Off The Beaten Path Interviews
An inside look at Earth’s explorers
Arienne is a travel writer, videographer and photographer from Toronto, Canada. She has an insatiable curiosity to learn about different cultures from the people themselves by getting off the beaten path and seeing how others around the world live their lives. She lives for the moment and tries to seize every opportunity that comes her way. She considers herself a very outgoing person, always up for new experiences and meeting new people. The travel bug bit her from a young age and hasn’t shown any signs of going away. She runs the travel blog SeeYouSoon Travel in hopes of encouraging others to do the same.
Meet Arienne Parzei
You enjoy documenting your travels in multimedia. How did this come about? What’s the benefit to using different types of media to capture the travel experience?
I’ve always been the creative type, playing piano, performing with various dance troupes, and taking pictures from a young age (albeit not the greatest pictures looking back now, ha!). I completed a degree in television production at Ryerson University and now documenting my travels through multimedia is an extension of that. It allows me creative expression while sharing and inspiring others to explore our world too.
People relate and are engaged by various forms of media and consume it differently. As a storyteller of travel, I try to capture a place in a variety of ways, through writing, photography, and video to appeal to as many people as possible. Sometimes I find a particular experience or event is best told through a written story, a structure or beauty of a culture can best be captured in a single photograph, and sometimes a destination reveals itself only as you experience it, making a video the best tool to capture and showcase those moments.
We live in an age where technology is making it more and more easier to share content at a rapid pace. There are so many different ways and different platforms to document and share our travel experiences and I try to produce content in various ways to reach a wider audience.
What was the initial experience that inspired you to break out and see the world? How did it affect your vision of the world?
My very first international travel experience was at the ripe old age of 11. At that time, I had been selected to join a delegation (made up of 2 boys, 2 girls, and an adult leader) to represent Canada at a camp held in Chambery, France. It was run by an organization called Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) who believe that a culture of peace is possible through education and friendship and that the best way to achieve this is to start with bringing young individuals together from around the world.
Through this month-long camp, I met delegates from 10 other countries including Japan, Norway, India, and Lebanon. It was like any other typical camp; we played games, went on excursions, slept in dormitories, etc. But what made this experience unique from any other camp was that we were also learning about each other; our customs, our cultures, and most importantly, how similar we all were.
This experience had a profound impact on me and since then I’ve always been interested in learning and experiencing different cultures from the people themselves. Our world is incredible and it’s made up of phenomenal individuals and cultures, all of which want the same core things; food, shelter, and a sense of community. We just might go about achieving it in a different way.
What is your travel philosophy? How has it changed or developed as you’ve traveled?
My travel philosophy hasn’t changed much over the years but it has become a lot more distinct throughout my travels. It’s simple, experience a place with all your senses and come in with an open mind. Travel with a desire to learn and be inspired and you’ll be amazed what opens up for you.
Mountains or beach? What’s your pick and why?
Oh that’s a tough one actually! I guess it really depends on the destination and the mood I’m in. I definitely love some beach time as I see it as a chance to relax, unwind, and let the waves crashing on the shoreline be my soundtrack. At the same time, I love a good challenge and being active. There’s also something about reaching the summit of a peak that’s very rewarding, not to mention the killer views some mountains provide.
What’s your favorite place you’ve been so far? What made it unique? If we follow your advice and visit, what should we do there?
Oh picking a favourite is tough! It’s like trying to pick your favourite child, they’re all great in their own unique way. There is one country though that usually has me rambling on when talking about places I’ve been and that place is Malaysia. I spent almost 4 weeks there back in 2012 and the entire experience was nothing short of spectacular. It has something for everyone, beaches, jungles, big cities, small cultural towns, mountain regions, and some of the best street food in the world. There’s a blend of Indian, Chinese and Malay cultures that make it unique to the region, topped by a high Islamic population reminding you at every call to prayer. When I think of Malaysia, I think of a place that is exotic yet modern, a population that is diverse yet works cohesively, and a place where you can indulge yet won’t break the bank.
Some of my favourite spots in the country include Penang, the Cameron Highlands (where you can see the famed Raffleasia plant), Malacca, and Palau Langkawi, an entirely duty free island! Other notable places to checkout that I look forward to on my next visit are the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, as well as the Borneo side of the country where you can come face to face Orangutans and climb the largest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu.
You taught in South Korea for a couple of years. Do you feel teaching helps you get to know the community you’re traveling in? If so, how? Share an example of this.
Teaching in South Korea for two years was an incredible experience. I lived in a very rural part of the country, so I was fully immersed in Korean culture. So much so, I had to learn basic Korean to be able to do simple everyday activities. Teaching definitely helps you get to know the community you’re traveling in because you’re likely going to be there for a period of time of at least 6 months. You’re now a member of their society and you’ll experience the country and culture from a different perspective then say if you’re passing through for 2 weeks or so.
Korean culture is founded on the Confusion ideals of social order in regards to a person’s age. People relate to one another differently depending if they’re younger or older than the person they’re interacting with. When I first arrived in Korea, everyone kept asking me what my age was. It’s considered somewhat rude in Western cultures to ask someone this, especially if you don’t know them very well. But in Korea, they want to know how they’re supposed to interact with you. I always found this practice fascinating especially when I would go out for dinner with the rest of the teachers at my school. The youngest person would always offer to pour drinks to the oldest people first and you couldn’t begin eating until the oldest person started things off. But in exchange, the oldest person is expected to take care of those younger than them and when it comes to mealtime, they’re usually the ones to pay!
You mentioned that your family is supportive of your decisions. How has that enabled you to follow your travel dreams? What would you say to those whose families discourage them to do so?
My family is very supportive of everything I do and I’m so grateful for that. They are particularly supportive of my travel dreams as they understand the lifelong benefits that travel provides. It really is the best education, from personal development, to learning about history and architecture, all the way to financial planning. My parents never travelled when they were my age and in a way they get to live vicariously through mine. My sister now lives abroad in Europe and my parents look at our travel decisions from the perspective of “where are you going next so we can come visit?” Sometimes it seems they’re traveling so much more than my sister and I combined now.
I think the difference for families who don’t support travel dreams is really the fear of the unknown or buying into media stereotypes of certain destinations. My parents worry like any other parent would, but don’t allow that fear to stop me from doing something. We’ll Skype regularly and they’ll know my general travel schedule and route. What I’d tell those whose families discourage them to travel is to help inform and educate them about where you’re going. It’s all about being informed, making good decisions, and staying in contact.
Awesome interview! Thank you Arienne for joining us on Meet the Explorer, and sharing some of your stories, your inspiration and giving us a glimpse as to what drives your travel lust. We look forward to seeing more stories like this from you in the future on your travel blog SeeYouSoon Travel.