Djordje tell us something about your background and how your interest in travel developed?
When I was very young, I got a World Atlas as a birthday present from my father – and I consider that as the beginning of my interest for travelling. I started to travel during my years at elementary school. In the early period I mostly travelled through FR Yugoslavia, which soon became Serbia and Montenegro. We had very limited options for travelling in this period while my country was under international sanctions and we needed visas for almost all European countries until I was 17 – we needed to stand in queues in front of embassies. After EU withdrew its obligatory visas for my country everything went so much faster.
Given you are from Serbia from where it has been hard to travel, and you are only in your mid-20s, you have reached an impressive number of visited countries – more than 100. What is your secret?
If you are looking at it from the financial point of view it was very hard as I mentioned before. But after the EU lifted visas for my country I managed to travel around almost every European country (except UK, Ireland, Malta, Estonia and some dependencies including partially recognized countries). As for other continents, cultural and family relationships were helpful in that. But my simple “secret” if I can even call it by that name, is using the (in most cases) fully funded scholarships for some short courses and seminars where basic requirenments were knowledge of language and a connection with my legal studies at the University of Belgrade. This was my main reason for a lot of travelling, although of course sometimes I have also financed my trips from my modest savings. Besides, I also like to mountaineer and one year ago I tried to find anyone who would offer me and my team sponsorship to climb the so called 7 summits, although without great success – we got some mountaineering equipment – but no financial support for travelling.
Do you plan on doing every country then?
Yes, of course, that is one of my goals which I will reach with a little luck and my inexhaustible enthusiasm. Although because I have managed to travel a lot at this age, and taking into account that I have finished my Bachelor of Laws diploma, at this point besides travelling to every country I am thinking of how to start my professional career. Generally, I am now focused on travelling in more detail to countries that I already visited when I was younger and to find out more things and to get new impressions about things that I missed when I was there for the first time.
Tell us about a couple of countries that surprised you, positively or negatively.
As a man who thinks positively and always trying to turn around things on a positive side, I don’t judge people or countries in this way per se. The only negative thing that I find is in individuals with prejudices versus some ethnic or religious group (especially because I consider myself, after all these travels, as a World citizen). Some countries have less and some of them more of those individuals which always surprise me negatively.
Tell us a few of your memorable travel experiences.
When I have travelled to the Kingdom of Cambodia on my first visit ever there earlier this year, I had to deal with a couple of interesting situations. During my visit there, I met a girl with whom I travelled among others in a group. Because of her name which sounded German and because we didn’t tell each other where we were from, we ended up speaking in English although we both knew the native language. It was really awkward situation.
My second impression is from Istanbul Subway. During this summer I visited the city and because it was hot, while travelling through the city I was in a T-Shirt. That wouldn’t be so strange if I didn’t have three rosaries with a cross on my left hand. I didn’t expected that anything would happen because of the strong security measures that the government implemented on the entrance to the stations – but it happened in one of the rides. One guy who was sitting across from me saw that I am wearing rosaries with crosses and suddenly obviously mentioned this to another guy sitting next to him showing my left hand. Luckily everything ended just with a hissing.
When I was in the old town of Dubrovnik in 2006 I had a very uncomfortable situation. We came there on a one-day excursion from the Montenegro coast and during lunch because of our obvious Serbian accents, the waitress asked us “What are we doing there” alluding to the past events in the region and thinking at how we dared to come to the country when there had been a civil war between our two sides. That has left a lasting impression on me.
Not to mention how many times I was robbed, especially in countries dear to me such as Greece and Russia, and even Morocco where my computer was stolen.
How do you feel your being Serbian has shaped your view of the world?
First of all, after meeting so many cultures I consider myself firstly as an Earthling, but my Serbian origin shaped my view on this world in a very positive way – mainly through Orthodox Christian tradition, which means a strong belief in God, a tradition which connects all Post-byzantine cultures between Ethiopia and the Russian Kamchatka peninsula. It has also given me a hermit’s but also cosmopolitan view on this world, as Byzantine or more correctly Roman Empire had a universal character through all of the period of its existence. Therefore I consider that God wanted not to divide us by separating us by different national languages – on the contrary, He wanted to make us more close as all of people I know have the pleasure learning new languages and meeting new cultures.
So, what are your travel plans for the next few months?
As I already mentioned, I am focused at the moment on travelling in more detail countries that I have already visited, to find out more and to get new impressions about things that I’ve missed – mainly European countries and maybe to complete my list of them till next summer. Of course, if I get some scholarship or sponsorship for travelling to further destinations I will also include this (especially taking into account that I haven’t visited any countries in South America).
You are currently Serbia’s Ambassador with NomadMania – tell us something about this, how it works and what it has offerred you.
That’s right. Although I have been Serbia’s Ambassador with NomadMania only for less than two months, it gives me a lot of positive energy interacting with other ambassadors’ too – there are around 40 of us – and has made me proud to work representing my country. Also for other people who want to visit Serbia, I am happy to be able to give suggestions and insider tips about my home town Belgrade but also the rest of what I believe is a relatively unknown but very beautiful European country.
Finally, if you could invite any four people from any period in history to a dinner, who would you invite and why?
I didn’t think of this before, but I would choose: Christ – because of His wisdom, Seneca – because of his impressive thaughts, Constantine the Great – to tell me his secrets and Confucius – to teach me more about the Far east.
The photos in this interview are from Djordje’s personal collection and show him in various places on his many travels.