Travel tales in 20 slides at PKC

The travel writer while on a polar bear safari in Manitoba. - courtesy of robin esrock
The travel writer while on a polar bear safari in Manitoba.
— image credit: courtesy of robin esrock

Robin Esrock thinks his six-and-a-half minute slideshow for PechaKucha Coquitlam next week will be just a surprise for him as it will be for the audience.

The prolific travel writer wants to put 200 photos in the projection and whichever picture pops up will be the story he will tell for the next 20 seconds.

“It’s a way to challenge myself,” the Burnaby resident said. “I won’t know what I’ll say on stage until I actually see the image the machine randomly picks.”

Luckily, Esrock has got thousands of tales to tell about his adventures in the 107 countries he has visited and reported on over the past decade: From heli-yoga in the Rockies and racing cars in Italy to volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

His latest epic came after he penned a bucket list for the Globe and Mail, last July 1, about things to do in Canada. Publisher Thomas Allen & Sons approached him to expand the topic and write his first major book on the Top 100 activities in the 10 provinces and three territories (see a video clip at www.canadianbucketlist.com).

“I told them I would only do it if I could actually do these things, like physically experience what Canada has to offer,” the South African native said. “I didn’t want any practical information — it goes out of date the moment it goes into print, like how much things cost and directions — but I did want it to be a first-person narrative about this guy who landed this job of being paid to travel and find the best of Canada.”

Due out next fall, the book traces Esrock’s year-long experiences like snorkeling amongst upstream-bound salmon in Campbell River and chipping off a piece of iceberg in Newfoundland for a cocktail.

“There’s a ton of cool stuff to do in Canada,” he said, adding, “I’m interested in anything you can do that you can’t do anywhere else.”

He tends to source online Bucket Listers ­— baby boomers or empty-nesters who have lots of time and money “and are chasing their best experiences.... Nobody’s really hitting these guys up [for information]. As I went across the country, they were very, very taking to what I was doing and they helped me along tremendously.”

As for his international voyages, which have been documented in publications around the globe including The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald and Chicago Tribune, Esrock tends to travel alone.

And that can be challenging when it comes to photography.

“I realized pretty early on that photos are there to accompany the words,” he said. “If I get too caught up in it then I don’t do the words well. Most of my photos are from a point-and-shoot by me or whoever is around me. Sometimes, I get lucky and get these amazing shots; sometimes I get nothing because somebody has cut off my head.”

Still, despite his extensive travels, Esrock regrets he has yet to visit Tibet and Nepal; however, he cites Brazil as his favourite jaunt “and not just because my wife is Brazilian,” he laughed. “I said that before I met her.”

• PechaKucha Night Coquitlam Volume 8, an ArtsConnect presentation, runs on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam). For tickets at $12, call  604-927-6555 or visit www.evergreenculturalcentre.ca.


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