Adrianna Tan @ TEDxYouth Singapore


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Stories from the road and five ideas for curing wanderlust — as shared with the audience at TEDxYouth Singapore on 20 November 2010.

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  • How many of you work hard all year just to travel for a few days during your annual leave, or your kids’ vacations, and then find yourself thinking: maybe I should work even harder, so that I can one day quit my job... and travel as much as I want?
  • Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for some time now. And if I had a dollar for each time someone asked me how I do this, I would have a lot more money to travel even more.
  • I realised that what they’re asking me is actually how I can do without a real job, and why I travel to some of the places I do. Thing is, I don’t have an answer to those questions. All I have to say is, I wanted to be a spy when I was a kid (so I go to some of these spy-like places now)...
  • ... and 21 days a year to roam the earth freely makes me feel like a ghost. (A hungry one.) I’m not here to tell you how to do this, I’m just here to share with you some of my stories on the road, and hopefully to inspire you to do a bit of it yourself.
  • It all began in 2004, when I travelled to Calcutta. It was good practice. Calcutta, a city ‘in extremis’, if you let it get under your skin and learn to love it you can never really fear anything else. I kept returning.
  • In 2005, I went to the world’s wettest place (at the time). Just for perspective, if London gets 660mm of rain a year, Cherrapunjee gets 12000. It rained for weeks without stopping, and the kids here told me “miss reporter, I have not been to school as I’m feeling sick — it hasn’t been raining in a while.” Totally different world out there.
  • In 2006, I wanted to go to Laos, but I had $150 in my bank as a poor student, and the budget airlines hadn’t started their flights to Vientiane yet. Undeterred, I flew to Thailand on a cheap flight and bussed it to the border, then hopped into a “rocket boat” with a life jacket and a crash helmet, to end up in Luang Prabang for my 80cent Beer Lao.
  • In 2007, I read about a festival on Wikipedia and bought a one way ticket to Calcutta. In Puri, Orissa, I witnessed the world’s oldest street festival, the Rath Yatra. One million people on the streets danced and sang as the three gods were pulled across the street in three chariots. The English word “juggernaut” comes from this festival — as the Lord Jagannath travelled through the streets and people tried to touch him, pilgrims were inevitably crushed in the indestructible force of the juggernaut, Jagganath.
  • In 2008, realising that I knew shockingly little about East Malaysia, I visited Borneo to celebrate Gawai, a harvest festival, with a tribe. There was much dancing, and drinking of moonshine, but no mobile reception and very little electricity.
  • In 2009, while living in the Middle East I decided to go to the one place I would have never thought of going to. For me it was Sana’a, Yemen. There were several suicide bombers, but Yemen has quickly become one of my favourite places in the world.
  • In 2010, I drove around South India in this autorickshaw, with two friends.

    People constantly ask me how they can travel the way I do. Thing is, unless you like pain — you probably don’t want to travel the way I do. So here are five suggestions I have to help you get the most out of your travels.
  • One, go on one big adventure every year! If you comfort threshold is the idea of backpacking and living in hostels... then go do your big adventure.
  • But remember, there are many small little adventures to be had in between. We are blessed to be living in Southeast Asia where there are tons of little adventures to be had, in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and in all these wonderful countries.

  • Two, go to somewhere you’ve never heard of.
  • And really, just go. Book it. Now.
  • Three, the kindness of people on the Internet is grossly underrated. You can live anywhere in the world for free these days, and I can’t think of a time when this was ever possible, before the Internet was around.
  • When I was going to Yemen I wrote to some travel agents, asking for advice, and someone wrote back not wanting to sell me a package — but he wanted to say he was a fan of my blog, and would I please stay with his sister’s family. I did. And I miss them and I want to go back to see them.
  • During the rickshaw race the other participants spent something like 600 euros a person on accommodation. I spent just US$80. In 21 days. So you can see travel doesn’t need to be out of reach. It can even be cheaper than staying home and breathing.
  • Don’t be one of those people who freak out about food. In fact, eat everything. Eat everything everywhere. I don’t care if it’s food by the side of a road, in a small alley, or in the fanciest restaurants in the world. I travel to eat. I will eat anything. Anywhere. You should do the same. And if you should have diarrhea after, ask yourself this: was it worth it?
  • It’s the only way to truly know a country. Especially in Asia.

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