21 episodes

This podcast series celebrates travel as a way of life with stories of cool people doing cool stuff in a cool industry; folks who’ve built lives in travel and those whose lives have been changed by travel.

A Life in Travel Yeoh Siew Hoon

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

This podcast series celebrates travel as a way of life with stories of cool people doing cool stuff in a cool industry; folks who’ve built lives in travel and those whose lives have been changed by travel.

    S2 Ep 11: Best of 2020

    S2 Ep 11: Best of 2020

    This special extended episode captures the best bits of Season 2 throughout 2020. This has it all – podcasting secrets, lost bamboo, crazy ideas that turn into successful businesses, a sea journey with a mysterious captain, climbing mountains in search of redemption, a bit of boogie-woogie and sitting next to Ol’ Blue Eyes on a flight.
    Happy listening. And watch out for Season 3 coming your way soon.
    Who’s the most interesting person you’ve sat next to on a flight?
    As part of this special episode of Season 2, we are inviting you to send in your stories on the most interesting person you’ve sat next to on a flight.
    Just submit an audio recording (no more than 2mins) to us, and the best story to be picked by us will win a two-night stay on Cempedak Private Island, off Bintan in Indonesia.
    You can either send the recorded audio file to us at podcast@alifeintravel.net, or use the voice recorded on our website. The latter option will auto-submit your recordings direct to us.
    Deadline for entries is January 31, 2021.

    • 37 min
    20. Cyril Ranque – Building a better world through travel

    20. Cyril Ranque – Building a better world through travel

    Travel has been a part of Cyril’s life from the time he was born. His mother was a flight attendant, and Cyril thinks that he probably took his “first flight on a baby chair.” After the sidelining of his plans to become a professional tennis player, Cyril went on the more conventional academic route and had goals to work to earn money to travel. Fast forward to years later, the current President for Travel Partners of Expedia Group is firmly planted within the ecosystem of an industry he had loved since he was a child.
    In this episode:
    Staying cool and calm in the face of current challenges affecting the travel industry
    “The hardest thing was to do the right things for our customers and our partners in a time when everybody was going crazy, with all (the) cancellations and restrictions, etc. And as an OTA, we were kind of in the middle. So remaining cool and calm, and trying to see through the clouds, what would be the impact of the decisions we took, was a challenge. So, done as best as I could, considering the unknown territory, I would say [laughs]…But one thing is that I've reflected on over the years is in our industry, I say never make enemies, so never go too far in what you can say or do in a way that would cut bridges forever. Because when we look at travel, it's an incredibly large industry on the outside, but it feels incredibly small and connected on the inside. So I try to stay cool and calm on the outside with everybody I meet in the industry.”
    Professional tennis
    Decision to stop
    “It was around 16. I was good, I was actually playing with some people who made it very, very high in the ATP rankings, (they went) to the final of Wimbledon, etc. But they were much better than me. You can feel where you reach your peak and they are just starting, and this is where I was [laughs], I was at my peak and they were just getting started. Then the gap was much bigger after that.”
    Lessons learnt
    “With a sport like tennis, there's no excuse. If you don't have the discipline you don't perform, (don’t) train and make sacrifices etc. you don't perform, and when you lose it's all on you. So you can't find excuses. I think it's a good way to look at yourself in the mirror and reflecting on what you did right and wrong, which is then helpful in life. You can’t put the fault on your teammates or somebody else in a company that hasn't done what they had to do. I think it trains you to have an objective look at yourself and self-awareness.” 
    With all the hours you have flown, do you still feel that flying is magical?
    “I do. I have to say I find it more magical when you go overwater, when you cross an ocean and you change continent, I find that quite magical than (being) on the short fights. Short flights are a little less magical. I guess when you leave Singapore, it’s very often you’re over the water…and has a special place in my heart, for the (Boeing) 747 which I know you too.”
    Democratisation of air travel with the Boeing 747
    “I was a little touch when BA announced that they were retiring them, just because it democratised travel. It's a plane that opened the world to the middle class. So I think it actually had a huge impact not only on travel, but on the world. For me, it's always been a particular plane that I really liked. I had incredible moments in this plane, and I'll share one with you which, for me will also remain like the engine on fire. One of those days, I was going from Paris to LA and I was waiting in line at the counter, as I said, not knowing if I was going to get my ticket. At thay time, for the staff, they had a process which put the highest priority people in line first in Economy, so they filled the empty seats in Economy. Then as you as you went down the priority list, they were filling Business Class and then they were filling First Class. Since I was a son of a flight attendant, I was super low in the priority list. So I was always at the very bottom of the list

