“…A few times I thought, I could actually die out here. The extreme weather was so crazy, and being lost in it made it worse.” 21-year-old Creative Arts student Fabian Monteleone recalls about his recent travels abroad to Mongolia, China and the Philippines. When discussing his interests outside of university, he explains that he likes to balance his university life with part time work as a pastry chef, spending time with his beloved animals and trying to travel as much as possible in between.

Fabian has always had a love and passion for animals and wildlife. Steve Irwin was always a large influence on him as a child, Fabian explains. This encouraged him to have multiple animals as pets, including numerous canaries and finches, a blue tongue skink, which he has owned for 8 years, a cattle dog, and to top it off, he races pigeons. He describes his pigeon flying experiences as “therapeutic” and enjoys watching them fly out while sipping on a glass (or three) of wine every evening. He finds relaxation through his animals and learning about them.

Fabian, posing with an eagle in Mongolia.

When travelling in Mongolia earlier on in the year, Fabian was in his element when he was surrounded by the wildlife. “I got to experience so many different things overseas. I got to ride a horse and camel, hold a wild eagle on my arm and even got to sleep with a wolf!” However, it is not only animals which fabian has an interest in. His travels to the Philippines were planned to help out in a child feeding program. He explains that he has always been interested in humanitarian work and helping people who are less fortunate, and decided to take the plunge and go to the Philippines to fulfil this. Fabian found it to be an eye opening experience, and would love to go back in the near future.

When asked about a story he would tell his grandchildren, he recounted his experiences “couch surfing” in Beijing. Fabian explained that he stayed with an older man who had a house above a street food market. He would be constantly eating at the same street corner with the couple making “the best street food you will ever taste!” While he was there, he met another man from Bolivia who had been travelling for a year with just a backpack filled with essentials. “Everything I have is everything I need” stuck as inspiration for Fabian for the rest of his travels and helped him through the rest of his trip. The Bolivian man pushed Fabian beyond his own limits to travel around Beijing. Often he would find himself lost, although when he was lost, he was lost for 8 hours or even more. The language barrier was an issue, and the people were not willing to help made life difficult for Fabian. However, he persevered and often showed resilience to the difficult situations he encountered.

Fabian’s experiences overseas have helped shaped him to be the man he is today. The Bolivian man’s words have stuck with Fabian, and he has decided to live life in a much simpler way. His interaction with animals on a daily basis is a coping mechanism of balancing his work life with university and he often dreams of visiting some other countries in the future, Iceland being one of them.