Interview with Joao, a DN who has visited 128 UN countries and 20 non-recognized countries or autonomous territories10 min read

Interview with Joao, a DN who has visited 128 UN countries and 20 non-recognized countries or autonomous territories10 min read

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hi Joao, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your lifestyle?

I’m just a regular guy that has been addicted to travel from an early age. Since the beginning of my university years that everything I did would be to get myself on the road. I had four different jobs that made it possible to pay my living expenses and start exploring new countries on my own.

I was never great of a planer, so two things were always guaranteed. Firstly, I never knew where I was traveling to when I started a trip. That is why hitchhiking and a consistent improvisation made part of my first developed travel skills. Secondly, I always returned home, completely broke.

I try to live a very individual and personalized lifestyle. I tend not to go along with the crowds, and really try to understand what really pushes me to enjoy life. I created my own path. Consequently, and as far as I’ve been noticing, through my travel blog I influence other people pursuing their dreams, traveling, and personalized ways of living.

Some people make their own paths while others follow the already beaten routes. Nowadays, people are not looking for their own way of life. People follow the lives and dreams of others. And even go to the places where others took that exact same picture posted on Instagram.

What is your current destination and what are you planning next?

At the moment I’m home in Ouarzazate city in South Morocco. Taking into account the current world situation, I do not have any travel plans. I could basically make you a list of places I wanted to go, but that list would fall into oblivion in a couple of weeks since my mood will be different by then.

What do you like the most about being a Nomad?

During my travels, I discovered that we all laugh, cry, love our children, and like to eat, have fun, and enjoy life. Travel can genuinely strengthen and challenge our beliefs higher than any other experience. We are forced to the limit in understanding humans.

I travel to see new things, meet diverse people, and see different cultures. Basically, I think I travel to expand my horizons. That’s it. I get great satisfaction from being on the road, especially when I have a bit of adventure on the go.

I do not travel to “find myself” or anything like that, I just go for the thrill of crossing borders and experience the following unexpected situation waiting for me. But of course, traveling had an undeniable impact on my personality.

Indeed traveling brought changes to my life. The extensive knowledge of different cultures and probable tolerance towards one another. Also, the emotional excitement of a journey is definitely significant to me.

For several years after my mother passed away, I engaged myself in an internal transformation that led me to various processes of looking at life, death, and even at myself. Traveling helped me to flee, to retreat, to understand, to mature, to awaken, to seek, to love, to be Me again.

Is there something that you do not like about this lifestyle?

I built and designed a way of life that fits my needs and passions. What I have today is precisely the way I wanted it to be.

I had several jobs during university years to support myself. Still, I always only had the goal of being my own boss and create my own business after I graduated. 

The life I live today was not a consequence of me being tired of any corporate job, of being fired, and searching for something else. I basically start traveling and working online on my own right after I finish my Visual Arts degree.

So, there is nothing I don’t enjoy about my lifestyle. Simply because I do not have any defined way of living or something I could relate to. I live my way.

What is a place/country you liked the most while traveling and why?

As of March 2020, I have visited 128 UN countries but also about 20 non-recognized countries or autonomous territories spread around the globe.

Morocco is my top choice for the best country ever. I enjoy the positiveness and friendly approach of the majority of the Moroccan population.

The intense colors, the smiling people, the sumptuous cuisine, the breathtaking landscapes, and above all is the security and feeling embraced by Moroccans daily.

Morocco mixes an extreme shock in terms of culture, architecture, religion, language, landscapes, and yet, it’s very welcoming and makes daily traveling very pleasant. Of course, there’s a certain roughness within the country, but again, Africa is not for every type of traveler.

I live in Morocco since 2006. After I finished university, and following a strong impulse, I moved to the Sahara Desert with no plans. I just went looking for a place where I really wanted to be. The rest happened naturally. Nowadays, I have a hotel, a travel agency, and a coworking and coliving space in the city of Ouarzazate.

Traveling is very rewarding because we can really immerse ourselves in a specific culture through daily subsistence with the local people. 

I also enjoy Turkey because it’s historically rich and diverse, with fantastic food and friendly people.

