Scattered trees dot the rugged landscape in Mongolia in summer of 2019. (Photo by Paul Landen)

Scattered trees dot the rugged landscape in Mongolia in summer of 2019. (Photo by Paul Landen)

‘Intrigued by places’

“Unknown Asia” details travels of KPC professor

After visiting his 100th country this summer during an expansive tour of Southeast Asia, Kenai Peninsula College psychology professor Dr. Paul Landen will share his insights and experiences with the community.

“Travel is my passion,” Landen said. “I’m the kind of person that knew the capital of every country in the world in sixth grade.”

Landen, who visited 13 countries this year on a tour of Southeast Asia and Oceania, will present “Unknown Asia: A Journey Across Bangladesh, Maldives, Mongolia and Sri Lanka” tonight at 6:30 p.m. as part of the KPC showcase series.

In order to fit his experiences into an one-hour time slot, Landen will present his stories from four of the less-visited countries — Bangladesh, the Maldives, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. Landen said each nation presents a unique culture and geography that isn’t well known in the western world.

“They’re intriguing,” he said. “They’re each very different from each other. I thought of those four (for the presentation) because people know very little about them. These are places that I don’t think people go to often.”

A former director of international affairs at two different universities, Landen said he caught the travel bug as a young man. His travels in recent years have taken him to Europe and Africa and, in 2015, the country of Bhutan. Landen shared his experiences in Bhutan in a previous KPC showcase.

“I’ve got to go to a new country every year,” Landen explained when asked about his long list of places he’s visited.

When making a decision on where to visit in 2019, Landen said he settled on Southeast Asia and Oceania with a Swedish friend, who ultimately had to back out of the trip. Landen said his mind was made up to travel, with or without his host friend. He said he hopes his experiences inspire the audience to be intrigued enough to visit these areas of the world on their own. Plus, he represented one of his destinations (the Maldives) in his Model United Nations course in high school.

Landen said he chose each country for his presentation for a reason. Bangladesh is one of the most populous countries on Earth. The Maldives is the lowest-lying country on Earth with 26 atolls and a high elevation point of 17 feet.

Mongolia, while known as the land of Genghis Khan, is the 18th-largest country in the world by land size. With just 3 million inhabitants, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries. Sri Lanka, which sits off the east coast of India, is a traditional Buddhist enclave known for its elephant population and tea production.

Landen said he will be diving much deeper into what makes those countries interesting, beginning with his philosophy of immersing himself in a foreign culture.

“My way of doing things is to simply be and experience places,” he said. “To be completely in the moment and completely in the present in the spot. Just to encounter the people and encounter the culture. I’m just intrigued by places.”

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