The World Nomads Podcast: Bangladesh

In this episode we explore Bangladesh, hear about the unparalleled friendliness and curiosity of its people, why its food sets it apart and creating the perfect lunchbox.

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The World Nomads Podcast: Bangladesh

It’s the unparalleled friendliness and hospitality of the Bangladeshi people that really sticks out in this episode. A country known for its cuisine from home kitchens to street food, we discuss emigrating from Bangladesh as a child and the challenges of creating the perfect school lunch.

What’s in the Episode

00:32 What is it about Bangladesh

01:56 Uncornered Market

04:55 Are you from Japan?

08:35 Enjoy sunrise and sunset on the river

11:42 Tips for first time visitors

15:64 "A six-foot tall ginger bloke."

20:32 Travel News

24:01 Ash's story of emigrating to Australia

27:35 Home cooking

30:18 Street food in Bangladesh

34:33 Sarah skips America to live in Europe

42:32 Chernobyl

43:33 Next week 

Quotes from the Episode


"So Bangladesh is not your typical tourist or travel destination still, and my top tip is to go with... it sounds cheesy, but an open mind." - Audrey

"The traffic in the cities is really quite something. The density of the traffic at rush hour in Dhaka and in Chittagong was phenomenal." - Stuart

"I feel like I have a connection to both cultures, Kim. There's a part of me that's very distinctly Bangladeshi that I can't change and there's a part of me that's very distinctly Australian that I can't change either." - Ash

"...I truly believe that travel and living abroad is the most effective form of diplomacy." - Sarah

Who is in the Episode

Sarah Mitukel is an American expat and fellow podcaster who has moved to several countries on her own, inspiring her to start her own travel podcast Postcard Academy.

in 2010, she left New York, moved to Italy, and became a citizen within two months thanks to jus sanguinis — the right of blood.

Stuart Forster is a travel writer and photographer whose work has been published by National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust and BBC Good Food. Read the article he wrote for World Nomads, 7 Things That Surprised Me About Bangladesh.

Audrey Scott and her husband Dan Noll have been described as adventurers, professionals, and – most recently – as world travelers and storytellers. Check out their site Uncornered Market.

You can also them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Ash Zaman works for World Nomads at our headquarters in Sydney. He emigrated to Australia from Bangladesh at age 5.

Ash with is mum (right) and one of his aunties (left) at his childhood home in Dhaka, and just after arriving in Australia.

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Bangladesh Beginner's Guide: https://uncorneredmarket.com/bangladesh-travel/

Bangladeshi Food: https://uncorneredmarket.com/bangladeshi-food/

Little known facts about Bangladesh: https://uncorneredmarket.com/what-is-bangladesh/

Questions Bangladeshis ask: https://uncorneredmarket.com/bangladesh-faces-questions-people/

Recommended list of offbeat destinations: https://uncorneredmarket.com/off-beat-travel-destinations/

Check out the backpackers spotted by a local using a camping stove to heat their morning coffee.

Listen to our podcast on Chernobyl.

Read Sarah's article on applying for Italian citizenship through ancestry.

Want to Republish This Episode.

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Next Episode: Miles Rowland.

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel, lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim: Well, thanks for tuning in as we deliver your destination episode after a couple of special eps, one on Chernobyl and another on Vanlife that if you haven't listened to, you should.

So this time, we're looking at travel to Bangladesh.

Phil: Look, we're told it's the unparalleled friendliness and hospitality of the Bangladeshi people that really sticks out, or so we hear in this episode anyway. But it's also a country known for its cuisine, from home kitchens to street food. It's rich in culture, and the countryside is almost entirely flat, and that's because it lies in the world's biggest river delta, of course the delta from the Ganges.

Kim: Well, in this episode we do hear from Ash who we work with here at World Nomads. He emigrated from Bangladesh aged 5, and we find out a few things about Bangladesh that you probably wouldn't have thought of.

But let's kick off with Audrey, and together, she and her husband Dan have been described as adventurous professionals and, most recently, Phil, as world travelers and storytellers. So where did all that begin?

Audrey: I laugh because I'm thinking, "Where to begin?" So Uncornered Market originally started, I guess it's about 12 years ago. We were kind of one of the first bloggers. It originally began on a round-the-world journey that my husband Dan and I were taking and we thought, "Well, we'll document our travels and we'll use Uncornered Market as sort of portfolio of the creative work that we wanted to do in terms of writing and photography and videos and things like that."

What we didn't know back then, because we thought we were just going to travel for about 12 or 18 months, is that Uncornered Market kind of took on a life of its own and it kind of grew as blogging grew and so it turned into a business and kind of a website of exploration.

And our focus and our goal has always been to explore places that perhaps are not very well known and tell a different story or perhaps tell a story that doesn't usually get told, and so that's one of the things that brought us to Bangladesh.

