Tripper of the Week: Olivia Wong

A traveler who knows Capoeira, soccer and samba, this Tripper who is studying abroad in Tokyo is on a mission to travel to every country in the world. Meet our Tripper of the Week, Olivia Wong.....

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Olivia, I'm twenty years old, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. Aside from enjoying the lightening-speed fashion, technological genius, and sublime food of the land of the rising sun, I'm currently researching the effects of the nuclear radiation in Fukushima as a result of the March 11th nuclear disaster. I love traveling because of the simple, yet profound happiness that comes from meeting the people we share this world with.

You seem to enjoy anything that is international. Where does this passion come from?

My friend, John Boyd III once said to me, "If you can only think about yourself, if your entire life is transfixed on only you, well then your life isn't big. Your world isn't very big. And your mind isn't very big." I suppose my passion comes from this idea that we are all little specks in this universe yet we are all interconnected as one functioning global society. So, I believe that it's always good to acknowledge that there's something bigger than us and greater than the confines of our territorial borders.

You grew up in San Francisco and are now living in Tokyo, what are the most interesting differences?

I would say that one of the most interesting differences between Tokyo and San Francisco lies within the diversity of the districts. In a hyper-diverse and urban city of San Francisco, each crevice and sub-section boasts its own history and character. From North Beach, to the Presidio, Mission, Fillmore, and Chinatown, San Francisco's charm lies in its exquisite ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Tokyo on the other hand boasts a different kind of diversity. It's a blend of old and new and a juxtaposition of tradition against innovation. For example, down the street from my university is a traditional Buddhist temple and zen garden which is set against a concrete backdrop of high rise buildings.

Among the numerous trips travels you've taken, what local culture impressed you the most?

Although each first encounter is always memorable, I would have to say that I was most impressed by the people living in Lagoa Santa, a small town in southern Brazil near Belo Horizonte. When I first arrived, I was greeted with kisses on both cheeks and swept away by the warmth and affection of the local community. I've never felt so at home in place so unfamiliar.

You have many interests, from Capoeira, to soccer, to samba: did you always have those or have you discovered them while traveling?

My interests, like my cooking repertoire, comes from local people that I have come across in my travels. I learned to love watching soccer from seeing children on the streets of Brazil, acquired a knack for scat music in the streets of Bangkok, and fell in love with making fresh dumplings from my time in northern China.

If you were to host a Tripper in Tokyo, which local spot would you visit first?

If able to wake up early, I'd take a tripper to the Tsukuiji fish market, the world's largest wholesale seafood market. Every morning around 4 am, fresh catch is brought in from all over world to be auctioned in front of visitors. Aside from the market, there are a handful of great eateries and sushi restaurants ready to serve hungry visitors in the early morning hours.

Any travel adventures lined up?

Actually, yes! I just spent Christmas in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, New Years Eve in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia and New Year's in Tokyo, Japan. In the spring of 2012, I'll travel to Fukushima and the Tohoku region (the area most affected by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami) to conduct my research on nuclear radiation and work on an organic vegetable and rice paddy farm. Perhaps I might even make a visit back home to the good ol' USA during the spring. Once I finish my university year in Japan and graduate in the summer, I'll be heading to Nepal to do some humanitarian work. After that, well, the possibilities are endless!

For tips on everything from studying abroad in Japan to visiting her hometown of San Francisco, connect with Olivia via her blog and via her Tripping profile.