This Culture with Travel interview is with storyteller Ben Lee, founder of the Ever Thought Of Trying Travel Blog
Tell us a bit about yourself! Why do you love travel? How do you think travel unites us or teaches us more about the world?
My name is Ben, and I have had travel and exploration engrained in me since I was a little kid! My parents brought my sister and I up knowing that there was a whole world out there and always managed to take us away somewhere each year. I could ski before I could run as we were brought to Scotland and France skiing on annual holidays from a very young age!
Even something as seemingly innocuous as being brought to Europe each year as a child on holiday has shaped me as an adult, and taught me to appreciate and respect different cultures. Travel has made me more open-minded and welcoming to people from all walks of life, and this is something the world can do with more.
What surprising aspect of culture do you love about where you’re from (your specific town/city) that travelers may not be aware of?
People always assume Londoners are cold individuals, but, in fact, we are some of the most welcoming of capital cities! Sure, we may not have our doors and windows all open like a village in the middle of the English countryside, but if you need someone to make you laugh, make a sly sarcastic comment and are in need of someone in time of need, you can’t beat a Londoner!
Which dish do you feel best represents where you’re specifically from? Share a picture and tell us why you love it!
The national dish of the UK is curry, and being the capital, the best curry is here, too! The BEST curry house in London in Lahore One on Commercial Street and their chaana is so good, it could turn the biggest meat-eater vegetarian!
Share about a custom/tradition you observe, and talk about the role of family in your life. What does family mean to you?
Family is a central part of my life. No matter where you travel, you know your family will always be there either on the end of the phone or to hug when you’re back. Family keeps you humble and grounded, and reminds you of your roots which you can lose track of when you go traveling for extended periods.
Art and dance can tell a deeper story about local culture. Tell us the story of a specific artwork or dance that has a meaning for you. Share a photo, if you can.
One painting that will always be with me is Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’. I went to Florence with school for a weekend when I was 14 or 15. I only went because I thought it would be fun and had ZERO interest in the museums and galleries. But, when I first saw this painting, a painting I had vague memories of seeing in our school text books, I was stunned. I couldn’t get over the beauty of the whole painting. It woke me up to and opened a whole new world for me to discover. Because of this jaw-dropping moment, I have always been in love with Italy and Italian culture which has greatly influenced me in my life and career.
Languages not only give us the power to communicate but also can unite us across cultures. Share a favorite saying you have, or teach us something in your native language.
My favourite saying is probably from my time cycling in Tanzania – “pole pole” (said like pollay pollay). It means “slowly slowly”…not just a handy saying to slow people down on bikes, but a good way of living your life and traveling – slowly slowly. Take it all in. Slow down and appreciate where you are. Sit in the ancient Piazza in that gorgeous Italian square and drink your espresso and gelato slowly.Taking your time and immersing in a place by taking it slowly is my kind of travel.
Have you ever met a stranger during your travels who made an impact on your life in a certain way, or maybe it was you who helped someone else? Share the story!
When I travelled through Syria in 2009, I was constantly struck by the friendliness of the people. I knew nothing about the country and had no pre-conceptions. Wherever we went (I went through the country with a friend) we were constantly offered food, drinks, and places to stay. One time, there was a group of guys cooking kebabs on the corner of the street in a little village we were staying in and they gave us kebabs in freshly-heated bread. It was without a doubt the best kebab I had ever had, and the reason I try every Syrian kebab house I see (which never lives up to the real thing!)
Every village, town or city we went to, after being offered food and drinks, people would always say how happy they are we were traveling there and to tell our friends to visit as well!
Their friendliness will live forever in my memory and makes what has happened in the country since even more tragic for me.