Interview with the Traveller: The Traveller Chronicles

Interviewer: AlexStel
Interviewee: ElmoEnsio
18.1.2011

A little impromptu interview took place on Skype on 18th January 2011 between interviewer AlexStel and interviewee ElmoEnsio, a passionate traveller.

Part 1

AlexStel: So, what’s the greatest experience from your travels that changed your picture of the world drastically?

ElmoEnsio: It was the revelation that people are just people and live their lives, no matter how shitty or terrible or excellent their environment and conditions were.

AlexStel: When was it?

ElmoEnsio: First time in China, final confirmation for this I got in Siberia.

AlexStel: How was it?

ElmoEnsio: Don’t understand the question.

AlexStel: How did it make you feel?

ElmoEnsio: Actually, it made me feel more safe and secure.

AlexStel: What stroke you most in your homeland when you got home from travels?

ElmoEnsio: Mostly how safe and spoiled we westerners are. And most of us complain over stupid small things as big problems exist no more for us.

AlexStel: Did you feel at home in the countries where you were travelling?

ElmoEnsio: In some. I felt like home in China, Namibia and Lithuania.

AlexStel: What’s the most important part of your travels: the places, the wildlife, the culture, meeting new people… Something else or everything all together?

ElmoEnsio: First it was the sightseeing part, then more and more meeting new people and learning from all thus becoming a wiser (better?) person.

AlexStel: Could you please name all the countries you’ve travelled to and say what was the impact of each of the countries on you, your life, your perception of the world and people?

ElmoEnsio: Oh my god, what a question. Sorry, but could you narrow the scope a bit?

AlexStel: So, if you feel good after travels… Is it the feeling of “travelling keef” that you pursue? Or is it something else that makes you travel? The search for adventures? For your purpose in life? For the light in life?

ElmoEnsio: I travel, because… the sake of adventure, new challenges, stepping out of my comfort zone and self-improvement.

AlexStel: Do you find this happy feeling in the surroundings, in the people you meet or rather in yourself? In your heart, your thoughts, your soul, that become different?

ElmoEnsio: I mostly find the happy feeling in the all of those. Nothing beats the feeling of being in a nice, desolate place with nice people I have met and when my thoughts become “free”, cleansed from western, industrialised mindset.

AlexStel: Are you somehow anticipating the changes that will come to you or do you just rush into the unknown and become wildly passionate with this feeling?

ElmoEnsio: No, no and no. I make a plan to walk calmly into the unknown, ditch the plan if/when inspired and improvise. However, it was not always like this, and only the latest trip was getting out of the package-tour concept and mindset.

AlexStel: Is travelling a drug to you?

ElmoEnsio: I would not say so. I am not badly addicted.

AlexStel: Every traveller needs some stuff with him. Life is just a long trip. What are the most important things in your life-long trip?

ElmoEnsio: For life-long trip I am preparing with all the small trips that push me off my routines and build character and more relaxed attitude. Acceptance of life and it’s uncontrollable behavior. It is not easy for a controller like undersigned.

AlexStel: Every traveller needs a fellow-traveller. How would you describe your ideal soul-traveller?

ElmoEnsio: Someone who is enough like-minded; can have fun, capable of improvisation and going with the flow, but can stick to schedules, early wake-ups etc. when needed. Both supportive, but independent enough.

AlexStel: You enjoy the small trivia and details during your travels. Walking from bed to your computer can also be a trip. Can you find the tiny pieces of joy in that tiny-tiny trip?

ElmoEnsio: Many. First is unzipping my sleeping bag, getting my warm body out of the bed into the cold air reluctantly, putting on my slippers, switching on the light and seeing my bags and boxes still unpacked but the most important, namely books and souvenirs neatly organised on the shelves.. Yes, I have recently moved into a new flat.

AlexStel: How do you work towards self-improvement? Is it some ideal that you see in your travels that makes you become a better person? Or is it yourself understanding more about yourself and the world and changing yourself consciously?

ElmoEnsio: It’s the latter. Mainly due to the fact that when travelling, my mind is free from routines and obligations and have time to enjoy solitude and think. Maybe meditation at home would do the same, but I don’t have the patience…

AlexStel: If you could choose just one country you could go to – which would that be?

ElmoEnsio: This is difficult. Maybe India, China, Africa or South America.. Ok, I choose South America.. I have not been there yet, and there is a lot to see historically, culturally and socially.

AlexStel: If you had just one day in a big city where would you go? Centre, suburbs or…

ElmoEnsio: Depends on the city. If I had no time to do homework before arriving, I would see the centre.

AlexStel: What would you be looking for there?

ElmoEnsio: All the tiny historical and contemporary details that normal tourists miss… I would enjoy the beauty of everyday life, imagining by-passers stories and their connection to the places.

