Inspirational Interview with Lauro Serra-Polancos

I have known Lauro through a travel website that we both used called Travbuddy . His blogs and photos have amazed me. He is an inspiring traveller who loves to explore the great outdoors, especially the mountains in Spain. I hope his travel and experience inspires you as much as it inspires me.  This is Lauro’s interview.

Who or what inspired you to travel?

It was my father. He is the vagabond in the family and I rarely saw him when I was growing up. Because of his job, he has been to exotic places around the world.

He would send us postcards as far as Djibouti and Panama. He brought home two skulls of different species of sharks from South Africa which I was fascinated with as a child. We had a huge world map at home and whenever my father came  home he would ask me to pin the places he had been to and I would get a reward for that. It  helped me a lot with geography.

My mother also influenced me. She bought me encyclopaedias and other educational books for which it opened my eyes to the world. I dreamed and yearned that someday I would visit the places in the books that I  read and  in the world map that was hanging in our living room.

What have you learnt from traveling?

I have learnt how to respect because respect is a premier quality of a human being.

lau mountain 2

Have you travelled much in the Philippines , If so where?

Yes I did, I already travelled around when I was 5 cause my parents came from different islands in the central part of the country. So every summer until I was 15, I usually tagged along either with my mother or father to visit their hometowns and if my father was home, he usually dragged me along with our little jeep to do small road trips in the nearby provinces around the capital.

When I was 18 my friends and I would do out of town road trips just to get drunk and do crazy things but in my early 20’s things changed when I went with my best friend deep into the heart of the cordillera mountains in the Philippines.

Many people go to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos  but often miss out on the Philippines. Why do you think so and what are they missing out on?

Hmmmm, geographically speaking, the Philippines isn’t connected to mainland Asia, I think that hinders travelling unlike Thailand, Laos, Cambodia for which one could take a bus and then cross the border in a flash but now we have low cost airlines that operates around South East Asia with connections to the Philippines. I think that will change alot in the coming future, of course it would take its time but we will surely be up there.

Well, apart from the fine beaches and thousands of islands we have, the Philippines belong to the small elite group of mega diverse countries. Our ecosystem is quite unique: we have cloud and pine forests, tropical jungles, volcanoes, sand dunes, coral reefs…  I just think our government needs a little bit of  a push to tap these resources to promote eco-tourism in our country, not just domestically but internationally as well.

Philippines doesn’t have a great reputation for its food compared to other Asian counties in the region. Does the Philippines deserve this reputation? What is the food really like there?

Oh that is so wrong (laughs). The Philippines was a crossroad for traders and travellers even before our colonization from spain. Ancient traders from India, China, Indonesia and the Pacific islands have settled briefly in the Philippines and brought along with them their culinary culture. Our cuisine has been influenced by many for centuries.

The Filipino cuisine caters to different palates from sweet, salty to spicy. Then came the Spanish who brought with them the European cuisine influence and mixed it with the native produce in the Philippines to create distinct Spanish-Filipino dishes.

Let me give some examples: for the Spanish-Filipino  we have mechado, menudo (with potatoes and tomatoes) and caldo (hot soup). For the Chinese influenced dishes – we have  batchoy, stir-fried noodles, deep fried rolls etc. What I like is our traditional dish called pinakbet – my mother makes them really nice.  What I remember was that my mother prepared it with calabasa (a vegetable brought in by the spanish colonizers from Hispanic America) and stir fried it with native vegetables, sauteed in pork fat with meat and preserved brine shrimp.

You have a love for the outdoors, especially the mountains. Tell us about your first experience in the mountains?

This was the time  my bestfriend and I went into the Cordillera mountains in the Philippines when I was  21. I still remember how it was, we took a very small bus and drove into the heart of the mountain range.

There were some sections on the road that were  so narrow that could only support one vehicle, so you have to stop to give way to the other vehicle coming from the other direction while holding on for dear life as there was no protection from the ravine, thousands of meters deep on the side.