Phil: Anna [Xu 00:02:17] was the scholar.

Audrey: Yes. Yeah. Also Australian, I believe, or New Zealand.

Phil: Yes, that's right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Beautiful photographs. Absolutely. Now look, so one of the things that you've got on your site is A Beginner's Guide to Bangladesh. What are the top tips you give to somebody when they're heading over to Bangladesh?

Audrey: So Bangladesh is not your typical tourist or travel destination still, and my top tip is to go with... it sounds cheesy, bu an open mind. I mean, Bangladesh is very different from many other destinations, and it's right next door to India, so some people think, "Oh, well, it's going to be like traveling in India," but it's a unique place and culture in and of itself. And Bangladesh doesn't get very many travelers, and so as a traveler, especially a Western traveler, you might find yourself the object of attention. And it's because everyone is just so curious. I mean, the questions we got from people everywhere we traveled in Bangladesh were wonderful. Everyone was just really interested to know where we were from, what we thought of their country, and they were so happy that we visited.

You don't necessarily go to Bangladesh to see famous sites or incredible buildings. You really go there for the people and the culture and just the experience of being in a very unique place. The sheer number of humanity and people in Bangladesh can be quite intense, but it's also quite remarkable when you realize they're all there. Dan and I used to joke that when we walked down the street, we couldn't stop because otherwise people would start gathering around. And it wasn't anything ominous, it was just people were really curious and they wanted to connect with us. It really is quite an interesting place.

Kim: That is consistent with a chat that we're going to be having later in the podcast with a guy who says exactly the same thing, that normally he would travel and be respectful and not take photos, but in Bangladesh, they want you to take their photos, they want to have photos taken with you, so they're very, very curious people.

Audrey: Yeah. We kind of joke that we must be on hundreds, if not thousands, of people's cell phones or mobile phones after our trip, because we would kind of walk down the street, all of a sudden we would look, and everyone was taking photos. And it wasn't anything malicious, it was just a curiosity. And one of the things that maybe shows how kind of unique or how curious people are, and just the fact that not many travelers go to Bangladesh... we were there for over five weeks, and I think we saw four foreign travelers in the course of that time.

And at the beginning, people would come up to us and ask if we were from Japan. And Dan and I are white. We're American, European descent. We don't look at all Japanese. And we were kind of confused. We don't look at all Japanese. Why are they asking this? And it turns out the first travelers that started coming to Bangladesh were Japanese, and so after that, they started associating all foreigners with Japan. So it just kind of shows, again, this curiosity and the fact that they don't have very much interaction with other parts of the world and other travelers.

Phil: Japanese a generic term for tourist in Bangladesh?

Audrey: Yeah, exactly. It was also... and I use the word innocence in a very positive way. The questions, I think because we were foreigners, we would get questions about our home country and what we thought about Bangladesh, but also I found that people would ask us things and they almost wanted to ask our opinion about things in their life. I had a young woman asking me about my relationship with my mother-in-law. And at first, I was really confused, and it turns out she was going through these questions of, she was about to get married and she was trying to figure out how she would interact and her relationship with her mother-in-law, who takes a very big role. So it was a really... I was going to say, even in train rides and bus rides, we ended up getting into some really interesting conversations that went beyond just, "What's your name? Where are you from?", but kind of went into the culture and life as well.

Phil: And long may that reign. That sounds to me like the true essence of travel, isn't it? Where it's not about the sites, as you say. You can go there and enjoy the people, and there is an openness which is what, to me, travel's all about.

Audrey: Yes, and in Bangladesh, especially when you get outside the cities and you go into some of the more rural areas or communities, it's a little less overwhelming. And the reason why I say that is, the cities can be quite crowded and full of people. But it's kind of the pace comes down and you really have more time, and people aren't afraid to come up to you and talk to you.

Kim: We're going to be chatting about the food in Bangladesh which is quite yummy and unique, apparently, also in this podcast. So you say it's not about visiting places or things, but if you are in Bangladesh, outside of these wonderful people, what would you recommend doing?

Audrey: So one of our favorite experiences was taking the Rocket Steamer... I think it's called the Rocket Steamer or the Rocket Boat, which is... it's a very long journey, as in I think it was about 24 hours maybe from Dhaka, the capital city, and it goes south towards... Where it actually lands depends on the day, because we didn't end up landing where we thought we were because of the water levels... but it basically takes you south and is kind of a connector to go into the Sundurbans.

