Daniel Castro: The Brazilian Zoologist who Travels the World

22 November, 2022 | Blog, Interviews

 

Daniel is super popular on Social media, but this is not the only thing that he does. He is a zoologist who works a regular 8-5 job in order to travel as much as possible. He talked to us during the spring of this year about how it was to travel the world as a Brazilian. Read along and get to know this great traveller together with us.

 

In North Korea, 2017

 

Daniel, introduce yourself please: what is your country of origin, give us a few words about your childhood, family and hobbies, what do you do for living, etc.

 

My family came from the rural areas of the Minas Gerais state in Brazil into the then recently built new capital called BrasĂ­lia, so I grew up in a constant from and to between the city that is a UNESCO Heritage Site due to its modern architecture and the bucolic green hills full of rich history and culture.

In these travels, I fell in love with the roadmaps of an old paper guide we carried that had all countries’ info, and would constantly try to locate myself on the way, to memorize all countries, flags and capitals, wondering how people would be living their regular lives in different parts of the planet. While in university, I lived abroad for a year in South Africa, and became a Forest Engineer with a master’s in Zoology, trying to balance work and travel since then.

 

On a boat down the Amazon River, 2020

 

How can you combine your full time job with travelling, given that you have visited most countries of the world. How can your unique experience be useful and inspiring for the beginners, who see this as a main obstacle?

 

I have seen that it is very common to have proficient travellers who are either retired, working nomads or on sabbaticals. Unfortunately, since I work from 8-5 in an office where I have to clock in every single working day, most of my travels have happened between my average 45 annual days off. I work to make every one of them count as a possible travel day, connecting them with holidays and splitting these between as many trips as possible. This is not ideal for travelling wide, so I strive to make the most out of any itinerary.

I reckon many people who intend to travel are put off by thinking their reality is not ideal to go about visiting unusual places, or even that there’s not enough time to see the places properly, even if they visit. I’ve been consistently doing such for the last 10 years, while also helping many unknown people that contact me via social media on building their own travel plans in a way of making the most of their time.

I can say that this is definitely not a rushed way of travelling, but I do have to cut off some ‘fat’ out of the plans, optimise ideas, organise well and focus on things that I really don’t want to miss during my visits. This condition, of course, doesn’t impede me from revisiting any place that I enjoyed more – as I have done with multiple locations and still keep exploring new spots in countries that I have already visited.

 

Botswana to South Africa border, 2018

 

Could you share some travel stories with us, the ones that stayed deep in your head and heart?

 

I was just eighteen when I went to South Africa on a 6 months work/travel visa to learn English. After this period, which I really enjoyed, I got a visa extension and went to travel to the region. This was the first time I was exposed to Couchsurfing, hostels and an international travel community.

I had the opportunity to backpack through Lesotho, eSwatini (Swaziland at the time), Namibia and Mozambique, do some Safaris, jump the highest Bungee at the time and paddle through the Kalahari desert on a kayak. I was young and naive, and still got to travel solo to places that I didn’t even know existed. After that, I knew that travelling was simpler and just a matter of planning. I had found my addiction.

 

Diving with Whale Sharks in the Phillippines, 2014

 

What are the most interesting things to pay attention to for travellers, in your opinion?

 

There are things that you will find only in the places you are travelling to, and luckily NomadMania has been a very useful tool for me to sort them out for my travels.

Other than this, adapting yourself to the local context and history that brought out this uniqueness is something that is worthy, and I find that reading a book during the travel that is about or happens in the place you are, is an excellent way to immerse yourself on the thinking and understanding the culture.

 

In Maidan, Ukraine, 2016

 

Which traits of your character help you while travelling? Tell us more about your personal travelling style, please.

 

The traits that made me travel are being constantly curious and inquisitive – and travelling has made me even more like that. Like any traveller, I do a lot of research that helps me understand local dynamics and history.

I have very few demands regarding sleeping surfaces and where/what to eat when travelling, so this opens up true interactions with local people and even saves me time when booking overnight buses, for example. So it’s not unusual that I arrive early in a city by train or bus, spend a day visiting the spots I’ve marked, and continue on the next overnight bus/train available.

A remarkable thing that still baffles me on how positive it is, especially in Africa or Asia, is being Brazilian. I do feel comfortable with a football and some music, and it is not rare to find someone who still knows the Brazilian Squad of the 1994 World Cup and wants to show off! The yellow shirt still is a proficient icebreaker.

 

Paris, 2016

 

Can you dismiss some popular myth or stereotype about the places which you have visited?

 

I find that countries usually held as poor are exactly where the people are more open and fun, as the “developed world” doesn’t really present much regarding social interactions with local people and culture. For example, Rwanda shocked me with how organised and united its people are in making their country a better place, especially after the tragedies they have faced.

 

Revolution Square, Cuba, 2015

 

How did you change since you started travelling?

 

Many unexpected things that are just out of our control happen to us while travelling, but we have to come up with a solution on the spot and move on. I definitely took this to my life, learning to be flexible and focused in daily problem-solving.

Hosting travellers has also become a great habit when not travelling, sharing tricks and information with the people that pass through BrasĂ­lia looking for a couch to crash on.

Besides this, I now have been constantly planning my next travels!

 

Recommending kids to get tattooed, the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2018

 

Which culture/country is the closest to your mentality and which is the most alien, and why?

 

One country that really strikes me on how comfortable I felt is Vietnam. The openness of its people and culture is remarkable, and it’s on my list to visit for a third time, getting a motorcycle to cover it from south to north.

I always remember when I went there for the first time and saw a guy with a hat with some American flags on and went to talk to him about it, curious about the relations between both countries. He remarked jokingly – “We won the war, I won the right to use this flag as I want”.

On the contrary, Serbia has the roughest people I’ve met. I think it might have something to do with their recent past, but found really hard to make friends or have some laughs there.

 

Finding myself in Thailand, 2012

 

What will be the next country for you to visit? How do you choose them?

 

I’ll be finally doing an itinerary that wasn’t planned by me. Social media has put me in touch with some wonderful people and I’ll be heading to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, UAE, Syria and Iran during August with a friend that I met via Instagram.

It will be 30 days in total between those places so rich in history and things to see, I’ll do my best to honour this visit in such a short time.

*This interview was done in April.

 

“Calmly” discussing on who is the best football team in Senegal, 2016

 

Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be?

 

Imagine hosting together the great explorers such as Marechal Rondon, Ronald Admundsen and the travellers Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta and having them talk about how it was to travel during their times and explore places never visited before by their peers is truly a wonderful thought. I would have nothing to add in the talk about their travels but to wonder at those who just went there and did what they did.

 

Galapagos, 2016

 

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