As we went higher on the road, the appearance of the people were different from the lowlands. They had pinky cheeks, their eyes  slanted more,their hair was scruffy  sort of like Tibetans  and there were rows and rows of high mountains, rice and vegetable terraces and it was  colder. I was in a dreamy state just looking at the sea of mountains that lay beyond the horizon and I wondered what lied behind them.

I also met some locals in Sagada and shared stories with them. I  was fascinated to know that some of them had never even seen the sea considering that the Philippines is an archipelago.

While walking around we saw a very old woman who was naked from waist up but the sensitive parts, arms and neck were covered with tribal tattoos. She came straight out of our Philippine history books in high school, where we studied the different ethnic groups in the Philippines. She came from the Kalinga tribe, before their conversion to Christianity they were fierce warriors and headhunters and we guessed that she was the last of her kind.

It was then when my outlook in travel changed. The culture of the people living in the mountains / highlands are different from the lowlands. They have barely enough for themselves but they do everything what they can to help strangers in need.  Since then, for 5 consecutive years (sometimes twice in a year) I went to Sagada to visit the people who I  had made friends with.

lau ro 3

clockwise The Cordillera mountains in the Philippines / Lake Thingvallavatn in Iceland / The Jungfrau seen from the highest astronomical observatory in Eeurope (The Ssphinx) / El Pico De Arenizas in the Picos De Europa

You have a love for Northern Spain and the high alps. Why do you love this particular area?

Oh Northern Spain had so many memories – only beautiful memories for me. It was where i first organized a roadtrip in Travbuddy with people I didn’t know and we ended up being friends forever.

The provinces of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria are spectacular and wild and I don’t even know how to begin by describing them. I particularly love the small fishing town of Cedeira in Galicia. We were invited by a Galician family – the Grandal-Caneiro family to stay with them and spend nights in their chabola (hut) on top of a hill surrounded by eucalyptus forest, with no electricity, only a fireplace to keep us warm but with a grandiose view of the fishing village and the stormy Atlantic Ocean. They took us to places, cooked and fed us. The epitome of spanish hospitality.

In Cedeira lies a place where it is special in my heart – the wild and high sea cliffs of the Acantilados En La Serra Da Capelada. Northern spain is called españa verde (the green spain) because its lush with greenery and vegetation and home to the Picos De Europa mountain range. It is the toughest hike I have done.

The mountain range creates a barrier for storm clouds that gives the rain shadow phenomena in Spain because on the other side of green Spain – lies the arid part of Spain. It is also a part of Spain where the people believe in myths, legends,superstitions. creatures and witchcraft.

The landscape is dotted with small coves, deserted beaches, fjords, grottos, forgotten mountain villages, picturesque sea side towns, high and strong waves – it is a small part of Europe but so much bigger in terms of what it has to offer.

In the Picos De Europa, the landscape is just magnificent – out of this world, the mountains aren’t as high as the alps but as you go higher, only barren landscape, crags, rocks and towering peaks that loomed like sentinels above. It was surreal –very lunar and the reward was a spectacular moment because of the rain shadow, you could be above the clouds that covers hundreds of kilometers blanketing the Cantabrian sea in the distance.

In the alps however, when I say high alps – these are the mountains above 4000 meters. The Jungfrau-Aletsch region, the Valais Alps and the Mont Blanc Massif are so spectacular that it is impossible to compare them.

I usually hike the mountain ranges parallel to the higher alps, it should be above the treeline more than 2400 meters so it doesn’t obscure the wholeness of the mountains and seeing them spectacularly rising some kilometers from the valley floor. The trails here are fantastic.

In the Jjungfrau-Aletsch, the Bernese Alps Are seen from the trail leading to the Schilthorn forms a formidable barrier of rocks, snow, ice and glaciers while in the Valais alps, the highest peaks of the alps are concentrated including the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa and the peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif rises like needles piercing the sky. There are also lots of hidden mountain lakes in high altitude that mirrors the majestic mountains that surrounds them.

