Going a long, long way to meet old pals

Most people keep in touch with friends via Skype or Facebook, but Mr Herbert Chau decided on a more expensive approach.

Last year, the Hong Kong citizen quit his job as a bank manager with HSBC, and embarked on a world tour to meet people he first knew through Aiesec - a global youth organisation which he joined more than a decade ago while at university.

The trip used up most of his savings from six years of work - around 150,000 euros (about S$240,000), said the 36-year-old, who arrived in Singapore - his 53rd destination and final stop - last Wednesday.

"I wanted to meet my friends in their home countries," Mr Chau, who is writing a book about his tour, told The Sunday Times. "When you see their families, eat their food, chat - it's totally different."

Starting in Argentina last December, he explored Central America before travelling to Africa and the Middle East.

He has also visited Antarctica, travelled on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing, and climbed Machu Picchu in Peru.

He described a visit to Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city still suffering the impact of the world's worst nuclear disaster 28 years ago after a power plant exploded. "Vegetation covers the whole town. It's just like a forest," he said. "It made me think, nature has its own way to heal the mistakes made by humans."

He also saw salt flats in Bolivia, which resemble an enormous mirror reflecting the sky after a shower of rain.

And he is impressed by how Singapore has flourished since colonial times. "Every country has its own story, and you can learn from all of them," he said.

He hopes the book, of which he has written about a third, will allow people to see foreign lands through the eyes of their inhabitants. And inspire other young people to pursue their passion.

"Travelling around the world seems like a dream, but I did it," he said. "If you want to do something, just do it."

He has not, however, told his parents back in Hong Kong of his trip. They think he is working for HSBC in London instead. "If they knew, they would be very afraid for me. I didn't want them to worry."

But he will tell them, he said, once he is done with his book and has got a new job.


This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014.
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