The scope of this blog

Welcome to The Borderlands.

This is a blog mostly about people, places and cultures. In it, I attempt to write about the world with a mixture of humour and pathos.

That said, I don’t know if I can rightfully call it a blog since it breaks at least four cardinal rules of blogging — the posts are neither short nor frequent and the prose is not broken up into terse sentences and bite-size paragraphs. According to the SEO gurus and other pundits of the blogosphere, I might as well be screaming into a void.

Then again, aren’t we all screaming into a void, at least when it comes to communicating on the internet? 

For all intents and purposes, this is a blog — I don’t know what else to call it anyway. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s a travel blog, since we all know that it’s important to categorise things — if you want to be picked up by the search engine algorithms, that is! But perhaps it would be more accurate to call it an “anti-travel blog” — it’s less “Lonely Planet” and more “Burmese Days” or “Heart of Darkness” (shout out to George Orwell and Joseph Conrad!). I’m more likely to take inspiration from the writings of Capote, Kafka and Kierkegaard or the music of Talking Heads, the War on Drugs and Nick Cave than the pages of some glossy travel mag.  

If you’re looking for lists of travel hacks or budget-friendly yoga retreats, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m not interested in accumulating passport stamps just for the bragging rights and I certainly have no desire to be a “travel influencer”. I want to tell the story of the places I visit as authentically as possible and this involves spending extended periods of time in those places and immersing myself in their politics, history, philosophies and mythologies. Most of the stories I tell tend to follow the conventions of the genre known as “narrative nonfiction” — in other words, they are fact-based accounts delivered in a narrative style.  

As much as I’m concerned with reporting on the world around me, I’m also interested in exploring the age-old existential questions that people of all cultures grapple with. As a highly Instagrammable quote from the writer Lillian Smith puts it:

“No journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”

I don’t know anything about Lillian Smith beyond what I’ve read on her Wikipedia page but I feel like this quote, which I first saw emblazoned above the entrance of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Phnom Penh, perfectly sums up what The Borderlands is all about.

From stargazing in a Beijing suburb to navel-gazing in a Mumbai nightclub, this blog has it all! Whether I’m chronicling the minutiae of everyday life in some random corner of the world or pontificating on the social and political forces at work across entire nations, I aim to write from the heart, always keeping in mind those words from Lillian Smith.

“I soon realised that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”Lillian Smith
As seen at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A bit of personal history

I was born in the UK but have spent the majority of my life overseas. I belong to a growing community of individuals known as third culture kids (TCKs). For those unfamiliar with the term, TCKs are the children of globalisation — individuals who have spent their formative years in a culture other than that in which their parents grew up.     

I lived in China on and off between the early 1990s and early 2010s. As a child in Changchun, an industrial city in the northeast, and an adolescent in Changsha, the city in which Mao Zedong first embraced communism, I was on the frontline of the radical economic and social changes that China went through at the turn of the century. The country left an indelible impression on me and I returned to it in my twenties to work as a financial news editor in Beijing for a couple of years.  

Besides China and the UK, I have lived in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, India and, briefly, South Korea. And I’ve visited a bunch of other countries which I won’t bother to list here.

In 2014 I moved to Mumbai, India on a three-month tourist visa to catch up with some old friends. I have been based here ever since and am now married to a beautiful, vivacious, multilingual, street-smart Bombay girl. But that’s a story I intend to tell in full some other day.

I write about daily life in Mumbai for my other blog, Planet Bombay.

Riding the Mumbai local.

Keep in touch

If you’re here for the first time (or the one hundred and first, for that matter) I hope you’ll stick around. If you have the patience to spend 15 minutes reading a blog post rather than five, I’ll do my best to make that time worthwhile.

If you’d like to be notified about new posts, hit the “follow” button. Even if you’re not a WordPress user you can subscribe by email.

Feel free to engage with me via the in-post comment sections or the contact page if you have a question, a few words of encouragement or an illuminating thought you’d like to share. Or if you’d like to get into a spirited debate about politics, religion or Bob Dylan’s copious discography. Or even if you want to vent your existential angst through the grand tradition of anonymous trolling. I love the smell of internet vitriol in the morning!

Seriously though, I like to think I’m open to being corrected or having my worldview challenged, so let me know if you find any inaccuracies in my writing or if you disagree with an opinion I’ve expressed.

Bear in mind that I write as a layman rather than an expert in any particular field, but I always make sure that my writing is backed up by thorough research. My goal, ultimately, is to create content that is informative and thought-provoking as well as entertaining. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not I succeed on that front.  

You can also follow The Borderlands on Instagram (@theborderlandsblog) where I use the Stories feature to document daily life in Mumbai. Or, if you prefer, you can get updates via Twitter (@borderlandblog) and Facebook (@theborderlandsblog).

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Have a good one.

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