I've been to the world's most dangerous places and I don't regret it

Poet Robert Mullen said his travels taught him so much
Poet Robert Mullen said his travels taught him so much -Credit:Liverpool Echo

A man has explained why he spent a decade travelling around the world to some of the world’s most dangerous places.

Robert Mullen, 41, from Southport, has found work as a writer, musician and a university lecturer. An avid poet, he has written several poetry books and a new collection of his work will be released later this year.

Robert found “great inspiration” for his work from travelling around the world, but there was one area in particular which captured his attention. He said: “I lived abroad for nearly 10 years, including in Australia, China and Spain.

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“I've scaled Europe and been to America. There's a lot of similarities between there and home. Once I went to Asia I stepped onto a different planet.”

Robert was astounded by the different cultures he encountered, but he had a particular interest in going to places which other tourists would avoid, or as he puts it, “a fascination with countries your mother would tell you not to visit”.

Robert said: “I went to North Korea. I was there for 10 days. I've been working on a book solely about that for a long time. I tried to get in three times and got in on the third attempt.

“It was pure morbid curiosity that dragged me there. Looking back, I can't believe I actually went. I flew in three days after Donald Trump called Kim Jong Un ‘rocket man’.

“We flew in on Saturday from Beijing. The tour group basically sat us down and said listen, this is the most tense it's been since the early ‘90s. You don't have to come if you don't want to.

“Two or three out of the group did drop out. It was risky. They took passports off us at the border which was scary. But I had a wonderful experience, as wonderful as visiting there can be.”

Robert said North Korea taught him the same thing as other countries we’d been to. He said: “I’ve got a poem in the collection and it's called Evading Me. It's about going down the escalator in a Pyongyang subway.

Robert is glad to be back on Merseyside
Robert is glad to be back on Merseyside -Credit:Liverpool Echo

“This young boy smiled at me and waved. Then his mum put his hand down, in a ‘don't interact with foreigners’ sort of way. But it taught me we’re all the same, no matter where we're from.”

This wasn’t the only dangerous trip Robert took. He said: “I went to Myanmar during the civil war. I had to get out of there where it was quite dangerous.

“I did the world’s biggest bungee jump in Macau even though I have a terrible fear of heights. One of the great trips I did - I went to Indonesia, to the dangerous island where komodo dragons run free.”

Despite also enjoying wonderful adventures playing cricket in Sri Lanka and gigs around the world, Robert is now happily back home in Merseyside. He said: “I still love a party. I still have my moments.

“I came back because I found myself being some sort of nomad. I'd probably neglected some things that were really important. I had family back home, my parents were getting older, my sister had a baby.

“I'm glad I came back. I've settled.

“I play quite often in the Cavern. Liverpool is still my favourite city on the planet. I think just age is a thing - you grow out of certain things. I saw a lot of people out on the road in their 40s to 60s. They were lost souls really.

“There’s a lot of music going on in Southport. With Royales and Coopers Bar - there’s great music going on in these places all through the week.”

Robert is working on a book about his travels called Snippets which will be released in a few years time, but is currently focusing on his primary passion of poetry. His latest work, a collection called ‘it’s all come down to this: a retrospective selected poems & writings (1999-2024)’, will be published in September.

He said: “I was always a reader. I had a few teachers that were quite inspirational. Most kids kind of hate it but I like it. I just got involved in those kinds of circles.

“I did an English literature degree at Sheffield. I used to send lots of stuff off to journals.

“I started to get some stuff published. I ended up sending some scripts off and it was an American journal that accepted.”

Robert cites inspiration from Merseybeat poets Roger McGough and Brian Patten, and also praises British poet Robert Sheppard, who has written the foreword to his latest book.

He said: “It's changed as years have gone by. At first, it was that teenage wonder of what's its all that about. The different collections have had different themes. I wrote a collection about a son and a mother. I wrote a collection about a breakdown.”

Robert is now enjoying a quieter life, and claims he’s not tempted to take up travelling again. Referring to his more dangerous trips, he said: “I don't regret it, but if you offered me a free ticket now, expenses included, I wouldn't go.”

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