And one of the things that was really nice about this boat journey is... if you've ever watched the news, there have been some boats that have sunk or turned over in Bangladesh, but the Rocket Steamer is actually an old British ship that I think dates back to 1800s, and it's never sunk. It's very safe. It's slow. And if you end up buying a first-class ticket... which at this point, I don't know exactly how much it costs, but it's not very much... it ends up being a really nice experience because you're sitting at the front of the boat and you kind of watch... you leave Dhaka, the capital city, and you kind of decompress from the craziness of Dhaka into the river and then you're able to enjoy the sunset and the sunrise on the rivers.

Because Bangladesh is really, it's a country of rivers. Everything is connected by rivers, and you could see the fishermen on their boats and making their dinners on their little tiny boats at night. And also the Sundurbans, which is one of the areas where there are wild tigers. And you generally go on a two- or three-night boat ride again, and for us, it was quite interesting, because the journey that we were on, or the trip that we were on, we were actually with all Bangladeshi travelers. So it ended up being quite an interesting experience, kind of us with other city folk from Dhaka who are going down to the Sundurbans. And you're tracking tigers. To be honest, we never saw a tiger. We saw some footprints. But at the same time, it's a really nice experience because you're able to get on these beaches and go through these mangroves and also just being on the water is incredibly relaxing.

The other experience that we really liked... and I don't know if it's still going on now, but I'm sure that there's other ones... is an overnight or spending a few days with a homestay in a village. It's a way to connect with rural Bangladesh, which is also quite special in terms of the agriculture and the people and the culture and the food. Some of the best food we had on our trip was in this homestay.

And then we also really enjoyed going into the Chittagong Hill Tracts. And that's above the city of Chittagong, there's an area where there's a lot of ethnic minorities. Many of them are from Myanmar. They did not come with the recent wave of refugees that are Rohingya, but some of them have been there for, I don't know, 40, 50, 60 years. And so you're able to visit different villages and also learn about different... many of them are Buddhist cultures. And the markets are different, and the food is a little bit different, and there's actually alcohol there which is legal. It's the only place in Bangladesh where alcohol is legal. There's these beautiful hills and Buddhist temples and that's an also another beautiful area.

Kim: And if anyone's panicking about the fact that you went first-class, at the time that you did it on this boat, it was $25 American for the two of you.

Audrey: Yes, and I'm sure the price has gone up a little bit, and I think each meal was, I think, about two or three dollars on the boat.

Kim: That was a fabulous insight. Thank you so, so much.

Phil: Appreciate that [inaudible 00:10:59].

Audrey: I just have actually one more thing that I realized I wanted to add. And this isn't necessarily a site, but I would also say that when traveling in Bangladesh, try and travel by train as much as possible. The trains are wonderful. They're another opportunity to interact and talk and connect with people. And they also tend to be a little less hair-raising than the buses. The roads tend to be a... they can be a bit intense in times. So my other suggestion is to, as much as possible, travel by train.

Kim: Well, I think Stuart is about to give similar advice, so thanks for that, Audrey. Now, travel to Bangladesh is on the increase, Phil, we know that, but there are still many unknowns for first-time visitors. And Stuart is a World Nomads contributor. He's written an article titled "Seven Things that Surprised Me about Bangladesh." So Stuart, what did you discover?

Stuart: How great it is to travel there by waterway. To jump on the ferry there and to head along the river, it's not just about seeing the landscape... and obviously, when you're on a boat, you got lots of time to take things in and to look about, to move about, but it's also the interactions with the people. While I was on there, got chatting with various people because I'm guessing that they don't get masses of foreign travelers on the ferries. And so to some degree, people were curious as to what I was doing on the ferry and why, and it was just really nice because I had lots of lovely little informal conversations with people inside and on the decks, on the outside when I was looking at the scenery. And it was fantastic because it was just such a lovely, lovely way of slow travel. And what I didn't realize is just how extensive the network of boats is there.

Phil: And there's a fair bit of water there. I mean, when you look at it on the map, it's a massive river delta, the whole country, it really is. So tons of water.

Stuart: Yeah. I mean, that's absolutely right. The waterways play an incredibly important role in everyday life there. And I was told that the network structures were something like 8,000 kilometers, so roughly 5,000 miles, through the country, and that is phenomenal. So in many respects, the fact that the Ganges, you know, the rivers are starting to open up through the delta there, if you don't travel on it, you don't, to some degree, experience the full nature of the countryside in Bangladesh.

I thought Bangladesh was a lovely, lovely place to photograph. Because if you enjoy your street photography and you enjoy people photography, and you travel, you'd be aware that in a lot of places, it can be awkward. People can not want to be photographed. People can turn their backs. In certain countries, it might be slightly difficult to photograph women. But in Bangladesh, I loved the openness of the people. Because the first experience that I had of this was when I was still in Dhaka, and one of the first things I did, I went down to the market, the wholesale fruit and veg market. Course, I had the camera in my hand, and people started to notice that, and they began asking to be photographed. It was like fear of missing out, almost. That's how it seemed to me. People go, "Photograph me mate. Can you photograph me?" And so of course, I ended up getting a whole load of lovely, lovely portrait photographs of people working at the market. That was pretty much true throughout my travels in the country.