    • 35 min
    19. Danny Loong – For the love of music & singing the blues

    19. Danny Loong – For the love of music & singing the blues

    Danny has managed to combine his love for music and made it into a business which gives local musicians a platform to perform. His love for music has also brought him and his band, The Souls of Singapore, to different parts of the world. In this episode, Danny shares on his love for the blues, and the adventures that music has taken him on.
    In this episode:
    Being in the band, The Souls of Singapore
    “I'm one of the members of the band. It is a very big band, sometimes we are eight, nine, even 10-piece, and we celebrate soul music. It all started with tributes, all the favourite soul and Motown songs; songs by Al Green, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, all the real good stuff from that era. Daniel, who's our band leader got all us together. After a while Daniel just told us, ‘I think maybe it's time for us to do some original music,’ which got me excited. I think at the end of the day that's what you want to do. Do some original songs, songs you can call your own. That's how it all started, really.”
    How did you fall in love with music?
    “I've always been in music – classical music. I mean my parents, as (with) a lot of Singaporean parents [laughs], put us into playing classical music and it's a good thing. It's a good basic thing to learn. But I was watching the World Cup, I don't even remember what year, and they used to have a music interlude, it’s about 15 minutes. I saw these two African American guys playing the piano, it was Boogie Woogie style. I was just so drawn to it. These two guys jamming together, and they were not reading notes, as I'm used to reading notes. But these two guys were just enjoying the music and I felt there's so much freedom when they were performing, and it just got me so interested. I actually went to the vinyl store. I collect vinyls from then till now. I didn't even know what the music was called. I just basically told a guy I’d like to buy some African American music and they pointed the gospel blues and all those Boogie Woogie style, and then from there on I kind of taught myself how to play Boogie Woogie. Then, years after that I started to really like the guitar, picked up the guitar from my teacher at the time, Bee's, he taught me for about three to six months. But he also got me to listen to the song by Eric Clapton, it’s called Have you ever loved a woman? It was actually the song that he did with Derek and the Dominoes, and that song stuck with me. That was one that got me really deep into the blues.”
    Connection with blues music
    “Initially when I first heard it, I didn't really fully understand the history of it, only years after (did I understand). But initially when I first heard it, I couldn't explain it but the powerful vocals, the deep expressions that they had in the music, just felt there's something really deep in the music that I felt. Years after, when I studied in Australia, I had a few experience(s) of, and this is 1996, so it was four years after meeting BB King, I was in Perth studying in Murdoch. That was the years of the politician by the name of Pauline Hanson. When she spoke in parliament, there were incidences of racial abuse and few incidents against Asian students at a time. When I experienced that, it really got me even deeper into the music. But what's fascinating about it is that the African American people – very sad history in way. But when they get on stage to play, they put on their suit, and they stand up straight and they sing with that voice. They claim that space. For them to be able to stand up and sing that song and inspire other people, especially young men from Britain, I mean, people from Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to Eric Clapton to the Beatles even, they were all listening to blues and rock and roll and they were inspired by them. There’s something about that music.”
    Most memorable gig
    “The most memorable gig we did was the one we did in one of the homes of the blues, Memphis. I'm wearing my Sun Studios T-shirt

    • 37 min
    18. Rod Cuthbert – The founding of a travel startup & finding happiness

