Interview with Samuel Westen

Road Beer: First of all, hello and how are you! Can you give us a tiny bit of information about you?

Samuel: Hi, My name’s Samuel and I come from Sydney, Australia. I’m 25 years old and I currently live in Hualien, Taiwan. I live on campus at a Buddhist University sharing a dorm room with two class mates from Indonesia and Japan. I study Mandarin Chinese full time and honestly don’t have time for a job even if i wanted to. In the distance future I may consider working part time as an English teacher to help me along financially.

R.B: Can you tell us where you have travelled and lived?

Samuel: Only recently have I moved to Taiwan and it is the first time I’ve permanently moved away from Australia. Travel wise I’ve extensively traversed through East & South East Asia. Two trips to West & Northern Europe have also been made in the past. Nobody wants to see a list of countries but from the last count it was around 28. My longest trip overseas was just over 3 months but that personal record is soon to be superseded.

R.B: How do you save enough money to go travelling so often?

Samuel: Financing my trips has always come from holding a job. I’ve held a job in the capacity of part time at a minimum since I was 15 years old. My parents also definitely contribute in the form of birthday and christmas funds.

B.R: Props for being honest about your parents helping out. I can also say that without their help I wouldn’t be living in Vietnam myself. Do you have any advice for future travellers?

Samuel: As I’ve grown older I’ve distanced my way from the party lifestyle of travelling. I barely if ever go out drinking and this gives me tons of non hangover time to focus on photography, something I’m very passionate about.

R.B: Straight to the point, what is the best advice you can give someone who is about to go travelling long-term?

Samuel: I cannot stress enough how awesome solo travelling is. You may doubt yourself in handling situations in a foreign country, especially when nobody speaks your native tongue. In my experience any and all situations work themselves out and travelling alone gives you the freedom and motivation to go out there and meet people you wouldn’t normally associate yourself with.

R.B: What is an essential accessory for photography while travelling, and one that people might think is indispensable but in face useless?

Samuel: Seriously the best accessory for photography is learning how to use your camera. So many times have I come across people wielding top tier cameras costing thousands of dollars and not having a single clue beyond the auto function. Buy a book and study it while you’re on the road.

R.B: What is the best day you’ve ever had while travelling?

Samuel: This is tough, I’ve had many a moment where I’ve thought holy shit I love life right now. A personal standout for me was hiring motorbikes with a group of new found friends in a place called Dong Hoi in Vietnam. Absolute shit hole of a city however the nearby Phong Nha national park cannot be missed. We rode our rented motorcycles through the park while the weather was rapidly changing. The scenery was incredible and the weather change brought low hanging clouds that we began riding through. It’s hard to describe, but it was a truly exhilarating day.

R.B: What is the worst toilet you’ve ever seen? Did you use it?

Samuel: To be honest I can’t say I’ve seen a really shit toilet (no pun intended). I’ve seen some extremely disgusting ones at festivals in Australia so I guess Australia? Did I use it ? Yes.

R.B: Has your life, mentality, outlook on life, work ethic or anything like that changed since you first started travelling? Would you say it’s part of natural growth, or has the voyage itself been the biggest influence?

Samuel: Before I travelled all I did was play video games, take drugs and talk shit. I still talk a LOT of shit but I seldom do any types of drugs, including alcohol. Why? I now cherish natural social interactions and outdoor activities a lot more than I used to. I guess travelling in a way showed me this. While on the topic of changed perspectives I can say with upmost confidence that any lingering thoughts of racism that were once in my mind have been completely abolished. Humans are humans, it’s as simple as that. The only difference between us all is some people are fuckwits and others aren’t.

R.B: That was beautiful. What do you miss most when you’re on the road?

Samuel: I miss my family, friends and my cats. I also miss the portion size of meals back in Australia and the quality of the food. After eating rice for a month you just want a decent burger.

R.B: What is your favourite book?

Samuel: Don’t have one really. Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

R.B: What’s your favourite song to listen to while travelling?

Samuel: I always seem to get attached to a single tune while on the road. I love Infected Mushroom. They’re an Israeli band that play psy electronica. I plan to see them one day live in Israel.

R.B: What was the best guesthouse/hostel/homestay you stayed at?

Samuel: Umm this is a tricky one. 3Howw Hostel in Bangkok. The people who run the hostel are a married couple and very friendly people. I kind of felt like a family member there, hard to explain. There was another hostel in Seoul that was great but I can’t remember the name!

R.B: No worries! What was the worst one and why?

Samuel: Another tricky one. You’ll soon realise that staying at hostels is a serious gamble. One night it’ll be fine and another it’ll be in shambles. The people that stay at hostels can start serious dramas. I’ve actually wanted to fight people because they’ve been so disrespectful to the owners and other guests sleeping there. For fuck’s sake be quiet after midnight, don’t have outside voices conversations with your mates in the room during sleeping hours and pack your fucking bag the night before leaving!!

R.B: Ah, the 3 am packers. Love ’em. What is the most over rated place you have visited?

Samuel: Singapore. There’s nothing to do there and if you enjoy paying close to Australian prices for everything (expensive as f*#k) then visit Singapore.

R.B: What is the most under rated place you have visited?

Samuel: Taiwan! Why have I moved here? Taiwan is a Chinese Japan. It wasn’t even really on my places to go list prior to actually coming. I will happily challenge anyone in claims another country has better food than Taiwan. Come at me bro.

B.R: I’d like to say Vietnam, and come at you bro. Would you be willing to share your ultimate lifegoal or something you’re working towards achieving right now?

Samuel: Fluently speak Mandarin Chinese and then move onto Japanese. I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with my life.

R.B: Heh. Me neither. Did you meet people along the way that inspired you?

Samuel: Yes, yes and yes. You meet incredible people during your adventures that have personally given me purpose in life.

R.B: I know you met a pretty sweet lady last year. Would you like to talk about the process of starting a relationship while on the road and with a different nationality?

Samuel: I met my girlfriend last year at a hostel in Thailand. She’s Taiwanese and has a very similar personality to me. I.e. loves to talk shit. We’ve both stayed with each others families in our home countries. Just like any relationship, communication is key.

R.B: Merci Samuel for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep up the motormouth, that’s why we got along in the first place, I believe.

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