Coming from Switzerland, Albert Stutz is successfully balancing life between his work, photography, learning to become a wine expert and travelling to every country. He is only 18 countries away from reaching this goal and getting there has learnt him that the world would be a much better place if more people travelled and explored. He says that it could even prevent wars.
Anzo Borrego State Park – California
Albert, tell us something about your early life and how your interest in travel developed, letting the world know what a versatile guy you are?
I was brought up in a very simple family in Central Switzerland with no relation to travel. However, as I was a curious person early on I was closely following world history and geography in my school days. Unlike my father, my mother had an interest in travelling even though she could not afford it. Yet for my first international travel, besides the neighbouring countries, she took me to Africa in the early seventies. We went, on what was labelled a religious trip with local church members, to Accra and further on to what was then Obervolta, now Burkina Faso.
At age 15 I started to travel Europe on the popular Interrail train tickets across Europe. I did this 5 times in the summers over the years in High School. This was the foundation of my country count as I visited most of the European countries until age 21, even going behind the iron curtain in the early 80es.
After graduating from University I was immediately drawn to an international operating company, IBM at the time, with more to follow during my professional career to this day. Over the years until this day, I continue to travel on business and probably one-third of all trips/countries visited have a business background.
Photographer in action
Artisanal gold mine – Colombia
Give us a few hidden gems of your country that most foreigners may not know, but you absolutely recommend.
Switzerland has so many hidden gems. The more I travel I realize that I live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful countries. Let me pick out three of them.
One of the great attractions is the countless small cable cars in the Swiss Alps taking one to places of solitude with mostly no one around. One of these is the Glattalp cable car at the very end of Muotathal Valley in Central Switzerland. After hiking for about an hour there is a highland plateau which looks like it could be the moon!
Creux du Van in the Suisse Romandie is a beautiful natural rock arena of immense proportions, located at the border of the cantons of Neuenburg and Vaud. Impressive 160-meter-high vertical rock faces surround a four-kilometre-long and over one-kilometre-wide valley basin. It is easily accessible and offers breathtaking views.
And last but not least – I generally like the southern part of Switzerland, Ticino. It’s a cool mix of Switzerland and Italy with the best weather and climate in all of Switzerland. Besides many well-known places to see there are dozens of hidden gems like the huge waterfall in Val Bavona. Somewhere else in the world, this would be a Unesco World Heritage, here there are hardly any signs of it!
Perito Moreno – Argentina
From social media, we got to know you are the drone pilot and high level wine sommelier. When and how did these interests develop in you?
I am a self-taught photographer since around age 12 when I got my first SLR camera which I bought from my own money earned delivering magazines. So photography and travel went hand in hand over the last decades moving from mostly analogue slides and black and white photos to digital. I got my first drone in 2015 when quality became acceptable but I believe that only with today’s larger sensors of my current DJI Mavic 2 Pro the technology has reached a level I consider good to very good.
As for wine, my father worked for the church and was therefore introduced to wine even though it was not something he drank in his youth, as it was also not affordable. Every Sunday for lunch we had wine and I was able to drink ONE glass as a young teenager. My interest grew over time and I remember that my first bonus went straight into a case of Bordeaux. Even though I never had anything to do professionally with wine I started to dig in deeper, started a decent wine cellar collection and eventually took the WSET classes. I currently study for Level 4 and am in the midst of a program from the Austrian Wine Academy to hopefully become Weinakademiker.
Aitutaki in 2004 with my son
Where do you get the time, energy and ability to combine all these time-consuming hobbies with travelling?
That’s an interesting question many people ask once they find out about all my hobbies, activities and interests. I think my friends see me as full of energy and the day never seems to have enough hours! But I believe it is also a question of native character and setting priorities.
Swartisen N.P. – Norway
How does your family feel about your passions? Do you manage to spend some quality time with close people?
I was always in the fortunate position to be around family, friends and business partners who were not only supportive but also to some degree, a part of these travels. Yet of course this would not be possible without tremendous support and understanding of my passions by taking care of my kids when they were young, and home and business interests while I was gone.
It also helps that I am self-employed for over 12 years and in charge of my own agenda and can work from pretty much anywhere in the world.
For me, there is nothing that keeps me from travelling, whether it is financial means (I travelled on a very small budget when I was young), to making travel a priority even when others see hurdles, especially when it comes to travelling with young children. In fact some of the most memorable trips I did when my kids were very young. Anywhere in the world people love kids and it helps to make connections with the locals.
