Richard Meros has been known to find inspiration in unexpected places. Leaving his native New Zealand to investigate what the world has to offer, he ended up in Southeast Asia for the better half of this year with plans to keep on moving. He caught up with us just long enough to trigger some wanderlust in those of us who are currently bound stateside.
How long have you been trekking around and how long do you plan to continue?
I have been out of New Zealand for four months. One in SE Asia, three in India, with about eight months left going overland to Turkey then Cairo, detouring via Georgia and Azerbaijan and possibly returning to NZ sometime in late 2010.
What has been the most unexpected delight so far?
The travelers I have met in India are far more interesting than most of those I met on my 10 month jaunt in Central and South America in 2006. I really did not expect so many fascinating people and it made me wonder if I am so different now or whether it is them.
You do a good amount of traveling, what makes these tourists different? Are they mostly Western or Asian tourists and do you notice any differences?
There is an enormous amount of Indian tourists in India. There are many less ‘home’ tourists in south-east Asia. Westerners are received with good-natured curiosity bordering on harassment from locals.
A year is a long time to travel, how cheaply are you managing to live?
In India, 500 rupees a day, which is pretty cheap. I just use local transport and eat local food and every now and then try a nicer hotel.
Any ridiculous translation experiences you could share?
My favourite was in Northern Laos when reading a set of rules for the guesthouse, no. 11 was: “No one can argue with the Questhouse” If only, if only, if only every other guesthouse was a questhouse.
Have you stayed in any hostels?
I stayed in a few monastery hostels in Hiomachal Pradesh in northern india, but the beds are generally suited to the asceticism I have tried to moderate in my end-of-the-world personal aesthetic.
At this point, you must be enjoying some pretty good street food?
Best street food, beyond chai, is the Kati Rolls from Kolkata. Seeing the word “vegetarian” so often in India is godly.
Have you had any charming encounters during your travels?
In Sonamarg I had a very nice time trying to play with a group of children who knew a few english words, though these words were generally in the refrain of “one ___ please”. They could insert words like school, pen, toffee, rupee, but not much more. The setting was in the area below a glacier where their nomadic families camped over the summer. Why they were camped a hundred metres below a glacier I cannot say, winter nostalgia. Anyhow, we sung them some Tracey Chapman and Jens Lekman and the Maori version of New Zealand’s national anthem and then played a game where I grabbed their hands and flung them about in the air. It’s nice to be able to play with kids and not worry about what real adults think.
OK, so you’ve been around the world. But have you ever been to Portland, and if not, when are you getting here?
Never been, though I have been to Oregon’s northern and southern neighbours. I will, or may, or could be there some late summer 2010.
Richard Meros is part of a publishing collective that lives at www.lawrenceandgibson.com.