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Life of Leisure

Cecilia Chan,Johnny 2016-03-21 09:57

Ben Horton:Explore Life 

As an appointed photographer for National Geographic, Ben Horton’s work is to take photographs of places where other people simply can’t go. From the deep sea of Costa Rica where sharks rule the waters to a little tent in the Arctic where temperature could drop below 40 degrees Celsius, Horton has travelled to places we can barely imagine. Like many other photographers, he stays behind the scenes while providing us with a window to the world. “The more remote the location, the harder it was to get there, the more appeal it had for the young upstart” reads a statement from Horton’s website- it explains that his passion for travel originates from his hunger for the unknown. 


When asked how he started his career, Horton said he tried many different things before finding his calling: “During my younger age, I tried to find my direction as a photographer.” He photographed fashion and sports, but did not realize where his passion lied until one day his brother was commissioned to take pictures of a local park on Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, inviting Horton along. Since that day, he was hooked and has not stopped his exploration since. 

Originally, they only wanted to take some photos of the scenic island, but unexpectedly encountered a scene of illegal fishing by local fishermen.. With few resources, the local fishery protection agency was unable to stop the massive illegal fishing. “In recent 50 years, illegal fishing has affected 98% of deep-sea fish species,” Horton explained, “it was at that moment, I realized that photography has a much deeper meaning.” Following this revelation, Horton resigned from his previous job and started his journey to document the world continuously for three years. During that time, he was discovered by National Geographic magazine, which gave him the title of “National Geographic Young Explorer”. 


Horton reckons the difference between “travel” and “tourism” is that real travel is to leave your comfort zone, put yourself in a completely foreign environment and learn to integrate. He once lived in the Arctic for a month where he passed out when the temperature dropped below 40 degree Celsius. “When I woke up I discovered that I was being treated like royalty by the locals, they were really nice.” That sort of dedication is what really makes a great photographer. 


While you’d imagine that many families might refuse their own to take on such high-risk jobs, Horton did not have that problem. He says his parents are a couple of extreme travel enthusiasts who had once travelled around the world and are still longing to go to places off the trodden-path. “The first nine years of my life was spent on Bermuda Island,” the photographer recalls fondly, “my dad used to pick me up after school, then we would ride together in our little boat for six miles to go fishing.” Exploration and living on the road have always been part of his life. “My parents never doubted my job, they would even make fun of me when people call me an ‘explorer.’ ” 


About Ben Horton

Ben Horton is a contributing photographer for National Geographic and currently hosting its television show in Thailand, he is also working on conservation projects in Costa Rica. He was awarded the first ever National Geographic Young Explorers Grant for work he did to expose the issue of shark poaching on Cocos Island. 

Liya Kebede:Stepping Into A Whole New World

Ethiopia-born supermodel Liya Kebede is a fashion icon who frequently travels between the glamorous fashion capitals of New York, Paris, Milan, and London. Her most favorite city, however, is Istanbul in Turkey. The model seems to have a special love for foreign cultures and romantic attractions. She says: “Istanbul is my most favorite city in the world. I think it has the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. Gazing down the bridges and rivers from top of the towers is an unforgettable experience, the variety of attractions overwhelms one’s eyes; it is as if you have stepped into Aladdin’s World, waiting for the magic carpet to take you far up into the wind.” 


Such sentiment is also reflected intimately in Kebede’s diary. “I always carry my diary with me, I am not a writer, but I love writing down my thoughts and inspirations whenever they appear in my mind.” Models often have very tight runway schedules and so in order to not interrupt the next day’s work, the most efficient way for them to travel is to visit their favorite places while travelling for work. For Kebede, the place that gives her the most relaxation is Bali; not only because of its beautiful nature, but also because it holds special memories of when she and her children, Raee and Suhul, travelled together there. Luckily, it seems that work and its stresses have not taken its toll on Kebede’s family- rather; these obstacles have made her cherish their relationship even more. 

Of course, as a fashion model, Kebede is naturally finely attuned to fashions and is keen to scope out the local offerings wherever she goes: “I really enjoy shopping at local flea markets and always try my best to look for some beautiful Da Di style Batik. This style of Batik’s colours and patterns resemble a complex yet beautiful style,” Liya explains with enthusiasm. 


As a sought-after model, every year holds a full schedule of runway shows and advertising shoots, so to always look her best, she has her packing regimen whenever she has to travel. “My new love is a new style of shawl,” Kebede says, “I wrap it around me wherever I go—never leave it behind. And I never forget to pack a comfortable wool sweater together with a couple of cotton T-shirts with me. I also like to bring a pair of casual, straw-like comfortable shoes with me—they are usually soft, light, and easy to carry.” A well-prepared traveller is a confident traveller, and thus this supermodel is never at a loss anywhere she goes. 

“Travel is an opportunity to joyfully explore new cultures and experience different life styles; even more, travel also helps to broaden our view and enrich our thinking,” Kebede says. Though she travels year-round for work, she has somehow managed to be excited by every trip she’s about to go on. “I enjoy the feeling of arriving at a new place; I especially like the feeling of leaving an airport and stepping into a whole new world.” The darling of fashion photographers’ next stop is Africa: “I want to visit Africa more with my kids. They often go to Ethiopia with me but have not gone to other parts of Africa, and I want to share the beautiful places with them.” 


