Written by: Ma Xin, Peng Siwei
Editor: Xiao Mingwei, Wang Guanqi
If you were invited to go on a trip today with an unknown destination and itinerary to explore your "familiar but unfamiliar places" would you be willing to go?
(Source: Xiao Hong Shu: 逃离地球计划Mustahiliplan, Escape planet's official social media)
Tan Li Jin, the chairman of this program, said, "We all agree that there is a general perception that the younger generation is not interested in things like local communities, historical artifacts, and traditional culture, is that really the case?"
"The truth is that there are a lot of times it's not that we're not interested, it's that there's no one to tell us about it and we don't know of any avenues to reach out to, so we need to have someone that goes deeper and digs out the stories and tells them and drives the whole community."
With the vision of seeing the South Seas and discovering the beauty of Malaysia's townships, a group of students from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) got together. It started the Escape from Planet, where they could call on like-minded people to go on a "blind box" trip, which likes buying a blind box, you don't know what kind of journey you're going to get next.
The so-called "blind box tour", as the name suggests, is a way of traveling without knowing the destination or the itinerary before departure. However, they don't know the destination or the itinerary, they are not just wandering.
Li Jin and his team members will plan the contents of the guided tours and the itinerary after careful investigation, and then lead the tour members to explore, just as one of Escape Planet's members, Cheng Ming Kit, joked, "It's just that they are 'blind' and we are not, hahaha! You could also say it's planned rather than loosely 'blind'."
"There's no denying that this 'element of the unknown' is appealing to many people, provoking a desire to explore and making it easier for them to reach out and learn about neighborhoods, history, culture, and so on. Just like the blind box craze that was so popular a while back, many people are very excited to see what they're going to get out of the box, but our blind tours unbox a neighborhood or attraction and the stories behind it." Ming Kit said.
Traveling into Private School Geography Textbook
In addition to "Blind Travel", Escape Planet's travel planner, Chew Xin Xuan, also revealed an exciting plan. "Our project has a bigger goal, which is to travel with private school textbooks," said Xin Xuan.
"There is a perception that children in private schools and Chinese language schools are ostracized from other races and are unable to integrate into Malaysian society. But when I read their geography textbooks myself, I realized that they were much more detailed and beautiful than the geography textbooks of the state high schools.
"So I wondered if we could show the beauty of Malaysia through the geography textbooks of private schools and at the same time let people know that the textbooks of independent secondary schools are also very grounded and patriotic," said Xin Xuan.
Traveling by Bus
Xin Xuan said, "Basically, our blind tours are public transportation-based routes, mainly for the convenience of people who don't have private transportation, especially those who are from out of state, so the preliminary preparations are not simple. After all, our public transportation is not as convenient as that of Taiwan.
"And we do not only have to consider whether the destination is close to public transportation, but also how the ensuing route should be arranged. Not only do we have to follow the public transportation routes, but the locations have to be attractive and storytelling, and we even have to consider the food part and even the value that the whole tour can bring to them and so on."
That's why they have to make two or three trips to form a complete plan, and they can't expand the scope of the tour beyond the Selangor area.
"There are a lot of MRT commuters in China, but almost all of them just get off and get off at their own or their company's MRT station and have never explored any other stations, so our blind tour takes them on a journey to discover what's interesting about these places," said Huang Yunying, Escape Planet's team leader. "We've even had international students from abroad tell us that they used to take the wrong station or didn't know where to go after getting off, and our guided tours take them to familiarize themselves with these MRT routes."
Difficulties are Everywhere
Running such an organization is undoubtedly tricky for a group of students.
"Since we chose to use public transportation for our trip, we don't have any reference experience. We had to rely on our own trial and error repeatedly to come up with the most feasible and educational route," said Wong Rain Yeen, the other route planner at Escape Planet.
"Since we are a non-profit organization, we have no funding source, and we do not charge any additional fees to participants," she added.
"So financial difficulties are the biggest trouble we have been facing. Luckily, our members are willing to continue," said Li Jin.
Participants Have High Satisfaction Rates
"I like traveling by public transportation like this," said Zhang Zihao, an economics student at UPM.
"As an international student, I usually take Grab to travel on the highway all the time and rarely have the opportunity to enjoy the cityscape on public transportation. This trip gave me a whole new appreciation for the town I live in," he added.
"This journey has made me realize in my life how the various races in Malaysia live together in tolerance and peace, and this humanistic vibe is something that really appeals to me," said Lin Yifan, a media communication student in UPM
Li Jin said, "Our events will continue to be organized and we hope that through more and more people will be able to join us. I really hope that through our efforts, we can make everyone know and love the town we live in better."