Vagabond Architect – Johann Beukes C

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

Johann BEUKES is from South Africa and worked as an architect for 40 years before deciding to do a lateral move into the travel business. He is a keen learner through TRAVEL experiences and is the CEO of TRAVELinform & TRAVELwithus.  I caught up with him by email earlier this week before he was heading to Germany.

Vagobond: You spent forty years as an architect – while some might say you’ve left that profession behind – it seems to me that you are still designing and building with TRAVELinform –

Johann Beukes: A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of an enriched heart. An architect-at-heart has to have a soul, a spirit and a passion for people. Exactly the same principles apply to a traveller-at heart.

TRAVELinform is a unique platform where one can share one’s passion for travel: many wonderful human true to life travel stories as well as travel photography to create the specific mood. And a growing family of equally enthusiastic members, sharing their experiences with one another on the social networking forum.

Vagobond: What made you decide to change gears? Can you tell us a bit of the journey that took you from architecture and into travel?

travel to Machu PicchuJohann Beukes: Since my childhood days I had pen friends in Japan, Germany and Canada; at a young age I started with travel- scrapbooking and became engaged with people in different places. My architecture brought me into contact with international architects around the world; thus making my early dreams a reality.

Various joint-replacement operations of most of my major joints forced me to bid my first love, practicing architecture, farewell. Fortunately I initiated a travel agency some 15 years ago; first as a hobby while travelling as an architect to some 80 Countries, which has now turned into a fulltime profession: the privilege of sharing ones travel joys with other people with a similar passion for exploring the unknown.

Vagobond:I’ve heard it said that travel is a series of near misses – can you share a harrowing tale from your travels?

Johann Beukes: As student, I joined a friend from Namibia on a Namib Desert excursion: our vehicle got stuck in the wilderness between kilometres of dunes. Luckily a helicopter search team discovered us after three days without water and food. No wonder it is also known as the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

A few years ago I went with only the pilot on a ski-plane scenic flight of Mount Denali in Alaska; as keen photographer I convinced the pilot to land at a high altitude on a solitary glacier. With me in my photographic spell, we slightly overstayed our time. The severe cold quickly fixed the skis to the ice. Normally the passenger would move the ski-base while the pilot is accelerating the propeller. This time however, we had to swop roles, due to my disability to assist with the physical manoeuvre. We managed to escape the ice-trap and I almost deserved my wings!

Vagobond: How is TRAVELinform different from the many other travel sites and networks out there? What is your vision for it in the future?

Alaska Johann BeukesJohann Beukes: I think there is no replacement to first-hand experience; anybody browsing through the multitude of country galleries of stories and photos will soon share my passion.
We have two TRAVEL sites i.e. TRAVELinform as a free Travel Information and Social Networking site, and TRAVELwithus, the unique, dedicated consultant-connected Travel, which will be launched during April this year.

On TRAVELinform we do not sell anything; we believe that through this we will eventually build a platform where people will trust our impartiality with no strings attached. Should they be interested in packages and travel-related products, TRAVELwithus will ensure a trust-worthy reputation.

TRAVELinform has the social networking forum, the unique travel stories and photo galleries, Travel-related links, sanction of many a country’s Tourism Boards. It has been visited by viewers, representing some 100 Countries and the average time spent on the site is 5 minutes at a time; indicating the popular interest.

Vagobond: In terms of vision, can you make a few predictions about where travel is heading in the next 5-10 years?

Johann Beukes: I believe that TRAVEL will become the most important industry world-wide; interaction between customer and professional consultant will move away from traditional consultancy selling air-tickets first, followed by other ancillary sales.

All basic commodities like air, car and bed will be done online by more and more, IT generation customers. If your destination knowledge, input and value as Travel Consultant are not omissible, you will soon become extinct.

The sooner the high street agency understands the many challenges online travel agencies are offering, the more secure their future will be.

Vagobond: Travel has changed in some massive ways over our lifetimes- what are some of the positives and negatives you can see in these changes?

Johann Beukes: Customers have become absolute knowledgeable on their Travel expectations and needs. Guessing and selling products without first-hand knowledge and expertise cannot succeed. For this reason consultants should act pro-actively and professionally: providing a service that will address all aspects of personalised travel.

The positive side is that a far wider choice of options of destinations exist; however, on the negative side is the fact that the exclusiveness of destinations will disappear: destinations off the beaten track will unfortunately become less and less available.

