Eva zu Beck – Falling In Love with Pakistan

  • 20 Oct - 26 Oct, 2018
  • Rabia Mushtaq
  • Interview

With 44 countries already ticked off her bucket list, you’ll find her prancing in Hunza one day and setting off on an arduous journey to Gwadar on another. MAG speaks to traveller, vlogger, presenter and filmmaker, Eva zu Beck, about her ongoing trip to promote tourism in Pakistan, her nomadic experiences in the era of social media and a lot more on being one of the most popular travel inspirations around the world. Read on!

What inspired you to become a full-time traveller, along with being a vlogger, presenter and filmmaker, simultaneously?

Before becoming a travel vlogger, I actually headed a social media team in a travel media company – Culture Trip – in London. I realised very quickly the power of video in inspiring people to travel, which got me interested in the mix between social media and video as part of the company. Ultimately, since video is such a powerful storytelling tool, I was absolutely fascinated and started to vlog myself. When my work started getting more attention, I was approached by documentary filmmakers to become a presenter for their film. In terms of being a filmmaker, it’s both those things combined and what I’m working on right now would show me as a vlogger, presenter, filmmaker, all in one single video series.

With social media as a crucial factor, most millennials find travelling as the most fascinating aspect of life. Do you think this trend has affected the mental health of young people, particularly those who cannot travel due to different reasons?

Yes. I do think that Instagram can have an adverse effect on people and their mental well-being. A lot of what you see on Instagram is pure fantasy. There’s very little truth and reality in the pictures that are posted, as there’s a lot of fabricated storytelling and posing. It affects me too when I see a clearly posed photo on Instagram, for example, a girl standing on top of a mountain wearing a dress. I know that is just simply not realistic, it didn’t actually happen because she got up to the top of the mountain and changed. After having worked in this space for a long time, I realise that there is a lot of fantasy involved in being an Instagrammer. But when I set out to be a travel vlogger and Instagrammer, I told myself to never feed this make-believe visuals. Part of my mission is to show a realistic unaltered way of travelling. Anyone who follows travel vloggers must realise that there is a huge element of fantasy to these images – they do not reflect reality in most cases. I always encourage all the influencers that I know to stay a little bit more real. Life is beautiful, travelling is too, and it doesn’t need to be engineered just for Instagram.

Travelling requires money and a whole lot of it. How do you manage your budget? Any tips for aspiring travellers?

Travel does require some money, but not a whole lot of it. There are ways to manage your budget to travel long term where options like hitchhiking, booking tickets in advance, not flying but rather taking overland transport or sharing transport with other people are affordable. There are websites like Couchsurfing, a hospitality and social networking service to help, as well. I don’t think travel has to be expensive, it can be very economical. There are a lot of things you can do these days to cover costs like consulting, freelancing, being a digital nomad, writing articles for people, translating and selling your content to companies.

You’ve travelled to 44 countries around the world with experience of meeting different people, understanding their culture, eating their food and getting to know them closely. Considering all these factors, which country is your favourite as a traveller so far?

[Laughs] Not to be biased, but of course, it is Pakistan. I have been to a lot of places but I have never experienced hospitality like I did here. I have also never been to a country as underrated as Pakistan. Its hospitality, warmth, incredible food, amazing cultural landmarks and astonishing nature cannot be found anywhere else. I’m really genuine when I say that. After Pakistan, my second favourite is probably Mongolia because of the freedom one experiences galloping on a horse, wind in your hair and no sign of civilisation anywhere in sight – absolutely great!

It is believed that travelling broadens one’s horizons, makes one headstrong, adventurous, fearless, appreciative and empathetic. How much do you agree with this notion?

I totally agree with it. Travelling opens your horizons, it liberates your mind and makes you open-hearted. The more you travel, the more fearless you become. It is an incredible way to grow but it’s also not the only way to grow; it’s great add-on, if you can do it. It’s not essential for happiness though.

Since you are a regular traveller, how often do you feel homesick?

I don’t really feel homesick here in Pakistan. For instance, in Hunza, I got to attend the local Wakhi community’s wedding, where a lady came up to me and grabbed my hand to show me around, and gave me some food. So I started calling her my Wakhi mom and she started calling me her daughter. So that was an incredible and unforgettable experience of just how lovely these relationships – based on hospitality – can get. Therefore, I feel at home.

Tell us something about your months’ long stay in Pakistan. Why did you choose the country to be explored?

I first came to Pakistan in April 2018, on a friend’s invitation but I had no idea what to expect. So, I came here with all the usual stereotypes and preconceptions of Pakistan. When I landed, those stereotypes were immediately being shattered minute by minute and when I saw Hunza on that trip, I was mesmerised by the beauty of the landscape and wondered why no one was highlighting it on an international scale. That’s how I decided to come back to Pakistan for the second time a few months later and promote tourism here.

According to the west, Pakistan is apparently an unsafe country for travel. Were you afraid of any such perceptions before you came here for the first time?

Yes, absolutely. It’s very difficult to find any positive information about Pakistan from a western standpoint. If there is something, it usually has to do with terrorist attacks, bombings and negative information. So, I was fed that kind of misconceptions by western news outlets, which meant that there was need to create new sources of information on social media and searchable websites, to counter those perceptions. I think that all of us working in travel and traditional media have a responsibility towards the country to build a better reputation and reliable sources of information for an international audience.

Once you’re done with your trip in Pakistan, what is it that you’ll never forget about the country and how would you describe it to your global audience?

Hospitality is huge here. A very frequent encounter that I have in Pakistan is people requesting me to write articles and tell the world about Pakistan being a safe, peace-loving, beautiful nation and that there is nothing to fear. It really hits me every time, as this never happens with me in the west where a stranger would tell me to promote their country to the world.

What’s next on your bucket list?

There are bigger and better projects on an even greater scale to promote tourism in Pakistan. This has really become my mission over the last couple of months and something that I am fully committed to. Hopefully, you will see much more of beautiful Pakistan all across social media, as the campaign has just started. •