My Holiday: Joel Vinsen

Joel Vinsen (right) with a hairy friend in the Grand Cayman Islands. Photo / Cameron Sangster.
Joel Vinsen (right) with a hairy friend in the Grand Cayman Islands. Photo / Cameron Sangster.

What was your greatest holiday? I spent 18 months travelling through Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh was a highlight; the people are lovely, and it's the most different country to New Zealand that I've visited. There's not really a tourist trail; it was about two weeks before I saw another Westerner. I fell in love with India too. I spent eight months there and barely scratched the surface. I don't feel like I'll ever be able to "do" or "tick off" India. It's all things at all times coming from all directions.

And the worst? South Korea. I was on an artist-in-residence programme and I took a bus to Gyeongju. The cheapest room I could find was in a "love motel". There were big faux-marble stairs, it had been raining, and I slipped and severely sprained my ankle. I then had to make my way back to Seoul, via Wonju, hobbling through the Seoul underground for about a kilometre, losing my exit ticket, and jumping a turnstile to get out. All on one foot and with 35kg of music gear.

If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing? Walking aimlessly, eating street food, riding a scooter, or trying to figure out the public transport system.

If we could teleport you to one place in New Zealand for a week-long holiday, where would it be? Stewart Island, or the Chatham Islands.

How about for a dream holiday internationally? Iran, Cuba, central Asia republics. Or Cairo to Capetown overland.

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done when travelling? It's a tie between buying a "reservation against cancellation" ticket, which meant sharing a bunk on the 40-plus hour sleeper train from Chennai to Kolkata; and walking into a beehive in a temple in Myanmar.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without ... A couple of good books, and my Nokia phone (button keypad and torch).

What's the best travel tip you've ever been given? "The worst that could happen, is that we die!" This advice was given to a friend by a monk on a particularly hairy bus ride in India. Also, always carry toilet paper.

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling? Pizza in Naples, crickets in Cambodia, and an egg curry in Kolkata that gave me a week of Delhi belly.

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip? Some artwork on my guitar, from Shantiniketan, India, courtesy of my friend Illiad Sabchi. He paints wonderful abstract work. Also, I got a tattoo in Barcelona, when I was working on a cruise ship, which almost caused me to miss boarding time. It was worth it.

Favourite airport to land at? Changi, Singapore for the activities, and Auckland.

What's the next trip you've got planned? I'm hoping to go to Iran in the next couple of years.

Joel Vinsen is one half of Panhandlers who perform at Tauranga's Escape! festival at 8pm on Friday, June 3. taurangafestival.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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