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Road Less Travelled is authored by writer, blogger & photographer Ben Farrell… That’s me!
I’m lucky to have had an interesting and diverse career that’s allowed me to travel the globe and live in diverse countries and cultures. To me, travel is one of the most educational and mind expanding experience one can have. My passion for travel, getting lost, and embracing new experiences has led me to want to share my stories with my readers. I hope to inspire others to see the world and ponder human behaviour to gain an understanding that your way… my way of living, is only one amongst thousands of different paths.
Travel alters the mind, clarifying and focusing the cluttered lens in which we view the world, allowing us to see ourselves within a greater context… The greater picture. Experiencing other places and cultures helps us stand back and view our life from an objective distance. It allows us to better understand our incredible significance yet insignificance in this universe. My career has taken me through many eras, cultures, places and experiences… I’ve studied psychology, drama, been an amateur actor, studied degrees in writing and literature, been a police officer on the streets of Sydney, managed global contact centres around the world and travelled the globe several times over. I’m fascinated by culture and human behaviour and love to share my experiences.
I had my first overseas experience when I was 18. I booked a trip to Thailand. My grandparents had lived in Thailand when my mum was young so I’d grown up on Thai green curries, lots of chilli and a deep respect for Thai culture from stories passed on. Boarding the plane, I expected to land in a tranquil city, streets lined with Thai restaurants with wooden carvings and Buddha heads on the walls, playing soothing Thai music. How wrong I was.
I touched down in the exhausted, humid, orange siam afternoon to complete culture shock. I took the train from the airport to the city and I gazed amazed out the windows as the scenery blurred, spun and changed before me, all synchronised with the train that pulled, hissed, clattered and squealed in to Bangkok. I watched locals cook and eat by the train tracks, and remember the smell of Thai food, spice, humidity and charcoal. The temples twinkled at me, catching the setting siam sun with their mosaic of mirrors stuck to their peaked roofs. I was in awe.
It was barely post the 9/11 terrorist attacks (I flew out at the end of that September), and Thailand was not the tourist hot-spot it is today. Even the tourist resort areas where ghost-towns in the wake of international shock. Getting on a plane was an edgy experience and people weren’t travelling… At all. This however, made it an even more authentic cultural experience for me.
I was officially hooked on travel, and would return to Australia with a different outlook, a desire to see the world and a deep understanding that my way of living was only one of many. I craved more.
My next travel would be 2 years later. As part of my university studies, I’d taken Italian Studies as an elective having studied it previously at High School. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship for an exchange program to live and study in Italy for 3 months. So off I went to study at l’universita per stranieri (The University for Foreigners) in Perugia, Umbria. I lived in a small shared quintessential Italian house with wooden shutters and a clothesline on pully systems attached to the neighbouring building. Many a pair of underwear were lost due to careless pegging as I was taken in by the view over the valley out to the local church tower from our laundry. I lived with a German, a Cambodian, an Englishman and a Mexican.
However we were there to study Italian, so the common language was not English. We all spoke Italian as we prepared pasta and bruschetta in the communal kitchen. Nights were spent sitting on the steps of the church in the main piazza drinking beer from plastic cups, talking to the locals and watching people ‘fare la passigiata’ – go for an evening walk. Coming from Australia, it takes a while to get your head round the fact that the very steps you’re sitting on were built many hundreds of years before Australia was even discovered by modern explorers. You can read about my first trip to Italy here.
I fell in love with Italy and my Italian was fluent. I learnt more in 3 months than I did in 2 years of University study. This was pre-blog days (at least that I knew of) so I captured my travels in emails I sent to my friends and family. I’d sit in internet cafes for hours at a time writing about my experiences, the emotions and the culture. This is when I first truly discovered a passion for travel writing. I discovered that I loved telling the story through writing and taking photos. I would write in my head as I wandered down a local street, describing what I was seeing and feeling and this is something that’s stuck with me ever since.
Since then, I wanted to be a travel writer and photographer and tell my stories through words and photos to others. Not just hints and tips about where to stay and what to eat but, unique experiences that drag the reader in and dump them right in the middle of the scene with you, experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and culture. However to be a travel writer, one must travel and it would be another 7 years before I would leave Australia again.
The next travel wasn’t until I landed a job with a very large multi-national company as a Training & Quality Assurance specialist. The call centre industry was booming and outsourcing to India was huge. After only 2 months in the job, I was sent to India… By Myself.
I would spend a LOT of time in India of the next 4 years and almost lose my life there (read bout that in my blog ‘Mumbai Under Attack (again)’. But even on my 18th visit to India, it still blows my mind. To this day, no other country has managed to overwhelm me as much as India’s colours, sights, sounds and culture. A simple ride in a cab to the office every morning would present a bombardment of incongruent images out my window.
Rich juxtaposed with poor. Five star hotels next to tin roof slums where hundreds queue with their buckets of water just to use the public toilet. A lot of my writing and photography is from India, and that’s no surprise. Visually there is so much to take in, that the narrow spectrum of a camera lens alone cannot describe a scene to get even close to how it feels to be there, standing on a street corner in absolute organised chaos.
India is the only country I’ve been stuck in traffic as a pedestrian. As in, I literally couldn’t cross the road because there were no gaps between the cars, auto rickshaws, bicycles, motorbikes and cows for me to pass!
Since then I’ve travelled throughout many other countries and been back to my beloved Italy. To use a cliche ‘not all who wander are lost’ – this is the key to travel. Getting lost, getting off the beaten track, away from the tourists and taking the Road Less Travelled is an enlightening journey not for the faint hearted, but rewards with rich experiences and stories you will find here.
I only hope that my stories here encourage you to take the road less travelled and see where it takes you. I did and that has made all the difference.