Journeying across the globe is a bucket list goal for many – but for 24-year-old Shane Tan, he’s setting out to achieve that right now. By July this year, he’d have been away from home for 10 months and counting, having visited at least 40 countries thus far. In between giving us wanderlust envy with his digital scratch map on Instagram, the globetrotter took time off exploring to chat with us about his travels and what he has learned along the way.
Hi Shane! What inspired you to go on this worldwide backpacking adventure?
Not one thing in particular, actually. I’ve just always loved to travel and therefore, I decided to take a gap year and go to places I haven’t been to before.
How did your family and friends react to your decision on travelling the world?
Positively! I am very thankful that my family and friends are very supportive of this trip, despite it being longer than usual.
What’s the most common question people ask you when they learn you’re travelling long-term?
A lot of people have been asking me what’s my current occupation – that I get to travel extensively and simultaneously. However, I’m not working and am currently unemployed.
How are you managing to fund your extensive travelling?
I was working as a freelance graphic designer for 3 years previously and I saved up enough for this trip!
Are there any sacrifices you’ve made to go on this trip?
I would say it’s probably time. I am taking a gap year to travel while most of my friends are in university or in the working industry already.
The packing must’ve been insane. What are your top three essential items to bring overseas?
Yes, it was really tough choosing what to pack for a trip that had no concrete end-destination in mind! Apart from the obvious: passport, cash, and cards, I always make sure to pack a comfortable pair of shoes, a few sunglasses and a trusty camera to document my trip.
Which of these are you most excited for when visiting a new country – the food, the scenery or meeting locals?
They are all beautiful to take in, in their own ways – but if I had to pick one, it would definitely be the scenery!
Out of all the places you’ve visited so far, which has been the ultimate highlight for you and why?
Japan, no doubt! I’ve been to Japan a couple of times before, but this trip was a new experience for me. I was there for a month and took the opportunity to visit seven different cities. Not only is the country rich in culture and always have the best food, Japanese people are one of the friendliest bunch I have ever met.
Do you keep mementos from your travels?
Yes! I [make sure to] buy a magnet from each city I visit and a keychain from every country.
What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about travelling?
My favourite thing about travelling is getting to see and experience new things all the time. I would say the worst part is having to repack my backpack on-the-go almost every other day.
Were there any challenges you faced while planning this entire trip together?
Definitely! Part of my initial plan was to take the train from Beijing to Moscow, but my 15-day visa in China was expiring and they couldn’t approve my Russia visa on time. Thankfully, I was quite flexible with my trip so it wasn’t really difficult for me to come up with a plan B. Eventually, I booked a one-way plane ticket to Czech Republic, before making my way through Europe.
On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the most, how much do you miss home in Singapore?
I’d say a 9… I was really homesick during the Chinese New Year period especially. The one thing I miss the most back in Singapore is definitely my dog, Rocky.
You also upload your own travelogues of each country you visit on YouTube. Do you shoot spontaneously on the go, or plan your destinations to film?
Yes, I do! I’m not a professional filmmaker though, and I’m still learning. As for shooting plans, it really depends! Most of the time it was spontaneous, but there were a few cities where I went to a specific location to film as I did my research and knew I wanted to fly my drone to take an aerial shot of the place.
What’s your best travel tip?
Sign up [for an account] at Couchsurfing! I love Couchsurfing as it helps you to connect with the locals quickly. I have stayed with a few locals during my trips and met some of them for dinner. Once, I even participated in a local event in Hungary! I’ve forged a couple of good friendships from Couchsurfing since, hence I highly recommend everyone to use it.
In your opinion, how should one be more careful to avoid dangerous situations when travelling alone in a foreign country?
I’m quite thankful that I’ve personally never encountered anything dangerous yet… but to be safe, do try to avoid going out late and carrying a lot of cash on you.
In your opinion, what are some traits to have to be a good traveler?
Having an open mind, being flexible to last-minute situations, and being bold to try new things without compromising one’s safety.
Being a seasoned explorer yourself, how would you advice others who are planning a trip around the world?
Remember to pack as light as possible! I’ve sent a lot of unnecessary things back to Singapore, which was very troublesome and time-consuming. And try to avoid winter season – the days are so short and you’d have to lug around heavy sweaters and coats.
Any interesting stories that happened on your trip?
The most interesting thing that happened is definitely meeting Yavuz. I met him on Couchsurfing and he hosted me in Vienna, Austria. He is a broadcaster and he invited me to his radio show one night. I was his special guest for that night and we discussed about racism, feminism and LGBT issues in Asia and Europe live [on air] and it was probably the coolest thing I’ve done so far!
What is one important lesson you’ve learnt from embarking on this journey?
Being more independent. Stepping out from my comfort zone after a long time forced me to rely on myself more and trust my own decisions.
Photo Credits: Shane Tan
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