Saturday, February 8, 2014

Interview (19) - let me introduce you to Paulina

Paulina from Poland

1. How / when did you catch the travel bug?

Since early childhood I was travelling with my parent in Poland. Then, in 70-ties and 80-ties 
any travels abroad were completely unreachable for us and I was growing up knowing that 
I will never see New York, not even mentioning Patagonia (did I know than that Patagonia 
exists?). It is amazing how everything has changed since then but I guess that these family 
traveling in small fiat made me to catch the bug.

 2. What’s your preferred type of travel- destinations, type of accommodation, 
activities, length of trip, and so on? Why the preference?

Low budget and tramping. I like camping a lot and that is my preferred way of travelling 
in Scandinavia and some other parts of Europe. Not only because of costs involved but also 
camping allows you to enjoy nature in its best. There is no better way to see Iceland than with your own tent. 
When outside of Europe I usually chose local public transport, stay in hostels and 
guesthouses. Always eat local food, preferably street food (especially in Asia). My most 
bellowed destination cover Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Scandinavia. Pretty, 
diverse mix :-). 
Long travels (my longest lasted a year) are the greatest but it is rarely that we can afford it, in terms of funds and time (work, study etc.). I am limited now to two weeks holiday but it is 
frustrating and I hope one day to spend another several months on the road. 

3. What was your first travel experience?

Do not remember really first travel experience but most probably it was a trip to Polish 
mountains. The one I really remember as my first solo trip was couple of weeks spent in 
Denmark in late 80-ties. I was around 15 and my parents send me to a Danish family who 
during the Polish martial war was helping Poles by sending clothes and food. I 
took a ferry from Świnoujście to Copenhagen and then in exchange for cleaning and helping 
in the house I could spend some time in Copenhagen and surroundings. It was a mind 
blowing experience for a teenager from a communist country to see place like Copenhagen. 
Although it is not the most beautiful city in the word I still have a lot of sentiment for Danish 

4. What do you like best about your traveling life?

New places, new people, new tastes, new smells etc. Experience. 

5. Could you please tell us about one or two of your very best trips and what made them so great?

The best one was definitely a yearlong round the word trip through Asia, Australia/New 
Zealand and then through two American continents. First, it was a complete change of life. 
Year on the road is an experience non comparable to anything else. It allows you to live and 
travel at the same time. Second, this trip allowed me to see and experience more than many 
will experience in their life time. I have visited places so different like Siberia and Yucatan, 
tropical Indonesia and cold Patagonia. Last but not least, I improved my Spanish very much 
during five months in Latin America. 
Another great trip was my first time in Iceland in 1999. This was my first trip outside of 
continental Europe (UK does not count) and first to a place so different in nature to what 
we can see around us. I felt in love with this cold and rainy island and I return since then. 

6. Are there any places in the world or special trips that you’re just dying to visit / take?

Himalaya and Antarctica. The second one because the it is the last continent I have not 
visited yet. Himalaya, because I love mountains and trekking and this is… Himalaya, the 
biggest mountains on the planet.

7. How do you fund your travels?

I am the only sponsor of my travels. I work as a lawyer and finance all my trips from my 
private earning.

8. What are your 3 favorite countries, and why do you love them so much?

Iceland because of the most stunning nature incomparable to anything else. Peru and Bolivia 
(let’s count it as one) because of their diversity, landscapes and indigenous Indian culture. 
Mali because it is Africa in its best – beautiful, wild but friendly and happy despite the 
poverty. Not mentioning the most amazing places like mud mosque in Djenne or very 
mysterious Dogon Country. 

9. Are there any places you hate/ never want to visit again / do not recommend to other travelers? If so, where and what’s the turn off?

Hate is not the good word. I do not think I hate any particular place but there are countries/
regions which I am not the great fun of. First region is Arab countries in middle east and 
North Africa. The reason is pretty simple – as a female traveler, travelling solo or with other 
women I was always exposed to unwanted attention from local males, sometimes including 
an unwelcomed physical contact (touching in public transport etc.). I have visited several 
countries in this region where this type of behaviors was the worst in Morocco and Syria, the 
least problematic in Jordan. Still, I do not feel like going to these places again however still 
Lebanon is pretty high on my list of countries to go. 
The second difficult place for me is India. Attention and physical abuse form local men is 
ever worse than in Middle East and North Africa. Second, India is the most colorful country 
in the word, with the best food and amazing culture. On the other hand, India is probably the dirtiest place in the word, where you must be insane to enter a public toilet, cockroaches walk on you in the train, walking on the streets means walking in flows of garbage etc. This was difficult for me. But on the other hand India is fascinating, so you have to prepare yourself and go!

