“YOU’RE DRIVING THIS AMAZING VEHICLE, WHICH OPENS UP DOORS AND EXPERIENCES”
Hello, everyone. On this episode, I sat down with Rick Kazarian, an avid traveller, travel blogger, author, podcaster and documentary producer. Besides having joined our ultimate bucket-list Cambodia Tuk-Tuk Adventure (an achievement on its own) he has visited all seven continents and has been to over 140 countries. Rick also runs his own podcast called “Counting Countries” where he interviews fellow adventurers who visited every country in the world, some of them even twice. I hope you enjoy.
Here a small snippet of the conversation. If you want to listen to the whole thing, check out our podcast here.
Julian: Rick, I want to talk a little bit about your memories of the Cambo Challenge.
Rick: Watching a video and hearing that music thumping. Um, like it got me both exciting, excited and sad, meaning, you know, we’ve all taken like a year off from travel, and we’re missing out on all these amazing experiences. And then, you know, watching that video triggered a bunch of memories from that road trip. And as such, I mean, road trips are awesome. This was an awesome road trip and it’s an amazing country and you’re driving this amazing vehicle, which opens up doors and experiences and it was such a fun time.
“IT’S JUST A REALLY DIFFERENT, GREAT WAY TO EXPLORE THE COUNTRY”
Julian: It’s so easy for me to forget actually someone who’s never driven a tuk-tuk and that experience. It’s not not like driving a car. It’s got its own little things to get used to. And in particular, the one in Cambodia, it was a manual, crappy little thing. No extra braking system between the bike and the unit. I’m getting why we actually changed the vehicle. But what were your memories of your first interaction getting on that vehicle with the realisation that you’ve got to take this thing 1600 kilometres around Cambodia. Because at that time, we were still doing the full loop of pretty much Cambodia.
Rick: Well, embarrassingly, I’ve never really driven a manual car. So I grew up driving automatic and only drove automatic. I did have the experience of driving tuk-tuk in India for two weeks for 2000 kilometres. So, you know, that gave me some familiarity and some comfort. The first day, you do training, meaning you get to practice and I personally needed that day to bring back some of that muscle memory. There’s a distinct difference between the traditional tuk-tuk and the auto remote in Cambodia. So yeah, I needed to familiarise myself and get used to the gears and having the 500 kilos carriage plus my friend driving behind.
Julian: The training days, always, always very entertaining. Because you’ve got a bunch of people from all over, all in on in the same boat and then factored into the novelty of the destination, the culture of driving the standard of roads, all of those things makes for a pretty good cocktail of adventure, craziness. Was it your first time in Cambodia?
Rick: No, that was actually my third time there.
Julian: I’m assuming you’re not obviously driven in rickshaws and tuk-tuks or anything in Cambodia before? What were your memories of the comparison haven been there before? What advantages or disadvantages did you find with driving?
“YOU OPEN YOUR HORIZONS, GET TO SEE MORE, GET TO EXPLORE MORE”
Rick: At first I’ll start off and just say, Cambodia is an undervalued country. It is fantastic. Everybody should be going if you’re travelling. There’s so much to see and do there. My first two visits were more traditional meaning Phnom Penh, the capital and Siem Reap to go see Angkor Wat. I’m personally fascinated with the temples in Siem Reap. I’m more than happy to spend five days just exploring those but I think in my opinion these rallies that you manage and organise offer provide an excellent catalyst, meaning if you are a traveller to Cambodia, you might get stuck in the trap of what I just said Phnom Penh, Siem Reap maybe the beach into Carnival, and there’s nothing, nothing wrong with that. But with the tuk-tuk and your route you are going to be visiting places that the typical visitor might not necessarily be visiting. So in other words, you open your horizons, get to see more, get to explore more, get out of the torso sections of the country. So that’s awesome benefit. And then the side benefit is you could hypothetically do your rally in $100,000 Range Rover, you have the AC pumped up, you’ve got the Dolby Surround Sound going and you are having an awesome adventure. But when you’re in the tuk-tuk, there’s obviously no windows, you’re completely open. And you’re driving next to another Cambodian on his bike and you just start talking on the road or you stop at an intersection and there’s some woman selling sugar cane juice and you start talking. All these great catalysts that your rallies provide: a visit off the beaten path and also starting more genuine interactions with the locals 100%
“WE’RE IN THE COMPLETELY WRONG PLACE, HAVING NO CORRELATION TO THE CHALLENGE THAT WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING”
I was thinking of one story. When I saw the video, it reminded me, for those who are not that familiar with the rally, you earn points, which determine the winner. So it’s like every day there’s challenges. We had to pound rice. And we had a video tape ourselves pounding rice. I think the hint said, you’ll know it when you see it. My friend and I Keith, who I was driving around with, we’re not in any city. It’s just back roads and houses scattered here. We have our eyes peeled. We’re trying to find pound rice. We pass some poor person’s house and they have all this rice laid out on sheets. And we’re like, oh, maybe this is it. So we park our tuk-tuk and we basically go into these people’s house. They’re all sitting around eating. And we’re like, “suosteiy”. Hello. One word in Khmer. They come out of their house. And we’re standing next to all their rice which is drying out and I think we start taking a rock and hitting some of the rice. We might as well have been aliens, right? So two foreigners show up on a tuk-tuk, which is very a-typical, right? No one goes there. Then we basically go into their private property. And then we start, looking like crazy people, hitting the rice. So in short, we’re in the completely wrong place, having no correlation to the challenge that we’re supposed to be doing. Because an hour later, we end up in front of this small business where they have some wooden logs set up where they’re pounding the rice. We’re just laughing. Those poor people must think we’re absolutely crazy. Because again, imagine if someone came into your house and I mean, it just brought back the memory of that kind of funny experience.
Julian: Is that is there anything like advice you’d give to someone thinking about coming on a tuk-tuk adventure?
Rick: The short advice is do it. I’m going to go back to the themes which I touched on before, the rallies act as this catalyst or mechanism, 1. to get you off the beaten path, 2. to give you these more genuine, interesting, authentic interactions with locals. And I think many of us travel, because you want to meet local people and learn a little bit about their life. I remember from my Indian tuk-tuk race. We spent so much time at gas stations. Every gas station in India seems to be manned by about 20 people, so it would not be odd for us to spend an hour at the gas station, filling up but then talking to the gas station attendant, taking photos, eating a samosa. The vast majority of people who book a vacation to India, it’s like oh, I’m gonna go to the Taj Mahal or houseboat in Corolla, no one says I’m planning on visiting two gas stations a day for an hour each to take photos and to hang out with guys. So again, I think these rallies whether it’s your Sri Lanka one, the Cambodia one, Italy, it’s just a really different, great way to explore the country.
Julian: Brilliant. Well, thanks a lot for coming on Rick. It was a pleasure to see you again. It’s been a while and to speak to you. We will see well on a tuk-tuk soon.