Monday Meetings – Brendan ‘The Travel Pop’ Wan
This edition of the Monday Meetings brings you wisdom and travel bites from a travel blogger that I’ve run into a few times, usually in London, but most famously being co-responsible for the entire success of the dance floor action at Traverse Brighton in 2013. Meet Brendan Wan, a well-travelled gent from the Southern hemisphere and the man behind The Travel Pop.
Physically I’m 26 but mentally I’m still 21.
I am Australian.
Who are you and where do you come from?
I’m imagining this takes place in an interrogation room as Peter Parkorr is grabbing me by the collar, yelling the questions to my severely beaten face. [I don’t do that anymore Brendan! PP]
To answer your question seriously though, my name is Brendan and I operate the blog ‘The Travel Pop’ which essentially talks about travel through a pop culture medium. I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia where I was born and raised but have been based in London for the past two years. Before London, I have spent time living in Japan, Taiwan and France.
How and why did you start travelling? Was there something that prompted your travels?
As bullshit as it may sound, travelling is quite genetic in our family. My dad is from Indonesia and my mum is from East Timor, both of ethnic Chinese descent and they both lived in different countries before settling in Australia. My first ever memory of a family holiday to Indonesia is where my travel addiction really began. After all these years, my memory of that trip is still so clear and vivid. I was absolutely fascinated with every single different aspect about the country and its people. Being speechless as I watch an episode of Sailor Moon dubbed in Indonesian is a fond memory of my travel awakening.
Having said that however, the defining moment for my travel awakening was when I was 15 when I was on a two-week home stay program to Japan with my high school. Again, the fascination of everything being different was still there but this was the first time I had no parental supervision! It was complete freedom, and that’s what my first impression of travel was – the freedom of escaping from mundane school life and truly experiencing life and the world! The feeling continues to linger to this day!
Do you have any travel and life philosophies that you stick to?
In terms of travel philosophy, the words of legendary grumpy travel writer Paul Theroux spring to mind. In a talk that I saw on Youtube, he said that the best way to travel is to stay on the ground as much as possible. Whenever I arrive in a new city, I find out whether or not much of it is walkable, partly because that’s the only way to truly experience a city, and partly because I like to save money on transport. Regarding a life philosophy, always look on the bright side of life!
What do you like most about travelling, and what is your favourite kind of travel?
I’m a real advocate of slow travel and by that, I mean basing yourself in a country and living the daily local life, interacting with the locals and absorbing the culture. Culture is an aspect of travel that endlessly fascinates me. If you’re familiar with my blog, I write about quirks and difference in other countries. I have always said that as humans, we do the same things such as eating, drinking, loving, caring etc, but the only difference is how we do such things. With conventional travel, you only taste the flavours of these cultures but never truly absorb it in all its full flavoursome beauty.
I saw that you wrote your first comedy screenplay! How was that and what are you doing with it now?
Ha! I can’t believe you’re asking about this! My friend and I did an improv comedy and we had a simple thought; ‘how hard would it be to write a comedy?’ Then, it just really rolled from there. I’ve never done any kind of comedy writing before so the challenge of writing something which is not only funny but actually have story and fleshed-out characters intrigued me. It’s taken me about 2 years to write the damn script but I’m quite pleased with my first ever draft. For me personally, writing comedy is probably one of the hardest things to do creative wise. With travel writing, the creativity comes in the fact that you’re bringing the reader to the place and sharing your experiences. You’re reporting experiences. With comedy writing, you need to create an entire world and people with histories and personalities, and most importantly, stir laughter among the audience. But yeah, I’m talking pseudo-intellectually here, don’t expect me to get a BAFTA anytime soon….
Do you want to travel more in the future? Where are you thinking of going next?
Well I do occasionally need to get out of bed to go to the toilet, so yes I’m very sure I’ll be travelling more in the future. Before I leave the UK to return to Melbourne, I’ll be travelling to Paris and Rome as a part of my European farewell tour. But beyond that I haven’t got any exact destinations I want to visit. I have been toying with the idea of going to my mother’s home country of East Timor, a country you don’t hear very much about!
What has been your favourite journey or experience to date?
I can’t definitively say which travel journey has been my favourite because they’re all so different and equally enthralling! But I guess I can say my latest adventure to Jordan was exciting, mainly because it was the first time I ever visited a country in the Middle East. I still think it’s surreal that I actually saw the wonders of Petra with my own eyes and walked the desert sands of Wadi Rum with my own two feet.
What’s your number one tip for new and experienced travellers alike?
Follow the mantra of ‘Yes Man’ – fearlessly nose dive into new experiences and situations and then figure out the rest later!
You’ve lived in London until recently, what do you like about living in the capital?
After living in London for almost two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that London is the best city to live in when you are a young working professional. I love the energy in London, it’s a very fast-paced style of living with a forwarding looking vision. There’s that famous quote by Samuel Johnson, ‘when one is tired of London, one is tired of life’ and I couldn’t agree more. There is always something exciting going on everyday in this city. If you have seen Midnight in Paris, I honestly feel like my life is exactly like Owen Wilsons character! I’m with the most amazing group of people who I proudly call my friends, going to some of the most amazing places. But do you know what’s my absolute favourite thing I love about London? It’s London under the sun. Being an Australian, I think I’m quite spoilt by the sun and as a result don’t appreciate it as much. Here in London, I’m amazed at how the locals truly relish the sun once it shines. The UK only gets a few months of true sunshine in the year, so it’s really lovely seeing the British invade the parks and any open public space to grasp at the opportunity for some sweet summer sun.
You’re originally from Melbourne and heading back soon – what’s great about Melbourne?
That’s a real funny question because if you had asked me the very same question a few years ago, I would’ve said nothing! It’s only after travelling that I realised how much of a beautiful city Melbourne is. The one word I would describe Melbourne is ‘funk’. Melbourne has funk. Whereas London has an intense punk rock pace, Melbourne has a bit of groove and rhythm. I completely understand that this is a ridiculous statement but go to Melbourne and you’ll see for yourself! There’s a fantastic ambience which breathes culture. Walk down the lanes of Melbourne and you’ll see vintage hip stores covered in graffiti and street art standing next to tiny cafes with only enough space to fit the barista, the coffee machine and one customer. There’s a beautiful phrase that I once heard which perfectly summarises Melbourne: ‘Sydney is the girl you spend the night with but Melbourne is the one you marry.’
Well a big thanks to Brendan for sharing thoughts from his round the world adventures with Travel Unmasked! You can follow his travels on Instagram, Twitter, his blog and all the other usual channels. I should be catching up with him in person here in Melbourne before heading back to Europe, keeping the natural order of blogging neatly in balance…