that I don’t understand their culture or customs. They often assume that I understand some things better like the language, customs, political situation, religious practises, etc. They think that I was raised as they were because I have Iranian parents. Back in Australia I feel like these expectations are much looser and people don’t care as much, so I can create who I am rather than have it imposed on me.
In countries that aren’t multi-cultural however, I feel trapped in the way I’m perceived. If they ask where I’m from and I say ‘Australia’, 90% of the time people will object, ‘But you don’t look Australian! Where are you really from?’ No one means anything ill by it, but I find it incredibly offensive every time I get that response; if I’m not from Australia, the country where I was born and raised and educated, then where am I from?
To answer the original question, these things don’t affect my perception of myself, but it does make me incredibly aware that others are projecting an image onto me then doesn’t fit right.
What touched you most about the trip?
At one point I was traveling with my friend Emily. When we were out in the markets or sight-seeing she would often take photos of things that were different that intrigued her. Things that were pretty mundane actually; stones holding down newspapers, a light bulb swinging from the market stall wrapped in foil to enhance brightness, the occasional fluoro knickers on display; and mannequins in hijab (headscarves).
As she was taking these photos I could hear people nearby muttering to themselves: ‘how embarrassing! She’s photographing the broken light! What will the foreigner say about us when she goes back to her country?! She’ll tell them how rundown and poor we all are…’ as another passer-by would reply, ‘dear brother, we are rundown and poor! Let them see it as it is.’
I found it bittersweet that Emily had found beauty in the simplicity of these things, whereas the Iranians felt a sort of shame in it. Walking through the streets and talking with Em, I could hear what everyone was saying about us; their desire to leave a good impression on foreigners was overwhelming.
What are your future travel plans?
I really want to do Asia justice and take my time traveling through it. I don’t just want it to be a holiday destination, I want it to be an experience. There is so much to see and explore. But I don’t just want to go through and absorb everything without giving something back so I thought I could possibly teach English as I go! I’m curious to know what I can give back.
If you could go anywhere around the world, where would it be and why?
Currently, I just want to go to China. Firstly, I have a passion for languages and I often try to teach myself different phrases and scripts, and now I’ve just decided that it’s time for Mandarin! What better place to learn a language than the country it’s spoken in?! One of the main reasons is also because of its traditions, namely the religious or philosophical ones. I’ve always been interested in Eastern traditions and would love to visit the places where they originated. It’s also near Mongolia, and I’ve always wanted to go there ever since I heard about the nomads. And sure, I’m romanticising a little… but that’s exactly why I want to go and see it all for how it really is!
Life is an adventure. People who embrace that wholeheartedly see so much more in the world around them. Generation Y has been accused of many things by many people but what they are is lucky and blessed especially where travelling is concerned. Never before has the world been so open and accessible. The opportunities are endless and the possibilities limitless. Go on – take that first step out the door. There’s magic waiting!
YEN LI WONG