Take everything you read with a grain of salt and go and find out for yourself. The media certainly overhype things and government travel warnings are generally exaggerated– Daniel Herszberg
What is the greatest teacher in life? Experience, must be on the top list of answers. We humans learn and shape ourselves from our experiences. Some may be complacent by sitting at the office or home, behind the doors, having the least of curiosity to see where are those doors may lead them to, but some others simply never defer their happiness of not knowing and choose to unlock the doors and embark on new journey.
Meet Daniel Herszberg. An Australian undergrad law student who enjoys unlocking doors by traveling around the world. He has visited 94 countries and planning to make it to 100 by the end of this year. Given that many doors opened, his travel trip had more than just a modicum of tourist fun.
Marcel Proust said that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Journesia gets the honor to interview him this week about his ‘new eyes’. If it is to fill with different colors, Daniel must have one of the most beautiful, rare 94 colored heterochromia iridum. He shared with us about his experience in Indonesia, how he loves nasi goreng and actually cook it for his family regularly and his recent enjoyment in listening to gamelan music, as he told us “I love how the songs often begin by a brief explosion of bright percussions and then slowly subside into rippling melodies, eventually moving towards a subtle ‘nothing’
1. Tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. My family traveled a fair bit when I was younger, so I got a real taste for the world around me and a general curiosity for other cultures. In 2010 I started my law degree in Australia and took advantage of the university lifestyle in Australia. This equated to three semesters of exchange and getting on a plane every year for the four month summer holiday from university. Around a year and half ago I started sharing photos from my adventures on instagram (@dhersz). Next up, I’m trying to reach 100 countries before the end of this year!
2. I’ve seen from your Instagram account that you’re an avid traveler. What motivated you to travel and what was the first overseas trip you took?
That’s hard to answer, I’ve always been really interested in travel books and new experiences. As my travels go further off the beaten path, I get pretty excited about getting outside my comfort zone.
As a kid I traveled to Europe, Asia and the US with my family. My first independent trip took me to China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Looking back, it’s kind of funny as to how innocent I was, but in the long run that trip really gave me a taste for independent travel and all the benefits it has.
3. Since you’ve been to many countries. Can you tell us where have you gone and how did you decide which place to go?
In the beginning, I generally chose countries where something interested me, whether culture, landscapes or cities. These days I often visit places where I have minimal knowledge of the destination, as this often leads to unexpected finds!
I won’t bore you a list of all the countries, but I’ve traveled throughout most of Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America and Africa. Some of the more off the beaten path destinations include North Korea, the ‘Stans, Bangladesh, Siberia and the Congo.
4. Are you more of a spontaneous person or a well-planned person? Are you always traveling alone or with friends?
I’m definitely a well-planned person. Whilst I certainly appreciate how exciting spontaneous travel can be, I can’t help but get stuck into travel guides and blogs. In saying that, my travel plans often have a tendency of falling victim to spontaneity.
I generally travel alone, although I have traveled with friends on occasion. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. I find traveling alone really allows you to get deeper into local culture. It also means that you often meet new people, which you might not necessarily do when you’re traveling in a group. Sometimes we just hang out for the day, but other times I have ended up traveling with people for weeks on end. In saying that, there’s definitely a great comfort in traveling with people you are comfortable with from home!
5. Ever since the terrorist attack in Indonesia that initially took place in early 2000s with the following major bombing attacks both in Bali and Jakarta many countries issued a travel warning to Indonesia. I believe it made people hesitate and worried about traveling to Indonesia. When did you come to Indonesia and why? Where did you go?
I’ve been to Indonesia a number of times, my first visit being in early 2011. As an Australian, I was always intrigued by our giant northern neighbour and after my first visit I really fell in the love with the country and can easily say its one of my favourites.
I’ve spent time throughout Java, Timor, Borneo and Bali. For me, there’s something really special about Java – I love how the streets are imbued with the steamy scent of traffic and nasi goreng.The cultural synthesis of Southeast Asian Islam and tribal heritage – the call to prayer alongside batik – is absolutely fascinating. Even in the urban mess of Jakarta, there’s something really ‘alive’ about dodging hordes of people, cars and motorbikes.
I’m also really keen to visit Sumatra, Papua and see the Komodo dragons, so I will definitely be back to Indonesia soon!
6. How do you travel around?
I’ve done the rounds!
Plane, train, bus, minivan, camel, horse, elephant, combi-van, motorbike, bicycle, boat and of course my own two legs. On occasion I get to share my confined travel space with a range of chicken.
7. Do you think it’s necessary to adapt to local style and customs? What would you suggest if you think it does?
More often than not, I think it really depends on the destination.
