Calvin Sun does his signature pose in front of the Taj Mahal.
How many times have you delayed your next trip? Among young people, the excuses are varied but they usually center around three explanations: “Oh, I’ll do it next year,” “I don’t have the money right now,” and everyone’s favorite, “Maybe when I get a job.”
But imagine visiting over 45 countries, all while being a full-time medical student and student activist at the age of 26? For Calvin Sun, it’s a reality.
Manhattan-ite Sun admitted that growing up he didn’t have much desire to travel. While many of his fellow classmates at Columbia University spent their time studying or interning abroad, Sun preferred to stay on campus, enjoying the perks of New York City.
However it was an impromptu trip to Egypt in 2010 and a situation that Calvin jokingly refers to as an “abandonment” that sparked his interest in travel.
“I’m there in Cairo with a friend, then all of a sudden one day into the trip he had to leave. I still had about three weeks left and I had no idea what to do,” he said.
For the next few hours, Sun pondered every possible scenario. “Would it be dangerous? Should I cut my losses and just leave? How will I survive?” he said. Eventually, he asked himself, ‘Why not?’ and decided to stay. Sun bought an overnight train ticket from Cairo to Alexandria, stocked up on local guidebooks and began living the experiences that would eventually lead to his website, The Moonson Diaries.
“The first week I was panicking every minute, then by the second week I was like, ‘This was pretty fun.’ Third week, I couldn’t believe how fun this was,” he said.
Since that trip, Sun has traveled all over the world, from Bangkok and Mumbai to Barcelona and Geneva — all on a tight budget. Sun and a group of fellow travelers (anyone can inquire how to travel with him via his website) recently returned from North Korea and Iran. For his next trip, he is planning to visit Auschwitz and Chernobyl in less than a month.
Through all the jet setting and sightseeing, there have been real-life lessons learned along the way. “You learn how to find yourself,” Sun explained. “There [are] a lot of things we think we need living in America but when you get out there … you learn how to really live.”
The ideology that drives Sun is not “Go hard or go home,” but — as he likes to put it on his blog — “Go hard THEN go home.” Along the way, he said one of the most important lessons he’s learned is to not let language deter you.
“Every guidebook has the basics,” he said, ” … but most importantly, just communicate and talk to people.”
Sun implores fellow young people to travel. His website details all of his trips and experiences along the way — including meeting Gerard Butler twice. (Butler is now a fan of the blog.)
“We gotta keep riding — you have no other choice but to make the most of it,” he said. “I mean you can get off the horse, but you have to ask yourself, is that really the story you want?”
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