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Meet a traveller: Chris Kean, world traveller, photographer and Thorn Tree member

By Jane Atkin   20 June 2014 10:56am Europe/London

Chris has lived in all sorts of places, ranging from Finland to Tajikistan. He’s currently in the US. Wherever he is based, he travels a lot. He’s an amazing photographer and has been a presence in our online community for more than 10 years.

At the awesome Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland. Image courtesy of Christopher Keane.

At the awesome Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland. Image courtesy of Christopher Keane.

Where was your last trip?

A few days ago I got back from a couple of weeks in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion. I bought the ticket with less than a week to plan a trip, because I’d found a low fare on a good route. Each island was quite different from the others in terms of culture and topography, so I was pretty pleased.

Where is your next trip?

Who knows? If someone had told me a month ago I’d be going to Mauritius shortly I wouldn’t have bet on it. Algeria? Alaska? Your guess is as good as mine.

What is your first travel-related memory?

As a small child I had a globe with a lightbulb inside that showed geographic features. I remember being especially attracted to the great welter of mountains in China, Central and South Asia, but that globe gave me a pretty long list of places to get to eventually. As for actual travel, I remember the powerful impact of seeing giraffes’ necks breaking the horizon, on my very first trip to Africa (Kenya, with my dad). After a long, dull drive, that one sight really impressed on me that we were far from home and that good things were about to happen.

Near Rangkul in the Pamir Mountains. Chris was based in Tajikistan for three years, at the western edge of the mountain region that had piqued his interest as a kid. Image courtesy of Christopher Kean.

Near Rangkul in the Pamir Mountains. Chris was based in Tajikistan for three years, at the western edge of the mountain region that had piqued his interest as a kid. Image courtesy of Christopher Kean.

Aisle or window seat?

Always an aisle if I can get it, so I can get up without annoying anyone. But more importantly, I never check luggage if I can help it.

Do you have any travel habits or rituals?

I try to get a local SIM card as soon as I arrive in a new country. And I tend to get up early to take advantage of the best light, coolest temperatures and thinnest crowds, or to get a start toward the next destination.

Favourite city or country or region?

It’s not really possible for me to speak of favourites, as there’s so much variety in the world. But I’ll bite. My favourite large city (aside from my hometown of New York) would have to be Istanbul. Its physical setting can’t be beaten, and it has enough culture to make a hundred cities proud.

What is your best or worst travel souvenir?

One of my favorites is from Niger  a little egg-shaped, decorated container made of camel hoof, and filled with some Sahara variation on potpourri. The worst would have to be the bedbugs I brought back from that same trip.

What is the best or worst piece of travel advice you’ve received?

The bad advice often consists of being told something can’t be done, by someone who hasn’t tried.

What’s your biggest travel fail?

It took me too long to learn I can’t be trusted to navigate a rental car through the narrow streets of an old city. I banged up three or more cars over the years (and multiple parked bicycles) before finally accepting this truth.

Quick, an asteroid is going to hit the earth in one week! Which is the one travel dream you’d rush to fulfil?

Besides getting transport off this doomed planet for me and mine? A week is too brief to see much of Iran, which has been at the top of my list for many years, but I’d at least get to one or two places.

What advice would you give a first time traveller?

First of all, don’t let anyone tell you there is only one ‘right’ way to travel. But this is my way. Start with what your own interests are, then do some research — the more you know, the more you’ll get out of even the unexpected moments. If you feel up to it, try to get out of your comfort zone at least once or twice.

Be inspired by Chris’ travels in pictures. Chris can be found on Thorn Tree, where he goes by the username of Chriskean1.