Andrew Robinson has found himself off the beaten trail more than most travellers.
From Afthanistan's high country to giving comfort to Syrian refugees, he has seen his fair share of the heartache suffered by the world's poor, but has also seen hope, kindness and beauty in some of the world's most remote places.
How often do you get away?
I’ve spent the past three years overseas. I was in Afghanistan for over two years, working on a variety of humanitarian projects. Most recently, as part of my work with Tear Fund, a New Zealand Christian action organisation which partners with Med-Air in Lebanon and Jordan, I was helping Syrian refugees.
Where was your first trip?
When I was 10, my family went to Thailand. I have fond memories of feeding peanuts to baby elephants.
Why do you travel – business or pleasure?
Work has given me the opportunity to travel to interesting places off the beaten path, but I’ve also enjoyed fun tourist destinations.
What is your favourite overseas destination?
The beaches of southern Sri Lanka. I didn’t know what relaxation was until I visited Sri Lanka.
And here in New Zealand?
I’ve done a lot of tramping in New Zealand. Sunset on Lake Manapouri with a good group of mates and a roaring fire would be hard to beat.
Best trip ever?
Horse-trekking in the mountains of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province – the most stunning, unspoilt scenery I’ve ever seen and a real privilege to be in such a difficult-to-reach part of the world. Horse-trekking was the only way to reach some of the remote villages we were helping with clean-water projects and nutritional care for malnourished children.
A case of severe food-poisoning on the second day of a four-day hike in the Kaimanawa Ranges. I threw up in my buddy’s small two-man tent.
If you could be anywhere but here, where would that be?
Back in Lebanon, continuing my work with Syrian refugees.
What is the wildest sight you’ve witnessed while travelling?
Watching Afghan horsemen competing in a buzkashi tournament. It’s like rugby meets bullrush on horseback and, with over 200 riders involved, fearlessly charging about on their horses, it’s frighteningly wild.
The most heartbreaking?
Meeting a young mother and her two small children who had just arrived in Lebanon as refugees from Syria. The father had been killed as he tried to cross the border with his family. The children were too young to understand what had happened, and their grieving, exhausted mother was doing her very best to find something for them to eat and a place for them to live in this new country.
Who or what is your favourite travelling companion?
I have a rather battered acoustic guitar that comes everywhere with me. It’s great for sing-alongs or serenading, or for winding down by myself at the end of the day.
Where to next?
I’ve never been to Cape Reinga so, while I’m home, it’s a trip I’d really like to make.
Anything you’d like to add?
I think travelling is incredibly rewarding and can be an eye-opening experience. I’ve seen and learnt so much during my travels, but sometimes this knowledge can be painful. Living in New Zealand, it’s hard to imagine what Syrian refugees are going through. Displaced from their families, with no assurance of the next meal, it is a completely different life from what we are used to here.
I believe, though, that Kiwis are a kind and resourceful lot and we can do a bit to help these forgotten victims of the Syrian crisis.
To find out more about what you can do to help, visit the Tear fund
- The Dominion Post