1. Tell us something about yourself – who you are, where you’re from, what you do, how many countries you visited so far and where is your favourite place to be?
I come from Poland and I was born in a small town in the eastern part of the country, about 30 years ago. The last 12 years I have lived and worked in Warsaw. I am a tax specialist, specialized in international transactions. Now I work in private banking for one of the world’s biggest financial institutions.
I am not as experienced a traveller as some of TBT's members. So far, I have visited over 30 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia. I will not be original but I have to say that my favourite place to live is my homeland. I am a fan of my country’s history and so far, I cannot imagine living permanently anywhere else. If only the climate here was milder during winter season… I do not even mention the temperature, but the lack of sun. That is why every year during Polish winter, I go to warmer places.
2. How did you come across TBT?
About two years ago on one of the Polish sites I read an article about Most Traveled People. While exploring MTP I read Harry Mitsidis’ profile and found out his private page. So I was aware of the list of regions created by Harry and Artur Anuszewski even before the TBT was created. In my opinion the list is much better than that created on MTP (although my view is that Europe is still overrepresented here) so I was very enthusiastic when The Best Travelled was finally created. I registered as one of its first users (among first twenty or so) and remember the time when I was in the Top Ten – now, I am around the 300th position.
3. I saw your first “serious” travel was from Warsaw to Yakutsk in Siberia by land. How did you decide about this destination?
I think most travellers dream about taking the Trans-Siberian train and exploring Siberia. But for Poles who are aware of our country’s history, Siberia is something more than just a tourist spot. In the 19th century, when most of the territory of Poland was a part of Russia, thousands of Polish patriots were exiled to Siberia. Many of them were well-educated scientists who started to explore that area, putting a cornerstone for Siberian geography, geology, botanic etc. Many geographic names in Siberia come from the surnames of Polish explorers. Then during Stalin times, lots of Poles were imprisoned in gulags. So for me, exploring Siberia meant something like repeating history lessons. I speak Russian fluently so it was not a problem for me to travel in Russia at all.
4. I also read that you are fascinated by Polar Regions. Can you explain why? What is it that attracts you so much?
This is a fascination that came from tens of books I read as a teenager. I always liked reading stories about the exploration of Polar Regions and dreamt to see them. I like the polar landscapes and animals and I am not afraid of cold – actually I prefer extreme frost to extreme heat.
First time I visited the Arctic five years ago, taking a flight to Svalbard. Then I totally fell in love with that part of the world, travelling to Greenland and the Russian Arctic. The Polar Regions, however, have one disadvantage – they are very expensive.
5. How often do you travel and do you wish you could travel more?
I suffer from the disease of most employees – the limited number of vacation days. In Poland, you are allowed to take 26 days off in a year. I spend almost all of them on travels but it is extremely insufficient and I wish I could travel much more. But I am sure that a day will come when I will quit my job together with my wife and we will start travelling more intensively. Maybe not in the following one or five years, but for sure long before the retirement age.
6. When you travel, do you travel alone or in company? Which one do you prefer?
Solo travelling is not a problem for me, but since I married in 2010, I travel almost exclusively with my wife Katarzyna and, from 2013, with my lovely son Adam. Although last year I had a long solo (i.e. without family) travel – a cruise on a small yacht to the Russian Arctic, definitely not for babies – I missed them and since then I prefer travelling with them. My son, now one and a half years old, has already been to Oman (his first time sleeping in a tent), Kuwait, Japan, Cyprus, Italy and France. Travelling with a baby gives a huge satisfaction, in my opinion absolutely incomparable to solo travels. It is a bit more difficult, but definitely rewarding.
7. Apart from your passport, (possible) plane ticket, a toothbrush and other essentials, what do you always take with you when you travel?
As I have so few days of vacation, I try to use them as intensively as possible. As a result, I usually plan every day of my trip in details. It means I take with me a detailed plan of the trip, hotel booking confirmations, timetables and travel guides. Apart from that, I do not have any must-have items – actually, I am not very demanding. Of course, there is all the stuff for my baby, such as bottles, medicines, pacifier etc., but the more we travel, the less we take.
8. If you could have an imaginary dinner and invite four people, anyone you want (historical figures, fictional characters, anyone), who would these people be and where would you dine?
I would invite someone from the greatest polar explorers, especially Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen and a great Polish writer, explorer and adventurer Ferdynand Ossendowski. I would not choose any remote place for dinner, but a rather comfortable one, as I would like to ask them many questions. :)
9. In your opinion, what are the most and least liveable cities (or countries) you’ve visited?
I admire Japan, the people, infrastructure and the perfect organization of the country. On the other hand, I didn't like the cities in Russia. Except Moscow and Saint Petersburg, most of them are unexpectedly ugly and expensive.
10. And finally – what is the plan for your next destination?
Now it is one of these rare moments when I do not have any trips scheduled. Most probably I will go to Canada to visit my relatives and of course visit Canadian Arctic.
Wojciech also has a travel blog which you can visit here: http://stock.geoblog.pl/. The photos in the interview are from Wojciech's private collection.