Being A Firefighter During NS Equipped Him With Skills To Be A Career Adventurer
STORY: Nicholas Yong & Sim Ding En
15 February 2022
Those of us who've been through national service will concur that there are many NS experiences that will stay with us for life. And, in the same way certain perfumes and scents bring us back instantaneously to particular moments in time, being in certain situations can jog our memory of serving the nation.
"Heading to Mongolia and Kazakhstan, seeing drivers journey across the landscapes with their 4x4 vehicles, it sort of brings me back to those days when I was driving those big trucks in the Singapore Civil Defence Force," says Scott Tay, the founder of boutique travel agency Beyond Expeditions Singapore.
"[In the SCDF], I learnt a lot as a firefighter. More or less, it definitely influenced my career because I learnt how to fight fires, and I learnt how to use certain technical stuff related to machinery such as chainsaws, power saws, and driving the fire engine. So that was great fun for me!"
We talk to the 30-year-old bonafide adventurer about sharing his lust for the great outdoors with Singaporeans, organising physically challenging charity events to make a point, and the multitude of ways to (re)discover hidden treasures in our own backyard.
Last September, you and your team transported an authentic (and fully-air-conditioned) Mongolian yurt 5,000km all the way to Singapore. Why is Mongolia so special to you?
Mongolia is like my second home. I've been there more than 20 times; I stopped counting! I wanted to bring a slice of Mongolia to Singapore, and I thought, the yurt would be the best representation because it’s unique. It is the best object that can represent the Mongolian culture.
Read about the Magical Mongolia here. According to Scott, 95% of everything inside the yurt is from Mongolia, and that it feels as though you've been transported to the landlocked nation known as "The Land of the Eternal Blue Sky" – apparently, even the wood inside the yurt smells different!
Beyond Expeditions organises "Beyond Limits", a series of annual charity expeditions. Last year, you held a 72km wheelchair trek all around the country to parallel the tough journey cancer patients go through. Plus, you’ve trekked the fiery Gobi desert and the bitterly cold northern region of Mongolia (at -40°C temperatures) with cancer survivors.
In March, you’ll be organising a 100km tyre trek across Singapore for charity. What motivates you to do all these acts of good?
I’m looking forward to March for the 100km tyre trek with the cancer warriors. I just hate doing the same thing over and over again. and I thought why not combine adventure with a charity cause?
It’s the same when we’re doing our outbound tours – I don’t want to keep doing the same conventional tours. After a while, you keep doing the same thing… it’s boring man! I love to create new things, I love a new angle, I like the idea of piecing together different ideas and telling the story in a different angle, in a fresh manner that no one has done before. That excites me so much.
Scott wrote in one Instagram post about the wheelchair trek (above): "Knowing that outbound travel has its limitations for now doesn’t give me the excuse to stop contributing to our community who are falling through the cracks. I just feel that it’s either we find a way or make a way - not just throw in the towel and take the easy way out."
Beyond Expeditions also organises trips to explore remote paths and secret underground tunnels in Singapore. While many of us are cooped up at home (cuz #Covid), you seem to be finding new ways to rediscover our Little Red Dot - and motivate us to get off our lazy bums to do the same! What inspires you and how do you discover all these places?
Yes! There are many interesting places to visit in Singapore like underground tunnels, but for most of these places, it can be done easily on your own, so we don’t organise tours – [we only do so for] certain areas that require a permit or when it’s a little bit more challenging to find these places, like the Marsiling bunkers, or Fort Serapong, which will be launching [a trek] next month in collaboration with Sentosa.
I just find it’s a different ballgame when going into the jungle. It’s not just about adventure – it educates us about what Singapore was like back in the 60s, 70s, and even before the British came to Singapore.
For us to be able to make use of these places and recreate a different kind of experience, I find it really interesting - rather than just a normal walking historical tour which is super boring for most people.
What can we expect from Scott Tay and Beyond Expeditions in 2022… and beyond? Especially as the pandemic doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
There are still lots of interesting things for us to create even though we are not able to organise outbound tours anymore, because I strongly believe that there are infinite possibilities and unlimited opportunities if you believe in how abundant and rich the universe is. Stay tuned for more epic and crazy stuff from us!