Soon we’ll be leaving Viña del Mar to visit southern Chile. We’ll be leaving our awesome roommates, so before we go we thought you’d enjoy meeting one of them!
His name is Alexey — although he sometimes goes by Alex. He’s originally from Moscow, Russia and he’ll be heading to Thailand and Morocco next. He kindly allowed me to interview him this morning. He was cooking his breakfast and I was perched with my laptop on the stairs.
Tamara: Why did you decide to start traveling?
Alexey: When I was a child, my parents were in the military. We traveled and moved from place to place all the time. Also, my mother is a fan of travel and always talked about it: the feeling of being on a plane or train, always moving, seeing new landscapes, sightseeing. She said travel opened her up to new views, even though she only traveled within the country which at the time was the Soviet Union. So from childhood I heard a lot about travel. At age 25, I took my first trip abroad to Egypt. That was in 2005 and I haven’t stopped traveling since.
T: Wow, nine years! How many countries have you been to?
A: In nine years, I have been to almost 60 countries. I can’t stop! I love the new cultures, new people, new food.
T: So, which countries were your favorite? The top three?
A: Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland. Australia, especially Tasmania, is like another world. It’s like the ancient world when the dinosaurs lived, landscapes you can only imagine in fantasy films or books. New Zealand also has fantastic and beautiful landscapes. Iceland is absolutely different but has its own beautiful northern scenery: volcanoes, giant waterfalls, glaciers. The glaciers are very blue, even in the summertime. Absolutely breathtaking.
T: And how many languages do you speak?
A: Three — Russian, English, and Spanish.
T: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you while traveling?
A: When I was in Uzbekistan, nine months ago, I was staying in the capital, Tashkent. I was checking in to a guest house and they said I couldn’t stay more than two nights because of local laws. If you are staying longer, you have to go to the police station to register your stay. I didn’t go to the police station, so I had to change accommodations several times to avoid staying more than two nights. One night, the police knocked on my door at two o’clock in the morning. They asked to check my registration or my passport! Everything was okay because I didn’t stay more than two days, but if you go there, you have to be prepared. Two o’clock in the morning! They checked all the guests in the hotel.
T: You work while you’re on the road, right? How does that work?
A: Yes, I am a freelancer. I have a close circle of clients I’ve worked with for six or seven years. I do advertising production — I’m a production manager. Whether it’s catalogs, books, or magnets, I manage the production from start to finish. I can work from the road wherever I am.
T: Is there anything you miss about Moscow?
A: Nothing, except my friends. I miss them so much. I keep in touch with them on Skype, Viber, Facebook, email, or iMessage. But I’ve decided I’m not going to live in Russia anymore. Last year, I wasn’t so sure. But eventually you realize that it’s impossible to go back. It’s like taking a step backwards when you want to keep moving forward. You want to do something more. There are also other reasons I don’t miss Moscow: the pollution, the crowds. I want a more peaceful life. If I could take all my friends and put them here, I wouldn’t dream of anything else. That’s the only thing I miss.
T: What has surprised you about traveling? What’s easy? What’s hard?
A: When you first arrive, it can be difficult to find your rhythm. Everything’s different: roads, buildings, language. Sometimes the climate. And when you’re planning to go a new country, you wonder how people are going to treat you. You read information online or go by what you hear on the news. But usually you receive a wide welcome. Like in Chile, I was surprised how people treat foreigners; they are very warm, very open-minded. The majority of countries welcome foreigners, even if we think we are not so welcome. People are willing to talk with you about their culture and experiences.
T: You are very disciplined about going to yoga every day! You mentioned you’re traveling to other Bikram yoga studios. Have you always practiced yoga?
A: No, I just started. I picked it up when I was in Phuket, Thailand. I saw advertisements for “hot yoga” and one day I wanted to try something different. It sounded so strange to me. In my mind, yoga was like meditation and nothing else, but it was actually very difficult. You sweat, it’s hard to breathe, you can’t see through the sweat in your eyes. I decided to do a challenge — 30 days of yoga in a row. Now, it’s my new hobby. For me, it was more of a physical thing, but it’s about your mind too. An American guy who practiced with me healed his leg. People absolutely change their lives devoting themselves to hot yoga. From that moment, I decided to visit places in Spain, Russia, Chile, and other countries to practice in different Bikram studios. That’s my project now.
T: Any advice you want to share with other travelers or aspiring travelers?
A: Be a good person. If you treat other people like you would your friends, you will receive the same treatment and energy from them. Whether you’re in Asia, Africa, North America — we’re all the same people around the world.
Thank you for sharing your story, Alexey! We will miss you!