I’ve been doing the hikes in the alps with my trekking partner Tracy from America for quite some time now. My most recent memory here, was we did night trekking last Summer to catch the mountain peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif in their alpenglühen (alpenglow), where the last rays of the run hit the ice or the limestone composition of the mountains giving it an orangey tint that glows in fading light.

Oh my god, I don’t have any words how to describe how it looked, it’s just so spectacular and breathtaking. We just stared while our jaws dropped at mother earth’s masterpiece. It was hypnotic. It looked straight out of a fantasy film.

We also saw tons of elusive chamois high up there, as they were shy creatures, they only appeared at sunset and sunrise where human activity is all but gone. These are the places where i would let my hair down, just be crazy and feel beautiful.

lau ro 2

clockwise the mountains in Alpenglühen (alpenglow) the Jungfrau after a storm in sunset / Mont Blanc at 10 pm / the limestone composition of Peña Castil / the rain shadow phenomenon and twilight seen high in the Picos De Europa.

The mountains give you a time to think and reflect. What do you think about when you are out there? How do the mountains make you feel?

If I’m there, I don’t think about anything. The silence, the atmosphere – it gives me inner peace. I detached myself from the superficial world by just being surrounded by peaks that glow in the sunset, their magnificence. An ethereal feeling where the mountains fill my life with beauty. I think this is what we call – Nirvana – a spiritual bliss. Being there as a human, standing amongst these glorious peaks make me feel insignificant that we’re just all but grains of sand.

Has your life  ever been in danger while hiking in high landscapes?

Of course, we all cannot escape the inevitable. As i said before, the toughest trek I did was through the Picos De Europa mountain range in Northern Spain. We wanted to see the grandeur of the rain shadow phenomenon (it could only be seen on the range of the Macizo central facing the Cantabrian sea) in high summer where the storm clouds are very low while you have the endless blue sky above.

I got lost from the group because it was my first time truly trekking and i was excited taking pictures of the surroundings. The temperature was searing and the sun was beating straight at the shadeless path and I fainted halfway because of dehydration on the way to the campsite, fortunately, a Spanish family saw me and helped me get back on my feet.

Then going back down, Tracy and I separated from the group and got lost in a forest where the trail was covered by thick and tall grass. We were so lucky that we found some farmers and i ran to them like madman and as they saw me, I fell to the ground and lost consciousness. They helped us to get back on the trail that would lead us back to civilization  in a way it was scary, because it’s a national park – there were no more mobile signal for emergency calls, and wild animals roam the area  including wolves and bears, so it could have been much worse, i was just lucky.

Another time, again with Tracy hiking through the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. We saw a man who was about to paraglide from a cliff on the trail. Tracy and I were so curious so we went down below him to catch some action photos of him about to glide through the air.

But it wasnt to be, as soon as he released himself, the wind suddenly changed direction and pulled him backward and then another wind change pulled him forward straight towards me and my foot got caught on the strings, the man used all his strength to stop us being dragged down on the cliff with a fall of 2500 meters. I was speechless after that,I couldn’t even think. I was just lucky again.

I never knew that my father read my blogs about my “little escapades” and he is always scared whenever I’m on the “road” but he supports me all the way, because if these things like hiking makes me happy, then i should go for it, he says. That’s why I love the mountains: there’s action, comedy and drama behind. It is for me, where the true adventure lies.

lau mountain

In terms of mountain,hiking, exploring what is your goal? Could it be possible for you to reach Everest’s summit, one day?

To be honest I don’t have any goals, I want to see these spectacular places because they are there. About Everest, well I don’t deny that it would be the crowning glory of every mountaineers, trekkers and mountain photographers to stand side by side with the tallest mountain on earth.

In my opinion, there are much more beautiful mountains than Everest for me to explore one day like the Trango Towers in the Karakoram, Minya Konka in Sichuan, Ushba in the Caucasus, and Alpamayo in the Andes – though they pale in height comparison to everest, they have beautiful shapes which are a delight to my eyes.

