“Home Sweet Home” Questionnaire #13: Casper Oppenhuis De Jong.
1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your passion for travelling started.
I’m a 24 year old Dutchman, stuck between the United Kingdom, Netherlands & China. I only really started travelling when I left high school at 18. Backpacked through China for a year, worked in China for a year, and took up my university studies in the UK, before setting off to do my own things (i.e. travel & be funemployed). Have been a professional expat for 6 years now, and have not managed to quit.
2.) When did you decide to hit the road? Was it hard to take that step? What preparations and arrangements did you have to make during the planning period?
I started with a ‘simple’ backpacking trip on my own. I booked a flight, packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and was on my way. Somehow it really wasn’t that tough. And if my 18 year old self could travel through Asia alone, any wisdom gained along the way must surely rub off on future trips. I feel preparation and planning can easily ruin a great adventure. They also sell toothbrushes overseas.
3.) Where & how do you celebrate Christmas?
With my family in the Netherlands, or with my girlfriend in the UK. But always with people I love.
4.) How do you stay in touch with family and friends? Do you write postcards?
I haven’t the discipline and decency to send nearly enough postcards. I’ve always found travelling a very personal experience, and normally go off the radar for weeks on end, whilst on the road. In fact, I’d say I’m pretty bad at staying in touch. But email, twitter, facebook & Skype are normally the first beacons of communication I use when I resurface.
5.) Are you planning on traveling for the rest of your life or would you like to settle down sometime (by settling down we mean finding a place to come home to)?
I would like to settle down, but not for another few years/decades. I now consider London to be my home base, until moving on to the next city. My travels normally consist of slightly longer periods in the same place, and that suits me, for now.
6.) If you could choose one city/country for living, which one would it be? Please give us a little explanation (weather, people, etc.).
I’d have to go with Shanghai. Despite the smog and general unhealthiness of the city, it exudes an air of excitement and opportunity I have yet to find anywhere else. And the food is exquisite. As are the people.
7.) Where are you right now and how did you get there?
In London. I landed here after my degree in Political Economy at Birmingham, mostly because the people closest to me moved here. And my (British) girlfriend is here for her university degree. I’m running a startup in London, but there’s a good prospect I may move again next year. Figuring out where the people you love prefer spending their time has become a litmus test for where to go next.
8.) Travelling is expensive … so how do you get from A to B?
Budget airlines, crash on couches, and combine work with pleasure. And if all else fails, just hitchhike or borrow a bicycle (although for a Dutchman, I’m exceptionally bad at the latter).
9.) Do you use a travel guide (Lonely Planet, etc.)? If so, please tell us which one … if not, why?
I used to, far more than I do today. I’ve found social media to be a superior source for travel tips. However, Rough Guides and Lonely Planets are still solid authorities on how to make the most out of your time travelling. Then again, just setting off, without a plan, has proven to be the most fun and rewarding, time and time again.
10.) What does a perfect day on your trip look like? What season is it? Are you inside or outdoors? Are you in a city or in the middle of nowhere?
I’d be in Asia, out of the city, with great company, food, drink and sights. It would probably be spring, as it would be too hot otherwise, and I would most definitely spend the day outside. Whether I’d be at the beach, or in the desert, as long as I’m surrounded by nice people and good food, I’m sure I’ll be fine. :) Perhaps hit up Dunhuang for some stunning desert views, sled down some sand dunes, stroll along the Crescent Lake and cool down in the Mogao Caves.
11.) Name three spots from your last adventure, which you’d probably not find in a guidebook but you could recommend to travellers. Tell us what’s special about them.
London (I tried to stick to 3 spots, but got carried away…):
1) East London: You can still get proper jellied eels here, as well as exceptionally friendly (and hard to understand) locals. A few areas in East London have been somewhat gentrified, but several (Hoxton, Bethnal Green) still retains much of their original charm and character. Take the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) towards the Thames Barrier Park & London City Airport to get a glimpse of Canary Wharf and the Docklands. Cheap ride with stunning views along the Thames.
