So…who the hell is Den Den…a.k.a. me, Denise Pulis, and author of The Art of Slow Travel.com. I need to be careful with this, as the main objective of this section is to make sure I don’t cause you to emit that little stream of god-this-is-so-boring zzzzz as portrayed so brilliantly in Japanese cartoons. So I’ll keep it short, and keep it travel-connected.
Basically , I never travelled until age 21. By travelled, I really mean never ‘travelled’, i.e. set out, to discover things, sight-see, tour and so on and so forth. Not even within my country. This is because while most of you come from a big, or big(ger) country (or continent), I come from the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, which is so small that you can drive across it in 50 minutes, and this is including a bit of traffic. My parents never had enough money to take themselves, my sister and I on holiday (remember this was the time before low cost airlines), because they were busy making sure we were properly fed, clothed and educated (though given my sister’s weird sense of fashion at the time, they might have failed in one of these points).
It was only at 21 that 1. I had no university debts left to pay 2. I had saved a bit of money from my first part-time job, and so I did set foot on my first ever plane bound to not-really-adventurous London…but we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?
Like many of you, I soon decided that I wanted to travel extensively. Still very much travel unsavy, I worked long hours and saved for an (at the time) expensive flight to Panama City, where a friend had offered to host me in her house in return for someone to speak to in English. The trip would last two months and I was ecstatic. But when I arrived at London Gatwick (I had booked the Malta-London, London-Panama sections of the flight separately), I was not allowed on the plane (which would transit through the US), because while I had triple-checked the visa requirements for Panama, I had been completely oblivious to the fact that I needed a US transit visa for 2 hours in an American airport. As this was before visa-waiver programmes, I couldn’t get the visa from London without maybe spending a month there, so I had no choice but to return home like a complete idiot and lose my ticket money.
Once again, I worked and worked for over a year until I had enough money to start dreaming again. This time I booked myself a one-month stay in Seoul, South Korea, where I had plenty of friends. Thank God, this time I made it (though I wanted to kill the bloody ground hostess when she looked at my ticket and passport at check-in and said something like ‘You might need a visa’, which I was pretty sure I didn’t). I loved it, and it was then that I decided I wanted to live, work and travel in South Korea…
…but this turned out not to be possible. I did not, alas, have one of those seven passports which the South Korean government grants teaching visas to, and it didn’t matter that I was also a native-speaker of English, had two degrees in the subject, and had been teaching for three years. Now, though, I was determined to leave. I wanted to travel the world long-term. I started looking for jobs in Japan and China, but my nationality was always a problem. I even started considering a Working Holiday Visa to Australia, which was easy to get, but which would eventually send me flying back home, which I didn’t want.
And then I met Feri (this is the cheesy, super romantic part, so brace yourself), and I fell head over heels in love. Hungarian by blood, but also Swiss by passport, he somehow convinced me to move to Switzerland, a country totally towards which I was totally indifferent. I’ve had some strong love-hate moments with this complicated country, but being in the heart of Europe gave me the opportunity to see a bit of this fascinating continent via short and affordable flights; Istanbul, London again, Amsterdam, and beautiful Budapest.
But my heart is still calling me East, and Feri and I, after managing to get our hands on a permanent visa to Australia, are going to be moving to Melbourne in April 2012…after 2 months travelling around Vietnam and Singapore. As you can see, I travel slowly, and I do not have a jealousy-inducing-to-the-extent-of-hair-pulling ’Where I’ve been’ map, but if you care to hang around for a while on this seriously long-term blog, there are many stories I wish to share with you, and many countries to describe to you, not in the thin, veneer-like manner of a passing visitor, but hopefully in more depth, enough to inspire you to explore them yourself.
Update: Yes, I made it to Melbourne!!!
If I managed not to bore you to death, and you would like to read more ‘personal’ articles, here you go:
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-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.theartofslowtravel.com