This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features freelance travel writer Anja Mutić. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet, Shermans Travel, Rough Guides, Time Out, Travel + Leisure and more. Learn more about Anja on her website, Ever the Nomad and keep up with her on twitter at @everthenomad.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
Bolivia, by far. So many people I talk to can’t even place it on the map and don’t know which continent it belongs to. But those adventurous enough to make it to this landlocked country in South America are treated to an incredibly vibrant indigenous culture, jaw-dropping landscapes and awesome natural diversity. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Bolivia researching guidebooks and the richness of the destination never ceases to amaze me. The magic there is undeniable and the stars of the Altiplano so close.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
On buses, I loved listening to my iPod and seeing the landscapes whiz by. I find overland travel so exciting that I usually can’t sleep. I’m endlessly amused by the world changing and speeding through the bus window. On planes, I tend to read for a bit (that’s my time for catching up on The New Yorkers that gather on my magazine rack, unread) but my concentration drops soon and I usually fall asleep. Airplanes really make me spacey. I’ve been known to sleep for ten hours straight. I once took off from New York and woke up as the plane was landing in Buenos Aires.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
Travel is all about strange things so to pick the strangest one is a tricky task. What pops up is a road journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang in Laos, when our van stopped in a one-street village in the middle of mountainous nowhere. We heard loud music coming from somewhere off the road, followed it and found ourselves in the midst of an impromptu karaoke session in someone’s hut, equipped with a huge sound system. The next thing you know, we’re singing and dancing with three smiling women, a man who looked seriously high on opium and a few kids giggling and peaking in from outside. It was a very surreal experience.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
I suffer from a strange neurosis that exhibits itself every time I travel: I have to unpack the moment I arrive to my destination, be it a hotel, resort, hostel or a friend’s place. I mean, I really have to, even if I’m staying for one night! The moment I do so, I feel at home, as if I’ve really arrived. After I’m all unpacked, I love to go for a walk and wander around aimlessly.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Don’t count on anything, be flexible and never forget you’re a visitor. A lot of tourists and travelers expect things to go according to their master plan, as if they were back in their home countries. When it doesn’t go the way they’ve envisioned it, they get upset, frustrated, lost… My experience has shown that with the least amount of expectations (and lots of cultural sensitivity), you’ll have the best time on the road.