It’s not everyday that one talks to a global traveller from Azerbaijan, and we are very happy that smaller countries are also a source of big travellers – Mehraj currently ranks 23rd on our Masterlist in terms of his regions visited and he tells us a little about himself today.
Mehraj, tell us about your childhood and how your love for travel developed.
I started to travel when I was a teen. When I was still a student with my fellow group mates we used to make short trips to different places of the Russian Federation. (I finished university in Saint Petersburg). My travelling story started from that moment, I began to develop an interest for it. First I travelled to post-Soviet countries, then to some countries of Europe. After several years I understood that I like doing this, so continued my life as a traveller too.
What type of traveller do your consider yourself?
At first, I used to travel with a group of people. As time went by, I started to travel alone. I prefer long journeys the most. Then I get a chance to approach local people, their culture and history more.
As for travelling style, if I get a chance I prefer a luxury type of travelling more. By chance I mean conditions in the country I am travelling too. For example, some countries do not have national flights, thus I have to travel to different cities in another part of the country by car or train and boats too.
Of course, comfort plays a crucial role for me but visiting a country is my priority, hence, I can forego my comfort just to see the country. For example, Sudan and Somalia are among such countries. There are some countries where I even have to be guided by armed soldiers for a safety reasons.
You are probably the biggest traveller from Azerbaijan. Are you ‘famous’ back home? Is there any sort of travel club in your country?
Yes, I am number one traveller in my country, who travelled to that many countries. I also gave interview to well-known internet news portal Day.az and journals like Kaspiy and Discovery Azerbaijan. I often receive invitations for live talk-shows and other TV programs too, but can’t participate in all of them because my hard work schedules.
I wouldn’t say there is a certain club of travellers, although we travellers know about each other from social media.
And while we are at it, tell us some of your favourite spots in Azerbaijan which not so many travellers will know about.
My favourite spot in Azerbaijan is Nakhchivan. It is not widely known by tourists visiting our country but this region has a long history filled with many mysterious legends and fascinating landscape, not to mention salt mines and Noah’s Ark. There is a one location named Eshabu Kehf which is also mentioned in the Holy Quran.
Are you very active on social media in terms of your travelling? Why or why not?
I am very active on social media platforms and widely followed and recognized by people interested in travelling content. Why am I that active on social media? Well, I feel like, I can engage with wider audience, with people who share the same passion as I do for travelling with the help of social media.
According to your profile, you’ve been to 179 UN countries, meaning you have less than 15 left, among which are Canada – how come you’ve never been to this relatively ‘easy’ country while you’ve been everywhere in Alaska, for example, and to a lot of European Russia?
Yes, I have travelled to many countries, including some of those places which are relatively “troubling” to travel. I also wish to finish countries which are relatively harder to travel to first while I am healthy and fit. Countries like Canada are relatively “easier” to travel to in a way that, those countries are safer, have an effective judicial system.
Tell us a couple of travel stories which have really stuck in your mind.
There was a woman in Nepal. She had 2 husbands (both were legal) and a son. That son called both of them dad and both men considered him as their own son because none of them knew whose son he is. That was a very interesting story, which I will never forget.
Once when I was travelling to Arctic, there was an 81 years old lady from Australia in our group. To be clear, not every person can travel to Arctic. To make such a trip, one has to be in good health. She was feeling extremely strong. To take some photos we had to leave the Icebreaker. An icebreaker is a big ship intended to travel in those parts of ocean which are covered by icebergs. Long story short, to get in and out of that ship you have to climb a 50-meter long staircase. She got out of the ship with us to take some photos of the North Pole and after that climbed all those stairs without any problem.
Assuming you want to complete all 193 UN countries, what are you going to do about getting to Armenia?
I have been in Armenia more than once, when I still was a teenager. During those times our countries didn’t have any conflict and we were part of USSR. Unfortunately, I don’t have photographs to prove it.
Have you met many other travellers on your travels? What similarities and what differences have you found across the travel community?
Yes, I have met many travellers on my journeys. Our main similarity is our passion for travelling. My main difference from most of travellers whom I met is that I try to explore places I visit more in-depth, get further information about the history, culture and traits which make those countries different from others.
Of the countries you visited, which one surprised you most, positively and negatively?
Truth be told, I can’t say that I am surprised anymore because I travelled so much and have seen so many countries, different people, each with their own culture, own tradition. Thus, nothing surprises me anymore.
As for negative impacts, I would not say there were countries that left a negative impact on me but there were definitely some countries difficult to travel to. For example, in some African countries, sometimes it was difficult to even take some photographs of those landscapes but the hardest reason was people’s unbearable living conditions .
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people from any period in human history to dinner, who would you invite and why?
The first person I would invite is Haydar Aliyev (ed. note: President of Azerbaijan from 1993-2003). I think I could have learned many interesting things from him.
Then I would like to invite Winston Churcill, Queen Elizabeth the Second and Stalin. Each one of them made a huge impact in history, I wonder how it would be to engage in a conversation with them.
The photos in this interview are from Mehraj’s personal collection and we thank him for sharing his images with us here at NomadMania!