Dragan lives in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has been an intern with us since the spring doing a lot of the ‘back office’ work that nobody sees. We are exceptionally pleased to be ending the year with a chat with him – you will all be seeing more of him next year, so keep note of his name!
Dragan, tell us something about your early years and your philosophy of life.
I was born at the very beginning of the civil war in Bosnia, and due to those circumstances I was actually born in Novi Grad – a beautiful small town on Bosnia’s northwestern border – instead of Krupa, where my family were from. After a lot of moving throughout Serbia, my family moved back to Novi Grad in 1995. In a suburb of a now ruined town, I did not have any friends, and grew up spending time with an old guy from the neighbourhood who taught me about fishing, painting and nature in general, some of which would lead me later in life. After that, I moved to Banja Luka, where I’m still living. So, it started with a lot of stressful packing and moving. Probably one of the main reasons why many generations in the region are not into travelling that much. Blessed is the youth who don’t remember such things, except from stories.
Regarding my philosophy of life, there is always a dichotomy in my mind. I’m always trying to keep it simple and enjoy the moment, but… As a student of philosophy, there is always that other part that complicates situations. But, if you choose keeping it simple, you will not make a mistake for sure! Probably. Maybe.
You love travelling and the outdoors. What has impressed you so far based in the places you have been to?
Regarding the outdoors, it is just like travelling, but while travelling is more about you and other versions of you, outdoors is an unique experience of just inner you and un-you. Maybe it is not about filling the hollow between you and un-you, maybe it is just tickling that hollow. So, I’m trying to combine travelling and the outdoors, for a full experience of life and this planet.
Apart from: kind people, small things and bla bla bla bollocks, which is very true, but so annoying, the most impressing thing is that it is never like you imagine it will be. It is much better. Or worse.
And even if it is worse than you have expected, that’s good story and an experience too. For example, after being unable to find a decent bush or bench for a sleepover in the small town of Dečin in Czechia, I asked random guys in the street for directions to the woods. That ended up with me being hosted for several days by new friends.
So what have you learned so far from your travels?
Aside from always having pills against diarrhea beside me, concerning the overall travelling experience I’d just say I learned that if you ever get in a situation where you are in doubt to do it or not – just go for it! Of course, some level of reasoning is more than acceptable!
There is not, at least for me, some big certain and tangible knowledge that I learned on my travels. I would even say that the more you travel, the more you are uncertain of some things. But, it must be considered that this is my opinion based on the fact that I’m a rookie who has just started, and the longer part of the journey is ahead.
But then, of course, there is some small and practical stuff that you can learn and practice and many things in different cultures and societies that you can try to incorporate both in your own society and in your private life.
And what is high on your bucket list for further travelling?
Except for visiting polar regions as an experience of unique and pure white wilderness different from everything else, which has been my wish since childhood, Mount Kilimanjaro is also on top of my bucket list. It is a three million years old massive giant with a shrinking glacier and we don’t have much time before it disappears. Furthermore, it is a great journey especially if you have enough time to explore the cultural heritage of Kenya and Tanzania, too.
Also, all cities above 3500 meters in the Andes sound cool, too!
Dragan, you are a Bosnian Serb. How has your nationality shaped your identity?
It shaped me in numerous ways, right or wrong – it is for others to perceive. But, at the same time, the others are you, so you are your only agent and the others will perceive you as you perceive yourself. But, again, at the same time you are what is perceived of you. So, it is dynamic inner-dialectical never-ending struggle.
And I must say, the world media hasn’t done us any good, so, when travelling and meeting new people, it is very interesting when I say where I am from, there are almost always a lot of questions.
So try to put the record straight and give us some ‘gems’ of Bosnia that most travellers may not know.
I would like to put spotlight on some of these hidden gems that even many local people don’t know about, or have not been there. I mainly focus on natural ones because the cultural heritage is already quite known and is viewed from a post-war perspective. So here they are:
– Canyon Tijesno – a great place for adrenaline lovers where you can do many things like rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, highlining…
– Canyons of Cvrcka and Rakitnica – even though they are in different locations, they offer excellent experience of canyoning
– Mount Prenj and Sutjeska National park – Mount Prenj is known for 11 peaks above 2000 meters, harsh conditions for winter climbing and an endemic sub-species of the alpine salamander – salamandra atra prenjensis; Sutjeska National park – known for its wide range of biodiversity within which there are many endemic and recently discovered species, the highest peak in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the last primeval forests in Europe – Perućica and its historical role in WWII.
And many more natural sights with various activities. But, even though nature is the greatest thing about Bosnia, it is also the most endangered one, mostly by hydro power plant projects.
As of spring this year, you have been an intern with NomadMania. What have some of the challenges been in this role?
Well, I was ill when doing the first interview, and was quite surprised when I was selected for round two, where it seems I made a good impression… This is my first real job with longer working hours. There were many challenges at the beginning like not managing to organise my time with NomadMania, college and private life, being afraid to ask too many questions etc, but now I’m already fully motivated and devoted to this job and the idea and at the same time very comfortable. And furthermore, everything else is going fine as well.
And what have you learned so far from NomadMania?
As I already said, I learned a lot about time management. Beside that, I learned a lot of new things in the field of geography which has also been my passion since childhood, about many places that I didn’t know even exist and much more about places I knew a little bit about.
Also, before I came in touch with this site formerly known as The Best Travelled, I didn’t think much about the importance of visiting countries by regions. I only thought about their borders, or eventually visiting by cities or sites.
As of January you are being promoted to Marketing Associate with NomadMania and will be working almost full time. What do you expect from this and where do you think the website will go?
We are doomed! Just kidding. I expect new challenges that will improve my skills and many more responsibilities, but it seems to me that it will be fun. So far I have done a lot of technical or background things, some of them repetitive, so I am ready for a more people-focused role.
I believe that NomadMania will be more open through more social media marketing both to new users, as well to core travellers who have been here from the beginning. I hope we will make a wider community, while we keep our old quality and values and grow into a website that truly brings people from many places together under one ‘home’.
So what are your travel plans for the next year?
At the start of the year, I will be going to Athens, partly for NomadMania work and partly to discover what I expect is a great city. Apart from this and some small trips through my region, I think probably Georgia is on the list because I met some great people from there and I made some promises to them (it is advised not to break a promise to a Georgian).
Also, there are some more plans – maybe Central Asia – but I don’t want to think much about it, I’ll just let it go its way.
Finally the question we always ask – if you could invite four people to dinner from any time in human history, who would you invite and why?
I’m not used to being a host for a dinner party, I’m always a guest! But, if I must host a dinner, I would invite Ryszard Kapuściński, Jim Morrison, Epicurus and Terry Pratchett, as I think that would be an excellent chance to hear very interesting stories of some outstanding and wise individuals, each one curious in his own way. And it would be a great drinking night! But, I don’t know what we would eat…
The photos in this interview are from Dragan’s personal collection and we thank him for sharing them with us at NomadMania!