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April 24, 2013 / A Mindful Traveler

An Interview with Mark Wiens of Migrationology.com

Mark Wiens

Mark Wiens

Mark Wiens (“Migration Mark”), a Bangkok-based travel writer, journalist, and above all street food connoisseur, brings an infectious enthusiasm to his work.  I’ve learned that his lavishly illustrated website, Migrationology.com, devoted to cultural travel and street food, should under no circumstances be visited on an empty stomach.  This holds even more true for his YouTube channel, where he literally takes his work to the streets, exploring everything from eating bugs in Thailand to making durian coffee to how to pack for any trip.
His goal of finding a sustainable way to pursue his twin loves of travel and sampling local food led him to develop the materially frugal but experientially rich lifestyle of Migrationology.  He was kind enough to take some time to speak to me about his background, Migrationology, and of course his favorite foods.  Please make sure that you’re reading the following interview on a full stomach!
Even before you based yourself in Bangkok to travel, write, and eat, you’d already lived and studied abroad a great deal.  Could you tell our readers a bit about your background and how it led you to develop your worldview?
I grew up living overseas with my parents who are missionaries. We lived in France, DR Congo, and Kenya, and occasionally returned to the US. I attended an international school where I had friends from all over the world. It was a truly valuable experience, one that taught me many things, and sparked an interest to learn more about countries and cultures from around the world. This is what urged me to travel and see more of the world after graduating from university.
 
How were you able to realize what your passion was at such a young age?
My main passions are traveling and eating.  Both my parents and my extended relatives enjoy food, so from a young age I was brought up in a family that loved to eat.  As for travel, when I was young I just followed my parents and went wherever they went.  Perhaps throughout my childhood I didn’t realize that I enjoyed traveling as it was just our lifestyle, but when I became independent I continued to have a desire to travel and experience other cultures.
Could you share your philosophy of Migrationology and explain how others can live it?
Migrationology is about traveling with a passion and traveling with a focus. It’s not about running from attraction to attraction just to say you’ve been there, but it’s about learning something while you travel. I emphasize slow travel, remaining in a place for a period of time to experience the food, the art, the history – whatever it is you’re passionate about.
Growing up, you lived in Africa, Europe, and North America, then studied English teaching in South America after college, but chose to live in Thailand.  Why did you make this decision and what do you find life there is like for an expatriate?
Living in Thailand sort of just happened without much planning, as many things happen when we travel. I was traveling around Southeast Asia, but decided to meet a friend in Bangkok. I was nearly out of money so I got a job teaching English for a year. During that year I met my girlfriend (who is now my fiance), and that’s one of the main reasons I made Bangkok my homebase. Thailand is simply a comfortable place to live that has an incredible food culture and plenty of things to do and see. I really enjoy living in Thailand!
Although you don’t specifically mention mindfulness in your writing, Migrationology seems to me to be very consistent both with mindfulness and nonattachment (given your frugal lifestyle).
I travel / live with a philosophy of comfort, and for myself, having fewer possessions and being able to move from place to place freely is what that’s all about. I’m not a minimalist, but I just think lots of clutter is annoying and can be a burden. As for mindfulness, as a Christian, I do attempt to be mindful of my surroundings and enjoy helping others when possible.
You’ve been writing, traveling, and eating for five years now.  How do you see your work continuing to develop?
That’s a good question! I’m working on a few food travel guide eBooks, and publishing lots of food and travel videos. Other than that, I’ll continue to blog and try to offer travel tips and advice about places I visit.
If you could create one meal from everything you’ve eaten around the world (including drinks), what would it contain?
Sichuan fish (China) – fish cooked in lots of chilies and peppercorns
Kaeng som saparot soup (Southern Thailand)
Stink beans with shrimp (Southern Thailand): stink beans curried with shrimp
Mango lassi (India)
Slab of tuna sashimi (Japan): just pure fish dipped in soy sauce and wasabi
Pepper crab (Singapore/Malaysia): crab in a delicious pepper filled sauce
Vietnamese ice coffee (Vietnam) – strong coffee sweetened with condensed milk on ice
As much as I love food from all over the world, I’m very much a lover of Asian flavors and I particularly love seafood. I would eat all this along with a few heaping plates of steamed rice.
Sichuan Fish

Sichuan Fish

Goong pad sataw

Goong pad sataw

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jose Rocha / May 19 2014 1:13 am

    Jose RochaMay 18, 2014

    Hi Mark Wiens, my name is Jose Rocha from Portugal but i live in London at 11 years, i love all your videos all them they’re very interesting and very informative. What’s frustrate it’s impossible to you to give your personal experience about all delicious and interesting dishes scattered around the world, there’re millions of great dishes. But my main preference goes to Thailand where i been already 12 times all across de country, it’s my N.1 preference on my travel list, i love his environment, his natural beauty, culture, weather, his people and in special the Thai food that’s truly amazing.
    So, congratulations Mark Wiens for your brilliant and interesting ideas to travel around the world and have the opportunity to have your personal experience tasting the best street food vendors ever.

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