This is an interview with Nico Crisafulli, the travel blogger and experienced world traveler, whose tips can be found in the popular travel blog AirTreks.
Share with us Nico in a nutshell.
Well, first of all, Nico in a nutshell dines on walnut all day, so let’s just call this “Nico in a hammock,” shall we? So then, ahem, like John Lennon, I’m a bit of a dreamer. My life seems to be an endless cycle of planning and executing, discovering things and then seeking out new things to discover, which I feel can be done anywhere in the world. Recently I’ve been spending a tremendous about of time trying to win the Internet while still managing to enjoy the blogging process. I love taking photographs, riding bikes and teaching myself CSS. I’m also happy to report I currently have a baby baking in the oven. And by “the oven” I mean my wife.
Now that we’ve distilled you to your essence, share with us your most epic travel story.
Prepare yourself, there are sheep involved. We were in a minibus on our way to a rafting trip down the Urubamba River in Peru. There were probably a dozen of us, pretty groggy from the early wake-up call and subsequent 3-hour drive up to that point. It was quiet in the van but quite suddenly we were jolted alert by the screech of the tires, a wicked swerve of the van and a dramatic thump thump thump, as if we’d driven over a herd of sheep. Turns out that’s exactly what happened. A local shepherd had guided his flock across the highway on the invisible end of a blind corner and the driver had no choice but to plow through the middle of them.
After the van steadied, we all whipped our heads around to see the carnage falling away behind the other end of the blind corner – that horror show of blood and wool disappeared as suddenly as it happened. The driver, completely unfazed, showed no emotion, hardly even slowed and not more than a minute later, pulled into the rafting company’s base camp.
Upon our sudden arrival the driver turned and said to us, “Don’t worry about the sheep, we’ll fix it.” Which of course, by local law, meant him getting arrested for the destruction of several his neighbor’s sheep. Long story short, we went rafting just as happy as you please and the police came and took the driver away. The remaining 2 rafting guides who had no driver’s licenses were forced to designate one of us to drive the van home. The Australian chosen got us home without incident.
Do you remember the moment you realized you were hooked on travel?
When I was 17, I went to visit my Dad who lived at the time in a small town outside Frankfurt, Germany. I knew enough German to stare blankly into the eyes of anyone who spoke it to me, and after finding out my Dad wasn’t there to pick me up (a scheduling snafu) I was left to navigate hiring a taxi to take me to the nearby town where he lived. I found out later my utter lack of traveling experience left the driver no choice but to charge me 300% of the normal cabfare, which I’d paid courteously (he seemed like a nice man) and considered the experience as a major success. Little did I know at the time but that “successful” endeavor in a country I knew very little about on a continent that would amaze me again and again, brought about an insatiable hunger for further travel. That cab experience, was my first dose of what would become a lifelong traveling addiction.
You are known for giving great travel tips on the popular Airtreks blog and via guest posts on a number of other sites. But what is the best travel tip you’ve ever received?
One of the best tips I’ve ever received was, “go to India, but don’t go with expectations”. I took that advice and hence didn’t watch any movies about India or even look at photos of the places I’d be going. I wanted to meet the country with only the vaguest idea of what I’d encounter. I felt that empty canvas of my mind was the most useful thing I took with me. As far as I’m concerned the most dangerous things a person can take with them on the road are preconceived notions. It creates a barrier between what you feel should happen and what actually does. For the most part, how a person thinks a place should be will trap them into a method of thinking detrimental to fully understanding it. One should be completely open to everything they feel in a new experience.
In your travels around the world, you enjoy getting to know local people. What is your favorite experience connecting with locals?
A couple years ago a co-worker of mine was living in Dubrovnik and my wife and I went there to spend some time with him. Over the course of our week in the city (part of a longer trip) we were introduced to several of his crazy friends, probably 10 local Dubrovcani, and hung out with them several times over the course of our stay. The highlight though was on our penultimate day in the city. It was just a barbeque but it was so much more really. The host, Luksha was his name, was overly skilled at grilling chivapchichi, a spectacularly flavorful kind of spiced sausage roll and a major staple in any Croatian’s diet, which he and several others made sure we ate quantities that still embarrass me today. We whiled away that afternoon on the hillside patio that happened to have a spectacular views of the Adriatic and the setting sun, stuffed to the gill, drinking cans of Ozujsko beer and listening to techno spun by a buddy of theirs who seemed to smoke more joints than was humanly possible. The company was friendlier than I ever could have wanted and the libations flowed freely into the night. We all got along splendidly. It was a great last night in town.
If forced to choose, what would you say is your favorite destination so far?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer because every place I’ve been has left indelible impressions on me. But I did very much love the time I spent in Varanasi, India. It’s an incredibly rich and complex city with ancient and extremely spiritual roots. To be placed in the middle of something like that effects a person deeply. I won’t soon forget my experience sitting in the Monkey Temple jam-packed with pilgrims, singing songs I could never understand.
I also adored the island of Santorini, in the Greek Islands. If you want to know what it’s like to live in a picture postcard, Santorini is the place to go. But for all its problems, I’d say Paris is my favorite place to revisit. I’ve been there many times and every time I return my heart races. I’m not sure what it is about Paris but I can’t seem to quit it.
What destination is at the top of your bucket list?
I think my next trip will include Japan and China. We’ll have a wee one with us and parent/child travelers seem to win special privileges in Asian countries. The “rockstar baby” effect and all. Of course, I wouldn’t take him purely for the perks but they’d be nice.