On April 4th, right in the midst of the pandemic and when the whole world was under Lockdown, we decided we can make quarantine pass more easily if we spent this time talking with some of our favorite travelers. So, we started doing live talks on our Instagram. One of these live talks was with Eva zu Beck, the adventurer who quit her cushy well-paid job in London to travel the world and tell stories. In her travels, she chooses special places that you won’t see represented properly in mainstream media. And, no doubt, Iran is such a place.
When you started doing this lifestyle did you ever get homesick? At what point did it start to feel comfortable and like home?
Eva zu Beck: Yeah…so the funny thing is that it is literally all year. I don’t have a flat. I don’t have an apartment or a house. It’s literally full-time travel. And I think a lot of people have this idea or dream that “oh! I’d love to spend a year or two years travelling the world and seeing the world.” Kind of like taking a break from it all. And that was my dream too. I was working in travel media a couple of years ago in London and I wasn’t very happy with my life because I didn’t like the city life. Because of working with travel media, I could see people doing amazing things like damn! I wish I could do that stuff too and then eventually I kind of got fed up with my life as it was. The fact that I wasn’t happy with it and decided to just pursue that dream and try it out for myself. And I was in a very lucky position that I had a bit of knowledge about travel media in general so I knew that I definitely wanted to make travel films. And so one day, I just decided to quit my job, leave my apartment and I eventually called my family to say I’m leaving in 2 weeks and I booked my tickets to Nepal and that was it! That was the beginning of my current life I guess.
How do you maintain a relationship with your family or make time for them while travelling like this?
Eva zu Beck: I think any traveler will confirm that it’s very hard to keep in touch with family and friends from back home. It becomes difficult to find relatable subjects of conversation both for you and for them. Because you can spend a whole day telling someone about your travel stories but at some point, it gets tiring for the other person. Like you don’t wanna hear about ALL the incredible things that the other person has been getting up to and for me, likewise. It’s that you kind of lose touch with the reality a little bit. So it’s a very complex situation to be in. If you’re planning to build a lasting relationship, then the travel life may not be the life for you.
How can travelling bring things into perspective? You must’ve felt some changes in yourself after you started travelling like this. How has it changed you?
Eva zu Beck: well, I think many people have this idea (and I definitely used to have this idea) that travel changes you. And I don’t think that’s the case. This is an unpopular opinion. I think there is a billion different ways to travel. Everybody travels differently. It’s so individual. And you could just go off and travel for God knows how longe or to some incredible places but you could be sheltering yourself in some comfortable hotel rooms and only go on tours with other foreigners and not really experience the local life. So in that kind of travel, while you will still experience some beautiful places and cultures, I don’t see how that might change you internally. I think if you’re looking for change and for a kind of travel to open up your perspective and horizons, then you need to be simultaneously doing some sort of inner work. I don’t know the terms for all these kind of things but it’s kind of like making sure that you dive into experiences that make you uncomfortable and that you meet locals and ask them questions and kind of stay with them. So a deeper way to travel I guess is opening yourself up a little bit to those foreign experiences. So yeah. I don’t think that travel changes you by default; I think you also have to do some work in order for that to happen.
You mentioned that in order to change, you have to venture into what makes you uncomfortable. What has been your scariest experience along the way? What is the thing that you’re afraid of when you travel?
Eva zu Beck: This is also a question that I hear often. Well I can’t think of anything honestly because there hasn’t been anything like that. I don’t know if I have been lucky or careful but the reaction I often get from my family members, especially from my grandmother’s, is:
“how can you travel alone? it’s so scary! You’re putting yourself in dangerous situations!”. and I think people, especially the older generation, have this idea that the world is a big scary place. Well yeah but it can be anywhere; right? it can be in the U.S. , in France, in Iran, in China. Absolutely anywhere you can encounter terrible situations and bad people but there is nothing that comes to mind. I am always very careful when it comes to traveling alone, when I get in an Uber at night or in a different country. I follow some sort of protocols to make sure that my experience is safe. The time that I felt genuinely scared was every time I were at camp. I’m a little bit scared because you are alone in a tent, usually in a pretty remote place. It’s a scary feeling; so pretty much every single time I get in a tent in a place that’s empty and quiet and isolated, I get a little scared.