But I guess most of them would be just a dream for me, apart from the financial cost, I just recently discovered from a thorough examination that my back is breaking down and my spinal cord is bent. So no more carrying heavy things in the future or roughing up for me.

The one thing that would complete me the most is doing the pilgrimage to the Camino De Santiago. I would like to do the toughest trail there that runs across Northern Spain, my favorite place in the world. It would be a dedication to my favorite country, the country that gave me the best memories and to my mother who passed away. I’m not getting any younger and i started hiking quite late in my years, the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage would be my swansong as I would end another chapter in my life.

You also love photography. Were you into photography before you started to enjoy the outdoors or did this come once you started to enjoy hiking?

Oh im not a photographer (laughs) I’m just a person who happens to take lots of pictures. I got my slr camera more than 3 years ago and I’m using it’s full capabilities. It doesn’t have anything to do with hiking. I like taking pictures of water where I could manipulate in the camera settings how the speed of water runs into the picture, and also night photography

I love the details of the certain structure, space or skyline if they are separated by different colors of light at night I always bring my tripod with me wherever I go because it is impossible to shoot these kinds of pictures without a tripod, and well then of course – the mountains. My ultimate dream is to catch a picture of the milky way in the night sky but unfortunately I live for a time being in the central part of Europe where there is too much light pollution.

L 1

clockwise – Edificio Metrópolis, Madrid / the Akropolis and the Parthenon from the Lykavittos hill, Aathens / the springs of Kyra in Boeotia, Greece

Not only do you travel but you have also organized some travel for groups. One particular trip was to Iceland. Tell us about that and what you experienced from it?

(laughs) It was a crazy trip, I mean it was so multicultural with people from all parts of

the world. We did a roadtrip through Iceland’s great Ring Road. I co-organized it with Maike from the Netherlands at the time when Iceland was still in financial crisis (2010) even so, it was still expensive to do a trip circling the ring road (3000++ euros per person to do that with a tour) because most of the major attractions of  Iceland are located near the ringroad, so we decided to make it cheaply by inviting friends and friends of friends from Travbuddy website to share and cut the cost and doing it by ourselves, rent gigantic 4×4 vehicles and drive 1400 kms in 8 days and  do wild camping in Autumn (because in Scandinavia, except in Denmark – the law says that its legal to camp anywhere in the wilderness and outside of farmlands).

It was a trip full of craziness, the cars were our homes and we were a family during the duration of the trip, everyone relied on each other’s strength and capabilities because none of us had ever done this kind of trip before. We had the drivers, the route planners, the athletes who were in charge of wild camping and most important of all the guys who put humor into the situations The total cost of the trip was only around 700-800 euros per person so it was  really a good bargain to organize it ourselves rather than paying 3000++ euros per head for a tour.

Then of all the sites I saw in Iceland, I left a part of my heart in Reynisdrangar. Legend says that they were trolls caught in sunlight and turned to stone. Iceland is also the farthest and northern place I had been away from my home, the Philippines.

As for some crazy experiences: We were pardoned (?) by the police cause we sort of illegally camped near a farm, caught by a storm and in Iceland it is very windy some of our  tents just flew away, we trespassed a property to camp, drinking water coming from the glaciers, high camping at the base camp of Snaefellsjökull Volcano and camping at -7°c with windchill at lake Thingvallavatn, it was so icy and freezing cold. But  the crowning glory of our trip was seeing the elusive northern lights. That was purely magic.

lau mountain 3

clockwise The troll rocks of Reynisdrangar in Iceland / the macizo central of the Picos De Europa mountain range / the rain shadow blanketing the Cantabrian sea from the mountain pass of Vega Urriellu / the high sea cliffs of Acantiladoes En La Serra Da Capelada in Galicia, Spain

You mentioned  wild camping. Could you tell us more  about this and the situations you have been in?

I love wild camping, specially in higher places around 2000 meters. Nothing beats eating food cooked in a gathered wood, and I love tomato beans and crackers, bread and cheese for dinner and then waking up in the morning in a great wide open,surrounded alone by wilderness, the wet ground from morning dew and the smell of crisp air and watching as the sun goes down casting shadows below as the clouds slowly moving in at sunset. Of course ingenuity and quick thinking also comes in how to survive with only limited resources.

