A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men's; then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.
Yes, I have gain'd my experience.
As You Like It, Shakespeare
Hi, I'm Okan, part time Londoner, a semi nomadic traveller.
I travel around the world and follow off the beaten path.
When I'm not on the road, I write travel guides.
How did I start backpacking?
I would like to say "One day, I woke up as a backpacker" but unfortunately I had to experience traveling with tour agencies a few times.
When I was in Rome with a group, I realized the waiters were in low spirit, miserable due to demanding tourist gangs who were impossible to please.
It was a sad discovery that put me on a mission to find another way of travelling. There should be another way.
Just two months after Italy, I went to Cambodia. The places I visited were still touristy but… I couldn't help to notice how liberating the feeling of freedom was; I was not tailing someone else!
I didn’t use any tour or agencies after that trip.
Since 2013, my travel memoirs are being published by Kolektif Kitap. The title of these alternative travel guides is “So Long to Borders!”.
What do I mean by “so long to borders?”
If you are interested in history, you might have heard this story. At the end of the 19th century, colonial powers were organizing meetings in European capitals such as Berlin, Paris and London, to decide how to share the African continent between each other. Until that time, the slave trade only existed in coastal cities such as Luanda, Zanzibar and Kilwa. Therefore colonialists had limited information about the inland of the continent, a bit coast, a bit south, that’s it. Hence, when it came to share the lands, they were stunned. Their maps were not correct. When they didn’t know the name of the places, they called them “terra incognita”. Then the situation became more tragicomic. Lord Cecil, first prime minister of Britain, admitted in London “we were giving mountains, lakes, rivers to each other but we really didn’t know where they are!”.
Then Europeans put the map of Africa on the table and drew horizontal, vertical lines on it. There you go, you have today’s borders! Now, please take a look at the map of Africa again. You will see that 44% of the borders are actually straight!
Nobody cared at the time of course, whether they dispersed the ethnic groups when drawing the random lines on the map. In total, 177 ethnic groups separated from each other. For instance, today Bakongos live in Republic of Congo, Angola and DR Congo. Just look at Mandinkas, they are spread out over 10 different countries! While colonialists randomly drew the lines, they also eradicated the collective history and memories of these people. Today, neither their cultures nor their languages are the same.
Travelling is the biggest passion of my life, is the most beautiful, most effective way of resisting the negative connotations of the current borders. When I travel, I try to use public transportation. I prefer land or river border crossings (there are few places for the traveller that quite match the excitement of the border crossing). I love to be in one of those “no man’s lands”. By travelling, by celebrating the cultures at each side of these fictitious lines, I feel like I am saying “goodbye” to borders!
Why “an alternative travel guide”?
You may have noticed it already. The tagline of my books is “an alternative travel guide”.
When I travel, I avoid mass tourism, trying to find places that are off the beaten path, places that have not reached to travel magazines yet. It goes without saying, We, the white-collar employees, have limited holidays and we want to see as much as we can in our trips. We go everywhere easily, flying from one point to another. Distances are shortened. Perhaps we are not aware of this, but our concept of freedom has changed too, most likely our dreams are not that wild any more!
In this global world, where everywhere started to look alike, these alternative places are more precious to me. Robert Frost, American poet says “I took the road less travelled by and that has made all the difference”. This is true, once I’m away from the main road, I’ve experienced amazing things, gained some beautiful memories.
Let me introduce my books that I wrote until now… I shared my experiences about backpacking in “Viva Backpack – Handbook of A Traveller”. (have you noticed the title of this website?) The alternative travel guides I have written were about “Latin America”, East Asia and North and Central Africa. Some of these books even made the third edition, thanks a million to my readers!
The next one, Southern Africa is coming in December 2019. Then respectively Oceania & Malay Archipelago, Indian Subcontinent, Southern Europe, North and Central Europe, Western & Central Asia will hit the bookshelves. When this series is completed, about 85 countries, almost half of the world will be travelled and explained. If I manage to accomplish such a tremendous task, I will be on cloud nine!
And the last thanks goes to my flight sponsor, Emirates who believes in me and my project.