Twipper of the Week: Jonathan Look, Jr. from Life Part 2.
Current city: Vientiane, Laos PDR
Total countries visited: I don’t do a running tally, but I would estimate around fifty or so. I believe in immersive travel and prefer to measure travel in experiences more than with stamps in my passport.
What makes you interesting: Wow, that is a hard question! I know have met a lot of travelers and I think many of their stories are more interesting than mine. I guess the most interesting thing about me is that after 25 years on the typical consumerist treadmill I stepped off and started living life the way I wanted to; not the way most of us are trained to do. I broke away and started chasing my passions and dreams, and living life on my own terms, not by the usual societal standards.
Also, I think to qualify as interesting a person, someone needs to be intensely interested in things that are bigger than and beyond themselves. I guess if being fascinated by exploring new worlds, living life as an adventure and enjoying as much variety as possible makes you an interesting person, then maybe I qualify.
What brands do you love: As you may know I am not really a “brand” sort of person. Because I travel and move around so much, I greatly limit the number of my possessions. When I do own something I expect it to be of good quality, last a long time and perform well in a variety of situations.
I use Canon cameras because they are familiar to me, they make great photographs and, especially at the higher end, they are capable of taking a fair amount of abuse. For processing my photographs, I use Apple products because the phones, tablets and computers all perform in similar ways and there isn’t this huge learning curve when moving between products, or when there is an upgrade.When I travel I generally prefer to stay in smaller, locally owned, guest houses and hotels, but I do find it hard to resist ultra-luxury accommodation every now and then. For that, it is hard to beat the Ritz-Carlton or the Peninsula brand of hotels. Lately, I have had the opportunity to stay at several Onyx Hospitality properties at different places in Asia and I find them to be very agreeable.
When I fly somewhere I usually choose by schedule or by price. I do find some airlines, in terms of service and comfort, to be superior to others, but I am still searching for one to fall in love with. I like Laotian coffee, French cheeses, Chilean wines and a great hamburger every now and then.
What’s your favorite passport stamp: Probably Bhutan, or Myanmar. Peru. France. China. Australia. Cambodia. I don’t know. I guess the closest answer would be the next one I don’t have yet. As I mentioned, I tend to measure travel more in adventures had, than in which borders you had to cross in order to have them.
What’s one thing you have no problem breaking the bank for when traveling: I will pay a lot of money to get off of the tourist trails in order to see something unique. That may mean buying permits or sometimes hiring guides or fixers. It may mean hiring unusual or non-standard modes of transport such as long-tail boats or private drivers. It just seems wrong to me to spend a lot of time and effort getting someplace spectacular or off the beaten trail and miss something because you wanted to stay on some arbitrary budget.
How has travel changed you or how do you hope it will change you: You can’t stand on the ruins of Angkor Wat, knowing that it was by far once the most prosperous and populous place on the planet, and not KNOW that everything is temporary. You can’t spend days in the third world with the poorest of the poor and see that they are often the most generous of all people without it changing your priorities. The very act of leaving the comforts of home to see new places and have new experiences brings new confidence and perspective to my everyday life. Traveling beyond my comfort zones and outside of my old bubbles has forced me to realize that we are all one people, but we have all too often been divided by deliberate manipulation, ignorance, fear, and greed.
What motivates you to travel: I have this insatiable curiosity to see new horizons and meet people from different cultures. I want to know what is over that hill, behind that door, what that tastes like or what makes other people tick. I have a very low threshold for boredom and I know at the end of this wonderful ride we call life, I won’t be wishing I had stayed home in a comfortable chair, on the golf course or wishing I had bought more stuff.
What are the top reasons should someone travel with you: If you travel with me you will certainly have some new stories, maybe have a few new secrets and a lot of new memories. To get a true understanding of a place you sometimes need to put away the guide books and find your own way. Just wandering around and intentionally getting lost is a great way to discover things off of the tourist trails, and usually more wonderful because your experiences will be unique to you.
I like to fully embrace all aspects of travel. Like everyone I enjoy some comfort and pampering, but you can only have so many spa days, or sipping cocktails by the pool days, before they become just another routine. Let’s be honest — lazing by the pool at a luxury hotel in Paris really isn’t that much different that lazing by the pool at a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh. It is wonderful, but probably something you even could do in your home town.
I believe in variety and enjoy taking a journey without limitations. One day you may find me sleeping in a cheap hostel or guesthouse, the next may find me in the penthouse suite. With the right attitude, airplanes, oxcarts and everything in between are all fine modes of transportation. In order to get the most out of travel you need to experience — not just passively observe — different cultures, landscapes and cuisines. Try the food, hang out with locals, walk the trails, dive the oceans. I know the true magic of travel doesn’t really begin until you get, at least a little, outside of you comfort zones.
If you were given a free trip tomorrow, where would you go: I have really been wanting to go to Mongolia. Meet some of the locals and photograph their way of life and see the wide open spaces. Also, I hear so many conflicting stories about Iran, I would like to go and see things there and meet the people for myself. Cuba is also way up there. I want to spend some time there before the inevitable mass tourism takes over.
Next travel destination: I always have something open and two or three things working at a time. I am now in the process of trying to plan a mid-winter trip to somewhere in Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights. If I can’t get that together before the end of the season I think I will take my camera to Istanbul and rural Turkey for a few weeks. After that, I am planning a trip to explore around Taiwan and see if it would be a good place for us to base from a while and explore more of Asia. I have a charity spot reserved to run for ActionAid in the London Marathon at the end of April. In March, I want to travel someplace conducive to training (cool, clear and flat) before going to England to run the race. After the marathon, Sarah and I are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago from France through Spain to the Atlantic Ocean.