What We Do
1. We’re your normal everyday folks who travel around the world while still keeping our full-time jobs or studying as full-time students, and spending as little money as possible. We believe you don’t have to quit anything to travel the world and we take anyone who wants to join along, proving that you can have your cake and eat it too.
2. We prove this in the flesh by leading monsoons around the world every few weeks. Anyone can join us. However, these are not first-world “follow my giant flag” vacations where we hold your hand — these are adventures that are raw, real, challenging, and unapologetic. You will be challenged. Our style may not be for everyone, but at the very least you’ll come out of it knowing whatever you went on, it was real.
4. And we get to tell stories like these.
Calvin D. Sun, MD (Founder & CEO, Guide)
It takes just the right conditions for a monsoon to form. For CALVIN D. SUN, it was the sudden loss of his father, an unexpected parting gift of camera lenses, a picture of Halong Bay, and a serendipitous trip to Egypt (and unexpectedly being left there alone that stirred up the inexorable winds of wanderlust in him.
In 2006, his father had died from a sudden heart attack and life seemed to lose direction. But as Calvin was cleaning out his father’s closet, a pair of camera lenses fell into his hands. Wiping the dust off and finding them a new home, he promised that he would one day put them to good use.
Another few years would pass until Calvin came across a picture of Halong Bay. Unable to tear himself away from the idea that such a place could exist and after his recent, unplanned experience of being stranded in Egypt with no money, he decided to travel. But a kind of travel where nothing would stop him, time or money be damned. However, his friends gawked that he wouldn’t, that he was a medical student, that he didn’t have the time or the money, that he was insane, or that he would burn out. To prove them wrong, and mostly to himself, Calvin started a blog: The Monsoon Diaries was born.
Soon he found himself paradise lost in the crevices and hidden coves of the Halong Bay of his mind, and knew he had to dig his feet in faraway sands. His father left him with a yearning inquisitiveness that couldn’t be satiated until he captured the perfect shot of Halong Bay for himself. And Egypt had taught him that it wasn’t just the destination that mattered; how he journeyed there, whom he would travel with and whom he would meet were just as essential.
170+ countries, hundreds of companions, and 8 years later (while graduating med school and finishing residency on time!), Calvin is still moving even while working now as an Emergency Medicine Physician and Assistant Clinical Professor based in NYC.
His mission has been and always will be: monsoon the world, break down the stereotypes, dispel the ignorance, and uncover the obscure. And with his father’s lenses by his side, Calvin knows that wherever he’ll go, he’ll never be alone.
Want to join him on his next adventure? Just ask!
Melissa Weinmann (Guide)
In 2015 Melissa Weinmann boasted a few study and working abroad experiences in Spain under her belt and had visited only a handful of countries. Then she went on a Monsoon Diaries expedition to Central Asia — her first trip with a group of complete strangers — where her passion for travel soon took off; she soon adapted Calvin’s style in exploring the lesser-traveled places of the world.
After graduating with a degree in Communications and Spanish Language, Melissa worked in advertising, publishing, and video editing for several years, although it never felt right. For a while she sought something more meaningful, and after returning from her travels she applied to the Peace Corps Vanuatu English literacy program. She was soon accepted, and departed her hometown of Chicago in April 2017.
While in Vanuatu, she has been working with her fellow teachers creating a grassroots effort in improving English literacy in the local central school. She lives in a small island village where she’s learned to master her machete to open coconuts, respect the kava, and bake with hot stones and banana leaves, all while growing close to her neighbors and community. She especially loves connecting with the teen girls, educating them on consent, menstruation and puberty and reading magazines and baking cookies with them like the older sister she never had.
Living in the Pacific, she’s had the opportunity to explore some of the diverse 80+ islands of Vanuatu, as well as surrounding Pacific island nations and SE Asia. She encourages anyone and everyone to get off the tourist path, especially in countries like Vanuatu, so you can better understand the meaning behind traditional dances, handicrafts, and ceremonies.
What’s next post-service is unknown, but it’s sure to include lots of travel and exploration, all while keeping with her goal of doing something more meaningful.
Want to join on her next adventure? Just ask
Ann Wen (Guide)
Truer words could not have been said. After landing her first full-time job while attending NYU as a full-time HR grad student, everyday became a tedious routine: wake up at 6:30am, work that 9-5, attend class from 6-9pm and head home by 10:30pm (if the MTA even could cooperate) to eat, shower, complete assignments and sleep. With weekends devoted to grad school, she would rinse and repeat for nearly another year.
Struggling to stay sane, something had to change. Travel was always in the back of Ann’s mind, but free time, money and school was the limiting factor. As if timing couldn’t be any more pristine, an opportune trip to Luxembourg during 2017 Memorial Day weekend popped up on The Monsoon Diaries and Calvin’s feed. With a gentle, but firm push and words of encouragement from Calvin to let all inhibitions and concerns go, Ann booked her connecting flight to Paris without having her PTO pre-approved and packed her tiny Isabella North Face backpack like an amateur would. The rest is history. 18 countries and a Master’s Degree later, it has been the best decision she’s ever made. Each trip (whether as a loyal monsooner, on her own or with friends) has changed Ann’s life in a positive and meaningful way upon return—in self-actualization and even romantically in her love life (yes, feel free to ask her about it!).