The most extreme wild camping i did was in Iceland, -7°c plus the windchill factor but I do well in cold rather than camping in a jungle by the beach in the Philippines where it was so hot and humid and it was impossible to open the tent because mosquitos were coming in. What we did was we sprayed  our bodies with mosquito repellant. It kept the mosquitos away but not the heat though.

One particular moment was one of my best adventure friends Ben and I were stuck inside a tent for 11 hours camping high in the Cordillera mountains in the Philippines because of a storm. We couldn’t cook so we had to eat some noodles raw and we ran out of drinking water. We had to collect rain water from a pot (laughs).

Our tent was so small that one false move and rain water would seep in, miraculously we slept so well between loud thunder and lightning that in the morning we were greeted by chirping birds  and the slowly rising sun in the horizon breaking through the thick clouds.

lau ro 1

Could you leave us with some of your favourite inspirational quotes?

es necesario correr riesgos. sólo entendemos del todo el milagro de la vida cuando

dejamos que suceda lo inesperado.

“we have to take risks. we will only understand the miracle of life when we allow the

unexpected to happen.”

– by the river piedra,I sat down and wept (Paulo Coelho)

credit to Tracy Lagunero and Ian Fgueroa for some pics of Lauro

I would personally like to thank Lauro for participating in this interview and providing some amazing photos. You can find more about Lauro and read his blog’s here

I will leave you with his favourite photo.

Lau Ro

If you have any questions for Lauro, you can leave them in the comments box. I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions

Inspirational interview with Sonoko Nakaya

Sonoko  Nakaya is one of the first Japanese people that I made friends with in Japan Through her stories of her travel adventures she inspired me to see the world. I will always be grateful for introducing me to what this world has to offer. I hope you all enjoy this inspiring interview.

Where did you first travel by yourself and how old were you?

