International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Name: Tara Alan and Tyler Kellen
Title/bio: Husband and wife world travellers by bicycle and future off-grid homesteaders
Born in: Illinois and Minnesota
1. Where would you rather be right now?
Building a cob or straw-bale house on our 10 acre homestead-to-be in Vermont. We'll be moving this time next year to live in the woods. Gardening, canning, beekeeping and a plethora of other homesteading activities await us!
2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you'd most like to go on a trip with:
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of our favourite radio show, WNYC's Radiolab. Their show approaches complex issues about life and death and what it means to be human in unique, intelligent and imaginative ways, consistently capturing and exploring the beauty and mystery of the world. Jad and Robert's unabashed curiosity is inspiring and infectious -- they must be great travel partners!
3. Tourist must-see you think is actually a "must skip":
Almost all tourist attractions are must skips. We've stopped going to most of them, and when we convince ourselves to do otherwise ("We just can't visit Transylvania without seeing Dracula's castle!” “We can't go to Athens without visiting the Acropolis!") it is frequently a letdown. As a rule, we try to avoid anything that costs money or has huge crowds. Most of our favourite tourist experiences have been free: the festival of the Sahara in Douz, Tunisia, the Full Moon Festival in Hoi An, Vietnam, and the Folklore Festival in Zermatt, Switzerland come to mind.
4. You'd be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
Once we stole a rusty, mangled shovel from what looked to be an abandoned Mongolian ger (felt-lined tent) so we could dig our car out of the Gobi desert. It didn't dawn on us until a few days later that someone most likely lived in that tattered ger, and they probably really needed their old shovel! We felt terrible.
5. Your most stranded, "oh-my-[deity]" travel moment:
We were cycling to the train station in Hanoi, Vietnam, with a guy on a moped as our guide. The traffic was an absolute swarming hell of motorbikes and we got separated from one another in the throng several times. It was horrible, and it prompted Tara to uncharacteristically begin shouting obscenities at the crazy drivers.
6. Strangest meal abroad:
Deep-fried rat and dog stew in Laos. Dog is surprisingly good! Rat, on the other hand, is every bit as disgusting as one might imagine.
7. If someone was visiting your town, what's the one thing you'd show them?
We'd give them a spare bicycle so we could take a ride in the countryside and visit local farms and orchards.
8. Travel-related invention you wish existed:
An instant-clothing-dryer. Cycling and camping in the rain and being wet for days on end can be pretty demoralizing.
9. Material thing you miss the most when away from home:
Hot water spewing forth from faucets on command. Fluffy towels. A real kitchen.
10. Travel-related film or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's documentaries about motorcycling around the world (Long Way Round and Long Way Down) were the kick in the butt we needed to become world travellers ourselves.
11. The travel story you'll never stop bragging about:
Tara's bicycle rim developed a crack while we were cycling around Kerkennah, a desert island off the east coast of Tunisia. While we waited for a replacement to arrive we packed a backpack and set off without our bicycles, relying on public transport instead. It wasn't long before we wanted our own wheels. Since everyone in Tunisia drives little mopeds, we decided to buy one of our own. A few days and about $200 later, we were the proud owners of a Motobecane Mobylette which we named Habib. Most people only ride them around their village, but we took our 30-year-old scooter all over the country. With the two of us riding it together we could barely make it up the smallest of hills, but we had a blast. When Tara's new wheel arrived, we sold it back to the brother of the man we bought it from!
12. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Be in control of your own transport. Set out on foot, take a bike instead of a bus, a motorcycle instead of a train or a car instead of a plane. Avoid cities. Keep a journal --you'll never regret the time you spent writing it. Above all, go slowly.