Martin B is one of my dear friends whom I met years back when we both lived in London and spent our weekend afternoons sipping perfect soy lattes in Brick Lane coffee shops or laying about in his front garden, which happened to be the oh-so lovely Primrose Hill. We both left London for different reasons, but our mutual love for the unknown, adventure, and new cultures took us to exotic places. While I went off to Seoul, Martin went to Melbourne to fill his wallet before embarking upon a year-long odyssey of hiking, exploring, and working on organic farms across the globe, commencing in October of ’09. Starting in SE Asia and making his way through most of Asia, India and Europe, Martin is finally resting his feet at his sister’s place in New York and thus, was able to answer a few of my questions for this profile. Martin will soon be departing to explore Argentina – the land of tango, breathtaking landscapes, outdoor fun, and yes, delicious malbec.
JCG: What is your approach/attitude towards traveling?
MB: I don’t plan my trips down to the last detail. I usually have a game plan and a general direction in my head, but for the most part I have a “go where the wind blows” sort of attitude. Wherever I go, I enjoy myself to the fullest, but I don’t want give the impression that it’s all fun and games on the road. Yes, the experiences are fantastic and yes, it is fun, but sometimes headache and heartache find themselves buddying up with stomach ache and backache after a bad curry or a bumpy n-th hour at the back of a bus. It’s a good idea to keep those things in perspective when I say I’ve been more or less living abroad and traveling since 2004.
Regardless of the challenges, this has been the best choice I could have made for my own life. It’s pretty cool the things you get to see and do when you’re as feckless as I tend to be about career, future and the 401K hoo-ha. When someone asks me, “How do you do it? How can you afford to travel as much as you do?” I just wonder “How can I afford NOT to?” We are only young once. We are only promised today – the now. And don’t worry, work can be found in all sorts of ways, be it the good old fashioned work for your meal sort of deal or the odd dash-o-cash under the table suits when you need it. Hitching for rides and early bookings on flights keeps travel costs down. Sell off the things in your life that you don’t need, buy a good backpack, a good pair of trekkers, and go!
JCG: What has been your favorite travel experience?
MB: That is the killer of all questions. There have been so many beautiful people and wonderful experiences along the way, but I’ve got to say that the ultimate traveler’s destination for me thus far has been India. It has it all: amazing food, intoxicating culture, and an other worldliness about it that us wayward wanderers are often seeking. From the lush backwaters of Kerala, and hugging gurus to the Himalayas, there’s so much packed into the Indian subcontinent it’s difficult to not find something you’re interested in.
I have to admit, India had always been a destination I was a bit afraid of, largely because of other travelers’ stories about poor hygiene and overt class differentiation. But when I arrived in the southernmost state of Kerala with no idea what I was getting into, I immediately fell into the rhythm of India. That first evening, there was a procession – complete with elephants and a bandstand – for one of the many Hindu deities. Wafts of incense filled the air and brilliantly colored celebrants filled the streets. Having spent the previous few months in SE Asia helped to make this more of a feast for the senses rather than a shock.
The one thing that made India special for me was the people. On my second day, I was at a market in the town of Thiruvananthapuram and a fella I barely spoke two words to invited me to his wedding. Going against my inner-wiring to say “no,” I said “YES” and was allowed to witness one of the most special and important ceremonies in the life of an Indian. India and her people are incredible.
JCG: And with that, I can’t help but ask: what do you love most about traveling?
MB: I love the promise of the unknown. I think I may be addicted to the sensation I get when I take off on an airplane, board a bus, a train, or a boat going somewhere for which I have no mental image. I like it when my mind is clear of expectations and my senses paint a fresh canvas of a new destination. It’s also fun to reminisce and flip through those countless mental canvases when I’m grounded for a while. That way, I’m always traveling – even when I need to stay put to earn a little more money for my next epic journey.
JCG: You and me both, Martin. You and me both.
On that note, I leave you all with a quote from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut: Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God. Martin, may you keep on dancing…
Yours in travel,