I was 23 years old when I first went to India by myself. This was the third time for me to go there but I had previously gone with other people.
Who or what inspired you to travel?
I can’t tell exactly what inspired me to travel but it might have been because of my childhood experience in Taiwan. I lived in Taiwan for 5 years when I was a child and had the opportunity to get to know a different culture, different food, a different language, different people…..I guess that experience made me interested in exploring the world.
Sonoko in Turkey
India has a reputation of being a place you either love or hate. You are one of  the ones who love it. Why?
I have been to India 12 times but I haven’t found the best answer for this question yet. Usually when people ask me “Why do you like the country?” about other countries, I can easily answer“People were very nice!!” “I loved the food!” “The world heritage was great!!”etc…..
But when it comes to India, it is very difficult to answer. Of course I love Indian food, Indian movies, Indian people,there is a lot of beautiful nature and places to see, it is a very unique and interesting country with the mixture of different religions and cultures….But none of them seems to be the best answer for me.
I feel like I’m freed from all of the bondage and I can be myself when I am in India. I don’t need to think about what people think about me or what I look like. I can stay very natural there.Maybe this is the reason why I keep going back ????
How long were you in India? Tell us about your daily life there.
My shortest stay was one week, the longest one was about a year. Maybe 2 years and several months in total?
When I was there long term, I didn’t go sight seeing very much and just enjoyed staying at the place. I ate at cheap local restaurants,walked around the market and town, talked with local people….I also worked as a volunteer in Kolkata.
Have you volunteered in a country,If yes tell us about your experience?
I volunteered at Mother Teresa’s organization in India for one year.(in total. I went back there over again.)I quit my job when I was 23 years old (I was working at a life insurance company as a sales person) and went to India to volunteer there.
I worked at the orphanage for physically and mentally challenged children. I hadn’t had any experience of taking care of children before and it was also quite shocking to see these children who had serious problems. I was also shocked to see how Indian workers treated children.
Gradually I started to understand it’s because of the cultural difference and lack of education(The organization hires very poor people to give them a job I found myself enjoying the work so much. After this experience, I decided to work with children in Japan and studied again. Now I’m a nursery school teacher and I really, really enjoy my job.
If I hadn’t volunteered with Mother Teresa’s organization, I wouldn’t have been able to realize how much I love children, so I am grateful for the organization.
I also worked at the hospice for 2 months. It is the most popular place for foreign volunteers but I felt like I was useless because I didn’t understand their language and sometimes I made them angry or cry because of that.
So I decided to focus on background work like washing dishes, bed sheets and diapers. I didn’t like this place very much because working with children gave me a lot of good vibes but working with dying people  zapped my energy
In Nairobi,Kenya, there is a Japanese man who runs a small school in the slum. I went to help make the school yard with some other Japanese travelers. I was told to collect cow’s dung from outside and was picking up a lot of dried dung on my birthday!!
I also volunteered in the day-care center for Tibetan refugees children in Dharamsala, India. There was always a water shortage problem and it was very difficult to take care of children when we needed to clean them.
Sonoko in Ethiopia
How do you afford to travel?
I just work, work, work, work, work, and give up many things while in Japan and save money. I’ve made three long-term trips in my life and every time I quit my job after saving enough money and traveled until my savings almost ran out.
Sonoko in Namibia
Being a female what was it like to travel through the Middle East?
In most of the countries people were very honest, kind and trustworthy so I really enjoyed traveling there. But I got teased a lot in some countries while walking on the street alone, this didn’t happen at all while walking with a man.
 In Iran, even foreigners have to wear a scarf on their head and have to cover the bottom with a long shirt or coat all the time. This is the law and it will also avoid problems with men. But even when I dressed appropriately, one guy touched my bottom at the sandwich shop!!
I elbowed him in  the stomach very hard twice and made him apologize though…..
When I went to the countryside in Yemen, I had to wear a “niqab”to cover my whole face and a black long coat to cover my whole body. My face became so sweaty and very uncomfortable and it was also very difficult to eat or drink something under the niqab. I really appreciated that I was born in Japan and could wear whatever I like.
The funny thing was that I felt shy to show my face to people once I got used to wearing a niqab even though I had been exposing my face to everyone my whole life.
Sonoko in Yemen
Do you have any tips or recommendations on how to travel through the Middle East?
