A Travel Presenter by day, Blogger by night, and the occasional Model on the side. The world is her playground and her classroom. She’s a true advocate for Travel where she eats, breathes, and sleeps travel! Get to know KayLi Lum with our new On the Road interview!
·Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about traveling?
I can only recall as far back as when I was 3 years old. We had a family trip to Perth and I got lost looking at dolphins. I have always been a rather restless (and uncontrollable kid, as mum says) who dashes excitedly to whatever attracts my attention, and everything else outside the activity just becomes a blur.
Upon seeing the dolphins, I swung my mum’s hand away and dashed towards the beautiful creatures, feeling their slippery smooth skin and smiling with the happy cetaceans… “I want to feed them!” I decided. I turned around to look for my parents, intending to ask for permission and money to buy some fish for the dolphins… But my parents were nowhere in sight! I was terrified as I had no clue what my home address was, the name of our hotel, neither could I recall what they were wearing that day. I frantically searched for them, trying hard to be a brave little girl, as I knew then that it was my fault! After what seemed like hours, I finally found them.
That was my first travel experience where my parents intentionally threw me out of my comfort zone to teach me a lesson. I wisened-up after that.
However, it was my trip to Vancouver in 2006 which fuelled the travel bug. I was fortunate to receive a study grant from the Ministry of Arts of Malaysia to attend a course on Voice & Acting. My course mates were mainly Canadians and Americans, and it was through mingling with them that I was exposed to a way of life very different from mine; Perspectives which were out of my little box of thoughts. It’s one thing to be exposed through the media, and another to experience a culture first hand. It was priceless. Of course, the landscape in Vancouver’s very beautiful and it got even more pristine in the Rockies!
I am an advocate for travel. Travelling exposes us to unbelievable things and boosts our immunity towards shock and awe over time. I think there are many benefits to traveling (if one does not merely adopt the snap-and-go approach). Travelling awakens and enlightens. It takes us out of our comfort zone, and the more we tread along the edges of our limits, the more our limits expand, and our previous limits will become our new normal.
This is just ONE of the many reasons why I love traveling, and of course, I love the new stories and adventures added to my life!
·Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of traveling?
I shall be working on checking off my bucket list! Yeah, baby…!!
·What do you think of traveling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when traveling long term?
I think traveling with a purpose is great! It could be for work/study/research, volunteering, or even visiting a country for the sole purpose of a festival, activity, or whatever rocks your boat. It kills two (or more) birds with one stone, on top of the resulting self-fulfillment from achieving what you set out to do, and the added knowledge about a place.
As much as I can, I do go by the saying: ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’. I like to observe and live the life of locals, learn different ways of approaching things, be exposed, and awakened… Ultimately, growing personally by embracing what works and eliminating what doesn’t work in the culture I’ve been exposed to all my life.
·How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road fulltime?
I love traveling so much that I always strive for jobs that require travel or living abroad. To me, the most ideal is to be paid to travel! I have been fortunate so far, as my freelance work as a Commercial Model and Actor has brought be to beautiful islands in Malaysia, to Shanghai, Singapore, Cape Town. Apart from that, I was selected to assist The International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Geneva, in organizing the 4th Aviation & Environment Summit in 2009, and more recently a role as a Travel Presenter for China Central Television – CCTV News, hence my current base in Beijing.
·Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences, or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.
Every time I am abroad, I make sure I travel as much as I can around the region.
While I was doing my course on Voice & Acting in Vancouver, I saved the allowance provided by the Ministry of Arts and funded my trip to the beautiful Rockies after the end of my course.
When I was based in Geneva, I had travel plans every-single-weekend after work. I did that for a month and was drained after. Our office was situated in the airport, literally by the runway and aircraft parking bay, which made traveling right after work feasible. I visited France a lot as it was just a tram ride away, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Amsterdam, Mannheim & Heidelberg (Germany), Milan, Florence & Rome (Italy), and of course the many towns in Switzerland.
I experienced the ultimate driving challenge in Switzerland — Think driving on the opposite side of the road, manual, left-hand drive (I hadn’t driven a manual in 6 years then, and it’s right-hand drive in Malaysia), icy road, heavy snow, bad visibility plus a fogged-up windscreen and transporting 3 other friends in the car… I think I lost a bit of weight after that 4hours of driving.
Then there was the commercial shoot in Cape Town where the few of us sneaked-off on our only day of break together, rented a car and drove to the renowned Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope where I saw by far the most stunning ocean drive which led to a visceral reaction of awe. Still, I’m sure there are many other stunning ocean roads in the world I’ve yet to come across.
With all the commercials and acting gigs I had done over the years, I managed to save up for a trip to the US in 2008, and also a Film Acting course in Toronto in 2011. After my course, I joined my friends in Cancun where we swam with Whalesharks in the wild (one of the BEST experiences ever!!) and we went to Castro’s Cuba after. Surprisingly, I found Havana to be rather romantic and I too fell in love with the vintage gas-guzzlers! I was totally ‘trigger happy’ with my camera (probably due to their generous servings of Rum too…)
My… There are just too many stories, I could write a book!