AlexStel: Looking at your life from a traveller’s point of view, where are you now? is it the packing period? The sightseeing? The guide-book-about-life-studying? Travelling itself? Being between travels? etc…

ElmoEnsio: Right now, January 2011, I am kind of between travels, writing guidebook in my head. On the other hand I am still on my round-the-world tour, as it is soon 4 years of expatriate life for me.

AlexStel: People often fall in love with places. Sometimes it is their homeland, or the new land they discovered, or the place where their life was beautiful… Where does your heart lie?

ElmoEnsio: I guess my heart is lying somewhere between Lithuania, Norway, Africa and Finland. In this particular order, you can go ahead and calculate where the geometrical weighed average would be located… 🙂

AlexStel: Some trips are quite long, others are quite short. You had both in your life. Which were more “crucial” to you? The short ones – like being shot be some thoughts, or the long ones – like reading a book and constantly accepting some thoughts?

ElmoEnsio: Let’s put it in this way.. The long ones, where I was away from the so-called-civilisation, out of reach, no mobile phones, no internet. Solitude meditation time adds up to the “cruciality”.

AlexStel: What was the greatest surprise for you about something that you saw in others during your trips and the greatest surprise for you about something that you saw in yourself?

ElmoEnsio: In others: The less people have, the happier they are. Excluding spoiled westerner travelling companions. In them, I was surprised how alike we were. “Traveller mindset”, you know. In myself: Finding out how some bad/weird habits followed me into all of the world and how some were present only at home.

Part 2

AlexStel: Some people run to the extremes with their cameras during their travels: they either take a picture of every step and see nothing except for the camera and others just forget about the camera as they are overwhelmed by the trip itself. You seem to have found the golden middle. But still, what is the meaning of your “trip” photos for you? Are they a reminder? A book of life? Windows to a different world you have already entered?

ElmoEnsio: They are a reminder and souvenir. But I am also always hunting for the perfect photo to submit for the National Geography photo contest.

AlexStel: What is your favourite object of photography: scenery, people, wildlife…? Is there any special object that you prefer taking pictures of more than others?

ElmoEnsio: No special favourites.. I just like to shoot the not so obvious as well as the obvious.

AlexStel: How do your old photos make you feel?

ElmoEnsio: Proud, longing, nostalgic.. They make me feel good!

AlexStel: Do you feel like getting back to that point and live it once again the way it was then or the way you would perceive it now?

ElmoEnsio: I prefer the nostalgia and the way I perceive it now.

AlexStel: What is the most precious thing about your trips: that you had many, that you will have a lot of them or that you are being in the middle of one or the moment?

ElmoEnsio: All of those :D:D:D Especially the fact that I am currently in the middle of one, as a good travelling friend remembers to remind me every time I complain that I’d like to go somewhere.

AlexStel: So, getting back to one of the questions… Could you please name all the countries/places you’ve visited?

ElmoEnsio:

Europe: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium
Asia: Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea
Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia
Americas: USA, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Maarten, Santa Lucia, Guadeloupe, and maybe I forgot some small Caribbean island

AlexStel: Would you please tell about he personal impact each of these places produced on you: emotionally, physically, philosophically?…

ElmoEnsio: Not today, sorry.

AlexStel: What was the greatest dare of your life?

ElmoEnsio: Challenging myself to move and live abroad. I did not go to any exchange student etc. programs in my youth. All travels have been after my graduation from the University.

AlexStel: Did it end or is it still going on?

ElmoEnsio: Still going on.

AlexStel: What are the three thing that you got (got to know) during your trips that you are really grateful for?

ElmoEnsio:

1) I’ve met some pretty awesome and amaaaazing people.

2) Lot’s of nice photos

3) I realised that it is perfectly ok to be selfish if one is not f’n up other peoples lives because of that.

AlexStel: What are the three thing you didn’t like at all/hate/fear?

ElmoEnsio:

1) I don’t like stag parties or similar trips where a person from wealthy country travels to another country because “it is cheaper to be drunk there 24/7”
2) I hate when I could not face my fears and act when I should’ve.
3) I fear that my book will not get the recognition it deserves. 🙂

(ed. note. The photo book “Around the World in 80 pages” is for sale, check it out!)

AlexStel: You were born not so far from Santa Claus’ residence. All children (and all people are children) write their wish-lists to Santa during the whole year. If you were starting your new letter to Santa, what would you write in it? Would you thank him for anything? Would you ask for anything? What would that be?

ElmoEnsio: Dear Santa, thank you for not being mad when I decided not to celebrate christmas home but somewhere exotic. My demands for this year are quite simple; I’d like myself a little refill into my travel budget, a brand new snowboard and peace of mind.

AlexStel: Is there any song/picture/poem/book that expresses your feelings about travelling (and about life-long trip) in the best way?

ElmoEnsioJupiter’s travels by Ted Simon. I’ve read it quite recently and now I have other related literature in queue.

AlexStel: Are quite comfortable in this time, or would you prefer to be a traveller of the future (exploring the stars and planets) or a traveller of old days… of the Epoch Of Great Geographical Discoveries?

ElmoEnsio: I am comfortable in this time, but I would be very interested in travelling in the old times also… overland and across the seven seas..

AlexStel: What would you like to discover then?

ElmoEnsio: I think I would be a good Dr. Livingstone and navigate my entourage to the Vic Falls 🙂

AlexStel: Which one was the greatest positive/negative shock for you? What was the reason?

ElmoEnsio: The greatest positive shock was when I found how happy people can be when they have so little.
The greatest negative shock was when I found how much western travel agencies charge for the package tours compared to for how much you could buy the tours by yourself from local operators.

AlexStel: Was there any moment during your travels that you felt emotional/physical danger? What was it? And what has saved you?

ElmoEnsio: Yes. I felt really scared when I was left behind from a tour bus in some small village in Kenya and had no means to contact my group.. I had told my fellow passengers where I’d go and to tell the driver not to leave without me. They did leave without me. But also came back for me after 30min or so. They were long minutes for me…
Regarding physical danger, only once I almost got into a fight. It was in Finland, in the city where I was doing my Master’s. I managed to run away from this drunk man who wanted to show off his powers to his girlfriend.

AlexStel: What is your “life buoy”?

ElmoEnsio: Hmmm… I am not sure if I have any.

AlexStel: Africa has quite an interesting understanding of one’s self. It is connected with deep self-cognition and reflection. It is also a country of stunning beauty. And of stunning sorrows. Which was you greatest discovery about Africa?

ElmoEnsio: My greatest discovery was that how beautiful the nature is. It is absolutely fabulous!

AlexStel: You love music… And what your music during your trips? Is it the singing of the birds? The rustling of leaves? The murmur of water? The whispering wind? iPod?

ElmoEnsio: My 2 gig iPod nano has served me well, whenever it is fully recharged and loaded with travel-inspiring songs. But I also prefer the whispering wind, and you hear a lot of it in minibuses when the ‘air conditioning’ is on (windows are open).

AlexStel: What is your special ‘travels-inspiring’ piece of music? Any particular band\singer/composer?

ElmoEnsio: Vangelis – Alpha. Toto – Africa. And other songs that have memories attached to them. Lyrics-wise mostly Finnish songs.

AlexStel: When you are travelling you feel different emotions… What do you usually do when you feel good: smile without a reason, sing your favourite song or simply let yourself me mesmerized by the new surroundings and become silent when you are really amazed?

ElmoEnsio: I let myself fall into closed introvert mode and just observe silently the surrounding beauty, even if the beauty is of untraditional kind.

AlexStel: What was the most spiritual place or thing you have seen? Where was it?

ElmoEnsio: I am not a religious person, but the most spiritual place was one of the lesser churches here in Vilnius, my current hometown.

AlexStel: Is there any happy thought from the travels that keeps you “alive”?

ElmoEnsio: Yes… It was my first trip to Africa, I was sitting on the backseat of the Toyota Hiace minivan, warm wind blowing on my face. That trip was half done and we were in transit from somewhere, the road was not too bumpy, I was very relaxed and contented and my iPod was playing Toto – Africa. 🙂

AlexStel: Or maybe there was some moment when you felt being alive sharply?

ElmoEnsio: Yes… It was my first trip to Africa, I was sitting on the backseat of the Toyota Hiace minivan. The road was bumpy as hell in true “African massage” style, I had a terrrrRRRible hangover from Konyagi, that we had been served way too much by the drunken waitress at the camping site bar. In addition I had taken my weekly malaria pill, and flushed it down with Coca-Cola. Add motion sickness from the roller-coaster “road” that made you fly from your seat once or twice a minute. I coped that for 6hrs before I had to stop the car several times to throw up on the savannah while others were looking out for lions from the safety of the minivan. Oh, my god, I really felt alive then!!

AlexStel: What was the country which was the most kind one to you?

ElmoEnsio: I must say Lithuania, my current place of residence.

AlexStel: Which was the most aggressive?

ElmoEnsio: Maybe Kenya.. The atmosphere there for us mzungus was really uncomfortable and I felt hostile looks on me quite often. It was 6 months before elections, it might have had something to do with it.

AlexStel: What was the most weird tradition\ritual you got to know about during your trips?

ElmoEnsio: Drinking loooooots of fermented horse-milk in Mongolia as way of entertainment and getting drunk.

AlexStel: Could you say that “intercultural difference” matters a lot? Or is it still possible to connect with the representatives of other cultures with the help of one simple thing: opening your heart and being kind to others?

ElmoEnsio: Opening you heart and being kind to others really is all that matters in connecting with representatives of other cultures. “Intercultural differences” come into play in everyday challenges when the relationship is past the introductionary phase.

AlexStel: Which is the most foolish thing you did during the trips?

ElmoEnsio: I didn’t say “yes” to one very nice girl, who was interested in me. 🙂