10. What are your 3 favorite things to do out in the world? 

Trekking in beautiful scenery, discovering new cities and doing strange, usually sport related, things like biking down a Death Road in Bolivia or diving in Blue Hole in Belize. 

11. Have you been in any seriously scary, dangerous, nerve-wracking situations when you feared for your health, safety, or your lives? If so, please tell us about one of them.

Not really. I was seriously sick (amebosis in one of African countries) and alone which was 
difficult and potentially dangerous. But I got a proper treatment and help from the strangers. 
I was never robbed or in a really dangerous situation but I always use common sense, do not 
take unnecessary risk, prepare by knowing the places I visit (where not to go and why?). But I think I am also lucky. There were riots in Peru while I was there, several kidnappings of foreigners in Mali while I was there, serious volcanic eruption in Indonesia when I was there etc. Nothing happened to me. 

12. What are your favorite foreign cuisines and why do you love them?

The whole Asia is a culinary paradise but probably India and China are my favorites. Both are spicy and vegetarian – that is what I love. Also Peru has a great cuisine which was recently listed as UNESCO world heritage. 

13.Is there anything you would have done differently/ any regrets, if you could do it over again?

Not really. Maybe I will spend more time in some places but I would not change anything 

14. What’s the strangest situation you have found yourself in?

Do not recall anything particularly strange one. 

15. What are your top three tips for other travelers?

Be flexible, do not stick to your initial plan and be ready to change it when something goes 

wrong. Be open-minded, the word is fascinating in it variety and we should enjoy it but not 

look for similarities or standard we are used to. Learn foreign languages. 

16. Couchsurfing..what do you think about that?

It is a great idea but does not work for me. I am too independent and prefer to be alone. 

17. Tell us about the best food you have ever eaten on your travels?

I still remember Tuna Tikka Tandoori in a small restaurant in Goa, plate of fried, spicy 

shrimps in Belize and every guacamole I had from Nicaragua to Mexico. 

18. What is the most breathtaking view you have ever witnessed on your travels

Too many to mention – temples of Angkor, calving glaciers in Greenland and Argentinian 
Patagonia (Perito Moreno – the most beautiful glacier in the word), Galapagos, Iguazu Falls, 
Big Five in Ngoromgoro crater, Icelandic and New Zealand geothermal areas, Bolivian 
altiplano and many others. 

19. What do you miss about your home when you go traveling?

My bed and my bathroom. 

20. What item will you always carry in your backpack?

It used to be books, now Kindle.

21. Who was the kindest or most generous person you met on your travels, and what did they do?

In Sumatra I was invited for a local wedding where everybody was so curious our white skin 
and blond hair that we became the major attraction of the wedding answering all possible 
questions about Poland, Europe, religion, customs etc. The whole family gathered, everybody was extremely friendly, we have left with tons of sweets for the bus ride we had the following day. 
But definitely the most kindest and generous people I meet in Nagorno Karabakh, rebellious 
Azeri province, in fact more part of Armenia than Azerbaijan. On the marschrutka (local bus 
in almost all post-Soviet countries) from Erevan we met a family from Stepanakert. Once 
we arrived to Stepanakert, capital of Karabakh, we were invited by them to their house. We 
initially thought we will have tea with them and leave in the evening. They did not let us. 
We stayed with them for couple of days, they showed us big part of their country, took us 
for a big party at their family at the countryside, feed us, traveled with us and treated us like queens. We had great time, meet local people, lived with them in their houses. This was one of the best experiences. Grisha, head of the family, told us also the whole history of Karabakh – Azerbaijan conflict as he was in the army since his teenage years. 

22. What have you learned from travelling?

Foreign customs, flexibility, foreign languages, that most people are peaceful and friendly 
towards foreigners. 

23. Who inspires you? What other travelers do you look up to?

I read a lot of travel literature, I follow blogs and articles about travelling and sometimes they inspire me to go to a place I have not thought about before. But I cannot name people who inspire me.

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