About Liya Kebede

As an international supermodel, Liya Kebede lives the life of a “Global Airwoman.” She often needs to travel to different cities for work, and thus a lifestyle that combines both work and leisure has become her focus in life. 

Bao Yifeng:Travel is “Discovery” 

Because of work, art insider Bao YiFeng often travels to New York, Paris, and London; he has visited these cities quite a number of times. Compared to ten years ago, Bao admits that his preferences have shifted and he now enjoys travelling to Southeast Asia for leisure more. His work requires him to interact frequently with clients, artists, and art galleries, and so he is always looking for travel opportunities to relax his mind. For instance, he spent the recent New Year’s Day in Bangkok; a decision was only made a couple of days prior to his departure. He has a friend who relocated to Bangkok and Bao seized the opportunity to visit his friend and watch fireworks from their rooftop. Taking the opportunity, he also checked out some Thai designers’ artworks and took in new tastes at some popular local restaurants. 


Unusual for someone who likes Southeast Asia, Bao is neither a fan of sunbathing or swimming, the definition of travel for Bao is to discover new things. Rather happy-go-lucky, he often leaves the itinerary up to his friends but will nonetheless carry a Lonely Planet guide for some inspiration during his travels. 

Bao not only travels by himself but also invites friends to share the fun. In 2013, as a birthday celebration event, he invited a group of more than 30 friends on a tour to Sri Lanka. Bao has organized more than hundreds similar activities, tailored to the specific tastes of different travellers as an expert. Though Bao professes to not planning too much ahead of his trips, he does like to be efficient once he gets there, perhaps inviting a college professor or an expert like an UNESCO staff, to be his tour guide. They will visit one city per day and stay at unique boutique hotels along the way. So far, some of the hotels Bao has stayed at include one located in the mountains, surrounded by monkeys, while others were covered with graffiti. He once even stayed at a hotel operated by an elderly British lady whose daughter-in-law happened to be the late famous fashion editor Isabella“Hat Queen” Blow. During their travel in Sri Lanka, they toured the tropical cities on a bus and visited classical attractions including the Temple of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic. 


It is apparent that people from different industries experience travel in various ways. We asked a tricky question: “If you were commissioned with a task to design a trip for some VIP clients, how will you go about it?” Bao gave a very clever answer: “We are from different cultures and places thus having our own preferences for travel; the first thing I will do is to understand each client’s needs and favorites, because travel is not a task but reflection of a person’s inner self. ” 


About Bao Yifeng

As the co-founder of ART021 and founder of Liquid Element Public Relations Firm, Bao was once regarded as the industry’s “Public Relations Guru”. He worked as agent for Bing Hu, Yan Lv, and Rosamund Kwan; he also worked as Leslie Cheung’s personal assistant. 

Chuwit Sirivajjakul:Enjoy “Slow Travel” 

Surely, we all have our own interpretations about travel. Sirivajjakul has travelled to more than 30 countries and according to him, attitude is the most important thing while travelling. To be more specific, an attitude to evaluate our own physical side helps to understand if our travel destination is suitable for us. In an abstract way, attitude means that we need to have an open mind to things that may be drastically different to what we are used to. The furthest place he has travelled is Brazil when he was still working in Los Angeles. As he was in charge of tourism destinations from South America, he visited Brazil quite often and was able to experience its distinctive differences. 


What has impressed Sirivajjakul the most is his travel through China: “Because many things in China are difficult to understand - for instance, the country has thousands of dialects, and a rich variety of food and cultures.” When asked which place he wants to visit the most this year, he barely hesitated before answering: “With China’s vast land, there are so many places to see! Plus the friendly relationship between China and Thailand, I really want to visit Mount WuTai Mountain, Mount Emei, and other famous mountains in China. Well I think the most impressive trip I had was my travel to Zhangjiajie. It was the first time that I saw so many people travel to one place; whether it was grey-haired elderlies or children, they all tried to climb with unyielding spirit, which left a big impression on me. I had not experienced anything similar to such a scene on my other trips.” He also liked some of the old towns at the foot of The Yellow Mountain: “It feels great to visit towns that have more than one thousand years’ history. I almost go there every year hoping to visit more of these towns that are well-preserved.” Meanwhile, his travel bucket list also includes many other places in China: go to ShaoLin Temple to pray, go to Mountain Wudang to learn Taiji, to climb the Great Wall, and to walk in Beijing Summer Place. 


As for travel style, Sirivajjakul has adopted Thailand’s traditional ‘slow travel’, because “only in a slow lifestyle, we can feel the things and people surrounding us.” Sirivajjakul likes to travel by bus, as “buses are slower, and it is a transportation means that connects the most to roads. One can experience a lot about local sceneries, people, and food.” During his travels, he often reads books about local culture to better his experience, which is also part of the philosophy of “slower travel, deeper understanding.” As for hotel preferences, he, too, recommends staying at vacation homes converted from old houses or boutique hotels. For travel planning, he also downloads different apps that make recommendations on food and attractions.


About Chuwit Sirivajjakul

As the Deputy Director of Thailand Tourism Bureau, Shanghai office, Sirivajjakul is an experienced tourist and avid global traveller. Since majoring in tourism when studying in England, Sirivajjakul has worked for Thailand Tourism Bureau for more than 25 years. 

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