Then came my job as a Travel Presenter for CCTV News where I got to travel and present a few places in China. Whilst stationed in Beijing, I did a lot of hiking and cycling trips and we even camped on the magnificent Great Wall. One of my proudest moments was biking 160km from Beijing city to the Great Wall and back, in a day (without a pair of padded biking shorts)!
·What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid to succeed.
I’m not sure how anyone can follow my steps as every single one of us has different interests, skills, weaknesses, and desires. You could follow my steps by going for acting classes, auditioning for commercial/acting/presenting jobs, but if you’re camera-shy or unable to handle uncertainty, you’re going to have a trying time; Same goes for if I want to follow someone’s footsteps by being, say, a part of Doctors Without Borders – I’m interested in traveling, I have the desire to help people, I will brush up my skills by going to medical school, but is that really what I’m capable of doing, when I know I will faint even before the anesthetic takes effect on a patient! Of course, with effort, fear can always be conquered! It depends on how much we want something, and how hard we’re willing to work to achieve it.
There’s still a lot I need to learn and want to achieve, but here are my little tips:
1. Get honest with yourself – Find out your interests, innate strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Then use them to your best advantage. Also ask yourself if ‘you really think it, or you just like to think it’.
2. I believe if you want something bad enough, you will give your all and do whatever it takes to achieve it! Never succumb to laziness or the lies that the dirty little devil inside us say, which paralyzes us with fear.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “If I had listened to the naysayers, I’d still be in the Austrian Alps yodeling.”
3. The worst thing one can do is to not Try. If you fail, at least you live knowing that you tried, learned, and tried again! Jim Rohn puts it perfectly: “We must all suffer one of two things: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.”
Bonus tip: Rather than asking “Is that possible?”, ask “Why not?”
·What does a perfect day in your life looks like? Do you follow any particular routine?
My perfect day would be waking up to a quiet sunrise, opening my eyes to find that I’m in a new place – followed by yoga – Filming – Exploring my destination or doing one of the activities on my bucket list – Hike/swim/bike-ride – Catch up with friends/family – Reflect and write about my journey – Plot my next adventure – End the day with a book.
Few things are certain: I always start my day early, with yoga where I put myself in the right frame of mind and set my intentions for the day.
·Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?
I come from Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. I am currently living in Beijing, China, but I still call KL home. I think, apart from the Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur is all about food! Some of the best places for food are situated in the most inconvenient of places, the best is to ask locals for recommendations, as there are many good and authentic local eateries around. Get ready to be sweaty and hungry!
Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies, or do something else while traveling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And the movie?
I am not usually very connected technologically when I travel for leisure, but when I travel for filming, I will always have my smartphone in hand for the convenience of researching and checking on facts and to post updates to my followers on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter). And at the end of my day, or while I’m on the road, I would take notes to be incorporated into my travel programs and my travel blog.
Whether I’m traveling for work or leisure, I’d always have a book with me for when I have time to kill on the road.
I love listening to the sounds of my destination… It could be salsa tunes filling the air in Cuba, the sound of the accordion which reminds me I’m in France, the call to prayer by a muezzin in Malaysia, or the chimes of church bells in an old town in Europe, the sound of electric-bikes in Beijing (and I know this is rude, but I sometimes) eavesdrop on the conversation of locals if I can understand the language… 🙂
Historical fictions are my favorite. ‘Ghost Heart’ by Cecilia Samartin, and Bill Bryson’s travel stories. He is hilarious!
As for my all-time favorite movie… It’s got to be ‘Inglorious Bastards’!
Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your (craziest) dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth? (feel free to add any other information you would like to share with our readers here)
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” ~ Susan Sontag
- Yes, ‘everywhere’ is on my bucket list 🙂
- Shark cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa or Neptune Islands, Australia
- Swim with (stingless) jellyfish in Kakaban, Indonesia or Palau, Micronesia
- Smooch a grey whale in Baja California (check 10 things to do in Tijuana – Baja California – here)
- Swim with pink river dolphins in Rio Negro, Brazil (minus the Piranhas)
- Swim with whale sharks, again, next time in better weather conditions
- Visit my buddy in Israel (It is stated in every Malaysian’s passport that our passport is “valid for all countries except Israel”)
- Skydiving and Paragliding / Hang gliding
- Bullfighting (more like running away from the bulls) in Spain – I’ll start with baby-bulls 🙂 I’ll progress to the bull-run in Pamplona when I’ve summed up enough courage.
- Sample a juicy sago worm… Yum!
I could go on as it’s getting me excited, but I shall not bore you, or lead you to think I’ve got a screw loose…
My parting words:
Traveling expands our world-view, especially when you travel with an open mind. It’s humbling, and makes us realize that somethings in life are just too petty to take to heart; It exposes us to diversity and makes us more understanding… And you’ll soon realize that Diversity is just what makes the world so much more colorful and interesting!
Travel when you can! It is the greatest form of education and our University of Life!