Portugal because it’s my home country, full of history, great food, humble people, and the country in Europe with more heritage per square km.

Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan also gets my attention due to the incredible landscapes and a particular culture.

Brazil, for its friendly people, good food, incredible diversity, the Amazon regions, and the Portuguese heritage architecture spread all around its territory.

Let’s talk about the community. From all these places you visited, is there a special place that you particularly liked because of people/communities?

I did enjoy being part of that small community of coworkers in Poznan, mostly because of the host Fernando, rather than the other people using the space. I noticed that people didn’t talk much with each other since everyone was there to work and not really to get social.

Joao, can you tell us what is your biggest dream?

I’m not the type of person that dreams about things. I mean, I’m a very impulsive person, but I’m also remarkably realistic and down to earth. So when you’re a pragmatic spontaneous person, you can’t just stop and dream. You have to do things. And tomorrow is already too late. 

When I usually want to achieve something, and taking into account that it will work, I will just basically do it. I don’t project life in long term achievements as I try to live the present. Plus, what I want today can totally change overnight. If tomorrow I would like to do something else than I’m doing today, I would try my best to achieve that.

What do you think was the most dangerous situation you have ever experienced while traveling?

While wild camping in the middle of the Mauritanian Sahara Desert and waking up being surrounded by armed people in 4WD’s circling me at high speed.

Also, a time in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. While hitchhiking crossing the jungle and we got stuck in the mud in a region that the UN Blue Helmets told us to avoid. People came out with machetes, and things were not very safe, so I jumped to a motorcycle and rode to call the army. My friend eventually kept it calm, and the military eventually dispersed the crowed just right before sunset. Furthermore, on the trip, I got myself into a Congolese hospital with Malaria. The whole story is very complicated, but mostly, it can be resumed to this.

While flying from Bangladesh to India. One of the airplane engines burst, so we had to go back to Dhaka very slowly, low altitude, and the roughest landing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been quite scared of flying since then.

Another situation was just recently on my trip to Syria in February 2020. While crossing the newly reopen M5 highway connecting Damascus to Aleppo through the Idlib Province since it was closed for many years due to the civil war. Due to the ongoing fighting in Idlib, which I saw in the distance, for almost 30 km, I heard bombs and black smoke on the horizon. People on motorcycles, tanks, and army trucks were all heading to the frontline. A particular section of the road was barred by the Turkish army. Consequently and all vehicles had to go on a shortcut. While crossing a destroyed village, a Syrian Army tank fired just 20m from my car. The noise was tremendous, and like something I’ve never experienced before. This road was eventually cut two days after due to rebels gaining terrain and occupying the villages near Saraqib.

Could you share with us what the strangest meal/thing that you ever ate?

I don’t memorize bad moments or bad things while on the road. Naturally, I never register them nor remember. So I can’t reply, sorry.

Also, I stick to a vegetarian diet all the time. I guess your question would be more related to meat-eaters and trying stuff like cockroaches, dog soup, monkey brain, or fried scorpion. So, no, apart from really disgusting mare milk in the mountains in Kazakhstan, I’ve never eaten anything strange enough to mention.

On the contrary and as I like to focus on the positives, for my personal preferences, Turkey and China have the best food. I became vegetarian around 15 or 16 years old, so without a doubt that those two countries make me feel I could get fat if I stayed longer. In fact, last time I was in Turkey for 2.5 months, I got an extra 5 kg in weight.

I can see that you are traveling a lot in a VAN/camper, what do you think is the best thing to travel with a van and what was your longest trip with a camper?

I have around 120 months of traveling on a 20-year time. From all this time on the road, I’ve only been 12 months with a campervan on a 35,000 km trip around countries such as Russia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, etc. Also, another 1-month trip around Portugal. That’s it. All the rest of the time, I was backpacking either traveling by local bus, shared taxi, hitchhiking, train, boat, or car rental.

Written by: Kristina Lukacova, a DN that enjoys good food, good wine and good vibes. If you would like to talk to Joao, feel free to visit his blog.


Kristina Lukacova, a DN that enjoys good food, good wine and good vibes.

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