Vagobond: Has travel become too easy?

Johann Buekes in Plovdiv, BulgariaJohann Beukes: My honest opinion is that travel has become a hugely complex and high-risk service industry.
Only the real Travel PROFESSIONALS will survive. Through globalisation everybody becomes a traveller in some or other way. It has become very easy to travel today.

Vagobond: What makes great travel writing?

Johann Beukes: Experience the heart of a country through the eyes of ordinary people;
original, warm and descriptive words will enhance, almost like a picture taken at a scene; though it should always be factual correct; add passion to the most simple theme and people will experience travel through your eyes.

Vagobond: What makes a great travel writer?

Johann Beukes:  A passionate honest story teller; look for stories off the beaten track, among ordinary people.

Vagobond: In terms of press trips with Tourism Boards – do you think there is a magic formula for landing them?

Johann Beukes: Personally, I do not have a problem with press trips organised by Tourism Boards to promote their country. As long as the travel writers act as true travellers and not tourists: a Traveller will always shows appreciation and respect the diversity of the travelled world and the different cultures of its people, whereas a tourist demands attention to their personal needs only.

Vagobond: How do you prepare for a trip?

Johann Beukes: My time is always limited and good planning of time spent is therefore crucial. Through my LinkedIn network, make first-hand contact with connections within the country, communicate my ideas and proposed itinerary; clearly define my objectives of experiencing the country as a traveller-at-heart and not as an insensitive tourist. Many of my travel stories are rooted in the origins of ordinary people.

Vagobond: Can you share three travel tips that Vagobond readers may not have heard?

Johann Beukes: Communicate with the taxi-driver, if local, or the receptionist at the hotel and get first hand local tips of quieter times at tourist traps, eating spots supported by locals etc.
Do a proper research on all to do and see well in advance, in order that you can orientate yourself easily once at the destination; time is always limited.
Rather try and stay in the original old town area and enjoy the real atmosphere once all the tourists have left.

Vagobond: As someone who travels a lot, I realize how hard it is to answer questions about best, favourite etc. Still, having seen more than 75 countries – which 3 would you most like to go back and visit?

Johann Beukes:  Three totally different destinations:

Romania; especially Transylvania, due to the interesting culture and history;
Alaska, because of the unequalled scenic beauty of its landscape, from south to north;
Peru, truly a country with wonderful people; although poverty prevails, they assist each other and where the role of the family is very important.

Vagobond: Do you also have a bucket list of places still to visit?

Johann Beukes: High on my list is an exclusive adventure cruise on board the VIC of the Spitsbergen Arctic zone; for its incredible photographic opportunities.
Then I would still want to travel to Tibet, especially the Shigatse and Nyingtri mountainous areas to stay some time and really meditate within the rural regions; maybe do some new travel writing.

CONTACT DETAILS:
johann@travelinform.co.za
http://www.linkedin.com/in/johannbeukes
and share your travel ideas on www.travelinform.co.za

The Most Dangerous Places in the World

This post was originally written in 2010 – the world has changed a great deal since that time. Columbia, for example would no longer be on this list in 2020. The United States might well be on it because of political issues, racial issues, and the pandemic. 

You might be surprised not to see Iraq and Afghanistan listed, but we figured that you already knew they were dangerous, so we focused on the countries you might have THOUGHT were safe.
The world is a great place, and especially so when you are welcomed and treated with respect at the places you visit. However, with the increasing rate of crime across the world, more and more countries are placing stricter travel rules in place. Some countries, or rather some regions of some countries, are already under the grip of some undesirable social elements, and just the smallest instigation can lead to trouble, especially if you are a foreigner and are visiting. Taking all these things into consideration, we compile a list of the top 5 most dangerous places to visit in the world. Though not all parts of the below-mentioned countries/places are dangerous, you should exercise caution and make sure you have travel insurance before you visit any of them.
top dangerous countries
1. Haiti
Haiti, though a beautiful island, is a country that is influenced and infested a lot by crime, and the recent earthquake has only added to its woes. The poverty here is extreme, and visitors will most likely end up feeling sorry for having to see people in such states. Looting, escaped prisoners, riots, fake roadblocks, hijacking are occurring on a daily basis now. Added to this is the strange practice of witchcraft, voodoo and black magic. Haiti certainly ranks first as the most unsafe place to visit right now.

