SEASONED ADVENTURER: BEATRICE TRAVELS
Hong Kong native Beatrice Wong is a true woman on the go, having been to over 86 countries so far and no intentions of stopping. Her travels have taken her to tourist hotspots and, more interestingly, destinations that will experience in their lifetime. Beatrice started her travel blog a few years ago, documenting her adventures as they unfolded, alongside that she now writes for GQ Taiwan’s travel column and has become one of Fujifilm’s brand ambassadors.
“I am fortunate that I have a flexible work schedule and my family is very supportive of my interests. I am not bound like other photographers or travel bloggers, I can go wherever I want and do whatever I like and capture moments and create images however I please. I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity.”
With a life centred around seeing the world, Beatrice lives by the motto – Travel far enough, and you will meet yourself. Why? “You gain a lot of perspective on life and become grateful for what you have. You realise how adaptable we all are and you learn about patience and being in the moment. One needs to constantly push oneself a little out of one’s comfort zone in order to grow.”
We caught up with Beatrice between trips in Hong Kong to talk adventure, must-see destinations and travel tips.
So, how does each journey begin? I Imagine your travels take quite a bit of planning…
It can be something I came across in a magazine or a place I’ve wanted to check out. My travel list keeps expanding. Unfortunately, with many of the more remote and off the beaten path places I go to now, advance planning of like 6 months is required. I can rarely wing it anymore.
For example, the boat for visiting Galapagos fills up 6 months ahead because it is quite seasonal. Or the fact that only 60 permits are available to see the gorillas in the wild in Rwanda on any given day and again best time to visit is only 2-3 months out of a year….you get the idea. I plan all my itineraries, and the research is quite time-consuming. I work with a travel agency now who do mostly group tours, but they have to be willing to cater to my needs. I supply the itinerary, and other details and they get their land agents to arrange for car, driver and guide for my private use.
Lately, you’ve visited many remote areas and primitive tribes – can you sum up these experiences?
These are some of my favourite experiences, especially my visit to the Himba people in Namibia. It is not yet too touristy, and you can sit and chat with them through a translator. You will be surprised how much you can learn from them. It makes you think how simple and basic life should be and how we over-complicate everything. For example, they don’t have the concept of age and time. When you think about it, time is a human construct.
In nature, there are seasons but no specific event to signify a new month or a new year. We have been bound by time. We see time as fleeting. We are constantly setting deadlines and complaining about not having enough time. For them, time is continuous, from the past to the present to the future.
It’s actually a luxury to not rush around and be able to stop and smell the roses and watch time go by. The way these primitive tribes live also shows you that we actually don’t need very much. They don’t waste anything, and they work with nature, whereas we too easily throw things away. The idea of cherishing things and being grateful very often seems like something from a different time.
They must’ve had a significant impact on you, but what was their reaction to you?
They are usually fairly curious because I don’t think too many Asian women visit them yet. I smile and laugh, and it is contagious and the simplest universal language. As many photographers do, I take photos and show them on the camera. They love seeing themselves because don’t forget most of them don’t have mirrors and are surprised and shy and excited to see what they actually look like.
Going to another end of the travel spectrum, where do you go to relax?
Sitting on the beach is nice. I always like to take a holiday after the holiday and lay in the sun somewhere and just do nothing.
And where do you go to get inspired?
I get the most inspiration for my photography when on the road. I have an insatiable appetite for everything new, new location, new culture, new scenery, etc. I have definitely been consumed by wanderlust.
You’re more qualified than most people to answer this: What’s one place everyone must visit at least once in their life?
For wildlife, it is Rwanda for close encounters with the gorillas. For nature or landscape, the salt flats of Uyuni and the neighbouring Siloli Desert in Bolivia. For native culture, the tribes of Omo Valley in Ethiopia and the Himba people in northwest Namibia
What’s it like facing something as powerful as a gorilla?
I came face to face with a silverback gorilla… weighing about 200 kilos… you’re told not to have eye contact with them so it was just for a split second but you can see its soul and how human he is. Reminded me of the movie King Kong. When we were trekking through the jungle to look at these gorillas, and I felt this nudging on my behind. Thinking it was someone from our group of 8, I turned around in annoyance, and it actually was a young gorilla asking me to get out of his way. Encounters like that are forever memorable.
In all your years and experience in travelling, how has the world changed?
Overall, there is less poverty, at least that is visible to me on my travels. More people are able and willing to speak English than say 20 years ago. It’s interesting how it is inevitable for the world to change with the amount of innovation and information exchange we have nowadays. Yet I am drawn to places that are still considered ‘backwards’. Their existence lies in the balance, and for me, it is now or never to visit them before they disappear forever.
So as a veteran of travelling, you’ve likely encountered it all, can you give us your best travel tips?
Be patient and be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes a disappointing situation can turn into a pleasant surprise.
- Go with an open mind and be respectful of local cultures. Read a little bit before you go.
Do plan your trip but don’t overplan. Leave some room for spontaneity.
- Always bring a carry-on with enough clothes, underwear, toiletries to last you 3-5 days.
- Amazing photos occur when preparedness meets opportunity meets serendipity.
As of now, you’ve now been to 86 countries, 524 cities but what makes Hong Kong home?
No one is ever free from their social environment. This is where I grew up, where most of my friends and family are, where I am familiar and comfortable, and where I can get some home-cooking that can’t be found anywhere else. But having said that, Hong Kong does get claustrophobic and too busy; hence, travelling provides an escape and a balance.
One last thing, where are you off to next?
Heading to Egypt next month.