Tales From the Road: Jonathon Collins

Jonathon Collins is a 26 year old scientist, photographer and writer from Sydney, Australia, who captures stories from lesser known corners of the world. His personal passion for travel and his work as a photographer has taken him to the furtherest tips of the globe, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. We chat to Jon about his favourite travel experiences, the resilience of the human spirit and witnessing the impacts of climate change around the world.

What are the three things you never travel without?
My Olympus PEN-F, Macbook Pro and a notebook for writing.

What has been your most eye-opening travel experience?
Last year I was working on my own personal project ‘The Human Tide’, a photographic series seeking to portray the impacts of climate change on local populations around the world. For the second part of the project, I lived in a small village outside Djenne in Mali. The conditions were incredibly harsh, with temperatures soaring above 45°C every day and there was a constant fear of insecurity and terrorism in the area which had to be monitored closely all the time.

I lived with a local Fulani herding family for one month in the middle of the dry season, so we could eat only one meal a day which was usually just rice and a sauce made from stock cubes and fish bones. It completely opened my eyes to the resilience of the human spirit, and just how difficult the conditions and life for people of the Sahel was.   

What is it that you love about travelling? Have you noticed a change within yourself or do you see the world differently since you've been exploring it?
When travelling, personal growth and change is inevitable. I’ve met people from all walks of life and had interactions that have been endearing, uncomfortable, challenging and unforgettable. From farmers in rural China to bankers in the Arab Gulf, I’ve been lucky to meet people of every faith, status and culture on my adventures and I try to take in everything I can from those encounters. When I first began travelling, I used to compare cultures to my own and focus only on the characteristics that set us apart. However, the more I’ve travelled the more I began to witness how similar we are when you strip down the barriers of language, race, religion, economic status and culture. Humans are simply inquisitive beings, curious to know about other lives and that’s what truly makes travel such a rich experience.

Was there a particular catalyst that pushed you towards a life of wandering, or have you always had itchy feet?
I grew up in a small town on the coast of Australia as a kid with a big imagination and aspirational dreams. I always knew there was a whole world waiting to be explored, and the moment I started earning money and had my own independence as a young adult, I knew it was time to go. Japan was the first stamp in my passport when I was nineteen and definitely served as an inspiration to discover more and learn as much as I could from different corners of the world.

What's your favourite place you've ever travelled, and why?
Everywhere I’ve been is special and holds a unique memory in time for me. However, a place I reflect on time and time again is a small island on the coast of Mozambique. A place where wooden boats and large white sails mark every horizon, fresh lobsters sit on display in the local market, windows and door of houses are left open to catch the coastal breeze, and on every corner are crumbling 15th-century Portuguese buildings painted in sky blues, pinks and yellows. Colour and textures are etched into every corner of this little island, known as Ilha de Mocambique, on street signs, in women’s headscarves, jewelery, windowsills, labels, bicycles, crockery; on every line of laundry. Music blasts on muffled speakers, and if men and women are not dancing as they walk, their feet or hips are always be tapping along to the rhythm.

Best piece of advice you would give to another traveller?
Be open to whatever the world has to offer you. Never resist the current, actively seek out new places, people or interactions that will challenge you and in turn, make you grow.

Where to next?
I’m headed back to an old stomping ground next month; to the emerald peaks and skyscrapers of Hong Kong for a non-stop eating fest.  

Then in June/July, I’ll be going on an epic adventure of 4WD-ing and wild camping in Oman, as well as seeing the incredible sights of Jordan. I absolutely love the culture, cuisine and the hospitality of the people in the Middle East, so it's one adventure I truly can't wait for.

You can see more of Jon's work here www.jonathoncollins.com @easternsuns

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