The Zen-Loving Traveler – Jason

The Zen-Loving Traveler – Jason

Text by: 丁俊勇 / Photos Courtesy of 丁俊勇, 林道锦Lin Doh Kin, 贾森Jason - 09 November 2023

On the way back from the interview, Jason’s words kept echoing in my mind. Partly out of admiration, partly out of fondness for his carefree lifestyle. He had said, “If I have enough money this month, I won’t take on any work.” What does he do when he’s not working? Just stay at home. Some might ask, “What do you do at home?” Well, whatever you feel like doing!

Qatar 卡达尔

“Do you enjoy conducting interviews? Jason is releasing a new book, and I’d like to do an interview with him, and I thought of you.” With just a sea in between, DK thought of me, so of course, I agreed without hesitation.

Who is Jason? Could it be the same Jason from the radio program I used to listen to during my high school years, “Jason’s Night Flight”? Then came an electronic poster, with an unstable connection, a spinning circle on the phone screen, and the blurry silhouette turned clear – yes, this Jason is that Jason.

In 2016, Jason decided to leave the radio industry after a decade of service, allowing more time for himself. What does that signify? In his own words, he became even more serious about traveling.

Italy 意大利

Meeting the Idol

After all these years, I am no longer that teenager turning on the radio to let Jason’s voice enter my ears (the action of turning on a radio is truly nostalgic). At this moment, Jason sits right in front of me, in a green jacket, slim glasses, and a captivating dimple when he smiles... Okay, enough praise – because the next sentence made the atmosphere “lively.”

“I grew up listening to ‘Jason’s Night Flight’ from a young age...” Who would have thought that this interviewee would be so tactless, hitting right where it hurts. But Jason, the interviewee, is gentle and understanding, using a different story to diffuse the awkwardness, making him even more likable.

“I said the same thing to Jeff Chang once. I told him, ‘I’m sorry, this might sound over the top, but I really did grow up listening to your songs.’” Hahaha! Turns out, impoliteness, what he did to me, he did to Jeff Chang, too. That’s how fans are with their idols – some words just slip out before you can think about them.

Hong Kong 香港

Jason, the Traveller Dad

My initial impression of Jason was that his inner world was rich, but it didn’t compare to the brilliance of his own story. Curious? Remember to read his autobiography “Hello, I’m Jason – Embrace for 15.” It not only tells the story of his growth as a boy from Cheras but also his experiences studying in Taiwan and working in radio. You might even catch a hint of gossip in there.

Alright, once we’re done talking about the book, it’s time to get serious. As mentioned earlier, Jason loves to travel. But saying he loves it might not be specific enough. If we quantify it, a quarter of his autobiography is about traveling. And if that’s not clear enough, look at his work history – tour leader, travel blogger, and creator of the “123 Exploring” Malaysia food vlog channel.

I couldn’t help but ask, WHY? Why such a passion for travel? Or should I say, playing? The answer lies with Jason’s dad. Jason’s father is someone who loves to travel, often taking his whole family on trips. During elementary school, Jason visited almost all the well-known spots in Peninsular Malaysia – Cameron Highlands, Pangkor Island, Genting Highlands, and more.

“The most extreme time was when I was in second or third grade. I came home after school, still in my school uniform, and my dad took us to Genting Highlands.” With Jason’s father’s influence and his later job handling travel programs on the radio, it gradually accumulated, and Jason fell in love with traveling. He eventually dipped his toes into the travel industry, all of which seemed like a natural progression.

Switzerland 瑞士vatican City 梵蒂冈

No Favourite Country

I’ve always believed that people who love to travel have a secret list tucked away. They rank the countries they’ve visited, deciding on their top three. As for me, my current favourite travel destination is Thailand. I love it so much that I even started learning Thai. Who knows, I might go there to work someday. So, what’s Jason’s top choice? “None.”

“None?” Why none? Jason explains. He’s been to over 20 countries, each having its charms or aspects he’s not comfortable with or dislikes. For instance, Switzerland has breathtaking scenery, but its food doesn’t meet his discerning palate. Japan has fantastic food, beautiful landscapes, and rich culture – he likes it, but it’s not where he’d settle down. Thailand is fantastic for food, fun, and shopping. In the US, everything is big – a packet of chips is two or three times larger than in Malaysia. In Qatar, he had the most expensive beer of his life, costing RM55.

The cultural differences across Asia, Europe, America, and Australia are significant. Even within Southeast Asia, there are noticeable cultural differences between Thailand and Malaysia.

As his tally of countries and regions visited increased, he gradually realized that what kept drawing him again and again was a different lifestyle from his own. And really, why should we compete to see whose lifestyle is better?

Iceland 冰岛

Only Countries He Wants to Visit Again

Alright, let’s change the question. Which country would Jason like to visit again? The answer is Iceland. A few years ago, Jason visited Iceland during winter. Normally, that would mean stormy weather, with snow or rain. It was a time when even the northern peninsula had to close down.

Want to see the Northern Lights? You need the favour of Lady Luck.

Coincidentally, Jason was a lucky visitor. During his first trip to Iceland, not a single drop of rain or snow fell, and the Northern Lights appeared every night. The tour leader even mentioned that, according to the aurora forecast, it was unlikely they’d see the Northern Lights. 

“But I didn’t witness a massive display of the Northern Lights. The aurora index was probably around three or four at the time. I want to go to Iceland again and see the Northern Lights with an index of five or six during a massive eruption.”

Doesn’t this sound a bit “Versailles”? But I think travel should leave a hint of regret, forming the motivation for future trips. This regret of not witnessing a massive Northern Lights eruption might be what pushes him to visit Iceland again.

So, congratulations to Iceland for becoming Jason’s number one country he wants to visit again!

Japan 日本Taiwan 台湾

Once again, I want to be diligent and proactive like Jason

As the interview neared its end, I picked up Jason’s new book, featuring his portrait on the cover, either taking off or putting on sunglasses. For some reason, it reminded me of the phrase “starting over.” I couldn’t help but ask Jason if he would choose the same script and replay being Jason if life gave him another chance.

The answer is both yes and no. “If I could choose life again, I hope I would be more positive and not as laid-back as I am now.” Laid-back? Wait, he leads tours, films food vlogs, and writes books – clearly, he’s a diligent and proactive person. So, where’s the laid-back part? He glanced at his manager and said, “It’s all his doing.”

Was he coerced or was there something troubling him? Neither, to put it simply, he’s someone who needs a push to move forward. In his own words, “I can be proactive about something, but I’m not a very hardworking person.”

If it weren’t for his laid-back personality, this book might have been published three or four years ago. It was his younger brother’s suggestion that prompted him to gather and organize his materials for the book. Then, when Malaysia imposed movement restrictions, he became even more laid-back at home, and progress on the book slowed down. It wasn’t until he met his current manager that he felt motivated to revise the book’s outline and content once again when urged by someone.

Otherwise, the subtitle of this book might have changed from “Embracing 15” to “Embracing 20,” or maybe even “Embracing 30.” I’m just curious, though – if Jason truly becomes more proactive and diligent, what would he be like? Perhaps he wouldn’t have visited just over 20 countries; it might have been over 200 countries.”


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