Mark Vella Gera is one of our rare travellers and members from Malta. His love for travel brought him to explore the “Old continent” most of all, but he is curious to see what lies beyond. Travel brings him an escape from, as he says, the sometimes more limited perspectives of a somewhat secluded island nation…
Mark, tell us a little about your background and how your interest in travel developed.
My name is Mark. I used to work in travel and tourism until July 2020 when I was made redundant because of Covid. I had to find a new job and managed to find work in a notary firm working as a notary assistant. There’s nothing exciting about this job but at least it pays the bills. However, I was always fascinated with travel and have travelled pretty frequently over the years. Besides travel, I also love reading and running and I also have my own travel blog Travelling is my Passion.
I still remember my first holiday abroad at the tender age of 7, when, together with my parents and brother, I flew to Catania in nearby Sicily. I can still recall my awe at looking down some of the main craters of that most majestic of volcanoes, Mt Etna. Unfortunately, I also recollect the many hours we trudged around markets and shops! Ironically, I actually enjoy shopping around and visiting markets today!
Sahara Desert, Morocco
You’re from Malta. Are you typically Maltese (and what does that mean)?
I’m Maltese and was born here so I have a Maltese passport although I feel more European than Maltese to be honest. For me, being Maltese means living in a straitjacket unfortunately as I live on a small island and everyone knows everyone else and most people have an island or narrow-minded mentality, which I hate as I am very liberal and open minded.
Lagoa do Fogo, Azores
And what are some of your gems of Malta that travellers may not necessarily know about.
I would recommend a visit to some typical Maltese village and just wander around the old centre of the village so as to get a good feel of typical Maltese life and architecture.
Verdon Gorge, France
You’ve been to almost every country in Europe, but not so far beyond it. Why is that?
Throughout the years, I’ve been to many countries and to even more cities. Most of them are in Europe although my vision is to go beyond that in the future.
The reason why I’ve not ventured far beyond Europe is that it is expensive doing so, so I have limited myself to visiting countries that are relatively close to Malta.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
So, of the countries you have visited, which one was the biggest surprise and why?
Probably this was Morocco, which I have visited twice in 2021. I was surprised because of how friendly the people are and how rich the culture is. The country also offers such a variety of landscapes from green rolling hills like in Ireland to the vast deserts of the Sahara. And of course, Morocco is where I found my current boyfriend!
Skopje, North Macedonia
Can you recount some travel experiences that really made a difference to you?
I think that all travel experiences have made a difference in my life, in some way or another. Travel encourages empathy in two significant ways.
First, it brings you into contact with people from a multitude of backgrounds. Secondly, the more you explore new places, it is also more likely you will meet personal challenges you are unfamiliar with.
You are active on social media and have your own blog – what are your aims with this and do you feel that social media portrayals of travels are authentic?
I’m not a writer, so why blog? It’s a commitment to myself that holds me accountable. It’s the home for my adventure stories. The ups, the downs and everything in between. I’ll share photos and stories from the places I visit and the cultures I explore. It’s where I post tips & tricks to help you travel better and/or cheaper and with luck inspire you to break out your passport and travel more often.
I consider social media portrayals of travel as authentic even though quite often I post photos that seem to make things appear to be better than they really are. After all, the main aim is to increase my reach on social media as they’re no point in posting if no one gets to see them!
Ouzoud Waterfall, Morocco
You mention you travel solo… what are the pros and cons of this according to you?
My own introduction to solo travelling was when I was still 19 years old. I was fascinated by the weather (and still am) and wanted to attend a week-long Understanding Weather course in the UK. This was in 1989, years before the advent of internet and mobile phones so all planning was done through good old-fashioned letters and perhaps the odd phone call or two!
This was a tremendous learning experience that gave me self-confidence and maturity that no lessons at school could ever have taught me! And the sense of achievement I felt when I returned to my home country Malta made me so proud of myself!
Travelling solo is not necessarily a safety risk but you need to have your wits about you. If something does go wrong, there’s no travel buddy to get you out of a jam, and nobody to do the talking for you if you can’t. Travelling alone means you are responsible for everything you do and budget is one of them. Typically, if you’re travelling with someone you share the costs, but as a solo traveller, the budget depends entirely on you.
Another con is that when you travel solo, you don’t get to share the experience. There are plenty of times when you’re out and about in the world and you just want to enthuse lavishly over something. You can’t just grab a stranger and rave when you’ve had a life-changing chocolate event. You don’t have somebody to turn to and discuss how incredible it looks and how amazing it feels to be living your travel dream. Instead, you snap a few photos, you sit and look at it in awe and silence, and then you leave.
Which places are still high on your bucket list and why?
I still want to visit the last few European countries I have on my bucket list but this is going to take much longer than anticipated due to Covid. However, I am a determined person and I will get there eventually.
Kerid Crater, Iceland
And what are your travel plans for 2022?
Over the past two years, many of us have planned trips that looked like a sure thing, only to have them disrupted by another surge or a dangerous variant so it’s extremely difficult to plan for 2022.
I normally would have my year planned out in advance but this is not possible due to the current global situation so I’ll have to take it as it comes unfortunately.
Jardins de la Petite Afrique, Monaco
What do you particularly like about NomadMania?
I like the fact that countries are split up into regions and also the fact that the most popular places of interest are included. This helps people who have not yet visited those countries plan their trips.
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to a dinner, from any period in history, who would you invite and why?
I would invite Alexander the Great because he was the first great conqueror in history. He conquered half of the known world despite his young death and he also had a great influence on Julius Caesar and Napoleon.
I would also invite Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant believed to have journeyed across Asia at the height of the Mongol Empire. He first set out at age 17 with his father and uncle, traveling overland along what later became known as the Silk Road. He is also known for the book The Travels of Marco Polo, which describes his voyage to and experiences in Asia.
The third person I would invite would be Christopher Columbus. He was an Italian explorer and navigator. In 1492, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain in the Santa Maria, with the Pinta and the Niña ships alongside, hoping to find a new route to India but instead discovered America.
Finally, I would invite James Cook, a naval captain, navigator and explorer who, in 1770, charted New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia on his ship HMB Endeavour. He later disproved the existence of Terra Australis, a fabled southern continent. Cook’s voyages helped guide generations of explorers and provided the first accurate map of the Pacific. .