Q: Nina, in May 2014 you published your book entitled, in German ‘Die Ländersammlerin’, i.e. literally translated ‘The female Country collector’. Do you see yourself then mainly as a country collector, or is that just one aspect of your travel self?
Regarding the millions of people who call themselves globetrotters, world travellers, I called myself ‘Ländersammlerin’ in 2009. The word does not exist in a German dictionary, but people understand it. It shows how serious I am about my travels – always with a good sense of humour, of course. Certainly you cannot collect countries like stamps or/and postcards. My main interest while going to different nations is people, animals, nature, food, art and culture. Communication is most important, so I speak several languages in order to talk to people and understand them well.
Q: So what exactly is your book about? Do you detail all your travels or some aspects which caught your attention more? Which one would you say stands out?
My book is short stories in chronological order. It starts with my first trip abroad in 1975 when I was almost five years old, a trip with my mum to Austria. Then, it continues with my first time in a group of language students to England aged 13. It ends at the age of 45 with my last country Turkmenistan – on the long list of 193 States of the United Nations.
In between I talk about why I did it and my experiences, adventures as a woman travelling on her own (most of the time) in about 40+ countries. I try to make the best out of the worst situation and my entire life. With the book I wish to inspire people to get out and see more of our wonderful planet earth – to me the Treasure of the Universe.
Q: How has your book been received by the German public?
To my big surprise the book has become a great success. 60 weeks Top 10 of the Spiegel Bestseller list and far more than 100.000 copies sold after a year of publishing. Something I never expected.
Q: Can we expect an English-language version soon?
I very much hope so! Many of my foreign friends have asked me already. My German publisher Eden Books in Berlin needs an English Publisher. I could well imagine it to be a success especially in the English speaking world. Any ideas or suggestions of Publishers are welcome!
Q: You are the highest-ranking independent woman traveller on TBT. How does that make you feel?
Great. I’m so very happy for all my travels and those many positive experiences I was allowed to make while abroad. I’m delighted to be esteemed so much for my travels – also in the German media. Thank you all for being interested!
Q: Do you believe that being a woman made it harder or perhaps easier to penetrate different cultures? Or doesn’t it make a difference?
It makes a big difference to be female, it is much harder and more dangerous. We all know, that there are countries where women aren’t worth much, are treated badly, lack freedom etc.
Iran gave me a hard time getting in the country because of my gender, so I wrote about it in my book.
Q: How did you manage to get into Saudi Arabia, where getting a visa is difficult anyway, but especially so for a woman?
In 2008 I went with a German group of travellers to Saudi Arabia. That was easy then. It is impossible for a woman to get in and travel around on her own.
Q: Which country was a particularly good surprise and which one disappointed you, based on what you had expected before you went there?
So many people warned me of Albania. It was such a great positive surprise, as people were so wonderfully helpful and friendly. In my next book I will write about my experiences there. I cannot think of a country at all which disappointed my expectations. I never have high hopes and I’m well informed beforehand what more or less to expect of a country.
Q: There are a more Germans who have done all the countries in the world or are very close – far more than French, British, Dutch or Italian put all together! Why do you think that is?
Is that so? On my travels I meet as many Dutch, British, French, Italians as I meet Germans. People have 25-30 holidays off work a year in Germany. I used to stretch those 30 holidays, I had, with bank holidays, week-ends to be away from my home in Frankfurt about 70-80 days a year.
Q: What are your travel goals now that you have finished all the countries?
I’m going to Antarctica on the Explorer Ship Plancius via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands and South Shetland Islands for my 50th birthday in February. Hope there will be many nice people with me on the ship for 116 people. And I love to get to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
Q: Finally, a quirky question – if you could invite any four people, from any period in human history, to dinner, who would they be?
Oh, please give me more – the more the merrier. Let me bargain for 4 ladies and 4 gentlemen: Nefertiti, Simone de Beauvoir, Lady Di, Angela Merkel. Marco Polo, Goethe, Caspar David Friedrich, Pope Franciscus.
The photos in this article are taken from the personal collection of Nina Sedano