Oct 06 2011

Getting out of your comfort zone at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

The 2011 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has started with a bang in Bali, and the streets of Ubud are teeming with readers, writers, and, as usual, taxi drivers, hopefully searching for fares.

Opening ceremony of UWRF, photo by by Chris Gosfield.

Opening ceremony of UWRF, photo by by Chris Gosfield.

Authors from more than 20 countries are here, as well as countless readers — with Australia well represented. (Although during his session, author DBC Pierre admitted to having his Australian citizenship revoked.)

One of today’s sessions was about life as an adventure — exploring the world and telling the tales.

Out of my comfort zone

This session featured Trinity, Indonesia’s leading travel writer, Brit Rob Lilwall, who wrote a book about this three-year journey cycling home to London from Siberia, and Jan Latta, an animal photographer and author of a series of books for children about endangered species.

As any traveller can attest to, travel often means getting outside of one’s comfort zone, and often staying out of it for weeks — or months — at a time. This session explored what it is about risk that makes travel exciting. The authors talked about the different risks they had faced in their travel, from dealing with armed robbers to charging rhinos, to, in Trinity’s case, visiting a nude beach (the Indonesian government later banned the story about her experience on the grounds that it was pornographic).

Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone

Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone.

Trinity says she travels because, “I want to know how I can overcome my fear … and it makes good copy!” Big laughs from the room, and probably a sales spike for Trinity’s series of books, The Naked Traveller. Indonesians don’t travel much, Trinity explained, and are hampered by the difficulty in getting visas to visit other countries, especially outside of Asia, and they just don’t have the freedom of most Western travellers.

“The worst type of fear is just before you go somewhere scary — the night before you go,” Rob Lilwall said. He had good reason to be nervous, it seems, travelling through Afghanistan and Pakistan and getting robbed at gunpoint in Russia. In Papua New Guinea he was accosted by two men, looking to rob him. Reflecting on it he wondered if maybe they weren’t really trying to rob him, but were just trying to be friends. It’s these moments during our travels that force us to come face to face with our own preconceptions and prejudices, he explained. (I’ll have more on Rob’s travels later.)

Facing risk while travelling is inevitable, but the real problems can be back at home, as a writer. “It’s much easier to stand your ground against a charging rhino than to get your book in a local bookshop,” Jan said.

She left us with this parting piece of advice: “Never look a gorilla in the eye.” Apparently they really don’t like it.

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  1. […] a soul mate in Benjamin Law and hearing Trinity, Indonesia's leading travel writer, talk about her experiences at nude […]