But one of the absolutely lovely things is it was a two-way process, because people come up to me with their smartphones and ask to have either photographs taken with me or, occasionally, "Can you hold the child and we'll get a photograph of us all together?" It was absolutely lovely. Obviously, people are a lot more reticent of doing that kind of thing in a lot of Western countries. But I guess when you put a six-foot-four ginger bloke on the streets in Dhaka, then I kind of stood out and people did come up and chat. And it was just a lovely, lovely experience because it shows that the country's not one of those places that's overrun by tourism and how people are welcoming to foreigners, I thought.

Kim: You could have started your story with, "I'm a six-foot-four ginger." So hence the interest.

Stuart: That's when a few people might have switched off this ginger [crosstalk 00:15:54].

Kim: We're going to be chatting food later in the episode, because you also mention how wonderful Bangladeshi food is, but it's always great to give listeners, travelers, some tips. And one of yours is... and in fact, Phil, the last couple of destination podcasts we've done, we've featured road trips, but Stuart, this is not something that you advise in Bangladesh.

Phil: Oh, the roads.

Stuart: The roads are a bit... it's like being on the moon in places. There's big potholes. The traffic in the cities is really quite something. The density of the traffic at rush hour in Dhaka and in Chittagong was phenomenal. I mean, looking out from where I was sitting, I could see battered buses, scrapes. It was interesting in many ways to be stuck in traffic for that long, because as you're jockeying up the street, you see the same people in the bus the whole time. You start staring and waving at each other. But it was interesting to see the rickshaws, how they were kind of weaving in and out and not actually making things any quicker at all [inaudible 00:17:13] to shift lanes, so it was interesting.

The journey from the airport to my hotel, which was downtown, on the first evening, took over three hours. I think that it wasn't even a super long journey. It was something that really could be easily done within thirty to forty minutes on a clearer road. And one of the fellows, brilliantly, he was told, "Oh, it's just a short journey." And he needed the loo before he got onto the bus, but he thought, "I'm going to be at the hotel soon." Well, of course, he was in desperate [crosstalk 00:17:56] we actually got there. So that was interesting.

Phil: Speaking of which, how did you get on with the food in Bangladesh? Because it's got a bad reputation. I mean, I know it's delicious, but did you get sick?

Stuart: No. No. I'll come back to the sickness, but anyway, the food itself was phenomenal. Because what I didn't realize is how prevalent mash is there. I always thought Northeast Indian subcontinent, it's going to be a lot of white rice. And certainly white rice is served, but way more prevalent on the homestays is mash made with mustard oil, so it's got a lot of flavor. Really, really tasty. And dal, various variations on dal. A lot of vegetarian dishes are served. I love the fact that you sit together with people during meals and kind of share, so it's a very social experience, and that was good.

But I did... after, as I was getting home, I came down with something, and I reckon it was from the tea stalls, because I was drinking a lot of tea from the street side stalls. The tummy just went haywire after I got back, and I was in a bit of a state for a couple of weeks to be honest. But the precise cause of that, I don't know. So it's definitely worth making sure you get your bottled water and your Coke or whatever if you've got a bit of a dicky tummy, though.

Kim: Leave us with one other tip that travelers might like to know about Bangladesh.

Stuart: Go there with an open mind. Because I think when I was chatting to people in hotels at the end of the day, foreign travelers were saying, "Didn't really expect the place to be this friendly." There was a little bit of fear that they could be targeted for some bad stuff because they were foreign. Pretty much everybody sat around recounting really positive experiences to what had happened to them when they met people. So I mean, I think, the story type is one of poverty and it's definitely, definitely not a rich country, but it's a place where the people, they're absolutely fantastic.

Kim: Stuart's article is in show notes. Phil, what's travel news?

Phil: All right. It sounded like a German couple have been fined 950 euros and kicked out of Venice for making coffee on the steps of the Rialto Bridge. Come on, what were they thinking? There's a picture. We'll put it in show notes. There they are, set up just on the edge of the canal there, got little mats set out, little cups, and they're brewing up on the edge of Rialto Bridge. Look, many Italian towns are cracking down on backpacker behavior, especially eating and drinking whilst you're on church steps and what-have-you. And of course, Venice is working on its overtourism problem. They say with the stated aim of improving the lives for locals. But what made this couple think they were exempt?

Kim: When coffee calls, Phil. You know that.

Phil: Also, you're in Italy. Do you reckon you can get a coffee somewhere?

