Its time once again for our Interview of the Week.
I managed to track the dynamic duo of Iain and Claire for an email interview...
If you haven’t seen much updates on their website, worry not. Though behind schedule in updating their site, due to the several weeks needed to get to India, the wanderers are currently safe, sound and getting closer to Shanghai ! They should be able to provide more updates to oldworldwandering.com once they leave their travelling schedules behind for some volunteer work in India.
For those of you new to this blog, Iain and Claire hail from South Africa with an ambitious plan to reach Shanghai from England (where they worked for two years to save for the trip)...all by land transport!
7 Questions for Claire
Claire : Well, I knew I wanted to experience a genuine culture shock. Not knowing the Far East, Iain’s interest in China and its rapid growth and change sparked my curiosity. Shanghai is at the heart of this change. Besides, a culture shock is an easier prospect when there are 400 000 or so expats living in the city to experience it with!
MAS: How much did you know about Shanghai before you went, and what are you expecting when you arrive ?
Claire : Very little. I am trying to imagine the explosive economic growth that is going on there, but that only gives rise to an image of construction surrounded by dust and smog. I really don’t know what to expect, but I have a feeling it will be exciting.
MAS: What advice would you give to others trying to emulate your trip?
Claire : I have incessantly budgeted and don’t believe a long term trip is possible without that. We usually estimate a daily budget for a country based on traveller’s websites and guidebook recommendations, and then test it out for ourselves, admitting when we could get by on less. Walking nearly everywhere and eating in local dives really enhances an experience of a place, besides helping the budget along.
Although we couldn’t stay everywhere for as long as we’d have liked (because we’d never afford to get all the way to China), we didn’t book any future travel tickets, so our time was relatively flexible, apart from visa limitations. That gave us a wonderful sense of freedom.
MAS: Have you ever thought of giving up when the going gets tough and just take a plane straight to Shanghai? What kept you going?
Claire : Yes, except that the plane would be home to Cape Town! It can be quite unnerving watching your bank balance constantly drop, and we’ve half heartedly thought about skipping ahead to Shanghai on days when drifting from place to place can feel quite idle. Then I realise that, as much as I like to think I will travel the world over, this trip may be a once in lifetime experience. The grass so often seems greener, but you have to snap out of it and realise how lucky you are.
MAS: What convenience / luxury do you miss most? Why?
Claire: I rarely miss specific things, in the way that some Australians carry a jar of vegemite around the world with them. I do really miss sitting around with my family or friends enjoying a leisurely meal out at a restaurant. I love eating out. And it’s not the same when you’re on the move, eating fast at dingy to average restaurants. I love the three course experience, and the company is key. Besides, if I’m out with family, they always pick up the bill!
MAS: What is your most memorable experience so far?
Claire: There are so many different memories to sift through. I remember feeling quite exhilarated after arriving in Istanbul, standing staring out over the Bosphorous, the body of water that separates Europe from Asia. I stood on the European side of Istanbul, feeling a sense of the enormous journey eastwards, over that vast landmass that lay before me in the distance.
MAS: What is the best decision you made during your trip ?
Claire: Ignoring the skeptics and going to Syria.
7 Questions for Iain
Iain : Definitely, I’m already considering the same trip done backwards: Shanghai to London, by land, this time including Iran. The second time would be a little different, we could concentrate on the places we’ve loved and move a little further from the beaten track.
MAS: What is the most important experience you learnt on the road so far?
Iain : A difficult question. Perhaps that Germans and Syrians are, contrary to expectations, amongst the world’s friendliest people. Perhaps that too much tourism does some very ugly things to poor people. That “poor” people aren’t able to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of their lifestyles. Probably that, with so much poverty about, and so many people who aren’t able to consider international travel, I’m very, very lucky to have made this trip.
MAS: What would you do if your future employer emails you tomorrow and tells you the deal is off and you need not be in Shanghai anymore?
Iain : There is no future employer. We’re finding work when we get to Shanghai. If there was, and he or she nullified our arrangement, we’d still go. I wouldn’t know what else to do.
MAS: You refuse to hand Claire the map and unwittingly stumbled into TownHannibal, a town of cannibals. Who do you think would make it to the cooking pot first? You or Claire? Why?
Iain : Claire, although she can be very charming. I’m tall, thin and quite bony.
MAS: What is the silliest thing you did on the trip so far?
Iain : Hardened budgeters, we refused every offer of a rickhaw or horse when leaving Matheran, a hill station near Mumbai, with heads held high. It was after sunset and taxis down the hill left from about four kilometers away: all motorised vehicles are forbidden within the village. We'd just finished a long horse ride not long before and, while chatting to our guide, discovered that many leopards and the occasional tiger were spotted in the area. It was very dark, the road was very desolate and we became very, very afraid. Not wanting to get eaten we started singing, me simultaneously thudding my feet, and sweating, trying to sound like ten people.
We made it to the taxis, late. A train left soon and we needed to be on it,so I told the driver to hurry. He shot down the hill (more of a mountain), swerving, tyres screeching, lights sometimes off in a clapped out, Indian made vehicle. And we made the train, just.
MAS: What is the one thing you are most happy to get away from?
Iain : I’m not sure: we’re from South Africa but lived in England for two years before embarking. Work’s a good answer, a year without having to work hasn’t hurt, although sometimes I even miss that.
MAS: Has the trip changed you? if yes, how?
Iain : Undoubtedly. I've left some space at the back of my journal, where I try to document the changes in point form. I've so far noted only three, all quite obvious. I'll probably notice more subtle changes later on.
The first is diet. I left a committed carnivore but have just survived, easily, at a Hindu Ashram: ten days on a strict vegetarian diet.
The second and third are linked. Keeping this website has forced me to write. I've had the time to read great authors write about home -- like Joyce on Ireland, Flaubert on France, Kipling and Rushdie on India -- while I'm there. It has, I think, made me a better writer.
MAS:Thank you Claire and Iain.
For those of you with similar aspirations, there you go..some sound advices from the seasoned duo themselves.
I do harbour more humbler ambitions of backpacking too..but one continent at a time..
Next interview with them would be in Shanghai!