I learn of #TheTravelIntern in Cape Town, South Africa, 9661 kilometres away from home. Fresh out of a two-year contract with the Republic of Singapore Navy, I have barely dipped my toes into the freelance pool, but already I know I want this.
I don’t yet know we will be building this site, growing a community of like-minded travellers in Singapore – neither does Kenneth, and for that matter, neither does Hendric.
I just want to write, travel, and tell good stories.
The first time we meet, we get a taste of what it’s like working with Hendric – we have beer, and then he takes us “to play a game”. He likes surprises, so we only learn, upon arriving at Lockdown, that this game is Escape Room. I hate horror movies, but steel myself for one creepy hour trying to escape from a haunted dressing room.
A little random fun before work officially begins. Unfortunately we only escaped after multiple hints and time extensions. Maybe we’re better off exploring places instead. 😂 #thetravelintern #escaperoom
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As Hendric gleefully grows into the role of Puppet Master, Kenneth and I learn to be nimble, to expect the unexpected.
A training session with the GoPro turns into an afternoon running around Sentosa trying to complete his mission brief: Being tourists for the day, asking foreigners what they think of Singapore, asking locals for food recommendations. We learn things about our country that we had never thought to internalise, such as the origins of the Merlion Myth and when Sentosa became an island of fun.
We spend the couple of weeks leading up to our China trip not knowing where we are going, only that it will be 0-9 degrees in winter and there may be snow. I try not to let the uncertainty unnerve me, try to relish spontaneity instead. Somehow Hendric has captured the essence of travel in this travel internship.
We stumble through the language barrier and eat our way around China – I am lucky fellow travel intern Kenneth loves food as much as I do. Often our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we order more than we can stomach, because everything on the menu looks tasty and the portions come out huge. Other times we take refuge from the cold in street stalls where the only thing on the menu is dumpling soup or xiao long baos, confident that shops so specialised are sure to be tasty. We are not disappointed.
After spending six weeks in China during my graduation trip in 2013, parts of Hangzhou and Nanjing feel familiar, like the skewer stalls that operate well into the night, and the postcard stands where I pen messages to home.
We are given tasks – Chat with locals, buy someone a meal, find hidden gems that TripAdvisor or Google or Lonely Planet doesn’t know about. On the road assignments seem easier, or maybe the freedom of traveling lets us relax and go with the flow.
We get used to recording these tasks, filming everything on our journey, instagramming our lunches, talking to the camera, and learning to balance that out with experiencing the present. Because let’s be honest – we want to live in the moment, but we all love a good memory to look back on, and better still laugh at. If I ever forget the image of Kenneth twirling around West Lake in a purple flowy dress, all I have to do is watch the video of our Hangzhou highlights.
When we come back we write – pages worth of blog entries to share what we did, felt, ate, drank. I learn to curate useful information for the travel community; I learn to anticipate what people look for (and click on) when they search for travel news. We try to meet their needs, and at the same time tell our stories.
Now that our stint is over, I look forward to seeing what the Puppet Master has in store for new The Travel Interns!
Click here to apply for The Travel Intern Programme.