But serious one, authorities in Costa Rica have issued an alert to travelers after 20 people died... this is since the beginning of June... 20 people after consuming drinks tainted with methanol. The authorities are saying methanol is sometimes added to boost the alcohol content of drinks sold over the bar, but I don't think that's what's happening here. We've seen this before in Bali, and I think it's happened in Hungary as well. Some of the unethical bar owners try to boost their profits by brewing their own spirits in the back yard. And it's actually quite a difficult process, because if you don't get the temperature control right, one degree difference, you make methanol instead of alcohol. And as you can see, it has disastrous consequences.

Kim, have you seen the YouTube video of the model Naomi Campbell and her aircraft boarding routine that she goes through when she gets on a plane? And she's going up the pointy end, as well, by the way, she's going up business class end. She puts on rubber gloves...

Kim: Yes! I saw it. I saw it.

Phil: ... and puts on a mask, and she uses antiseptic wipes and she wipes down everything. The seat, the armrest, the TV screen, the table, everything, and then she comes in in a blanket, and then she sits there for the entire flight with this mask on. And she insists it stops her from getting sick because whenever planes descend, people start coughing and sneezing. Having to travel with the general public, Naomi.

Kim: Well, I thought of you when I saw that because you say that you wipe down your table tray...

Phil: I do. I do.

Kim: ... and the remote for the TV.

Phil: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I do it at home as well. I've seen what my kids get up to. Yeah, but I mean, you can just have like one little antiseptic wipe. You just give everything a quick rubdown. But you don't have to get the spray bottle out and put rubber gloves on. That's a bit over the top, Naomi. Get a grip there, would you?

Kim: I do agree.

Phil: What do you do with your houseplants when you go away, Kim? Do you just let them die?

Kim: Yes. Unfortunately, that is what happens.

Phil: Well, Contiki, who are partners of World Nomads, they've started, in London, for their travelers that are there, a plant hotel. You can book them into Contiki's plant hotel.

Kim: Love it. Thanks for that, Phil.

Phil: No worries.

Kim: Phil, we're very lucky at World Nomads to have a culturally diverse team of people. And one of those... as he smiles... one of our team members is Ash, who happens to be from Bangladesh. It's a shame it wasn't Bangladash. Ash from Bangladash.

Ash: Oh my god, wouldn't that be something? That would make it much more memorable. Because Ash can be a bit common sometimes, can't it? But Ash from Bangladash...

Kim: Is it Ash shortened from something?

Ash: Yeah, it is. It's Ashwak, so there you go, so it's not quite Ash.

Kim: Okay. All right. So let's get your story first before we chat about food. How did you come to be in Australia?

Ash: So yeah. It's a very good question, Kim, before we get into the food.

Kim: Thank you.

Phil: Well done. Well done.

Ash: It was. You threw me off there. I thought we're just going to talk about food for the entire [crosstalk 00:24:36].

Phil: There's always a bit of warmup.

Ash: Yeah, there's a bit of fluffing going on in the setup. So Kim, my parents actually immigrated over here when I was about five years old.

Kim: Why?

Ash: So my dad, he studied overseas when he was in uni, right? He studied in the US, actually, of all places. When he went back to Bangladesh, I think he enjoyed living in the West, if you will, and he was kind of thinking of countries to go to. And I don't think America was somewhere he wanted to take his young family to at that time. It was kind of late 80s, early 90s. I think he had lived in Washington DC at the peak of the crack epidemic.

Chatting to my dad, he kind of shortlisted it down to Canada and Australia were the two places. If you look at the pattern of immigration to those two countries, there is quite a distinct, if you will, community from the subcontinent in both Canada and now kind of developing in Australia. And I don't know what it is, maybe it's the whole former colony commonwealth thing going on there, but my dad decided to come to Australia.

Kim: As a 5-year-old then, when you arrived here, did you speak any English? Because it's kind of school age.

Ash: Yeah, it is. No, I didn't. I didn't speak English. So I was enrolled in what's called ESL, which is like English as a Secondary Language. I actually came just as kindergarten was starting. I remember the week would be divided between "regular" kindergarten class and then me and a few other kids that had English as a secondary language or didn't speak English at all would go off to our ESL special class to pronounce things like chair and ball and just some of those elemental things that you take for granted.

Kim: Now, obviously, as a grownup man, apart from looking at you, there's kind of no sign that you are from Bangladesh. Does that make you sad or have you kept in touch with your roots?

Ash: Well, firstly, thank you for calling me a man. That's good.

Phil: You are. You're a fully grown man.

Ash: Yeah, thank you. I'm a fully grown man, not a child anymore. To the second part, does it make me sad? No. I feel like I have a connection to both cultures, Kim. There's a part of me that's very distinctly Bangladeshi that I can't change and there's a part of me that's very distinctly Australian that I can't change either. At times growing up, I did feel like I didn't necessarily belong to any of the one two cultures. I was kind of in this no man's land and I know anyone that's listening that has emigrated and is second, third generation living where they are, they may have gone through something similar. It's kind of not until in the last few years that I've kind of been comfortable with my identity.