In some parts of the world, ‘adapting’ means that you will get access to local culture which would perhaps be closed off. By donning an Arabian thawb in Oman, I was able to walk explore local towns relatively unnoticed. On other occasions, you aren’t given much choice but to ‘adapt’ – on a recent visit to Lake Song-Kol in Kyrgyzstan, the only form of accommodation was a yurt, which I was lucky enough to share with three chickens, a lamb and a goat.
Generally, adapting turns into an absolute joy, particularly when it leads to involvement with local people and their culture. I would suggest just taking a laid-break approach to adapting. This is certainly an aspect of travel where trying too hard has the potential to backfire. My advice is, take the tea when it is offered, cover your knees when asked, share your snacks on the train and smile as much you can!
8. Is there any specific reason of you to come visiting Indonesia?
Where to begin?
First up, the people are extremely friendly and particularly the kids! One of my first days in Indonesia, I was walking the streets of Yogyakarta when the afternoon downpour came in. After seeking shelter in a nearby masjid, I was quickly surrounded by around a dozen school kids. All of us dripping to the bone and surrounded by mini-flood waters gushing in all directions. Next thing I know, we’re in the middle of a great water fight. The kids were laughing in hysterics and the whole scene was just another typical day in Yogya.
Other than that, I’m really drawn to the diversity of landscapes (mountains, beaches, jungles), the beauty of Batik and I absolutely love the sound of Bahasa!
9. How did you determine or manage your budget for your trip?
Alongside my studies, I work part-time to save up money for traveling. From there, I try to budget backwards, basing my travel around how much money I’ve saved up. I research online about average daily costs and budget accommodation prices. There’s heaps of great resources online and you can definitely make a great trip even with a limited budget.
10. How much do you usually bring with you on travels (one backpack/one check-in luggage)?
I’m not a huge backpack fan, so I generally travel with a checked-in suitcase. I’m finally starting to realise that I generally bring too much! Backpacks do have their benefit though – especially when you arrive in a small town in Africa and you’re trying to drag a suitcase through sand and stones!
11. What was your most memorable moment during your visit in Indonesia?
The first that comes to mind occurred during my first visit to Yogyakarta back in 2011. I was fortunate to visit the ancient ruins of Borobudur at around sunrise time. After quickly running up the side of the monument, I have this vivid image of turning around – the sun was rising, the ruins of Borobudur gave way to the jungles of central Java. The treetops were covered in a light mist and Mount Merapi just stood there watching over the whole scene.
12. What is the most challenging part of traveling overseas?
Various things can be difficult. In regards to traveling off the beaten path, the lack of verifiable information can prove extremely challenging. More generally, living out of a suitcase often has its challenges – but I guess it just comes down to sacrificing some of the comforts of home for being on the road.
Often language barriers can prove a huge drawback, but there are ways around this and learning a few key phrases can go a far way – especially in Indonesia! Once I give an ‘apa kabar?’ faces light up, and I quickly get a following of youngsters! Needless to say, none of these challenges really stop me getting back on a plane!
13. Some people may be willing to travel but some are afraid to take the leap or worried about safety issues. What would you say to them?
Take everything you read with a grain of salt and go and find out for yourself. The media certainly overhype things and government travel warnings are generally exaggerated. For example, people often get very taken aback by the thought of traveling in Africa or South America due to safety concerns. Both of those continents are burdened by negative stereotypes – yet both are filled with vibrant cities and safe corners. It’s hard to believe that there in many African cities where its completely safe to walk alone at night. Whilst in Rio de Janeiro, the best nightlife is often in the heart of the city’s shantytowns – despite their being a haven for drug lords. This isn’t to say that safety shouldn’t be a concern, but as long as you have your wits and stay somewhat street-smart – petty crime can be avoided.
I’ve made myself sound so brave – I’m really really not. I was quite nervous before visiting the Congo, reading up on the security situation daily. A few weeks after I left, four UN peacekeepers were ambushed and murdered on the outskirts of the town I was in. Violent protests broke out in Burundi a month after I left. A US citizen was arrested in North Korea the day before I arrived. These events have nothing to do with my own safety-skills and sometimes you have to rely on a little bit of luck.
14. What have you learned from about yourself and what do you think you will learn?
That I like to travel?
But seriously, the more I’m on the road, the broader my travel aspirations grow. As I tick one place off my list, I add another five. The more I see, the more reasons there are to return. I’ve learned that I enjoy finding new interests, which might not necessarily be things I would be interested in if I stayed home. For example, I now listen to gamelen music regularly, something I probably wouldn’t have known existed if I hadn’t visited Indonesia.
What do I think I will learn? Come back to me in five years!
15. Any parting words for our reader?