Are you a traveller or a tourist?
I guess we have read so many times about people who consider themselves travellers and not just tourists. In the beginning, I couldn’t really understand what they meant and now, after all my travelling experiences I see it clearer… but if there are still some doubts let’s have a look at Maria Giovanna’s interview, read about her project and how she defines herself.
Hello Maria Giovanna, before moving on to other questions, can you please tell us a bit more about yourself and your plan to visit all European Capitals?
Hi! So, I am Maria Giovanna and I am a “serial traveller”, yes this should be a realistic introduction of how I define myself. Like a lot of people, travelling is my passion, but maybe not everybody thought to start a real project and visit all the European Capitals, and that is what I call “my crazy project”!
How did this project start? Do you plan everything in advance or it comes step by step by itself?
I didn’t plan anything to be honest, it was just a personal desire, not even a project. As for the most of Italian university students, my economic independence came a bit late, the reason why I started to travel “too late”, I was about 30 years old. Meanwhile, I moved from Sardinia to new cities, leaving family and all my closest friends, and little by little travelling became something I couldn’t avoid any more, it creates addiction I believe! Why European Capitals?! Just because at the beginning it was the easiest choice, living in Italy, and so in Europe, it was also easier on a transportation side.
How many European Capitals did you visit so far and how long did it take?
It wasn’t a real plan at the beginning, I just had the desire to visit some European Capitals, randomly maybe, only when I realized I have already been in a consistent number of them I thought about this “crazy” project, I wanted to visit all of them, all 34 (I am sure for political reasons this number is not correct anymore). So, throughout the last 10 years I have spent my time visiting these cities and at the moment I “only” miss 12 of them. Of course when I have the chance to spend more time in an area, I include other places of the same country, for example when I was in Warsaw I also went to Danzica, Cracovia, and Auschwitz, or I visited all the main cities in United Kingdom (Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast beyond London).
Which is the best city until now and why?
This is a difficult question! It might sound like a cliche, but each city is beautiful and unique in a very different way. I can say that Amsterdam is my favorite one at the moment. I fell in love with this city probably for particular reasons, I went to Amsterdam for the first time many years ago but then, when a big company with the HQ there hired me, I started to go there more often and then my personal “love story” with this place began. This feeling might come from its magic connection with one of my personal dream and its own beauty. Let me explain: I can walk along its canals for hours without getting tired, even if I went there almost 20 times so far. Amsterdam is now for me like my special place, I always feel like at home there, I can breathe and restart every time.
But if I have to choose a country, then my favourite one is Ireland instead… such a magic one! I love its culture and people, the most optimist folks I ever met!
What about other people? Do you ask other travellers to join you or it’s something more natural?
At the beginning, I started to travel with my ex-boyfriend, later on, it was like an annual tradition with one of my best friend, but now it is like a strong consolidate habit and also most of my friends know about this project so I usually send them my list with my missing capitals and they choose which one they want to visit with me. Of course, I’m lucky because most of my closest friends are travelers as well, we are good tested travelmates and also because my job got me in connection with a lot of colleagues with my same passion. Travelling with someone became my expression of trust, so I try to be careful in sharing this project with others.
Tell us about the funniest story during all these trips.
Actually, I could tell you loads of them, almost one per trip! I remember when Francesca (my oldest travelmate) and I went to Greece by boat and we lost our stop because we were travelling in the middle of the night and we didn’t wake up, so we ended up in the wrong Island….were we desperate? No, we decided to enjoy the breakfast first! With a full belly you can understand better what to do, right?!
Another time in Poland and still with Francesca: we landed at night (yes, night again!) it was late, dark and cold, we have booked the shuttle from the airport to our hotel but when we arrived it wasn’t there waiting for us. We called many times the hotel and they were sure the driver was at the airport….well, we realised then we were at the wrong airport….so we had to call a taxi and go across all the city, exactly at the opposite. This is not the end, because here in Poland we lost also our luggage, we could not speak English with anyone and we used the standard “Italian language”: gestures!!!
Yeah, a lot of funny memories. Once I was supposed to go to Riga by bus but I don’t know why, I told the bus driver I was going to Vilnius, luckily in this case my travelmates saved me!!!
How do you feel after having seen so many different cities and cultures? Are they really different?
I don’t want to look predictable, but this plan that seems so crazy allowed me to visit, and at the same time, understand countries that probably I couldn’t ever think about. Usually, people ask me why Sofia? Are you sure about Kiev? Didn’t find any better place? But I’m so happy to be a traveler and not a tourist, I like, indeed, to see different places, not common, nor rich or touristic, and get connected with them
somehow, both places and people. I can fill many gaps in my culture, discover beautiful places, understand why people from particular countries don’t smile, revise history, be more flexible, and fell in love with travelling more and more. At the moment travelling is for me just my “way of life” and I feel so proud when people think of me as a traveler or ask me suggestions, advice, photos, tips.
What is your top tip for the best trip?
Honestly? In my opinion, there’s not a tip for the best trip because everyone is, not only a different person but a different traveller. In my case it is not a matter of location, hotel or comfort, but it is a matter of sharing the total travel experience with my travelmate….usually the most important thing is my mood, yes because I could share happiness, laughs and also tears and all kind of emotions….travelling is life, everything can happen and you have to be ready to live! If it will ever happen that you travel with me, be ready to walk for kilometres and take a lot of photos (but this is another story).
Where are you planning to go and explore Europe then?
One of my dreams was to visit New York, it was my priority and I did it last year for my birthday (this is another consolidate habit), during the same trip I also visited Niagara Falls, Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, I mean USA was the first place I wanted to visit even before Europe. Now my priority is to complete my plan. Also, Cuba is on top of my “Out of Europe” list. Cuba is calling!!! Then I have in pipeline Marrakech, Egypt (Nile cruise) and Japan.
I would like to say a big thank you, Maria Giovanna, for sharing your inspiring idea. This is a great project and why not, maybe a great tip for other people who want to do the same. As a conclusion, it doesn’t matter what is considered ugly or beautiful, because we should learn from everything we visit, see and experience. Curiosity is the key.
Happy journey to everyone!