Kristina: For the beginning, please introduce yourself – who you are, where you’re from, what you do, how many countries you’ve visited so far and what’s your favourite place to be?
Antonio: I am Antonio, a Spanish traveller with quite an itchy foot. I have been to around 50 countries, although I prefer to count the experiences I lived in them to the number of countries I have stepped into. As long as a place has something to admire, learn from or enjoy, I am happy to be there. And so far, I haven’t been anywhere lacking any of the above!
Kristina: How often do you travel?
Antonio: I used to travel only a few months every year. Seven months ago I left home to travel the world without a ticket back home, mostly by hitchhiking and visiting rarely covered places, and so far I am not tired of it.
Kristina: Apart from your passport, plane ticket(s), your toothbrush and the usual essentials, what do you always take with you when you travel?
Antonio: I travel light, using my backpack as luggage – the one I was using during my school times. I always make sure I have a notebook and a pen to write down experiences, thoughts, and my diary.
Kristina: How do you travel – with a guide book in your hands or do you prefer loosing yourself in the streets of an unknown city or in an unknown landscape?
Antonio: As I said before, I travel light, so not much space for guides. I prefer to ask local people instead, or follow my own instinct.
Kristina: You say you like to mix with the locals when you travel; you like to learn about their tradition and customs. Could you say which nation or tribe or community had the biggest impression on you so far?
Antonio: The many saddhus I had the pleasure to live with in caves of the Himalayas, ghats of holy rivers or several temples around India were of great influence to me, teaching me the huge potential of both mind and body, and generally speaking, of our own race.
Kristina: If you like to mix with locals on your travels you probably tasted many different kinds of food around the world. Which was the weirdest (let’s say… from a European point of view)?
Antonio: Some months ago, I stayed for some days with the konyac tribe (also known as the head hunters because until not that long ago it was usual for them to cut off the head of their neighbours). One night, while taking rest in the hut of the king of the village who was smoking opium with some of his citizens, I was offered a freshly hunted rat grilled on a fire in front of me. It tasted just like you can imagine…
Kristina: You hitch-hiked through the Sahara desert. How was that? What kind of means of transport stopped to take you along?
Antonio: The desert is a wonderful landscape everyone should experience at least once. Mostly I was picked up by trucks or natives from Sahel countries living in Europe who were driving all the way long to visit their relatives. The good thing is that you always get long rides. And I will never forget how, after hours of waiting under the sun, I was accepted by a caravan of nomad traders travelling with their camels to join their trip for a couple of nights.
Kristina: When were you the most scared during your travels? I read that you had quite a terrifying experience in the Himalayas. Something about rifles being pointed at you?
Antonio: I happened to be in Kashmir when a bomb exploded during the night. Walking around Srinagar the morning after, I crossed a bridge and took a picture from the top. As I got down three soldiers were pointing rifles at me, speaking not a single word of hindi. I had no idea that crossing that bridge was forbidden. Minutes after having been asked if I was a terrorist, I ended up sharing tea with the soldiers.
Kristina: How many languages can you say ‘thank you’ in?
Antonio: In quite a few! After crossing the border of a new country, I always try to learn the basics for communication, like the numbers, greetings, and general questions. Not only they are of obvious help, but locals love it when they hear you!
Kristina: If you could have an imaginary dinner with four people, anyone you want (historical figures, fictional characters, anyone), who would these people be and where would you dine?
Antonio: Hiuen Tsang, René Caillié, Cabeza de Vaca and Alexandra David-Neel, just to mention four of the travellers that have inspired me most. I guess I would be so eclipsed by their stories that little would matter the place to dine, but any of the destinations they managed to visit while it was forbidden or quite hard to reach would be my choice.
Kristina: And the usual final question – what will be your next destination?
Antonio: I am on the road now, heading to the Mentawai islands off the Western coast of Sumatra.
The photos in the interview are from Antonio’s private collection.