From adventures with friends and vacations with her young family decades ago to unforgettable solo sojourns, Dr Bina Rai has learned that the beauty of travel is all about the experiences you gain along the way.
During her many years of travelling, Bina, 63 from Penang Malaysia, is a doctor who is currently lecturing at a University and has completed 5 tours with Expat Explore. Bina simply loves travelling and all of the valuable lessons it has taught her.
For Bina, the idea of learning reaches outside of the classrooms she teaches in. “Travelling expands the mind and soul to new experiences,” says Bina, “It takes me out of my comfort zone to see how other people live and have lived. I love the new experiences versus the idea of ticking off ‘been there, done that.”
The importance of travel is that it allows you not only to see the world but to learn about other people and experience different cultures – for Bina learning becomes a natural part of travel.
“Life is what you make out of it. I have travelled both with opulence and frugally, living in guest houses, camping out and occasionally at luxury hotels,” explains Bina, “The important lesson I have learned is that I cannot impose my values on anyone. We meet people, we appreciate their lives and in that short span our cultures come together and after that, we go back home, a richer person.”
The memories and experiences that you take home with you become the meaningful part.
Bina first travelled with Expat Explore in 2016, embarking on a whirlwind tour through Italy. Before Italy, Bina has already taken a number of trips. In the early days, she travelled to neighbouring countries with her family, “our earliest adventure was driving around Europe with the family in an old Ford Cortina in 1992. My son was two years old and my daughter was five years old at that time.”
Travelling expands the mind and soul to new experiences… It takes me out of my comfort zone to see how other people live and have lived.
Since then, Bina has travelled on her own to a number of countries including Mongolia and Greece. When researching her trip to Italy, Bina happened across Expat Explore by chance, “I liked the idea of being alone but having travel from one city to another taken care of.”
“One of my favourite memories with Expat Explore is of the Ruin Bar we visited in Budapest, where a few of us from the Croatia and Eastern Europe tour got together and had an awesome evening (thanks to our excellent guide, Dorota, who recommended it!)” Bina says of a treasured memory from a tour.
More highlights from Bina’s Expat Explore tours include experiencing the charm of Dubrovnik and its Old Town, walking from village to village in Cinque Terre in Italy, driving along the Georgian Military Highway on the Caucasus tour and marvelling at the views of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland!
“The most interesting place I have been to with Expat Explore has been Croatia and Eastern Europe. Everything about the tour was lovely, especially the quaint little town of Cesky Krumlov- a medieval town on the banks of a river somewhere in the Czech Republic. I loved the little alleys, cobbled pathways and the huge castle that looms over the town.” says Bina.
Friends and family were Bina’s usual “go-to” travel companions until about 12 years ago when she had to travel alone for the first time, “initially I was apprehensive but once I got used to the freedom it afforded I got hooked on solo travelling!” says Bina.
“When you travel in a group of your own, you can become insular and closed off to new experiences,” explains Bina. However, when joining a group tour with strangers you have to get to know new people and a world of learning new things opens up!
The important lesson I have learned is that I cannot impose my values on anyone. We meet people, we appreciate their lives and in that short span our cultures come together and after that, we go back home, a richer person.
“Group travel is awesome! You get to meet so many people and personalities,” she shares, “Inevitably, you won’t be on the same page with everyone, but definitely some!”
Group tours are where friendships get forged, and Bina has made some incredible friends! “I met great people on my first tour (to Italy) whom I visited and stayed with when I went to Australia later the following year,” says Bina. “You get to know like-minded people and that makes the whole thing so interesting.”
According to Bina, by getting to know people on your tour, you come out of it a richer person, having learned so many things about someone new.
Once I got used to the freedom it afforded I got hooked on solo travelling!
Any advice for someone who has never travelled before and might be a bit intimated?
“I would say try it once. Go somewhere closer to your comfort zone where language and cultures are easier to understand and deal with. This way you begin with not too many unknowns. Do your research, pack lightly with luggage that you can easily handle, always be street smart and keep your valuables safe,” says Bina.
Wise words from a seasoned expert!
Where to next for Bina? A trip to Spain and Portugal with Expat Explore are on the itinerary for later this year – as long as travel is safe and advisable.
There are tons of items on Bina’s bucket list to keep her wanderlust thriving! “I love long train journeys, just to go to bed and get up not packing my bags but having the scenery change in front of me is a dream – so I need to do the Trans Siberian Railway. I also plan to visit Moldova – I have been wanting to do that for a long time as I heard they have great wine. And I need to see the Northern lights!”
Here’s to many more years of travel and learning!