Hong Kongâ€“based adventurer Andrea Oschetti left the corporate world more than a decade ago, reinventing himself as chef of a private kitchen, a travel photographer and writer, TEDx speaker, and now, â€śdream makerâ€ť at the months-old luxury travel outfit Blueflower. Here, he speaks to us about three of his passions: travel, books, and food.
What is Blueflower all about?
The blue flower is a central symbol of Romanticism that represents the search for personal fulfillment. My passion is to share the life-enriching, transformative power of travel with other people, so thatâ€™s why I started this company. We have more than 40 itineraries all over the world, and to customize them we depend on members of what I call the Blueflower Collective. Itâ€™s a global community of like-minded, creative individualsâ€”they are chefs, journalists, artists, and so onâ€”my contacts from 10 years of working as a travel writer and photographer. Two examples are the leading archaeologist Damian Evans, who will narrate the history of AngkorÂ over dinner before a visit to the temples, and in Italy, the culinary philosopher and wine specialist Gaetano Saccoccio.
Name one travel experience that took your breath away.
Riding a bicycle on the Silk Road from Italy to China, through deserts and steppes, alpine valleys and high mountain passes. The weather varied from furnace-like heat to numbing cold and biting winds. Besides the physical demands of the trip, I also had to confront the bureaucratic certainties and political uncertainties of Central Asia. I chose my route in order to follow some of the great journeys in history: those of Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Xuan Zang, Alexander the Great, and Tamerlane.
Is there one place that draws you back again and again?
The Himalayas. Iâ€™ve always been more of a mountain person and my favorite activity is hiking. Seeing the Himalayas leaves me with a feeling of aweâ€”they remind us of something greater than us, and that puts us back in our place. The mountains also appeal to my sense of aesthetics: I love Japanese and Chinese ink paintings, the tension between emptiness and clarity, what you see and donâ€™t see. Then you have the spiritual aspect: even if you donâ€™t believe in the local religions, you can still learn a lot from how they are practiced.
Who is your favorite travel writer?
At the beginning of the 19th century, with the Great Game [a rivalry between the British and Russian Empires] shifting eastward, Central Asia became the focus of a generation of brave explorers. One of them was Sven Hedin, an exceptionally determined and strong Swedish man. The adventures recorded in his self-illustrated 1925 autobiography, My Life as an Explorer, impacted me deeply as a teenager. This was a real person, but it read like a book of fiction! I was amazed because he was absolutely crazy. Sven and his companions tried to find this city in the desert, then they passed a 7,000-meter mountain and he said, â€śHey, letâ€™s climb it!â€ť So you can say he was a little bit of an Indiana Jones.
How does being chef of a private kitchen inform your travels?
Through food, Iâ€™m able to understand a place even better than by reading a guidebook. Letâ€™s take dim sum as an example: the sheer variety of ingredients, textures, flavors, and cooking methods tells you that Chinese culture values balance and harmony. If youâ€™re an observant foodieâ€”not just one who likes to try new dishesâ€”you can see things and make connections where most other people canâ€™t.
This article originally appeared in theÂ August/September 2017Â print issue of DestinAsian magazine (â€śItinerant Italianâ€ť).