Kim: See, I kind of get what you're saying when you said there was a point there where you didn't feel that you were either Bangladeshi or Australian-

Ash: Right, like belonging to either culture fully.

Kim: And that ought have been magnified going to school and sitting with kids eating Vegemite sandwiches... sounds clichéd, but it's true... and then going home and what sort of cuisine was your mother cooking or your father?

Ash: My parents both cook. My dad is really into his cooking as well, which is where I picked up a lot of my cooking skills, from watching them both. Yeah, certainly weren't many Vegemite sandwiches at home growing up. Maybe chutney sandwiches, perhaps?

Kim: That's very cosmopolitan.

Ash: Now it is, but back then not so much. You take a chutney sandwich or a bit of chutney rice and curry to school and the waft would probably scare most people off.

Kim: Is that what you took to school?

Ash: Yeah, I did for the most part. It was funny. I mean, if I think back through primary school, I think it was my mom was just trying to get a lay of the land and figure out what kids took to school in Australia. Yeah, initially, it was very much whatever we had at home, get packed up, and I remember there was a canteen lady who was nice enough to heat it up for me during lunch which is nice.

Kim: He's the little Bangladeshi kiddie.

Ash: The little Bangladeshi kid. Look, as if I didn't stick out visually, now you could smell me. Just to make it-

Kim: And all your mum needed to do was put either jam, peanut butter or Vegemite and couple of biscuits.

Ash: Well, this is the thing. I think she wised up later on, saying like, "Why am I going through all this hassle of packing all this food when I can just get couple of slices of bread, some cold cuts and some cheese and well, I'm done." So instead of having to spend several minutes, I can do it in under a minute.

Kim: What were they cooking at home?

Ash: At home... So Bangladeshi food, being in the subcontinent, it's not all that dissimilar to food from the neighboring countries like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan... any of you that are familiar with that type of cuisine... but there are some differences there. There's kind of like a running joke in the subcontinent that Bangladeshis and fish, we love our fish. So Bangladesh, geographically, there's a lot of rivers and lakes throughout the country. And if you go back to kind of the necessity of sourcing cheap protein, that was it. Instead of trying to grow cattle, which is expensive, or chickens or whatever, you just chuck in a net and get fish. And it's almost similar to... and it is an old stereotype of Irish and potatoes. In the subcontinent, as soon as you say Bangladeshi, fish comes in.

Phil: Fish jokes.

Ash: Fish jokes come in left, right and center. So a lot of fish curries, different styles of fish curries, preserved fish. Pretty much all savory meals will have some form of rice. And a lot of lamb, chicken. Again, curries of 101 varieties essentially.

Kim: Now you also said to me that you have been back to Bangladesh as an adult and you experienced something that you didn't get to experience as a child.

Ash: The main thing that I didn't get to experience... I talked about my parents cooking at home, traditional Bangladeshi food like rice and curries of different varieties... the one thing I didn't get to experience was street food or the street food scene, which is massive in Bangladesh, especially the larger cities. If you've seen footage of that part of the world, the hustle and bustle 24/7, you know? Elbow-to-elbow pretty much 24/7. People are busy. They need something that's inexpensive on the go, and that's where kind of the street food scene comes up. There's so much variety of it. There's snacks like rice-based snacks, meat-based snacks.

Kim: Is it healthy? Do you have to watch your tummy?

Ash: Yeah, that's a very good question. Kind of the rules that you apply when eating street food in any other country apply here. The things to look out for, does that place have high turnover? What kind of a crowd does it draw? So yeah, it's hit and miss. There are certainly some that may give you "Delhi belly" or Dhaka belly. For the most part, it's not taking a toll on his stomach.

Phil: They give you the Bangladash. You have to dash to the toilet.

Ash: Dash. Very good.

Kim: Dad joke.

Phil: Dad joke.

Ash: I like that dad joke.

Kim: Okay, what about etiquette if we're traveling there? I've also noticed there's a lot of eating with your hands?

Ash: Yeah, the utensils of the subcontinent, your right hand essentially. So right hand for eating, left hand for cleaning. Not simultaneously, you'd hope. I mean, that is a graphic-

Phil: Well, it depends. It depends if you've got the-

Ash: If you get the Bangladash. It's like an unspoken rule. If you're shaking hands, you wouldn't extend your left hand. Even if you're left-handed, it would generally be the right hand because that's seen as the hand that you clean with.

Phil: What about drinks? You got any special drinks?

Ash: Any special drinks? Are you talking about alcoholic beverages?