And it doesn’t stop there. Ann strives to do #30before30, a personal goal to travel to 30 countries before she turns 30 years old. At 24 years old while this post was written, the world is her oyster. After co-guiding a fantastic group of 16 Monsooners with Calvin to Prague & Budapest over an extended 2019 MLK weekend, Ann is eager to embark on more adventures in the near future. It is now the earlier set of apathetic words have become: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
So don’t let time, money, circumstance or even love…stop you. Take the leap of faith and just do it. There might just be something absolutely better waiting for you on the other side.
Want to join on her next adventure? Just ask!
Taylan Stulting (Guide)
After a series of graduate school rejections, Taylan wound up moving to England for a Master’s degree in the fall of 2016. When plans to meet up with a friend over winter break in Iceland – a pseudo-halfway point between New York and London thanks to budget airlines – fell through, that friend told Taylan to look into The Monsoon Diaries instead. Suddenly a 5-day trip to Iceland with 1 close friend turned into a 3-week adventure on the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian, finishing in Tibet with a group of 10 strangers-turned-friends for life.
Although Taylan was accepted to a PhD program at Cambridge during the middle of that very trip, wanderlust took over and Taylan ultimately decided to defer the offer and travel the world. And when asked where to go, the only response was “everywhere.” So that’s what Taylan has now set off to do by attempting to visit 100 countries in a single year.
3 months and almost 40 countries later, they haven’t looked back. While there always have been challenging moments inherent in solo travel, group travel, mental health, and the frustrations of traveling while transgender — the opportunities to see the world is more than worth them.
Want to join them on their next adventure? Just ask!
Dave Zhou (Guide)
Dave immigrated to the US from China at the age of 5 and grew up on the East Coast. Earning his B.Eng. from Cornell University studying operations research and optimization, Dave worked at several bulge bracket investment banks in NYC doing sales, trading and strategy for the fixed income markets. But that is where his immigrant story ends. . . .
After a few trips with The Monsoon Diaries, Dave decided to leave his promising career in finance in NYC to explore the world, learn more about himself and discover the secrets of living a happy life. Instead of doing what he was supposed to — as taught by society, his parents, or his friends — Dave realized that you only have one life to live so you had better do what you want, enjoy it to the fullest and have no regrets. That is why he believes that everything in life should be experienced at least twice!
His other endeavors have included businesses for e-commerce, accessories wholesale/retail (Tribal Couture LLC), manufacturing and 3D printing in China (AdmTech), personal matchmaking services (Click2Asia), impersonating famous DJs (Steve Aoki), a travel & tourism businesses in Bali (Mudita Villas), and real estate investments all around the world. Over the last couple of years, Dave relocated to Southeast Asia and has been investing in SaaS startups and becoming more active in the live-streaming industry, most recently working as an Agent for UpLive (AIG Ltd).
After seeing the wealth inequality in the world and with his experience in online dating, travel, and blockchain apps, Dave is now working on developing a new platform to monetize people’s skills on demand from anywhere and at any time. Stay tuned…
Want to join him on his next adventure? Just ask!
Aaron Lam (Guide)
The travel bug: Infectious yet so empowering. For Aaron, this was not encountered till late in his undergraduate studies at Macaulay Honors College at Baruch when he had the opportunity to travel and study abroad in Panama, China and Italy. Despite the initial fears prior to each trip, every time he came back amazed at how much fun the unexpected could be. The friends that you make and the memories you create . . . it became intoxicating.
Heading into the last ever summer vacation between his 1st and 2nd year of medical school, Aaron was yearning to go abroad again, reminiscing about the past trips. Yet, no one was willing to travel, whether it be because of the expenses or because it was out of their comfort zone. Through a recommendation by a friend, Aaron found out about The Monsoon Diaries and took part in their travel to Southern Africa in 2016. Unfortunately, the experience was cut short for Aaron as he had to return home to give a presentation. Determined to finish the rest of the trip, Aaron led a few of his friends and explored the beauties of Africa the following year.
While working hard to becoming a medical doctor, on his (limited) free time, Aaron actively plans for his next adventure, trying to find the best spots for stargazing. Traveling has consumed his thoughts. To him, it is a nice refresher, an escape from the routines of life. It reminds him of the path he has taken to this point as well as how much more there is out there.
Want to join him on his next adventure? Just ask!
mon•soon män-ˈsün, ˈmän-
verb, monsooned, monsooning.
1 : to travel with limited time and money
2 : to take advantage of your youth in sampling the world so you’ll know exactly where to return when you’re older
3 : to efficiently and thoroughly explore vast regions of the world in a short amount of time
4 : a unique type of seemingly-unfeasible travel itinerary that dares travelers instead to laugh in the face of impossibility and empowers them to travel the world without feeling like they have to quit anything or dig into their savings.
Examples of MONSOON
• “We packed our bags and monsooned South Asia, the Middle East and into Eastern Europe within 3 weeks time.”
Origin of MONSOON
• 2010; From the original word monsoon, inspired by the behavior of a periodic wind and heavy rainfall covering a large region of the Earth
First known use: May 2010