During my recent trip to the coast for my birthday, I had a unique opportunity to meet Laura. How we started off was simple, we were cooking up a storm with our new friends J and Ferdinand. Ferdinand was so curious about the octopus meal that everyone was so excited about. Ugali was also in the menu.Across the swimming pool at Distant Relatives rumours quickly spread that we were preparing octopus meal and ugali. Soon after our guest list swelled. Part of the guests was one Laura. As we got to know each other and shared our travel experiences, one of my friends called out my name to ask what amount of water was enough for our Ugali…Quickly Laura picked the name and asked with a lot of excitation, “Is this Bonita? Bonita on Safari?” She went ahead to say how she found the blog useful especially a blog post I wrote about Kilifi and Distant Relatives, as they say, the rest is history…
We caught up again during her stop over in Nairobi with her boyfriend Juan as they headed to Nyahururu and here is how our interview went as she got to tell me more about herself and her travel experiences across the globe.
Me: Who is Laura?
Laura Lazzarino (31) is an Argentinian travel writer and the free spirit behind www.losviajesdenena.com; a personal travel blog which has been active online since the year 2008. My adventures across 50 countries has inspired a new generation of independent travelers. I am also a National Geographic Viajes Magazine contributor and author of two travel books, including the best-selling Caminos Invisibles. Right now I am crossing Africa overland, from Cairo to Cape Town, looking for new stories to be featured in my next book.
Is this your first time in Kenya?
Me:How does Kenya compare to your country? What are some of the similarities, and obvious differences?
L:Well…some landscapes remind me a lot of Argentina, but only for a moment. When a colorful bird or a giraffe appears in the picture, then I know I’m not home! Nature is overwhelming here, people and their traditions are different too. But I think we have something in common; we are friendly and we love visitors.
Me:How do you decide on the places you visit when you go to foreign countries?
L:We read a lot. We investigate, surf the web for hidden spots, plan an itinerary. But we are flexible too and always open to last-minute changes, or recommendations on the spot.
Me:How many countries have you visited so far?
L:Fifty, including Antarctica.
Me:How long have you been travelling for?
L:I started travelling eight years ago, but it was not full time. In 2010, I decided to make my passion my lifestyle. I’ve been traveling and writing ever since.
Me:How do you afford your travels?
L:Mostly, by selling my books online. In 2013, I self-published “Caminos Invisibles” a book about our 36,000Km hitch-hiking trip through South America. After that, I published a Hitch-Hiking Guide to a Spanish publishing house and other projects. Also through collaborations with travel magazines like Revista Viajes de National Geographic.
Me:What inspires your travels?
L:Cultural differences,their challenges and new scenarios, I like how every travel changes me and the lessons I pick on the road.
Me:Did you plan to travel the world and write about it or it just happened by chance?
L:I never really planned it, but I would be lying if I said I have never dreamt about it. I just did not think it was possible, at least for me…a simple girl from the countryside, with no contacts, no influences and no experience. It was not easy at first. I had to knock on so many doors, to learn a lot and work for free. But it was totally worthy it! I would have missed a lot if I never gave it (and myself) a chance!
Me:What are some of the highlights in your travels?
L:Before visiting Africa, sailing to Antarctica was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. Now I have to say that watching free wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania is also something I will never forget. Hitchhiking in Iceland, getting lost in small Colombian villages in the Coffee Axis and looking for my great grandfather’s town in southern Italy would complete the list.
Me:Do you have any life lessons picked along the way?
L:One of the first times I hitch-hiked in Argentina, I met a truck driver who, after carefully listening to my story (I had just given up my job to start traveling and was so full of doubts) told me: “Never regret what you have chosen for your life”.
Me:Do you ever get homesick?
L:Who doesn’t? But tech has shortened distances, right?
Me:What is the longest you have stayed without going home to your family?
L:Fifteen (15) months. It was too much. Not only because of my family, but also for myself. I learnt that after one year of traveling, I lose interest. I get tired and I get to appreciate more a good kitchen and a hot home shower than a new adventure, landscape or story. This is when I go home to get the travel excitement back.
Me:Have you ever been in a situation abroad when you feel like your life is in danger? If yes, how did you overcome?
L:Not really, but I got robbed in Venezuela and was harassed in Egypt. It was not nice, of course, but I always keep in mind that those are random situations which can even occur back home and that if I leave, then I will always have a bitter memory that might be unfair judgement to the people of that country. So I taught myself to get over it by taking time off,chilling out, not thinking about it and then go for that adventure again.
Me:What are some of the challenges you’ve gone through as a foreigner abroad?
L:I think that interacting with cultures where women take up most responsibilities in the society is always a shock. I can’t help but wonder why I, on the other side have so many opportunities and choices yet they don’t…if we were to be the same.The other Challenge is learning how not to judge,especially when you are confident with your principles.However, I think it is good practice.What we consider “normal” is just a convention. I have learnt to appreciate what I have more and also to question some statements that I have always considered to be true.
Me:What is in your bucket list?
L:I have a bucket list of over 50 items! Just to name some: Fly in a hot air balloon, participate in a flash move dance, camp in Lake Turkana, visit Christmas Island and live in Colombia for a season.
Me:What are some of the things you’ve checked out of your bucket list?
L:Cutting my hair drastically (I even wrote a post about it, it was so empowering) and paragliding (so exciting)!
Me:Do you miss normal life?
L:Not at all. This is the best I could do with my life, the best decision I have ever made. I don’t regret it, not even in the bad moments of traveling, not even for a single minute.
Me:Airbnb or couch surfing?
L:Both. I like balance. Please add camping to the list too!
Me:How do you balance life and travel?
L:Traveling is my life…