    18. Rod Cuthbert – The founding of a travel startup & finding happiness

    Two setbacks make the founding of a company for Rod. The founder of Viator, who subsequently sold the business to TripAdvisor, began the journey of creating Viator when he was fired from his job as the Vice President of Marketing. Rod then went on to create an online system for a client, but the project fell through. Thus, he set out on his own and based on that idea, Viator was born. In this episode, Rod shares the story of his journey, and his thoughts on travel.
    In this episode:
    Beginnings of wanderlust
    “Reading was the really big thing… I think that was really a thing that set me apart from the rest of my family was that I was just a voracious reader of anything that I can get my hands on. I can tell you those books weren't set in Tasmania; they were set in the rest of the world. I've thought about that question a lot about whether books – I know they inspire a lot of people to travel – (but) that wasn't the case for me. I was inspired by a book about travel much later on in my life. That was the book that the English philosopher Alain de Botton wrote called The Art of Travel, which just talks about the way we think about travel and the way we experience it and all the things that can do for us. That had a profound impact on me, and I think some of that fed back into the way we approach the market at Viator. So that had a big impact, but not until then.”
    How did you start the business that became Viator?
    “Well, it was luck and circumstance. I had been working in Sydney for a company…it wasn't doing well because the internet had come along, so private networks like AOL and compuserve and this particular business didn't have much of an outlook. They fired me. I was the VP of Marketing and they thought that I wasn't doing a very good job…some people are good employees and other people are not such good employees. I think I fit into that latter category. So I got fired, I think it was a Tuesday and on the Wednesday, I went to see a guy who I'd been having some discussions with, who wanted to build some online content…And it was through that connection that we were introduced to Sabre, and Sabre told us about a project that they wanted to build, which was essentially Viator for travel agents. They wanted to allow their travel agents to sell tours and activities, and they wondered if we can build a web-based system that would do that. They gave us a couple of a hundred grand to build that system, and we did. Here's the luck and circumstance part. Sabre had a big cutback they fired like 2000 staff, and the entire team that had been working on our project, in fact, had commissioned the project, were let go. So, there was no owner at Sabre of our project. Eventually, I found somebody there who said, ‘Look, we have no interest in this project anymore, you should just take it and do it yourselves.’ So, we had built a system to sell tours and activities for a client. The client said, ‘We don't need it,’ and we decided, ‘Okay, we'll just do it ourselves.’”
    How did you get venture capital funding?
    I think there's a really quite humorous life or death moment that occurred in 2005. Barrie Seidenberg had come on board to help us take the company up to a new level. She and I were engaged in San Francisco in pitching the company to venture capital investors, and we'd had about 12 or 15 meetings. Whilst we've had lots of initial interest, there wasn't really an appetite for this particular sector of online travel at that time in the mid 2000s. We were running out of cash. We really needed an injection of funds, our investors from Australia had pretty much maxed out what they could put into the business. So, we really needed to convince one of these VCs and we were down to one last company that would see us, there’s a company called Carlyle Ventures. Carlyle is famous for investing in the armaments industry and oil companies, companies like Halliburton etc, but didn't have a presence at all in travel o

    • 35 min
    17. Tan Twan Eng – A writer’s inspirations & the makings of a novel

    17. Tan Twan Eng – A writer’s inspirations & the makings of a novel

    The author of The Gift of Rain (2007) and The Garden of Evening Mists (2012), which were respectively longlisted and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, was in Cape Town during the recording of this episode due to worldwide lockdowns due to COVID-19. The hard pause to life as we know it has given him the space and time to focus on the writing of his third novel. While he enjoys his time in Cape Town, the Penang-born writer cannot wait to head back to the island he calls home.
    In this episode:
    Any hints on the novel you are working on right now?
    “No [laughs], it keeps changing you know the basic premise, so I don't want to be pinned down. (Because) what I say now and later my decide that the premise isn't working well and then I have to change it slightly, and then it becomes totally different from what I say now. All I'll say is that it’s set in Penang. But there are no Japanese there, there’s no second World War there [laughs]. I thought I’d want to do a so-called Malaysian trilogy. So, get Malaysia out of my system. It's my home, you know, and there's so many interesting stories. Especially Penang, you know that, every street there, every family has some sort of colourful, interesting history. And more of these stories should be made known to the rest of the world, to the rest of Malaysia as well.”
    Which is more difficult to do – to write a novel or to get it published?
    “To have it published, because what you just said about the first book being very hard to write, it's actually not true because the first book is always the easiest to write. I feel that (is true) for any writer, because you have accumulated 15/20 years of material and experience to put down on paper. With your first book you tend to overdo things, you put everything onto the page, and it shows. That's why a lot of first novels are overwritten. The hardest thing to write is actually the second novel. Because when you come to the second novel you are already empty. The analogy I've used before is the well is empty now and you have to wait for the water to fill up again before you can draw from the well. I think it gets harder and harder with each subsequent book as well. The first book very often comes from your heart and the subsequent books come from your mind. So, the first book was a joy to write I feel. But getting published was incredibly hard. I got an agent quite easily. She had about 35 years’ experience in the industry and she's quite respected. I think she thought it would be quite easy to find a publisher for The Gift of Rain. To her surprise, she sent the book out to I think almost every publisher in London, and all of them turned me down. All of them. We asked for the reason why. So, a number of the editors liked the book, in fact they enjoyed it. But when they took it to their meetings to discuss the book (and) whether to buy, the marketing department said no, “This book is weird,” “It's very, very difficult to categorise,” “It is too difficult to market and promote and sell for the British market.” So, a lot of times it was the marketing department that said, “No, we're not buying this book.” That shows you how the industry works, that the bottom line always comes first.”
    Being a patron of the Young Walter Scott Prize
    “It all happened years ago when The Garden of Evening Mists won the Walter Scott Prize. This was in 2013, I was the fifth winner and I had an email from them and they said, “Would you like to come to the Borders Book Festival?”… So I said yes and I went there and at the time The Garden of Evening Mists was just shortlisted for the prize. The other shortlistees were Hilary Mantel and Pat Barker. So, I really wasn't expecting to win. I thought, okay, let's go there anyway because they were kind enough to invite me and the place looks very beautiful. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. From that connection there, a few years later, the patrons of the p

