We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Marc Llewellyn (@emvielle) takes us from his native Australia to the picture-perfect locations that he can’t stop exploring.
Australia is my home turf. I grew up in a small suburb on the Gold Coast called Burleigh Heads. It’s a coastal headland community nestled against a small national park that juts into the Pacific Ocean. I’m biased, but I think it’s one of the best places in the world to have grown up in.
Burleigh Heads is a green sanctuary in the middle of a growing metropolitan area; the crystal-clear waters of Tallebudgera Creek separate it from Palm Beach to the south. However, if you take a 30-minute drive north, west or south, you’ll find yourself in Springbrook National Park, a world-renowned area filled with waterfalls, rock pools, secluded beaches flanking beautiful headlands, and heritage towns built on the early forestry and cane farming industry — each with a charismatic pub decorated in early memorabilia.
I’ll be honest: India was never on my travel bucket list. However, since I’m dedicating 2018 to stepping outside of my comfort zone (and since I’ve heard many like-minded friends singing India’s praises), I decided to give it a go… by motorcycle.
The six-week route I initially planned would have led me along the Rajasthan Circuit, into Agra and Rishikesh, and then on to Delhi. Right out of the gate, I realized that India is a country of extremes. The roads are dramatic and often dangerous, the crowds can be overwhelming at times, the disparity between the rich and poor is eye-opening, and the juxtaposed scenes of squalor and beauty are challenging to experience.
That said, there is magic to be seen here every single day, just by wandering the streets. From spontaneous eruptions of music and chanting to religious parades, kind gestures, and colorful architecture, everyday life in India really does take your breath away.
When I look back on India, I see it as a challenging country filled with experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else. I’m glad I spent time getting to know it, and I encourage everyone to give it a go at least once in their lives.
My visit to Sri Lanka came about as a spontaneous need to escape from the hustle of Rajasthan in Northern India. Within 24 hours, I had decided to alter my trip, booked my flights, and arrived in Colombo.
Even after being there for only 12 hours, I knew that Sri Lanka was going to be exactly what I needed — a more relaxed, yet still culturally rich, version of India. In fact, I discovered that it was far more diverse than I had anticipated.
My journey commenced on the popular train ride through the central mountains, which are blanketed in stunning tea fields, to a small town called Ella. Crammed with locals, snack vendors, and enthusiastic travelers, the train was an attraction itself. With little room to move around, I sat on the floor and dangled my legs out of the open carriage doors — it became one of the most desirable seat to take in the views.
Having spent my entire life near the ocean and having been deprived of its presence for the previous four weeks, I chose to base myself in the coastal towns of southern Sri Lanka, which offered a change of pace and an injection of vague familiarity. The small towns of Mirissa, Weligama, Midigama, and Ahangama are home to beautiful beaches divided by outcrops of reefs, disjointed islands, clusters of fishing boats, and tropical headlands — all of which made for amazing photo opportunities from both a ground and aerial perspective.
My decision to explore Vietnam was spontaneous too — a reaction to a discount airfare email that landed in my inbox just before my annual “leave” window opened up.
Kicking off my travels in the Old Quarter of Hanoi was an amazing cultural experience. It’s an unbelievably crowded area, but it’s filled with smiling faces, narrow alleyways, delicious street food, age-old traditions, and remnants of a country once dominated by war.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of my time in Vietnam was venturing up toward the Chinese border, near Sapa. There, I trekked to a homestay with a Black H’Mong family. The particular village was called Lao Chai, and was perched high above the terraced rice fields where each mountainside is neatly chiseled away, providing land for the country’s huge demand for rice.
As the family still wore the traditional clothing of their village and used primitive tools for cooking, building, and farming, the Lao Chai area was a beautiful reminder that we don’t need modern inventions and luxuries to live a healthy and happy life.
I am currently based in the Mentawai Islands, a chain located 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Sumatra, Indonesia, on the edge of the Ring of Fire. This is my fourth time here, and I’m continually taken back by the incredible waves, unspoiled islands, and beautiful culture of the local island people.
I’m currently working as a surf-guide and photographer with a land-based camp called Pitstop Hill on the island of Pulau Masokut. My days revolve around assessing the surf conditions, taking guests to the most appropriate waves, navigating for boat drivers, snorkeling, fishing, and coordinating local village visits to build awareness of the communities in the area.
Visiting the local villages is a beautiful and humbling insight into the people and traditions that are so far removed from what we’re used to in the developed Western world. I remember walking back to our boat in a village called Malilimok while an elderly man was sitting in his doorway soaking up the afternoon sun, watching as a group of Bule (the Indonesian term for “Westerners”) roamed around his village. He had a friendly and welcoming appearance, and he was more than happy to have his photograph taken. To me, the contentment and peaceful nature exuding from this man struck me as though he’d lived a full, happy and healthy life by living closely with nature and reaffirmed that we do not need a lot in order to be happy.