Tripper of the Week: Ronald Grant
He's worked with indigenous communities in India, jumped out of airplanes over the U.S. and has a black belt in Taekwondo - meet Ronald from the U.K., our Tripper of the Week...
Tell us about your background, "Ronald in 30 seconds."
I have just got back from Birmingham (the UK's 2nd city) to London (where I live and the UK's capital). I was there for the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships. I assisted in the 'field of play' and thus was in the heart of the action!
I graduated with a Computing and Business degree this summer but I was not a strong programmer. There is high demand for gymnastics where I live, so I will try to get into coaching. If I can pursue this, I will be focusing on something which I both enjoy and am strong at.
You recently hosted a Tripper; tell us about your experience.
She is from Connecticut and is in London to get in on the London music scene. She has had a few nanny roles and whilst she transitions between them I have been hosting her. Comparing working conditions was interesting. She said that in the US you are lucky to get any paid holiday whereas in many UK roles you get 1 month paid holiday!
I got acquainted with a Texan lady who booked a rental via CraigsList ahead of her London arrival. She was coming here for a make-up course. Sadly she lost $2000 on the booking because the host was bogus.
She never ended up staying with me but we caught up for a coffee and in the end she saw through her course.
What is your favorite aspect of hosting travelers?
My favourite aspect of hosting a traveller is that you can really make a difference to their trip - even their life prospects. Trivial examples are by encouraging travellers to buy foreign currency, train tickets and tourist attraction tickets in advance. Going to the ticket booth on the day can amount to a very expensive holiday!
Returning to the example of the American traveller who was in London to get on the music scene. She ended up needing a host for a long time. Had I not been able to host her, her UK trip would have likely ceased much sooner. Tourists cannot work nor do they have recourse to public funds. She was able to spend as much time in London as she needed - if that makes sense.
Not all, but many travellers do remember me and they reciprocate in any way that they can. For instance, a former guest is now hosting me and I am answering this question from their apartment!
I grew up in foster homes and it was awful. I think through doing this I can project the kind of household I would have wanted to live in.
You spent your gap year working with a charity in South India. What are your favorite memories from that experience?
I did spend some time in India. My time there was split between assisting the labourers in building anti poaching camps in the National Park, working with the locals in the indigenous communities and trekking through the jungle and kayaking in the rivers.
I have many pleasant memories from there but a poignant one was the way in which people were so friendly with one another. E.g. We would be on a coach with our guide and he'd often pull over for us to stretch our legs. When we returned to the bus we would see him laughing and sharing food/jokes with all the people passing by. It was phenomenal. In the UK we barely even say hello to our neighbours!
Taekwondo is one of your passions. How long have you been practicing Taekwondo and how did you first get into it?
I do enjoy Taekwondo. I got involved when I was about 14. A family friend mentioned it and I begun to attend sessions. I had a 6 year hiatus though as the black belts were unacceptably violent towards juniors. Furthermore my fees were never paid as foster carers believed the allowances they received from the state were for themselves. I have since got involved again at university and won the London Championships this summer. I was too busy with trampoline so missed the Nationals. There's always next year ;-)
Skydiving is another passion. What has been your favorite skydiving experience thus far?
I got involved in Skydiving at University. During your first week all the different groups and societies set up stalls to entice you to join in their activity. Skydiving appealed to me because it was so... Out there. Once I qualified I was stunned by how much I had had to learn in a short space of time!
I had not jumped in a long time and went on a skydiving trip to California. During the aircraft's ascent, I was in deep thought about my jump. I should have been focused on what was going on around me because the pilot and other skydivers routinely communicate. Another skydiver opened the door and being sat nearest to the door I thought it was my cue to jump - and jumped. I looked down at the ground and did not have a clue where I was! The skydiver followed me out of the door and was signalling at me, "Pull your parachute!"
His command was causing me a lot of confusion because skydivers don't ordinarily pull their parachutes at such a high altitude. I pulled my parachute at ordinary altitude and landed in a field. Only then did it dawn on me that the door had only been opened in order for us to observe the aircraft's position relative to the runway. During an aircraft's ascent it is inevitable that it is going to fly outwards as well as upwards and I had failed to remember that basic fact!
I also then realised he had been signalling to me to pull my parachute super early because under parachute your descent rate is much slower and we would have easily made it back to the airfield.
Six cars had pulled over, all of which wanted to drive the lost skydiver back to the airfield. I ended up choosing a lady whose house had just flooded. She said that she had been upset all day and that driving me back to the airfield would cheer her up. She also took a photo with me. The UK skydiver was pissed off at me for my breach of protocol so instead of enjoying my temporary celebrity status, I was terrified of the response I would get from the Americans.
I had made an off air-field landing previously in the UK. In that situation the pilot flew us all really far away from the airfield, my large parachute was catching the wind which was blowing me even farther out. Nevertheless the airfield manager was furious.
When I got back, my compatriots all had grim faces but the Americans were splitting their sides in laughter. They were a lot more laid back. This was my favourite experience by a mile!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you choose to go next?
If I could travel anywhere in the world next I would choose to go to North Korea. I have some Chinese Trippers with me right now and they feel uncertain to go there. I love the mysterious but I guess I would follow all advice to stay safe there! Not that I am deep enough in Taekwondo to really use that as an excuse but many Taekwondo gurus go there - it's where it began.
Connect with Ronald via his Tripping profile - swap tales of travel adventures, get tips on travel to India or cool places in London - or Trip with him next time you're in his city.