While volunteering with Leave UR Mark in Bangalore, I met Marisa Fong, who was interning in India for fourteen weeks: seven in Bangalore and seven in Goa. During our short time together, we bonded over chai, card games, and crazy travel stories. I even helped her start her blog, Marisa Adventures.
Marisa lives in Australia, but travels as often as she can and she spent a year studying abroad in Copenhagen. Learn more about Marisa and her travels below.
What’s your travel style?
I like to say I am an overall traveller. I do enjoy everything from adventure to luxury. During travelling itself I love learning and seeing the historical aspect of the city/town, museums, art galleries, attractions, nature/outdoors activities, snorkelling, going to local festivals or just getting a bike and exploring the area. However, I do prefer living in a place for a long period of time and getting to know better. I have lived in Copenhagen for a year for study abroad, India for 14 weeks and Thailand for 8 weeks.
If you’ve ever spent a holiday abroad, which was it and how did you celebrate?
For the past three years I have the habit of spending Christmas and New Years away from home (Perth). In 2013, I spent Christmas and New Years in Thailand. For New Years, I was in a monk temple where I got see paper lanterns being released and I got to release my own. In 2014, I was in Paris for Christmas and Budapest for New Years and 2015 I was in India, Bangalore for Christmas and Coorg for New Years. Coorg was a unique experience as I was in the middle of a coffee plantation in the middle of nowhere.
Do you have a funny story about a travel mishap that you’d like to share?
Oh yes, there are plenty of stories! One particular story was in Madrid. My friend and I assumed we were staying in Madrid for three days instead of four days. From Madrid, we were going to Barcelona by train in the morning. Once we got through the security at the train station, the lady looked at us with a puzzled expression saying our train was the next morning instead of that day. Being confused and puzzled, we realised we had an extra day/night in Madrid. However, the funny thing was we were staying in an Airbnb and the instructions were to put the keys in the letterbox when we departed. Luckily, someone buzzed us into the apartment foyer, but we still needed to get into our apartment. A resident, who was on his way to work, asked if we needed help and I had an idea if he could give us a coat hanger so we could fish the keys out of the letterbox since the owner of the Airbnb wasn’t in Madrid at the time. Luckily, I managed to fish the keys out of the letterbox and we finally got into our apartment. This all happened before 8am!
What kind of accommodations are your favorite when you travel?
I really love using Airbnb for many reasons. Firstly I love to see how the local lives, especially their interior designs. The Danish Airbnb I have stayed are one of the best interior designs I have seen making me feel so cosy and right at home. Also I prefer to live in a local area so I can explore the surrounding areas and find cute cafes. I also love trying to blend in with the locals and attempting to use the local language which most of the time it’s broken adding a few English words. I find with Airbnb it gives you flexibility, for me I love using the kitchen for breakfast and if you are staying it an expensive place it is best to cook at home and eat a couple of times out. I found especially in the summer the use of washing machine is so helpful. This means you can wash your sweaty clothing and kept packing to a minimum.
Why do you travel?
The reason I travel is that I want to understand a culture or society. This stems from my interest in social psychology, I just love to learn and understand why people are known for their “stereotypes” or to observe the social norms and how they are different from place to place. I feel travelling gives me a deeper understanding of the world and how people respond and behave to each other. I also find it is an excuse to meet some amazing and open-minded people! Who doesn’t love an adventure to explore a new surrounding?
Have you ever been sick or hurt abroad? Tell us what happened.
Unfortunately when I was in India I was sick continuously (and yes I got Erin sick, sorry! Hahaha :D). I suffered from the flu, coughs, fever, upset stomach and food poisoning in Goa. Unfortunately the air quality made my cough worst and I had it around for a month until I moved to Goa. I ended up going to the hospital three times during my stay in India. The best thing to do is rest up, take it easy and drink lots of water.
What’s the best road trip you’ve ever been on?
The best road trip I have done was from Copenhagen to Amsterdam stopping in Hamburg on the way to Amsterdam. This was when I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, I have always wanted to do a road trip in Europe and I management to convince a few of my friends. It was so much fun bonding and having deep and meaningful conversation with each other as we are all from different countries (France, Turkey, China, Canada and Australia). The road trip itself was nine hours, which includes the ferry crossing. I believed we had the most fun was on the autobahn in Germany where we were testing the limits on our small Nissan with our music blasting in the background. Nevertheless on our way back to Copenhagen a section of the autobahn was blocked off due to some incident, hence we did a detour through Germany’s countryside. We were completely lost but the views were so worth!
Have you volunteered abroad? What did you do and what did you think of the experience?
Yes, I have! I have volunteered once in Thailand and once in India. In Thailand, I was teaching English to primary school children (grade 4, 5, 6) and a monk school (grade 9, 10,12). The whole experience was so much fun and getting to understand the whole cultural differences, especially teaching at a monk school. In India, I was doing two internships one in Bangalore (Tamahar Trust) and the other in Goa (Sethu). I went through LeaveURMark, where they placed me with NGO organisations focused on children and psychologically issues. Tamahar Trust is school base where children with neurological disorders would get academic schooling plus interventions such as yoga, play and art therapy while Sethu was clinical base. It was a massive learning opportunity as well as a cultural learning experience.
If you could take one epic journey in the next year, what would it be and why?
I would love to travel to South America and trek part of the Amazon. The Amazon is something I really want to see before it gets destroyed. I also would love to go snorkelling around the Galapagos Island. In general, South America seems so vibrant, fun and full of ancient historical places to explore.
Do you overplan before you arrive, just show up at a destination, or have a mixture of both?
I would typically have a mixture of both! I would usually book accommodation to have a peace of mind of where I am staying rather than panicking to find a place. I also generally have a brief overview on what I am planning to do and have the last day or two completely free to improvise or do the things I have missed or explore a local area. If I see or bump into something that wasn’t on my agenda I would check it out. My trip to Istanbul was a good example, we were planning on seeing the Blue Mosque but on our way we discovered the Spice Market, a charming winding residential roads, the New Mosque and a local mosque which has amazing views of Istanbul. I would never recommend on having a structure schedule, as it doesn’t give you time or flexibility to explore new areas you come across or a chance of being lost in a city (best way to travel in the city!).
Like Marisa’s travels so far? You can follow along with her on her many more adventures to come: