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May 24, 2015 / oneworld82

Life and travels: past, present, and future

At 32, I have had the luxury of visiting 65 different countries around the World. By any standards, I consider that quite a feat.

There are people that never leave their country – some by choice (no sympathy for them), some because they cannot afford to. Ever since I was a little child, I have always had the travel bug, mostly thanks to my mother. She would always daydream of traveling to far away, exotic destinations; at the time, that was mostly a dream, because we were a lower middle class Italian family, whose idea of a great trip was a road trip to Costa Brava, in Catalunya (Lloret the Mar anyone?). Every now and then, I would have my mom taking me to our trusted travel agent store to pick our tour operator’s brochures to daydream of future travels. My favorites – I still remember – were Kuoni’s Australia brochure and the one published by “I Viaggi dell’Elefante”, an upscale tour operator focusing on exotic destinations (India in particular). Then, I remember, I became passionate about “I Viaggi dell’Avventura” expeditions – basically self-run adventure trips to some of the most remote regions of the World (think Bijagos Islands in Guinea-Bissau).

As I grew up, I would ask for money to travel as presents for the various holidays. I first started by going to Paris, then Cancun with my uncle and aunt, then Prague, then Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt for my high school graduation… Then college came. Usually college kids have a lot of time to travel but not much money, but I was lucky enough to start a business in college that while did not make me rich provided me with enough money to travel. A lot. I started with Europe, first. Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden… But then, I felt like it was time to expand my reach. Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and then Africa with Senegal and The Gambia… these were all incredible experiences that would shape my life once and for all.

It was only fitting that, after majoring in college in history at the University of Genoa, I would go ahead and get a MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Turin; those two years also marked the first time I lived abroad, as I spent nine wonderful months in Helsinki, Finland, where I did not only learn Finnish but also learned a lot about Nordic cultures.

After working for a couple of years for a logistic company in Italy and visiting the Middle East for the very first time, I accepted a position for a NGO and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia first and Chiang Rai, Thailand later. Again, incredible experiences that shaped my being in many ways.

And it was then that the idea of working in the travel industry came up to me. If I loved traveling so much, why not working in the industry? And so, I went to Cornell for my MBA. What incredible two years those were. I met incredible people, learned a lot (about everything, really), and traveled some more to places like Ecuador and India. It was amazing. And thanks to Cornell I was able to land a job at a major airline as a revenue management analyst. My dream was starting to become true, because when I was 7-8 years old my life-goal was to own an airline based in Nice, France (my home airport, even though I am Italian) that would travel to many faraway destinations. Yes, because I always loved planes, and I would “force” my parents to take me to the Nice Airport’s observation deck regularly to watch planes take off and land. So now you can see where all this came from.

In these past three years in the airline industry I have learned so much that I am humbled. I have met the most amazing people out there, worked with some of the smartest airline gurus in the industry, and just become a better professional. And, of course, I have kept on traveling – more than ever. And I plan to keep on traveling, as long as my body will allow me to. Alone, with my partner Thuy, with my future kids, with my family, with friends. It doesn’t matter where, or how, I will be traveling. Because traveling is experiencing the World, embracing difference, and ultimately growing as human being. The more you travel, the more you realize that the World is one, big family where differences are insignificant. Every people out there just try to survive and make the best out of this World – no matter where they are. Similarities across cultures far outweigh differences. And so, I will keep traveling. Always, to learn, and to report it on my blog, to share my experience with anyone interested on learning more about the World through my humble eyes.

There are so many places I still want to visit, but some are higher on my list:

1. Greenland. Yes, the euphemistically called island is my number one must-visit place. It’s hard to get there and it’s expensive, but this is where I want to go more than anywhere else in the World. I have always been fascinated by cold places (even more so after living in Finland), by their beauty and by their ever-adaptable people. Inuits are among the people I esteem the most, and so going to Greenland will be a must, sooner or later.

Greenland

2. DR Congo. Unusual. maybe, and perhaps a bit dangerous, but I believe that very few things in this World can beat Virunga National Park and its Mountain Gorillas. Getting there it’s actually not too hard, mostly thanks to improving connections between neighboring Rwanda and Europe/Middle East.

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3. Guyana. The overland trek to the Kaieteur Falls is – in my mind – of the best trips out there. It’s long, arduous, extenuating, but incredibly rewarding. That is, it’s everything you want from an adventure! Flying into Georgetown is becoming easier every day, with more connections from places like Port of Spain and Panama City.

An aerial view of Kaieteur Falls in southern Guyana. Located on the Pitaro Rivers, Kaieteur Falls is considered one of the most powerful in the world when combining the height of the main plunge of 741 feet , with the great volume of water.

The list is, of course, much longer. Newfoundland, Peru, Palau, more of the Caribbeans, Botswana, Namibia, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Siberia all feature in my “to-do” list. But the three trips mentioned above are my “must-do” trips.

For now, work will take me to Europe and New York a lot, and possibly to Morocco soon and to Argentina for a long-overdue trip to Buenos Aires and Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. I am particularly excited about exploring more of South America, since that is almost uncharted territory for me. But wherever it will be, traveling will always be amazing. Because traveling is experiencing life at its best through all of our five senses. And I cannot wait to try more!

Follow my journeys on instagram @airwaysandtravels.

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