Because of the media, you might think that the Middle East is dangerous but actually it’s quite safe and Muslim people’s hospitality is great. As long as you respect local culture and religion and dress appropriately, you will have a great time there. 
You are a very independent traveler.Do you sometimes take tours,this includes day tours if yes tell us briefly one. If no tell us why?
Basically I don’t like to take tours but sometimes I take day tours when it’s difficult to go to a place by myself (for example when there is no public transportation or when I can’t go there without a guide). I took day tours in Cappadocia in Turkey, glacier trekking in Patagonia,Masai Mara National Reserve, Kakku in Myanmar, Tibet
Sonoko in Patagonia
You have traveled long term and now you only travel on short trips which do you prefer? Will you ever travel long term again?
I think both of them have good and bad points. Once I traveled for 2 years and 6 months with the budget of 2 million yen(about 20,000 USD). I wanted to see as many places as possible so I always had to stay at the cheapest dirtiest hostels, I had to give up eating at restaurants and I cooked by myself almost everyday in expensive countries. It was quite stressful that I always had to mind my budget but I always had enough TIME at each place instead and it was great.
Recently I travel only for a short time. I stay at more comfortable hostels, I can eat whatever I like, I don’t have to spend a lot of time for bargaining. I have much less stress in regard with budget but I have to rush all the time.
I prefer long term travel but I don’t think I will ever do it again. Because the situation doesn’t allow me to do it any more. When I was younger it was easy to find a job again after the long trip but it’s becoming more difficult as I get older. I also didn’t want to settle down at all and traveling always used to be my first priority but recently I would rather settle down and have my own children rather than traveling. I never expected that I would become like this but I think I’m getting old!!!
Sonoko in India
What has travel taught you about the world and about yourself?
Travel has taught me to see how ignorant I am!! While traveling I came across a lot of new knowledge. I also learned that we should not believe all of the things which media shows us. To see is to believe!!
After spending one year in India when I was 23 years old, I realized how lucky I am to be born in a rich country I had a house to live, food to eat, clothes to wear,had a chance to go to school and had freedom to make my own choices for many things.
Since then I am able to appreciate many things. I became happier than before because I have become less materialistic and know  I have enough. Having a good status, having a “good” job, becoming rich and having a nice big house and an expensive car mean nothing to me.
I live in a very small apartment and don’t have much money (I mean  for Japanese standard) but my mind is always happy because I’m satisfied with what I have now.
Sonoko in Cuba
You have traveled through Asia, Africa, the Middle East,South and Central America but you have never been to Europe and only New York in America. Tell us why you haven’t traveled to these places and do you plan to in the future?
I was interested in only developing countries because I love the places where I can see something very different from my own country and their original deep culture. But I think everywhere has been modernized and westernized rapidly so I wanted to visit these places before they change.
To the contrary, I can guess what I can see in Europe easily. African naked tribal people who have lip plates attract me more than beautiful cities in Europe. Another reason why I haven’t visited Europe is of course budget.
Traveling in Europe costs a lot more than traveling in other areas. If I had visited Europe during my poor long term backpacking trip, I must have been eating only bread and cheese everyday and given up entering many good museums and sightseeing spots. It’s a pity if I had to travel like that …..
Sonoko in Kenya
Recently I am starting to be interested in Europe too so I would like to visit there in the future I was not planning of going to New York at all. To be honest I was not the least bit interested in US. I actually wanted to fly from Mexico to India but the flight was very expensive. Flying from New York to India cost  about one-third so I just went to New York for the flight. But as a result, I was amazed with New York and had a great time there for one week!!!
You haven’t traveled much in Japan either but recently I heard that you want to travel more in your own country. Why do you want to do this and where do you want to go?
The main reason is that I know I don’t  have enough time to travel abroad anymore. Now that I have only  7~9 days holiday so I would rather stay in Japan. I would like to go trekking in the mountains in Japan.
Recently I saw many beautiful pictures of Japanese mountains which my friends posted on facebook and I was surprised to know that I can see such beautiful mountains in Japan too.
I also want to visit Hokkaido ,Okinawa and  Yakushima.
Christmas/New Years is just around the corner. Will you spend it in another county if so where and what will you do?
I will stay in Japan. I will go back to my parents’ place and spend New Years with them.  Over the years I have been away from Japan at this time of year, so I will try to spend time with my parents.
This is a link to Sonoko’s blog. It is written in Japanese but you can see some great photos if you can’t read Japanese.
If you have a question for Sonoko feel free to ask she would be happy to answer any questions.