2) Markets: Borough, Columbia Road, Brockley, Billingsgate, Brick Lane, Broadway, Covent Garden, Spitalfields – just to name a few. All offer different views of the unique combinations and contradictions that define London. Pick up some excellent Monmouth coffee on Borough Market, a rabbit for a roast in Brockley, fresh cut flowers on Columbia Road, vintage Beatles t-shirt on Brick Lane, or some oysters at Broadway.
3) Regent’s Canal: the cafes and restaurants along this canal are some of the best in the East End. With canoeists paddling by, enjoy a coffee and the best view of the East London hipsters whizzing by on their bikes.
4) St James’s Park: despite this spot being in every guide book, it remains an all-time favourite. Have a picnic in the park on Sunday, spot the rarest birds taking a dip, and feed the squirrels of course. Definitely a classic guide book choice, and for a very good reason. Buckingham Palace and Westminster are just around the corner.
5) Late night openings at London museums/galleries: some of London’s most famous sights remain open till late. There really is nothing quite like snooping around the Natural History Museum after-hours. Most venues have talks, live music, drinks/snacks, and remain free..
Walk everywhere. The Underground is a great experience, but you risk missing out on the amazing sights and atmosphere you’d experience walking down London’s streets. Pick up an A-Z Map and you’ll be well on your way.
12.) Where & how do you write your blog articles? Do you start with a rough draft or get right to it?
With work being a tad busy, I have to write blog posts on the go (on my phone mostly). I tend to tweet a lot more than I blog, as it provides me with more interaction and more free time. I have started drafting blog posts and tweets recently, which has resulted in better work and more refined thoughts. It’s hard to do that though, especially with very current topics…
13.) What’s your favorite local dish? Where does it come from? Can you cook it & what are the main ingredients?
It’s very hard to beat a full English breakfast. Definitely not the healthiest option, but the undisputedly best way to start a Saturday/Sunday. I prefer my eggs poached, bacon crispy, and hash browns, mushrooms and baked beans on the side. Sausages and black pudding are not indispensable for me, but are great additions. As are grilled tomatoes or bubble and squeak. This is such a classic hearty meal, that it’s become the daily staple of many hardworking/boozy Londoners. I’m not very good at cooking it, but the main ingredients are widely available.
14.) How much does 1 liter (or one gallon) of milk and petrol cost today?
Approximately £0.80 ($1.25/€1) for 1L of milk & £1.30 per litre of petrol
15.) On which device to you answer this questionnaire and what shoes are you wearing (if possible please add a picture )?
My 2008 white MacBook, barefoot! I’m currently working from home
(in my living room or on our tiny balcony), on a laptop that has served me well for over 4 years. Bought in Hong Kong and still runs like a charm. I’m normally barefoot around the house, and with the London summer starting just in time for the Olympics, I can wear my flip-flops more often as well.
16.) Last but not least: What does “home” mean to you?
The more I travel, and the more time I spend abroad and away from my family, the less I know where,when or how to expect to come ‘home’. I’ve noticed I’m starting to feel ‘at home’ in places that seem entirely unrelated to where I’m from, who I think I am, or what I think is important in my life. Increasingly, I find myself ‘at home’ out of my house, with people I didn’t know a few years ago, and in a language I didn’t grow up in. Home is not a place, it’s a state of mind.
Want to be a part of this series?
If you want to be a part of our series, just go to the “Home Sweet Home” article and download the appropriate questionnaire. We’d really like to read your stories :)
Participants so far:
#1: Ulli Maier
#2: Nisa Maier
#3: Shvyia Nath
#4: Rika Huang
#5: Yvonne Zagermann
#6: Dario Endara
#7: Frankie Thompson
#8: Roy van den Bos
#9: Monica Stott
#10: Doris Neubauer
#11: Amanda Slavinsky
#13: Casper Oppenhuis de Jong
#14: Ashley Abroad
#15: Inma Gregorio