1.) Where was the first place you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
I traveled a lot when I was young, but I think my first WOW moment came the first time I traveled to Asia. My family visited China and Mongolia, and it was just worlds apart from everything I’d ever known.
I remember my mum telling me that Mongolian nomads live in gers (yurts) in the middle of nowhere, and scoffing because I thought that was something they only pretended to do for National Geographic.
We got to Mongolia, and what do you know? The nomads were totally real, and actually did live in gers, even when National Geographic wasn’t looking. Mind. Blown. I’ve been in love with Asia ever since.
2.) If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
It’s a toss up between sledding with penguins in Antarctica, or going into space. I suppose space tourism is still very much in its infancy, so we’ll take Antarctica first.
But just to fantasize for a moment longer, if our resources were really unlimited, we would probably head to back to Iran, buy out one of the shrines with a mirrored mosaic interior for a day, and throw a massive dance party with lasers and trippy lighting galore. We can dream, right?
3.) What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
We can both be quite introverted, so striking up conversations with other people in hostels is utterly terrifying (to me, at least).
Sebastiaan has already learned to deal with it through two years of solo travel. Overcoming my own fear is still a work in progress, but the more I travel, the more I get used to it. Plus, I’ve realized the worst that can happen is the person is really boring, in which case I can always escape under the guise of needing to deal with the runs or something equally unsettling.
4.) What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
Google Maps. Once we learned how to use it offline, the app became our metaphorical oyster. I personally use it to mark down all of the places I want to visit in a city (usually food places, but sometimes I diversify and add in cultural sights for good measure).
5.) What place do you wish more people have seen?
Their own backyard.
No, really. So many people know next to nothing about the place where they live, and feel they need to fly halfway around the world to “travel”. But travel is just as much a state of mind as it is an action.
We’ve both been guilty of this. Sebastiaan had hardly explored the Netherlands before I moved there and made him do touristy things every weekend. I myself couldn’t have been less excited about the United States when I was younger, but then we road tripped around the country, and my appreciation grew exponentially. Don’t discredit a place just because it’s close by!
6.) Best advice you have been given and by whom?
I don’t remember who told us—it could’ve been an inspirational quote photo on Facebook for all I know—but our favorite bit of advice is to never wait for something to happen. Make it happen.
Travel is a great example of this in practice. Loads of people dream of traveling the world, but most people delay their dreams indefinitely, claiming it’s not the right time. Newsflash: it will never be the right time! There will always be responsibilities, family matters, debts, work issues, not enough money, etc. Just pick a date, start saving, and you’d be surprised how well things can work themselves out in the end. The same notion applies to plenty of things in life.
Virtually every day. We’ve had people in Pakistan give up their beds to us and sleep on the floor or their couch. Strangers we’d only just met in Iran brought us into their homes to eat with their families. Locals in Georgia have taken us by the hand and led us to exactly the place we needed to go when all we did was ask for directions. People have paid for transport, translated signs, found us places to sleep, and forced (sometimes too much) food and drink down our throats, simply because we’re visitors in their country.
Despite what the news may say, most people are inherently good all around the world. No matter what country you’re in, there are always kind people willing to help a traveler out. You just have to be open and kind to them in return.
8.) What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
We’ve done both multiple times, and curiosity was the main driver behind it all. There are so many different cultures in this world, some with subtle differences from my own, some so foreign we can’t even wrap our minds around them. We want to experience as many of these foreign cultures as we can, simply because we’re curious and want to understand them.
It’s hard to dig deep into a culture on short holidays. It’s like skimming the surface of what the culture has to offer. Long-term travel gives you more time to sink your teeth into things, and to start picking up on the culture’s nuances. Living in a new place is even better—it’s a chance to dive into the culture headfirst!
9.) I travel because…
… the world is freaking massive and utterly amazing, and it would be a shame if we didn’t get to see it before we die. Do we need any other reason?
For up-and-coming writers, Alex and Sebastiaan recommend: Reading as much fiction as possible. Look for works by authors who are particularly good at painting a scene with their words—Murukami is one of my favorites. The more you read, the more you hone your instinct for what makes a story engaging or exciting.
Alex and Sebastiaan are American and Dutch (respectively) bloggers, photographers, and backpacking bums roaming through all kinds of places your mother wouldn’t want to visit. They share everything they learn at Lost With Purpose so you can do the same.
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Our next Travel Influencer interview will be up in a week, follow the series here.