Burgenland – Austria
Locarno – Ticino, Switzerlnd
Which traits of character help and interfere while you are travelling? Tell us more about your personal travelling style, please.
By nature, I am an impatient person, yet when travelling I had to learn how to deal with uncertainty, and slow and bureaucratic obstacles set by officials for no reason, just to mention a few. So the ability to adapt to no matter what the current situation is key.
I was never interested in spending days or even weeks at the beach or in an all-inclusive resort. Even going on an organized trip with a group is not my thing unless absolutely unavoidable such as in war zones or countries with high security risks.
I like to be in control of the itinerary and spontaneous. I tend to be interested in the everyday life of locals, interacting directly with them, and speaking a few languages also helps.
Good indicators to learn about and understand a country/culture are schools, hospitals, sports, level of infrastructure and communication and last but not least how a society deals with garbage. At the end of the day, an everlasting curiosity coupled with a respectful and honest approach is almost always welcomed.
Somaliland – Drone
Palmyra in 2005
Please share some special stories from your travels, that have shaped you.
It all really started with being a solo traveller in my late teens, spending countless hours on trains, sleeping in my sleeping bag on overhead luggage compartments and meeting new people by the hour certainly left a deep mark in my brain.
I have lived in San Diego for a couple of years and spent many months for work in other countries such as Slovakia, Chile, Brazil and Colombia Latin America, and Kenya and South Sudan in East Africa to name just a few. All these places have left lasting memories on how I see life.
Deeper impressions on me left an experience of being detained in Yemen for almost a day. Seeing that “paradise” in the South Pacific – meaning piles of garbage all around Tuvalu and Kiribati. Also seeing West Africa as the dirtiest place in Africa is not something that the glorious names of Dakar or Ivory Coast would expect. Seeing and experiencing poverty and richness so close to India or Bangladesh is also very hard to grasp.
What is it about the travel that gets you excited the most and what keeps you going even when it is tough?
Well, even with all I have seen so far, I have only really scratched the surface of what’s out there to explore and experience. Over all the years it became clear that there is always something new or unexpected while travelling, whether it is a new or a previously visited country seen once again from a different angle, after many years. At the end of the day, it is my relentless curiosity that makes me want to go again and again.
There is always something to be learnt, even when it’s bad at the moment. And as we all know those “dark stories” are the best to be told!
Yemen – detention room
What is your travel goal if you have one and what has been changed in your life thanks to travelling?
First of all, I have always seen travel as an education and an enrichment of my life. Over the years I made hundreds of acquaintances and a few turned into lasting friendships that span around the globe – something I would not want to miss anymore.
It certainly helps to understand each other’s different cultures and I generally find well-travelled people more forgiving and strongly suggest that more people should do it. I truly believe it would ease tensions between countries & cultures and might even be able to prevent wars.
Give us a few of your favourites in terms of countries and experiences.
Interestingly enough it is not necessarily the most beautiful places or sights which leave the deepest impressions.
Of the many highlights were the trips to Antarctica and the Arctic, Palmyra and a Bedouin breakfast in Syria, a 5-month road trip from the US east to the west coast and back plus South America in general.
I would list two at the very top of my many favourites. Aitutaki (Cook Islands), a lagoon in the South Pacific and the complete opposite, Perito Moreno, a huge, still growing glacier in Argentinian Patagonia.
Besides Switzerland, I fell in love with San Diego and Southern California which I tend to visit at least once a year also to catch up with local friends.
Arctic Circle – Norway
You were in almost every corner of the World. What keeps surprising you while travelling, and how do you choose your next place to visit?
There is no single trip I can remember which did not entail some kind of a surprise, positive or negative. I think it is this element of surprise and everlasting curiosity that keeps me going. These days the list of remaining not visited countries (18) is at the top of my bucket list, even though not the ultimate priority since I hope to have a lot of years to travel ahead of me.
And let me finish with something which might come as a surprise. As much as I love to travel, the best part of any trip is the one of coming back home, realising over and over again that I have the luxury to live in “heaven”.
Glattalp – Switzerland
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be?
Julius Cesar, David Livingstone, Roald Amundson and Oksana Bajul.
Interrail 1981 – Stockholm