Phil: No, no. Like lassis or something like that.

Ash: Oh, generally. Okay, yeah, of course. Well, I'll cover the alcoholic part up first. It's probably more available in the major cities. Once you go outside, it's probably a little bit more difficult to get. But in terms of drinks, yeah, lassi is very popular there as well. One, it's kind of a drink and a dessert at the same time, so it's got liquid and solid parts to it.

Phil: It's a left-hand, right-hand...

Ash: It's called falooda. I don't know if you guys have heard of it.

Phil: Nope.

Kim: Nope.

Ash: So it's kind of milk-based with a little bit of rose water, little bit of ice cream through it, lychees, jelly, apples.

Kim: Sounds Turkish.

Ash: It probably came from that part of the world. Because if you look at the history of the subcontinent before the British ruled it, it was the Moghuls who ruled it for, I believe, three or four hundred years, the entire subcontinent, and they are of Turkic descent. So you'll find that, not just in Bangladesh, but across the subcontinent, desserts that have kind of almost Persian or Turkish or Central Asian inspired.

Kim: Okay. Final question. If your family hadn't have immigrated, what would your life look like?

Ash: If I had stayed in Bangladesh? Well, that's a very deep, profound question. How do I...?

Phil: President.

Ash: President?

Phil: Maybe.

Ash: President of the Street Food Association.

Phil: Yes. That's more like it.

Kim: But you would have an idea, though, given... obviously your father's educated, so that would have set you apart from [crosstalk 00:33:16].

Ash: Yeah. So my background, my dad and my grandfather before him, very... I guess you'd call them middle-class public servant kind of roles. I imagine I would have been something similar. That country has changed a lot, though, since my parents came here. And even in the few times I've been back a few years apart, there's a noticeable difference in terms of wealth being created for people that were poorer being pulled out of poverty into the middle classes, so lot happening there. It's difficult to say. Maybe I'd be doing something similar to what I'm doing here working in travel insurance.

Phil: Digital marketing, something like that.

Ash: Digital marketing, yeah.

Kim: Nice answer.

Phil: That's a great question.

Ash: That's a great question. Yeah.

Phil: I like that one.

Ash: Isn't it fascinating when you think about the fork in the road-

Kim: Sliding doors.

Phil: Sliding doors.

Ash: Yeah, the sliding doors, the one decision that someone made a couple generations back that's led you to this point.

Kim: Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

Ash: Thanks for having me, guys. Pleasure.

Kim: Pleasure.

Phil: I love having people in the studio. It's great.

Kim: It is.

Phil: Thanks, Ash.

Kim: Cheers.

Sarah is the creator and the host of the podcast Postcard Academy, where each week she interviews people who've packed up everything to start a new adventure in another part of the world. Now, Sarah fits in well with this podcast... I thought so anyway, after listening to Ash whose parents immigrated from Bangladesh to Australia. And Phil, your parents too, from the UK to Australia.

Phil: Yeah. Look, Sarah's American, but after a trip to the UK, she decided she wanted to live there. So how did she do it?

Sarah: I spent a semester in London and really fell in love with the city, and I did not want to leave. But as an American, I couldn't figure out a way to stay there. So after that semester, I went back to the States, and many years went by before I did any international travel again. Then at some point when I was living in New York, I realized just by chance that I might be eligible for Italian citizenship through my Italian ancestry. And I got really excited about that and started to do research and gather all the documents that I needed. And those documents went back generations, and they had so many misspellings, and it a very complicated process to apply in America, but I wanted to do it.

And so I found a woman online to translate my documents for me, because I had to get them from English to Italian. And she said, "You know, it could take you up to a year if you stay here in the States and apply here. But if you move to Italy, you could probably get your passport in like a month or two." I was like, "Really? Okay, stranger I've never met before." So based on this advice from this person who was helping me out online, in 2010, I left New York and moved to Italy, and I became an EU citizen and an Italian citizen. And I've been here ever since.

Kim: Wow. So how far back did your ancestry go?

Sarah: It was my great-grandparents. I think I had realized a number of years ago that citizenship was possible through bloodline, but I had always thought it was your grandparents. But for Italy, it's not. You can go back much further than that as long as you can prove your bloodline.

Kim: Okay. There will be a few people listening now that will be going back through their family tree.

Sarah: There's a few bureaucratic, like very arbitrary rules. So if my great-grandparents had naturalized before my grandfather was born, I would have been ineligible. But because they waited to naturalize as US citizens after he was born, then all of the generations that came after were considered Italian in a certain way, and so that's why I was eligible for citizenship. But yes, if you think you might be eligible, go for it. It's amazing having a second passport.

Kim: I can only imagine. So how has travel changed you then, Sarah?

