Inspirational People

Karan Puri & Shawn Lee, Adventurers from Singapore

Karan Puri & Shaun Lee, Adventurers from Singapore

Karan Puri, 18 of Katong Province and Shaun Lee, 19 of Bedok province, Singapore, are not only really nice guys, they’re also inspiring. I’ve run into them here at the the Wanaka Hostel. Right now there  currently out biking around town somewhere. I found their motivation to travel New Zealand so inspiring I thought I’d share it with you.  I interviewed them last night over a beer, out here on the porch from where I write this piece.

Both Karan and Shawn have just finished high school and have about three months off, before they report for the mandatory 2-year military stint that all young men are required to do in Singapore.  When Karan first walked into the hostel I noticed he had a sense of inquiry and interest, not to mention compassion and friendliness. Later, upon meeting Shawn it I got the same sense of adventure and excitement.  They are now on day 6 of their adventure. So here’s some insight as to what brought them to Wanaka, New Zealand.

MSI: So what motivated you two to come to New Zealand?
Karan: To do something before the military. This is the first time on vacation without my parents, and I had been here in Wanaka when I was a child. Something about the place stuck with me. So I wanted to come back.
You see, one never really gets a break to travel if you’ve been brought up in Singapore. The culture, the society is pretty competitive and fast moving. If you take off from your studies or job, you’ll get left behind. It’s an extremely fast paced culture. It’s very rare to see anyone taking time off to travel, except maybe when one has retired.  Most other travelers we’ve met so far are taking from a few weeks to a few months off . We are taking two weeks and that is unusual.  Most kids graduating from high school may have two weeks before being signed on for their military duty. We were fortunate in that we had a couple of months in between.
MSI: So you guys are sole/soul travelers then?
Shawn: Yes, most Singaporeans don’t leave the country. Well, of course we know “there’s a world out there”, but there seems too much to do, not enough time to break away from what needs to be done. It’s part of our culture.
MSI: Yes I know what you mean, I has a familiar ring to me too.
Shawn: Yes but there is a drive to be on top that I don’t think exists in the US. Sure, the big cities have pressure jobs, but overall I think your country is a bit different that way.

MSI: What do your or your friends do in their free time in Singapore.
Karan: Entertainment in Singapore for the young people centers around gaming such as the World of WarCraft or the internet. I try to get my friends to go outside with me, hang on the beach, or go for walk, and they say, “Why do that, it might take too much effort.” I reply that’s the point, to get some enegy moving, move your body!”

MSI: It’s clear you have some desire to see the natural world. There’s a book called “Last Child In the Woods” which talks about Nature Deficit Disorder in the US. Any Thoughts?
Karan: I’m a product of my culture. If I take too much time off, I have this voice in the back of my head saying I should be doing something, better get busy. There’s not really not a lot of space in our society for people who want to sit and think. I was going to major in drama/art but dropped it as it isn’t practical.
MSI: What to do you find most interesting on this trip?
Shawn: I just love traveling and seeing the sites. The scenic beauty of the vast expansive landscape is what gets me.
Karan: Independence. It’s a bit scary at first, learning to fend for yourself, but after a bit, it becomes more comfortable.  Taking six months off, or any time after this trip isn’t an option. This is it.
MSI: What’s the “takeaway for you guys on this trip?
Shawn: I think, to learn to appreciate things more, natural beauty, and for to appreciate home too.
Karan: From this experience, it becomes a part of me, something that will carry me through the next two years and beyond. I can come back to this place in my mind, to remember the feeling of this adventure.
MSI: Yes, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “a mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to it’s original dimensions”.
Karan: I like that.

Since I’m headed to Aspiring Hut on Saturday, I thought I’d offer them a ride to the trailhead, loan them a stove and sleeping bags and offer to walk them to the hut if they’d like. They could stay the night in the hut, then catch the next day’s shuttle.  They’ve up and accepted. A justly reward for their adventurous spirit.

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