Saturday, March 29, 2014

Interview (25) - bAnita

Anita - girl from Poland

What was your inspiration or the event/idea that made you want to travel?
Ever since I remember, I've always dreamed of travelling. However, it used to take me up to several days to travel, and most of the times I'd be accompanied by my husband. I didn't feel courageous enough to hit the road on my own whereas leaving it all behind and becoming an adventurer was all I really wanted. Once, I got that calling which would grow stronger day after day, month after month, year after year... I got totally exhausted both with my job for a big company and the world around me which made me earn more money and live on monthly sales statistics. Eventually, the calling would take over.

What was your first travel experience?
The first trip abroad I remember led me to France. My Grandparents used to live in Paris. I was about six. Then, I'd travel to Germany, Italy and again France. Those were the countries where my relatives lived at that time. I was especially shocked with my visit in one of Paris' supermarkets. I still remember that. Being a cheese lover, I'd eat it very often. While in Poland we could buy only about two kinds of it, in the supermarket I came across a long long aisle with various cheeses. I thought I was in paradise!

Have you ever felt lonely travelling solo?
Sometimes I have. Travelling on your own is said not to make you feel lonely. And that is true. Unless it's your choice. I mean I didn't use to meet the right people, other backpackers I'd feel like spending my time with. I am not in favour of partying 24/7 and staying in a hostel bed all day when there are so many beautiful places to see and so many interesting local people to meet. I'd feel lonely mostly on important days such as my birthdays and Christmases even though I was accompanied by very kind people. Still, I missed my husband and that was what made me feel lonely sometimes.

Do you have any fun stories of things that happened to you that you realized even at the time, “This never would have happened if I had been traveling with someone else?”
I've had lots of such stories. However, lots of them wouldn't have happened if I'd been travelling with my husband or someone else. For example, I wouldn't have stayed in a beach cottage by the Caribbean Sea in Honduras where I'd been invited by a young Doctor of Anthropology who worked there. People have a different attitude towards a woman travelling alone. They want to help her, take care of her. They find it easier to offer some help or just talk to you unless you're travelling in a group or with a man.

What was your best travel experience?
Almost each travel experience has been amazing. Even if it was dangerous and unpleasant. It's because each one teaches you a lesson. I've had the most amazing experience meeting other people, mostly while I was hitchhiking. I love hitchhiking because of the people I meet! It made me regain my faith in people, and learn they are good by nature. The trust they put in you as a stranger, the good and the kindness you experience from them are amazing feelings! It all makes me want to be a better person myself.

 Is there anything you would have done differently/ any regrets, if you could do it over again?
I made a lot of mistakes during my first trip to Central America on my own. I was pretty scared as it was my first time, and now I realize I missed a lot of interesting things then. I was in a hurry, trying to stick to what I'd planned. I should have just let go of myself. Conclusively, during my next trip alone I'll be less strict, and step off other people's routes.

What was your worst travel experience?
I had some on my way to Central America. Still, the worst one must have been my visit at a dentist's in Honduras. It really was! The surgery didn't comply with any European standards, at all! I was terrified when the dentist was just about to start the root canal treatment. What's more, I experienced Montezuma's revenge during my twelve-hour route on a night bus in Mexico. I spent almost the entire trip in the toilet. Lucky, there was one! I also had some close encounters of an unpleasant kind with hostel bedbugs.

What’s the strangest situation you have found yourself in?
It happened on an almost empty beach at sunrise when I was rudely poked by a man. There were two more fishermen with him. I was alone and pretty far from the cottage I was staying in. There was no one around. I was terrified. Lucky, I can run fast!

Where will you never return to?
I don't think there are such places or countries. Still, I don't like coming back to the places I've been to as I think there are so many incredible new places to visit. It would simply be a waste of time.

What advice would you give women traveling solo to your home country?
In Poland, hitchhiking is very convenient, and that's the means of transport I suggest. I myself hitchhike very often here. As for some other advice on safety, it's rather useless. It's simply relatively safe in Poland.

What are your future travel plans?
My plans often change. This year, I'm hitchhiking to Albania and Macedonia. And I'm coming back to Central America - Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica, to be precise. It's going to take me quite a long time to stay there. What next? Well, time will tell.

What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?
1. Wear your wedding ring - it makes you avoid the unwelcome beaus. In each country however, make sure which finger to put it on (while in the USA, it did not work as I was wearing it on my right hand).
2. Always remember people are good by nature.
3. Be an extrovert. Do not be afraid to ask and talk even if the foreign language you use is broken.

What would you tell women who are looking to travel alone but worry about their safety?
I myself was really scared initially. Especially that the countries I'd chosen were said to be the most dangerous in the world. I kept being warned about how dangerous the Republic of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are. I decided to get over it. Surprisingly, the countries turned out to be completely different than I'd been told. Ladies, with a bit of common sense, you can make it! People are warm-hearted and will always help a woman travelling on her own. Do not get scared!

Couchsurfing..what do you think about that?
It's a very nice community. I've done couchsurfing a few times in order to meet people and learn about their countries. It's the best source of knowledge as far as cultures, traditions and everyday lives in other parts of the world are concerned. I'm talking the real life.

Tell us about the best food you have ever eaten on your travels?
I got crazy about Mexican cuisine. Mexican tacos with guacamole as well as chiles en nogada which is a traditional Mexican dish, are my faves. Moreover, I will not forget the taste of sushi for breakfast at 6 am at a harbour in Japan. And the fruit, especially mango which makes me forget myself. Nowhere had I eaten as yummy mango as I did in Mexico and El Salvador.

What is the most breathtaking view you have ever witnessed on your travels
Until October, 2013, it had been the view from Guatemala's Santa Maria volcano as well as the view of El Salvador's Santa Ana volcano. Then, I went to the United States, and fell in love with almost every single place such as the Grand Canyon, Zion Park, Route 395, Mono Lake and a magical place called the Antelope Canyon to name but a few.

What do you miss about your home when you go traveling?
There's only one thing I miss while travelling - my husband.

What item will you always carry in your backpack?
A pocket knife, a torch and running shoes. I always carry the shoes I'm addicted to.

Who was the kindest or most generous person you met on your travels, and what did they do?
It was Jorge. I met him while hitchhiking in the Balkans where I was travelling with my girlfriend. Jorge is Portuguese but he lived in Romania at that time. To cut the long story short, Jorge helped us out from a weird couchsurfer's strange house, took us to his place, spared a single room to each of us, cooked for us, drove us around Romania, made picnics for us, and fixed us places to stay with friends of his in other parts of the country. I've come across a lot of amazing people on my way, but Jorge was exceptional.

What have you learned from travelling?
Mostly, I've learned a lot about myself. I used to think I wouldn't make it travelling alone. I'd simply be helpless and get lost. I turned out to be strong and courageous enough which I hadn't expected myself to be. Thanks to travelling, I strongly believed in my skills and capabilities, and I learned the sky was the limit to me. I've also learned a lot about people and how good they are.

Who inspires you? What other travellers do you look up to?
I'm inspired by women travelling on their own. I admire and look up to them. Before my first trip, I got childishly excited with every story about courageous female travellers. Undoubtedly, I got inspired by a Polish traveller Monika Witkowska who gave me strength to take my first step at last. My first step into the world. She still remains my role model.

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