Sarah: Well, I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I originally wanted to live abroad because I love traveling and learning about different cultures and trying new food. But I did not expect that living abroad would transform my values, and it really has. When I was living in New York, I thought we were the most enlightened, open-minded people in the world. I didn't realize how caught up I was in my own culture, especially the work culture. I had really amazing colleagues, but when I think about our lifestyle back then, it was just the stereotypical American lifestyle, just always on the clock, coming in when you're sick, eating lunch at your desk everyday, having a handful of vacation days a year. And then we would look at the Europeans and just be like, "Ugh. They're on vacation again. They're so lazy. They need to get their priorities in order."

And now I realize, oh, those Europeans had the right priorities. They have lives, and they prioritize health and family and free time. And I'm generalizing here, not every country is like that, not every person is like that, but these are values that I think people in the US say they want, but it's how people in other parts of the world actually live. So now I believe it's important to prioritize the people and the things that we love and make our work life fit around that rather than the reverse.

Kim: Your travel, it led you to podcasting, which is one of the reasons we're turning to you. But primarily, you focus on female guests, so why have you chosen to do that?

Sarah: I got the idea for Postcard Academy, my travel podcast, when I was working really crazy hours at a tech startup. And as an American expat, I still wanted to make the most of my time in Europe and travel. So even though I didn't have a ton of time to plan, I just wanted to get on a plane on the weekends and just sit back in my seat and listen to a podcast about the insider cool things to do in whatever city I was going to. And I couldn't find the show that I was looking for, so I decided to create it myself later after I left that job when I had more time. So I combined podcasts and travel to create Postcard Academy.

And it's for anyone who loves travel and is interested in living abroad. I'm especially interested in featuring women as my guests because I was seeing a stereotype of women who travel. Either women running around in bikinis living the perfect life on Instagram or, in books and in films, women traveling because they were in some kind of crisis. They were either trying to get over a divorce or some other trauma. And I think those stories are very important and travel can be very healing, but I wanted to share stories of women who packed up everything and just set off on an adventure for the love of it.

Kim: So smashing the Eat, Pray, Love theory.

Sarah: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, there's been many films and books. And it's just actually not the same for guys. I realized I was giving Hollywood a pass. Because when I was seeing those sort of anguished memoirs coming out, I thought, "Oh, well, maybe happy stories just don't have the narrative arc that they're looking for." But then I realized, guys who have travel shows and write travel books, they are just swashbuckling around and drinking beer and having the best time, and they don't have to give a reason for it or anguish over why they're doing this. They just do it. And women out there are doing it, too, they're just not getting featured as much. So that's why I chose this theme and these kinds of guests, because I wanted to put them in the spotlight.

Kim: So why do you believe that travel is important? You've touched on that a little in the conversation so far, but if you could sum it up.

Sarah: Well, I would say, I think travel and experiencing new cultures and meeting diverse people has never been more important. Unfortunately, nationalism is rising around the world. If you listen to the news on any day, you're probably going to hear some politician around the world railing about how horrible the foreigners are, and they're coming to get us. Thankfully, we are not our governments. We as individuals can go out and meet each other and learn from each other and realize that the world is not as scary and as bad as the media and world leaders would make it out to be. So I truly believe that travel and living abroad is the most effective form of diplomacy.

Phil: Well said, Sarah. Links to her site and podcast in our show notes. A couple of practical things to know about Bangladesh. Passports must be valid for six months beyond your planned stay. That's fairly standard, but they're pretty strict on it there. You do need a visa to get into Bangladesh, and of course, you must have an onward ticket.

Kim: Now we mentioned earlier we had recently featured a couple of special podcast episodes in place of our destination episodes, including Chernobyl. Now, if you haven't listened and you've watched the TV show, tune in.

Speaker 8: Having that place become a big disaster tourist amusement park where young people, who are going to hopefully go on and procreate, visit in the hundreds of thousands? That's a terrible idea. It's also a pretty disrespectful idea. I mean, people suffered greatly from that accident, and then to make it a form of entertainment and tourism is, I think, a little unconscionable.

Kim: Well, that wraps up this episode. You can get in touch with us with ideas or feedback by emailing [email protected] And to listen to our episodes, grab them from wherever you get your favorite podcasts. And if you enjoy, subscribe so you don't miss an episode, and feel free to share the episodes and rate them also among your network. And you can give us a rating, as I said. What's next, Phil?

Phil: Yep. Tell your friends about us. That would be great. Australian filmmaker Miles Rowland, he was recently filming with environmentalist Tim Jarvis on the 25zero Project and then ended up in Tanzania in the middle of a Maasai circumcision ceremony.

Kim: Whoa. See you next week.

Phil: Ow.

Kim: Bye.

Phil: See ya.

Speaker 1: The World Nomads Podcast. Explore your boundaries.

 

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