When you’re traveling, you have to sort of digest hard moments. what’s your most effective coping skill in those moments?
Eva zu Beck: Well if you mean dealing with discomfort then I think that is less about travel and more about how you deal with stress & how you react to the surprising & unexpected things that happen in your life. I can’t give any sort of advice but my personal coping mechanism is to sort of pause, kind of think about it in a wider frame. Big picture. Try to take out emotions from my reactions, to think rationally about what is happening, about why it’s making me scared or uncomfortable & how I can deal with it. So just like pausing & thinking. As simple as that; which for me is actually difficult because I’m an extremely emotional & impulsive person. So I always have to remind myself to stop, pause, breathe, think, analyse. And actually a couple of weeks ago, I was attending a survival course in the woods in Poland & there, the instructor was teaching some survival techniques. So there were many different techniques. One of them, the main one actually, was that if you’re in a situation that is scary or dangerous, stop, think, analyse & only then act. So I guess it’s not something I have made up. Turns out it already exists.
What makes Iran different from the other places that you have visited? Because you have visited Iran twice. Right? So I want to know what made you travel to Iran for the second time?
Eva zu Beck: Well, when I first came to Iran, obviously I had a little bit of background about what it would be like; what I would find there but I think it’s been the only country so far where I genuinely enjoyed being in the cities and exploring them. Normally I’m not a big fan of cities but in Iran, there is so much culture, amazing heritage, local authentic markets, beautiful arts and crafts, amazing food,… . There is just so much in every single city that is almost like a little eco-system and I found that really incredible. I think maybe what is a huge selling point for Iran is the hospitality and that’s something that anybody who has been to Iran knows. People are just so welcoming and helpful and kind! They just go out of their way to guide you and help you out which is something that you can’t take for granted because it doesn’t happen as often in for example Europe unfortunately. I think we are losing that kind of hospitality and I think another thing about Iran that I find really impressive and amazing and I think for anyone considering to travel there is useful is the fact that all you hear about Iran is all the bad stuff in mainstream media and you go there and you see all the incredible architecture and culture and history and nature. So I think for a lot of people it’s a surprise element. They go to Iran for the first time in their life and they are like: “wow I didn’t know Iran looked like this!“
As you have been to many Iranian cities, do you have any favorite Iranian food?
Eva zu Beck: Oh my Gosh! you know at the time, I wasn’t vegetarian yet and I don’t remember the name of this particular dish but one day we went skiing and then after a whole day of skiing, we were driving back to Tehran and we stopped in this tiny little sort of roadside restaurant where they brought food, like meat, potatoes & stuff and they brought these kinds of tubs and these kinds of smashers and we were supposed to pour the food in the tubs and smash it and then eat it. It was amazing. What was the name of that dish?
It’s called Deezee or Abgoosht. The name literally means meat juice so it’s like meat, potatoes & other ingredients cooked in a stew and you’re supposed to smash it.
Eva zu Beck: Yeah it was perfect. It was like you have your food but you also get to play with your food which is kind of fun.
What places and people would you have gone to and met in your Iran trip plan?
Eva zu Beck: So one part of my Iran tour I definitely hope to recreate as soon as it’s possible and safe to do so again is of course following the nomads in the Zagros mountains. I’d like to climb a couple of mountains in Iran and I’d love to go to the Turkmen border and hang out with some traditional Turkmen horsemen I guess. And there’s a beautiful sort of horsemanship tradition in Turkmen Sahra and there are these gorgeous horses, known as the most beautiful horses in the world. They are these slim, athletic, caramel-colored, golden creatures. So I was thinking to go there for a while and try that out as well as go to Kurdistan.
Those are the things that would hopefully happen as soon as it’s possible again.