We’re back with another instalment of our Brainiac Passions article series, where we take a special interest in our team members to find out more about who they are and what floats their proverbial boats during their spare time. This week, we carved out time to chat with our marketing collaborator, Laura, to discover more about her passion for travelling.
Seeing as nobody is able to travel much these days (thanks corona), we thought it would be fun to hop on an imaginary plane and vicariously explore all the places Laura has visited on her travels. Please make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and your tray table is in its full upright position.
We all like travelling, but tell us how you got started. What made you passionate about wanting to see the world?
I grew up in Switzerland and travelled a lot with my parents as a kid. We always visited countries that could be explored relatively easily and comfortably as a family. So, traveling has always been a part of my life. When I turned 20, I wanted to try something a bit different to get out of my comfort zone, so I decided to embark on a sort of camping adventure trip from Kathmandu to New Delhi overland, by truck.
This was a truly rewarding experience that taught me a lot about myself: turns out I love the so-called “cultural shock” experience. I really enjoy seeing what life looks like outside of the sheltered comforts of Central Europe: the different colours, landscapes, clothes, food, languages, and that hint of chaos that I never got to experience growing up in Switzerland.
How many countries have you been to, and which were your favourites and why?
I have been fortunate enough to travel to 60 countries so far. I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it is to choose a favourite because I love different places for different reasons. But I’ll try to give it a shot:
- I love India for its vibrant colours and delicious food.
- I love Colombia for its people, exquisite landscapes, and the amount of fun I had there.
- I love Zimbabwe for its diverse and breathtaking wildlife.
- And I love Russia because it turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting.
What 3 things are essential to have with you when you’re travelling?
- A diary: when I look back at my first big trip (which was only 5 years ago), I am shocked by how quickly I forgot places, people’s names, and anecdotes. Sometimes pictures aren’t enough.
- Medicine: luckily I was only very sick once, but I am always prepared as nothing sucks more than being sick on the road.
- Sleeping bag (if you are backpacking): hostels are often gross, so if I feel like the bed is not clean I like having the option of cocooning myself in something that I know for a fact is clean.
Do you have any travel hacks you’ve learned over the years?
When you’ve been on the road for a long time you quickly learn essential travel hacks to make life easier. A lot of these you discover by either doing yourself or by learning from other travellers. Here are my top travel hacks:
- If you have a long trip ahead of you, take an overnight train or bus. It will get you where you have to go and save you a night of accommodation. Don’t expect the most comfortable sleep you’ve ever had, but there’s something peaceful about travelling great distances while you’re dreaming.
- Go on safari during the dry season as you’re more likely to spot wildlife. Due to the lack of drinking water in the dry season, wildlife gathers close to watering holes and rivers, so they remain close – leaving you a better chance at spotting them.
- Street food is always the best option. Some of the best meals I’ve had were on the side of the road in remote places. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger 🙂
- Go on sunrise hikes, even if it often means 2 am departures in the dark. Because when you reach the summit and see the light rising from the horizon you quickly forget that you are exhausted, hungry, and cold. There is nothing quite like it.
What destinations do you still have on your bucket list?
Too many to list them all! I would like to scuba dive in the Philippines, experience the rich culture of Iran, sample the food and see the wildlife of Sri Lanka, and visit anywhere I can potentially see the Northern Lights. And Australia because you simply have to go there at least once in your life.
I also want to return to many of the places that I have already visited to relive those experiences when I am a little wiser. It will be interesting to discover new elements of a familiar country with the added benefits of posterity and maturity.
Tell us about one of your best travel adventure experiences that you were only able to experience in the country you were visiting.
Sorry, but I can’t choose just one! Here are a few of my top travel experiences:
- Bungee jumping in Uganda was one of the best feelings ever, as well as jumping off the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- Seeing the sunrise over Mount Bromo in East Java.
- Climbing the highest sand dune in the Mongolian side of the Gobi desert. We never thought we’d make it, but reaching the summit was definitely in my top 5 travel moments.
- Crossing Russia by train and swimming in the Siberian Lake Baikal, the deepest in the world.
- One week of Rio Carnival.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to get started on a similar journey, what would it be?
Don’t fill your itineraries with museums and must-see landmarks: the true magic of a new town or city lies in the roads leading to and from those famous places. Take the time to go for a walk in the non-touristy areas and learn what life looks like in the country you are visiting. It’s better to come away with a really great story of a unique adventure you experienced first-hand rather than a photo album of landmarks.
Thanks for the chat and vicarious road trip through the long list of wonderful places you have visited, Laura! We are sure that your travels have inspired many of us to take the leap and start planning for our next adventure. We look forward to hearing more travel stories from you in the future!