Interview With Chris Walker Bush of Aussie on the Road
Please give my readers a background about yourself. What made you want
to start aussieontheroad.com?
I've been traveling ever since I took the leap of moving to South Korea to work as a teacher in 2007. Two years and five countries later, I was preparing to embark on a six week tour of New Zealand and Fiji and wanted a way to document my travels and also work on my writing while I struggled with a bit of novel related writer's block.
Aussie on the Road started as a pet project and has become a bit of an all-consuming passion. There's not a day goes past where I'm not either working on the site or out and about trying to find something new and exciting to write about.
In all of your travels, in your opinion what country has the best food?
and the worst food?
My two years in South Korea really did make me partial to the local cuisine. It's hard to find a good ddeok galbi (spicy chicken and rice) here in Australia, and the more common dishes are ridiculously overpriced here. I also enjoyed the hell out of the US - particularly Portland.
The worst food? I'd have to say that Fijian food was a little plain for my tastes. It's very much about unseasoned meat and vegetables. Not my cup of tea at all.
When you first started traveling, did your family support your decision?
My mother was one of the big pushers for me to go overseas. I'd graduated from Uni and ended up in a dead-end retail job and when the opportunity came to go to South Korea, she was constantly on me to pursue it and to not let my fears prevent me from going.
I remember my Dad's sole objection was that I had chosen a country (South Korea) that he had no desire to visit. Funnily enough, he's been there four times now and goes even when I'm not in the country. He's even more in love with Korea than I am!
If you had to choose one favourite destination, which one would each
of you chose?
That's such a tough question! I obviously felt most at home in my home cities of Gwangju and Busan in South Korea, but fell in love with the beaches and the laid back atmosphere in Fiji.
I guess if I'm being ruthless, New Zealand would get the nod. It's a country of such geographical variety that it's astounding. In my ten days there I hiked up a glacier, went swimming, black-water rafting, zip-lined down a mountain, saw some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, and hiked through a subtropical rainforest. Not many places you can do all of that without lengthy flights or drives.
Special mention also goes to the Pacific North West in the United States. I fell in love with areas like Portland, Astoria, and Coeur D'Alene in northern Idaho.
What has been the least exciting destination you've traveled to?
I'll draw some flak for this, but I wasn't that impressed by my visit to the Grand Canyon in 2009. It's obviously a stunning moment when you first catch sight of the vibrant oranges and reds of the canyon, but after that it quickly wears off.
Maybe it's because my winters spent in Australia's Blue Mountains desensitized me a little to the whole idea of massive canyons and cliffs.
Did you always have a love of travel or did you develop your passion
for traveling as you got older?
Prior to going to Korea I can honestly say that travel was not something I had given much thought to. The idea of spending my life on a beach obviously held a great deal of appeal, but I never realized that I'd fall so hopelessly in love with the wanderlust lifestyle.
Living and working in a foreign land was a great introduction to the whole experience. When you've survived something as jarring as that, backpacking about doesn't seem quite so scary.
What impact has aussieontheroad.com had on your life?
It really has opened up a lot of doors for me. I've met some wonderful people as part of Sydney's Travel Massive group as well as just by networking with fellow bloggers. I've met quite a few over the past year and even shared a few adventures with some of them along the way.
It's also forced me to lead a more active life. The temptation to spend my weekend alternately in bed or in front of the computer is always there, but I know I'm not going to be able to write an interesting entry about that. It's the extra push I sometimes need to check out a festival or a new cafe.
It also generates a modest little bit of income for me. That goes straight to the travel fund.
What has been the most surprising destination you've been to? Meaning,
you had a specific mindset about a certain destination but it was totally a
different experience than you had imagined.
I went to South Korea expecting muddy streets and livestock roaming around. It goes to show how ignorant the Western world is about the state of affairs in Asia.
South Korea is one of the most fast paced and technologically advanced places in the world. I didn't know quite what to expect from the people or the culture when I moved over there, but it surprised me with both its warmth and its position straddling traditional values and modern trends. It's a really interesting juxtaposition.
If you had to decide which destination has been the most influential
in your life, which destination would you chose?
I feel like I'm harping on about Korea here, but it really does stand alone in this regard.
I went to South Korea a shy, inexperienced, and not overly ambitious 23 year old. I came back having made friends I'll keep for a lifetime, having fallen in and out of love a few times, and having grown a whole hell of a lot along the way. I don't think 23 year old me would even recognize the man I am today. Korea forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to shed a few layers of myself that I'd been clinging on to out of stubbornness.
I wouldn't be a traveler today if I hadn't gone to Korea, that's for sure.
What advice would you give to a newbie traveler?
I'd say that short term embarassment or awkwardness is worth the long term gain.
I remember going out to a foreigner bar on my own for the first time and being abjectly terrified at the prospect of meeting these intimidating new people. I ordered a drink and stood nervously at the bar and almost flinched when a pretty girl came and asked me to join her trivia team.
By year's end I was fast friends with almost everybody I met in the bar that night. Hell, I'd dated one of them for four months and gone on vacations with another four of them.
You're always going to have that chance of being shot down or embarrassed, but you're never going to really enjoy yourself if you're not going to take risks.
In 10 years, do you see yourself still traveling or slowing down?
I'd love to still be travelling in ten years. If I've learned one thing from my time back home this year, it's been that I really struggle to stay interested in this 'real world'. I enjoy my work and love the city of Sydney, but not a day goes past where I'm not looking wistfully at flight prices or daydreaming about some adventure I'd rather be on.
I can't see that stopping any time soon.
Thanks Chris for the interview. Please visit his blog @ Aussie on the Road