Tim Blight has already journeyed to 50 countries across the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe as well as Oceania, and the list keeps on growing. Yet it was Pakistan that truly captured his heart and it is where he found his calling…
He hails from Sydney, Australia, and is a travel blogger, writer, photographer as well as a food enthusiast. He first experienced Pakistan in 2006; but little did he know that it was the beginning of a new chapter in his life, and seven years later i.e. as of 2013 he calls Lahore; home
In his ardent exploration of Pakistan, he is captivated by most of what he sees and so encourages others to come and visit, hence: ‘Dare to Take the Road Less Travelled…’
His latest article has been published in the current issue of PIA’s in-flight magazine ‘Humsafar’. It is based on his interviews of several travel bloggers who have visited Pakistan. Also this year he has made a few appearances on TV and was invited as a guest judge for ‘PhotoCon 19’ held in Lahore.
So recently houseofpakistan caught up with him and had an interesting conversation regarding his thoughts, feelings and the love he shares with us for the ‘Land of the Pure’…
Q1. What sparked your interest in travelling?
Tim Blight. I have always loved travelling! My parents used to take my brother and I for holidays around Australia when we were younger – long road trips which I just loved. I guess travelling abroad, uncovering interesting facts or experiencing unique things about each place I go to was just a logical progression!
Q2. What made you come to Pakistan initially? And then what made you come back?
Tim Blight. I am the type of person who wants to go anywhere and everywhere! I was already in Iran, and I wanted to go to India, and Pakistan was in the middle – so that became the next place to go! However more than simply being a place to see “on the way to India”, I knew that if I was going to travel to Pakistan then it ought to be a destination in its own right – so I started researching. It was a picture of the Passu Cones in the 2004 edition of Lonely Planet’s Pakistan and the Karakoram Highway guidebook which had me sold! My first trip was a lot of fun, but due to illness and some political issues going on at the time I was unable to travel north to Passu, so I returned the next year. Each time I came back, I found more that I wanted to explore and made more friends to stay in touch with, so I just kept coming back!
Q3. What gave you the idea to write ‘Pakistan Traveller’ when there are quite a number of guide books in the market already?
Tim Blight. It was 2013 when I moved to Pakistan to spend an extended period here, and I was still using my out-of-date 2004 Lonely Planet guidebook. I called up Lonely Planet who informed me that the most recent edition, the 2008 edition, was about to go out of print, and there were no plans to update it. There were no other up-to-date guidebooks out there, only online resources. So I went to Pakistan with my old guidebook, but also kept notes as I travelled (I have always kept a travel diary). It was only when I was planning a return to Pakistan in 2014 that I realized how valuable my up-to-date notes were. So I spent a year compiling them. Then in 2015, I published the first edition!
Q4. What was the inspiration behind your recipe book? Why have you named it ‘Ramadan Recipes’?
Tim Blight. The recipe book came about because I wanted to note down my favourite recipes from around the world in one place, and to show how they can be made by any of us in our humble kitchens. There’s no need to go to a Malaysian restaurant – or even to Malaysia – in order to find laksa – it can easily be made at home and adjusted to our preferences. I wanted to give home-cooking the global treatment! Some of my favourite dishes are made during Ramadan in various countries, and because they are specialties, they’re also difficult to find outside of their country of origin. Finally, I have always wanted to share my photography of my travels, and a lot of them are of religious buildings in the Muslim world. The book combines my photography of mosques and landscapes, plus thirty recipes for thirty days!
Q5. Which cuisine is your favourite?
Tim Blight. I really love Punjabi cooking, although I do like the spices of Karachi… I also really love Balochi sajji too… and Kabuli pulao… so it’s too difficult to choose just one!
Q6. Which place in Pakistan has fascinated you the most?
Tim Blight. Lahore. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s just so continually fascinating. I love Karachi, Peshawar, Multan, the deserts and the mountains, but I haven’t yet found a place quite as spellbinding as Lahore – I’m in love with the place! Especially the old city – just when you think you have seen it all, there is something new to discover!
Q7. What was one of your most memorable trips?
Tim Blight. Driving to the Pakistan – China border on a motorbike! My friend and I drove all the way on a Honda 125 from Rawalpindi to the Khunjerab Pass. My back still hasn’t forgiven me for that!! But it was the trip of a lifetime!
Q8. How many cities have you seen? And do you plan to see all eventually?
Tim Blight. I have seen almost everything in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. Azad Jammu and Kashmir has only recently opened to foreign travelers, so that’s next on my list! And of course, I’d love to go to Baluchistan – it’s just a matter of time before I’ll be munching on the famous pomegranates in Quetta!
Q9. How successful has your blog ‘urban duniya’ been in showcasing Pakistan to the world? Do you think you have changed people’s perception to some extent?
Tim Blight. Most people I hear from are genuinely surprised that Pakistan is as friendly and naturally spectacular as they see through my writing and photographs! And so there are many who are eager to learn more about Pakistan.
I would say that ‘urban duniya’ and also my book have definitely inspired some people to travel to Pakistan. Those who were interested or at the very least were open to the idea of visiting have had their minds changed and eyes opened.
However there will always be a group of people who never change their minds, but that’s ok – we can’t please everyone! I also like that my blog hasn’t grown too quickly – I don’t particularly want to be a blogging superstar – I want the destinations to be the stars.
Q10. How many people have been motivated to visit Pakistan because of you?
Tim Blight. I have really lost count, as I know many personally and even more that I haven’t met but have read my book and used it as the basis of their planning! I have also met people travelling around Pakistan with my book in their hands, which is really an honour.
Q11. What made you learn Urdu…did you developed an interest in the language or for was it for better communication while travelling?
Tim Blight. It’s both of those things, and also a desire to live in Pakistan. To live in a country you don’t always need to learn the language, but to really understand the place and experience it; you usually do. It was once said that “how many languages you know – many times you are a person”, and I believe that.
Q12. What is your vocation?
Tim Blight. I studied journalism, but I am much more of a writer than a journalist. I’m also a trained and experienced English language teacher. I have even taught in a number of colleges in Lahore. However these days I am focusing more on my writing, and am updating my book ‘Pakistan Traveller’.
Q13. You have been living here since 2013, what was the deciding factor to stay?
Tim Blight. It’s difficult to say exactly – sometimes a place just feels like home. Having a great support network, wonderful friends who are like family to me… all of this helps. Good food and good weather is also a motivating factor. Once I learnt the language and spent more time in Pakistan I felt more personally invested, and once that happens, a place starts to feel more and more like home.
Q14. How would you describe Pakistan?
Tim Blight. Pakistan is many things to many people, but for me it’s like this; Pakistan is like that crazy friend who you have a great time with, who gets you into trouble, who you always worry about, but who is always there for you when you need them. Exciting, tumultuous, chaotic, but deeply soulful and affirming. I feel very fortunate to be able to say that.
So if you would like to read some really engaging narratives about Pakistan then log onto www.urbanduniya.com/pakistantraveller or if you would like to see some interesting videos then check out YouTube.com/urbanduniya. You can also follow him on https://www.facebook.com/urbanduniya/.