BY MARTIN YEE
Having been to more than 30 countries in three decades of criss-crossing the planet, the travel bug in Donald Tan and his wife Marina is itching to log even more miles now that the COVID-19 pandemic is finally letting up.
And Tan, who owns a hotel the Village House in Santubong, wants to now get others in on their globe-trotting adventures.
To do this he wants to be an influencer on social media, hoping the site they set up will entice more to join the club or share their travel experiences as well.
Tan, who caught the travel bug when he was still young, found an equally adventurous in Marina who herself had been to 30 countries before the couple teamed up.
Thus far they have travelled to far-flung corners of the globe, even to trouble-prone places like Kashmir or Colombia or Mexico.
They cited the thrill of travel as their primary motivation to journey to the different regions of the world like in South America where they got up close and personal to different ancient civilisations and cultures and even physically challenging trips like to the base camp of Mt Everest.
Notably they visited Peru in 2014 where the 15th Century Inca citadel is located on a 2,430m mountain in the Machu Picchu district, 80km northeast of Cusco, the sacred valley of the Incas.
Among the more memorable or rewarding trips were the two pilgrimage walk journeys — one was the walk across Spain called the Camina de Santiago Walk and the other in Kyoto, Japan — the Kumono Kodo walk which are both UNESCO world heritage sites.
They went there in 2017. The Kumono Kodo heritage walk takes place in the middle of the jungle and there are temples and excellent teahouses along the way.
Both walks are long journeys with the Camina Walk being their favourite, taking 34 days from Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago.
The ultimate destination is to get to the St James Cathedral which houses the remains of St James the Biblical apostle.
“We enjoy travelling, it’s about letting go and we have trekked more paths than anyone can imagine.
“I’ve been to so many countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Bali in Asia, the foothills of the Himalayas, Japan, China, Europe and the furthest was to South America except for Surinam, Venezuela and Russia which we have not visited.
“Our verdict is that the world is still nice with I can say 98 per cent of the people of the countries we visited are friendly.
“You must travel with a positive mind and if there is any negativity that comes to your mind, then don’t go.
“You see different faces … you can also experience their heritage such as their Inca civilisation and visit their authentic bars.
“We tend to travel by public buses along dirt roads and it is better as we get to see more travelling this way.
“You want to see the places, culture, customs and the only way to taste it is through travelling and it is very rewarding.
“I only experienced a little apprehension in places like Egypt and the back streets of India where you feel the people want to cheat you.”
However, their travel experiences help keep them out of harm’s way for according to him, one just needs to be street smart and get as much information about the country before embarking on a journey.
“There are many rewards in travelling even to troubled regions like in Srinagar, Kashmir in India where the people are friendly, the scene with its natural setting is breath-taking, houseboats, gardens, waterfronts and all.
“For us, there is not much hassle in travelling for we get the information of the countries first before we travel and people in the rural areas always help you with first-hand knowledge of the logistics involved.
“Our travelling only stopped due to the pandemic but now that the restrictions have eased, we are back on the trail again.
“Young people in Sarawak should explore the world to enjoy people’s diverse culture and experience the excitement of meeting people from different parts of the world,” he said.