Inspirational Interview with Sarah B Klingseid

We all travel together is a blog that hopes to inspire other people to travel.  Through traveling we meet so many inspirational people. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Klingseid. She is such an inspiring person who has travelled to over 120 countries. After meeting her I wanted to know more about her travels and thought she would be a great person to have in our first interview segment.  All photos are credited to Sarah B Klingseid.

When you were a child did you travel much with your parents?

No, I didn’t,  my parents had a cottage on the south coast of Norway, so we went there every weekend!

 Where did you first travel by yourself and how old were you?

I was 17 years old the first time I traveled with 8 friends to the French Alps. I celebrated my 18th birthday while on the trip.
When I was 19 I went to the US for a year.
At 23 I went on my own to Thailand, to visit a Thai friend who I had become friends with in England two years earlier.

Who or what inspired you to travel?

That´s a tricky one, I really don´t remember how it started. I visited a few places, got badly infected by the travel bug and the rest is history. There is so much to see and learn out there, I just can´t stop.

Many people say they want to travel but they are hesitant to travel by themselves. What would you say to these people?

It´s much better to travel on your own, than not to travel at all. Pack your bag and get out there. There is so much to explore,you are never alone. When you are on your own it´s so easy to meet other travelers.

What is your favorite country that you have been to? 

It is impossible to pick just one country.
My trip to Peru was amazing, the country is so diverse. It has the  Coast, ocean, mountains, lakes, ruins, history, culture and above all, Machu Pichu.  Magical
Sri Lanka is another beautiful country. Wonderful people, interesting history ,culture and lovely food.
Southern Africa is one of my favorites too. There are no other places with wildlife like this region. There is nothing better than to sit on the savanna watching the sunset while lion cubs are playing in front of you.

Is there a country you keep returning to ?

Yes, I keep returning to Japan. It´s magical!  Fascinating culture and great food. Japan is a very easy country to travel in. There are buses, trains and boats going to every corner of the country. And it´s very safe. It´s the country I have felt safest in, while traveling as a single woman.
japan 2
japan 1

Is there a place that you have been to that needs more recognition as a tourist destination?

I found Djibouti to be a wonderful place, but it is for people who are particularly interested in diving or snorkeling. If you are not into these activities, then it´s not worth going, but if you are, it´s an underwater heaven for snorkeling.
Djibouti is located at the end of the Red Sea and has all it offers in underwater diversity. With hardly any tourists visiting the country it´s still very untouched.
Another amazing place is Bhutan, very interesting. It’s been isolated for centuries. It’s so full of culture, history and old traditions. Stunning mountains and fantastic scenery, such a Beautiful place!

You’re on holidays do you go to a city, the beach or the mountains?

A city I would only visit on a weekend trip, but not a longer holiday during the heat of summer. A mix of a relaxing beach and a good hike in the mountains is the best.

What do you like to do on your holiday?

I like a mix, but I love sun and warm climate. Being on a boat is a favorite pastime and snorkeling a great activity. I also love safaris. Staying on the savannahs of Africa is magical.

You have had some amazing experiences, climbed Kilimanjaro, dived with whale sharks, been gorilla trekking in Uganda and lots more share a brief experience with us


The travel experience that has made the deepest impression, on me was my latest stay in Koya-san. Staying with the monks in a temple and being accepted into Buddhism in a ceremony was very special.

Where do you plan to go next?

I hope that my next big trip will be to Rwanda. A few years ago I went on a gorilla trekking trip in Uganda. Now I would like to do the same in Rwanda.

 What’s the best meal that you have had while travelling?

Grilled lobster on the beach in one of the Marquesas islands. We picked it up straight from the BBQ and ate it with our fingers.

Recently there has been some controversy over a tiger mauling a tourist at the tiger temple in Kachanabari in Thailand. Tell us about your experience and would you return now?

I visited the Tiger temple in 2002, before it had been advertised on the TV channel Animal Planet. Back then it was very simple. There were a few cages where the tigers lived. They were fed in the morning and then taken for a walk in the afternoon. I visited at both times. We walked the tigers to an area where they could play and sniff the flowers and grass.. The tigers seemed healthy , they had a shiny coat.
Unfortunately, the publicity has made the monks think more about the money they can make rather than on the well being of the tigers. When I read about drugged tigers, it makes me both sad and very angry. So, no I would not return today! I will not support that kind of animal treatment.

You support Lion ALERT tell us a bit about the organization and the amazing experience you had with them?

One of my most memorable moments was the Lion Encounter with ALERT  you can do the lion walk safari as well as  interact with these wonderful big cats. I met two 18 month old brothers, quite a couple of  rascals.

The African Lion & Environmental Reaserch Trust (ALERT) was founded in 2005 to support the four-stage African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program and is a non-profit organization. ALERT promotes community action by raising awareness, motivating and empovering people to protect and restore their environment and improve livelihoods.

In 1975, there were  200,000 lions roaming around on the African savanna. In 2002, the population was estimated to be somewhere between 23,000 and 39,000 animals. It is believed that the decline in the lion population is doing so in an even faster rate. This makes ALERTS program so important.

The African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program consists of 4 stages. For more information about ALERT