2. South AfricaNow this may sound surprising, but the picture of South Africa as you imagine it to be – with Nelson Mandela, cricket, football and great wildlife sanctuaries is not all what it seems to be. It has been proclaimed by many people and media around the world as the rape capital of the world. Crime here is a genuine problem, and visitors are cautioned not to travel alone outside at nights. Exercising caution, however, will make your stay memorable.

3. Algeria
Algeria is now among the most unsafe countries of the world, mostly due to the recent rise in the number of warlords, who have found chances to exploit the country after the recent wars that have taken place. Though there are places to visit, you may face a great deal of danger in the form of fake road blockages, terrorism and abductions, which are common here. So visiting Algeria is highly NOT recommended. Go to Morocco instead.

4. Pakistan
Once a great country, Pakistan has fallen into bad hands. Though the government may seem stable from the outside, the terroristic activities that are going on within the country make it the fourth most unsafe place to visit in the world. The recent incident of the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad shows the state the country is in, Other than that, of course, Pakistan is a good country with some really good tourist destinations, but you need to exercise great caution.

5. Colombia
Though Colombia’s crime rate is not as much as it used to be a couple of decades ago, it has not completely vanished. The main threats to the country are the presence of paramilitary organizations and a large number of drug and human traffickers who do not waste time in luring foreigners into their clutches. Activities like kidnapping, extortion, robbery, murder, car bombings, drug trade are prevalent and avoiding such area will help make your visit to Colombia a bit better, especially if you visit the magnificent Andes mountain range.

Of course, knowing the readers of Vagobond.com, you are either there now or have already visited. How did you find the countries above? Do you agree?

4 Great Musical Acts Who Found Inspiration Through Travel

 

Abbey Road in India cc image courtesy of UppyPhoto on FlickrThey say that a change is as good as a rest, and when it comes to seeking inspiration most musicians will tell you that a change of scenery is as good as it comes. The best musicians take inspiration from their surroundings: so if you’re starting to find that you have songwriters block, it might just be time to strap on that backpack and get your groove back. You certainly won’t be the first: in fact you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in popular music. Names like…

 

The Beatles

Arguably the most influential band in the world, the Beatles are behind many 70’s youngsters’ ambitions to fly cheaply to Indiato ‘find themselves’. In February 1968 the fab four attended a transcendental meditation training session in Rishikesh, resulting in one of the most productive periods of their career. Although the trip wasn’t exactly idyllic (most accounts speak of tensions between the Beatles and the Maharishi) the time out of the spotlight certainly gave the band the peace and the time to compose a great body of work: including most of the songs from The White Album.

 

David Bowie in Travel cc IMage courtesy of Quicheisinsane on FlickrDavid Bowie

It seemed like all was lost for Bowie before he bit the bullet and left LA,grabbing a one way ticket to Berlin after a brief stint in Paris. In 1976 the thin white duke was exhausted and the trials of fame were starting to get the better of him: Bowie later said that during this period he lived on “red peppers, cocaine, and milk” (not the healthiest diet). Three years of exile in Berlin was the perfect antidote. Working with Brian Eno, Bowie released his ‘Berlin Trilogy’: a set of three albums that included one of his best albums, “Heroes”. Musicians have to take risks, and during the 70’s the Berlin Wall was still standing: the Cold War inspiration for the album becomes deeper when you realise that it was recorded not 500m from the wall itself.

 

Paul Simon

Despite a fairly successful career after his partnership with Garfunkel ended, by the mid 80’s Paul Simon was starting to lose his touch. Disappointing sales of his album “Hearts & Bones” made him believe that he had lost his mojo once and for all. By chance he listened to a cassette of instrumental South African music, which kindled his artistic flair, and inspired him to visit South Africa. The trip resulted in his Grammy award winning album “Graceland”, and a return to the spotlight. Like Bowie before him, the trip was a risk: during the 80’s apartheid was still in full swing and most of the world was boycotting South Africa.

 

Snoop Dog er...Snoop Lion cc image courtesy of thecomeupshow on FlickrSnoop Dogg… or should that be Snoop Lion?

More recently, a simple trip to Jamaica turned out to be life changing for Snoop Dogg. After meeting with some Rastafarian priests, the rapper had an epiphany and now claims to be the reincarnation of Bob Marley. Snoop is “tired of hip hop” and is planning to make reggae music instead under his new moniker, ‘Snoop Lion’, and plans to release records that young and old alike can enjoy. We’ll be keeping our eyes on this transformation with bated breath.

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