    • 34 min
    16. Sophie Cairns – Conquering the seven volcanoes

    16. Sophie Cairns – Conquering the seven volcanoes

    While growing up in Hong Kong, journalist Sophie Cairns has always dreamt of becoming a China watcher. Her work at South China Morning Post and then at Reuters have brought her to Shanghai for the Beijing Olympics, and then to Paris. The life-changing moment of her father’s passing set her off to climb seven volcanoes to raise funds for cancer research, and she’s also written a book of her personal journey, Climbing the Seven Volcanoes: A search for strength.
    In this episode:
    What got you into journalism?
    “My mother wanted me to marry a prince and she was actually very serious about that [laughs], because then I would never have to fear for my health or anything. My father just said one thing, ‘Don't become a lawyer’, because he was one, ‘We already have too many bad lawyers in the world [laughs]’. I (have) wanted to become a journalist my whole life because I read these books by so-called China watchers in the 80s. Those were the stories behind, at the time it was the Cold War still, and these stories from China, it was just over the border from Hong Kong, but I knew nothing about it. And I wanted to go and witness history and I thought, what better way to travel and chronicle these events, or history in the making, than being a journalist, because you're paid to travel as well. So that was my big dream. And I wanted to be only in China as a journalist basically, or Hong Kong, because in my head that was where all the events were happening, or everything was about to happen.”
    Life-changing moment
    “After the (Beijing) Olympics, the very last day pretty much, my father took very ill; he fainted at home. My mother called up, and I (had) just woken up from festivities the previous evening to celebrate the end of the Olympics, and she said, ‘Dad is not well, we're in the hospital.’ They were living in France at the time, they retired to France in a countryside village, and she said, ‘Can you please come back?’ because her French wasn't very good. I'm the only child anyway, so I flew straight back to France to be with them. After a month, my father passed away, very sadly. We didn't think he was going to actually pass away; we didn't think it was anything that bad until the very, very end. So, I had to look after my mom, because [laughs] an Asian kid knows you can't just run off and abandon your family when they need you, you have to be there. I transferred basically, to the Paris bureau of Reuters.”
    Climbing seven volcanoes
    “In the weeks after he passed, we were in shock, my mother and I, because it was just so sudden. We went from being told, ‘Oh, he doesn't have cancer, it's just some auto-immune thing’ to, suddenly he was gone. And I got back from Shanghai two hours too late… So, everything changed. My career, I was actually unemployed for four months, between jobs while my jobs changed from Shanghai to Paris. I was then financially the head of household suddenly, I had to take care of the bills and stuff too. It was just too much, and I felt myself getting depressed, I guess. I never get depressed, but I felt myself slipping into grief, and I felt like I had to do something just to turn things around. You know when you're feeling numb, you pinch yourself to wake up and take stock and rally. I thought, ‘To hell with this, I'm just going to do something to get out of this.’ My mother needs me to be functional, I have to work, you know… Just on a whim, I thought I'm gonna just go. I'm gonna book a flight with some friends and climb that mountain (Kilimanjaro). It didn't cost too much anyway, I got cheap, everything. So, just went, and I trained, and I thought I had to just give myself a shock to wake up. That seemed to do it. After five years of climbing one mountain a year for cancer research fundraising, I tried to break a world record by climbing these seven volcanoes in my dad's memory, and to raise more money and get more awareness of esophageal cancer. That's your food pipe,

    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

puneet0911 ,

Inspiring and engaging

As always Siew Hoon has come up with another platform that just boosts my love for travel.

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