Coming from a lineage where people hardly ever traveled, global traveler Kez is a non-conformist. Living in Japan all through high-school, gave her the taste of wanderlust. She’s already covered 80+ countries and there’s more to go! The conversation follows how Kez became a world traveler and consistently so. Having traveled vastly, picking up on local life in regions and hunting down all kinds of adventures, her stories are power-packed with travel inspiration.
Tell us something about yourself- your interests and passion.
I grew up in Australia. My passion is travel, of course! When I'm not travelling, I'm either teaching or hiking. I teach part-time during the school year and I use the school holiday to explore the world.
When and how were you first bitten by the travel bug. Can you share your first ever memory?
I actually can't recall an exact moment when it hit me, but I've wanted to see other places for as long as I can remember. I think having the opportunity to live in Japan when I was in high school might have increased my wanderlust though.
Is this passion of yours self-developed or is it something hereditary of sorts?
It's definitely not hereditary! I come from a long line of people that like to stay put. None of my relatives have been to more than 5 countries!
What happened in Japan during high school, that not just developed but also nurtured your travel-lust?
Well, I'd learnt a bit about Japanese culture whilst studying Japanese, but being there just took things to a whole new level. The culture came alive for me, instead of just being something I'd seen pictures of. It was the first time I'd seen a different way of celebrating the new year. I guess it made me even more curious about other cultures. Now I try to start each year in a new place to see how they celebrate.
When was your first solo experience?
My first solo travels took place in eastern Europe, many years ago. I travelled overland through several countries and the scenery and cultures I saw were amazing!
Cities or Outdoors, take your pick?
Outdoors, for sure! My first question when I get to a new place is where are the hills/waterfalls/lakes/adventure spots? I almost skydived over the alps, but the plane that was supposed to take us broke down. I went white water rafting instead. Well, I've skydived, but doing it over the Alps is still on the list! I have ticked off the highest bungee jump in the world, over in our sister SAR, Macau.. twice! I'm told I've also done the longest zipline in the world, in Costa Rica. I also sped down an active volcano in Nicaragua on a rickety wooden board. Travelled overland through 13 African countries. I've certainly had my fair share of adventures and I'm looking forward to many more!
Bungy Jump, Macau. PC- Kez
Ziplining at Monteverde, Costa Rica. PC- Kez
Can you share one of your best travel experiences to date?
Strangely enough, this one doesn't have much to do with adventure, but people. My visit to Palestine a few years ago was absolutely amazing. I meet so many kind and open-hearted people and had so many eye-opening chats. I cannot recommend Palestine enough! So it did involve a little bit of adventure. I met someone who owned ATVs and he took me on a night tour, where we ended up on a hill overlooking the little town of Bethlehem. it was breathtaking.
Looking over Bethlehem, Palestine. PC- Kez
Palestine is definitely not one of the most visited by travelers. Do you have a knack for off-beat destinations? Would you say it's safe to travel to Palestine, considering the continuous political conflicts?
I think a lot of people are afraid to go there, but I never felt anything but safe! I think locals are aware of how it can at times, be perceived by the outside world and try extra hard to make sure foreigners are welcome and safe. I do like to go where there are less tourists!
Your top 5 off-beat favorites?
- Solomon Islands - super friendly people and amazing scenery
- West Timor - almost no tourist industry, so tourist attractions have no entry fees
- Cook Islands - amazing scenery and laid back friendly locals
- Sierra Leone - helpful people and greenery everywhere
- Mauritania - an amazing desert country where you can hitch a ride on an intercity iron-ore train
Iron Train, Nouadhibou, Mauritania. PC- Kez
Rarotonga, Cook Islands. PC- Kez
What is your favorite hiking and adventure sports memory?
One super amazing hike I did in eastern Canada took me to a cliff where I could see an iceberg looking back at me! But, probably my favourite was a multi-day trek I did in the mountains of Taiwan. It was amazing having lunch at a lake above the clouds.
You seem to be fond of Hiking and adventure sports. Do you think regular fitness training is important for that?
It's a double bonus for me, hiking and adventure activities are a great way of seeing sites while keeping fit.
What has been your most memorable ‘out of my comfort zone’ experience?
Western Africa! Travelling there is intense. The squeezy car rides, the noises, the language barrier, the scenes. It can be soul-destroying at the same time as being cathartic. But it was an awesome experience that taught me as much about myself as other cultures.
Travel - African Style. PC- Kez
What stark difference did you in the African continent, as opposed to the rest of the world?
The hardest thing was that everything works so differently to any other regions I'd been to before. The transport systems are quite hard to navigate without the help of a local. The roads can be atrocious, which means that a 200km journey can take 2 days. It's tiring!
Does traveling and giving back go hand in hand?
Yes, I think this is a good philosophy, but sometimes it's not always practical. I guess we just look for opportunities that allow it. I'm actually trying to get something up and running at the moment to help some of my friends that I met during my African adventures.
There is a consistent debate between Volunteerism and Voluntourism and the good and bad of it. Which do you associate with and why?
From a community perspective, I feel that long term volunteers have more to offer. Volunteering for a year would give you time to explore whilst making a difference. I've personally never looked into voluntourism. I feel that when you split the focus between two things, both suffer.
How many volunteering projects have you been associated with? Any special mention?
I regularly volunteer here in Hong Kong. We have a wonderful charity here called Food Angel. They rescue food that would otherwise be wasted, from restaurants and supermarkets. They then use that food to make meals for seniors from low socio-economic areas.
Palestinian Friends. PC- Kez
Any unique experience in Papua New Guinea? And, have you ever encountered a "culture shock" in all these years?
Actually, my phone got stolen in PNG! The thief targeted me specifically because I wasn't local, but he got more than he bargained for! In the end, he ended up in jail and 3 other people in the black market supply chain, were arrested. I got the phone back too! My take away from the whole ordeal, wasn't the thief's actions, but the fact that several people in the community rallied around to help a stranger. As for culture shock, I think I'm a bit desensitised to it. After seeing so many cultures, I find the differences interesting.
What has been the most challenging part of your travels?
That's difficult to answer. I think for me, most of my challenges come from language barriers. In Hong Kong and a lot of Asia, I'm able to communicate in Japanese or Chinese, but drop me in Africa and I'm lost. I've become an expert at using hand signals!
You say, “I’ll try anything once. Twice, if I like it!”- Could you share a dare of sorts, that you willingly took and ended up liking?
I will do anything people dare me to do, but weirdly nobody ever dares me to do stuff, because they figure I'll do it by myself anyways! I have bungee jumped in 4 different countries and intend to do it in at least 3 more!
Xiang Yang Shan Near Kaohsiung, Taiwan. PC- Kez
What would you say to people who want to travel but are worried about safety issues?
When planning my trip to Mauritania, I came across travel warnings. I got in contact with some locals to get the real story. It turned out to be one of the safest places I've been to and I had the most amazing experiences there! I'd say do your research. Don't let anyone stop you.
If you could travel back in time, which era and place would you go to, and why?
I think I'd go back to the 90s before the internet and devices consumed our waking hours. I think experiences were richer then because we weren't obsessed with the devices in our pockets. I try to keep myself a bit disconnected while traveling, to enjoy my surroundings more!
Travel is often the greatest teacher. What’s the most recent lesson you’ve learned through travel?
Travel teaches you about yourself and the world. For me, it's given me the ability to see things from many different views. My African travels taught me were my breaking point was, but they also taught me that I keep going long after I thought I could.
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