Travel Tales: Paul Lin
Name: Paul Lin
Occupation: CEO/Founder of Buuna
Favourite travel destination?: Outside of Australia, it would have to be the USA. Because the US and US culture is often taken for granted by the rest of the world, people often forget what a big country the US is, how much culture and history they’ve developed over the last three hundred years, and how much diversity and variety they have in that one single country. Honolulu, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas, Huston, Miami, Chicago, Boston and New York – all these cities have distinct and different characteristics to the point they would be individual countries if you looked at them by culture and architecture rather than by national borders. I also love going the US and seeing where things we take for granted comes from – things like fast food, the internet, or blockbuster movies, and seeing how they have influenced our way of life back here in Australia.
And that’s not even taking into account the countryside and nature – geographically it’s a huge country, and the US has everything from pacific islands to frozen tundra to forests to desert to mountains, so if you want to get out there and explore, there’s always something to see. The people are also in general very service orientated and friendly towards travellers, so you can always be sure that you’ll get food with a smile and feel welcome no matter where you go.
Worst travel experience?: Travelling to Seattle alone, on a cold and wet winter weekend. For this trip, I chose not to stay in a hostel, and as a result, I didn’t meet any people to travel with. I ended up being cold, lonely and bored all weekend, even though Seattle was a fascinating city with beautiful sights to see. I learnt that traveling isn’t about the places you go to, it’s about who you visit these places with, and that if you don’t hang out with fun people, then travelling can be a miserable and lonely experience. It’s one of the reason I started Buuna – to connect travellers so that everyone can have a great time together.
Best tips for beating jetlag?: Upon arrival, eat at proper times and sleep according to your new timezone. There’s no easy way around it…you just have to rough it out the first night to force your body into the new timezone.
What is the one thing you don’t leave home without?: That’s easy – my iPhone. iPhones are amazing these days – it’s not just a phone anymore, it’s a fully functional computer in your pocket. iPhones can easily handle all my travel communication needs, from email to Facebook to old fashioned phone calls, and also GPS and map capabilities so I never get lost. There’s music and games if you get bored on a long train ride or bus trip, and having constant access to the internet is always useful if you need to translate a foreign language or if you want to read up on the history of an attraction or historical site. And because it’s all integrated in one device, it allows me to manage and keep track of my trip itineraries, photos, contacts, and share them with my old and new friends on social networks as I am travelling. It’s pretty much the Swiss army knife of modern day travelling.
Do you stay in touch with people while you’re travelling? If so, what is the best way to do this?: Facebook and email. Postcards are too slow, and phones may not be convenient if there’s a significant time difference. People sometimes say to me “but what if you don’t have internet access” – well, you always have internet access these days, since almost all countries have affordable prepaid 3G cards you can buy from the airport. If you don’t have one then free wifi is fairly abundant no matter where you go anyway – at worst you might have to go to a MacDonalds or a café for free internet access, but I can’t say I’ve ever been caught out in the last few years where I’ve been unable to stay in touch with my friends via social networks or email while travelling.
Best meal you’ve ever had while travelling?: Hida beef at Takayama, Japan. Hida beef is one of the breeds of wagyu in Japan, and it’s simply the best meat I’ve eaten all my life. Wagyu beef is often overrated and not all that special when you order it in western countries like Australia and the US (sometimes it’s just steak with a bit of fat on it), and it’s not until you’ve tried true Japanese wagyu you see how special it is. The meat is so tender it simply melts in your mouth, and goes well with anything – sukiyaki, bbq, in a bun – when I think about it, I am tempted to move to Takayama just so I can eat Hida beef all day.
Best/scariest/funniest drive?: Driving down Waimea Canyon drive, down from the top of the mountain to the beach in Kauai, Hawaii. You start at the top of the mountain, which is one of the wettest places in the world, where you are surrounded rainforest, foggy and drizzling with rain. As you drive down the narrow mountain road, you pass thorough the side of Waimea Canyon – ‘the Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, where you watch the side of the road drop sharply down 900 metres into the bottom of the canyon, opposing distant canyon walls of red, grey and green. Finally, as you approach the bottom of the hill, the rain gradually fades away, the sun suddenly appears, and you see the beach right there in front of you – with a rainbow at the finishing line. It’s the most beautiful drive I’ve seen in my travels.
What has been the big WOW moment of your travelling life? What has taken your breath away?: Arriving in New York for the first time, coming out of the subway and into Times Square, and being shocked and awed by the size, majesty and of the place. You can’t really understand what the term ‘concrete jungle’ really means until you’re there in person yourself! And it’s not just about the architecture and city itself either – the place is full of people of all shapes and sizes, of every culture in the world, going places – both literally and figuratively. It really is the modern version of Rome, where all the roads of the modern world meet.
What is your number one travel tip?: Don’t be afraid of looking like a tourist. Too many people are too self-conscious to behave like tourists, deliberately avoiding ‘tourist traps’ and avoiding touristy activities (such as climbing the Statue of Liberty, trying famous local foods at touristy restaurants) because it’s not cool. Sure, you should definitely visit some local favorites and hole in the wall places, but tourist traps and popular destinations are popular for a reason – see them for yourself to see what the fuss is all about before condemning them!