My name is Ewa, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Poland. I work remotely and currently live in Barcelona. I love travelling and I do it as often as I can because I know that it opens me up to understanding how many ways one can experience life. Talking to people from another culture and listening to the stories of their everyday life, which are often incomprehensible and illogical to us, shows us that we often live in a bubble of certain impressions, rules, morals…and this is what I love most about travelling. I love piercing this bubble of my cultural perception of the world and finding out that there is no single correct way of life in the world. There are as many of them as there are cultures. At the same time, I enjoy learning foreign languages and photographing nature, so it all works together.
Why do you travel and look for adventures?
Above all, to get to know. I love to know. And I want to know how other people live in the other part of the world, what they call a normal breakfast and how abnormal that breakfast is for me. I love to be shocked by what is moral for each culture and what is crossing the border. Their religion, language, culture, history, values, cuisine, and daily life are things I love to discover and compare with my own, Polish. Travelling is great learning by doing, as long as we are open to it and don’t spend the whole trip locked in a hotel room.
What kind of adventures do you look for when you travel?
I love road trips and trekking and mountains so lots of activities related to that. I like talking to the locals, eating what they eat and trying the activities they do. Sleeping in a tent or meet other travellers in hostels or Couchsurfing is what I am fond of. I also like to get hooked on the culture and art aspect, so I don’t skip museums and art galleries. All these things make a complete, worthwhile trip for me.
What’s your go-to travel hack?
walk a lot so comfortable shoes, not necessarily photogenic and fitting in with Instagram standards. It’s not worth suffering through the whole trip for one photo in which we pretend it’s great when our legs are on fire. It’s good to have a piece of paper with, for example, phone numbers of people close to you. I know people whose phones were stolen somewhere in another country and it was much more problematic to solve this. We have the internet, but it is still easiest to just call someone from a useful phone. Chewing gum on the plane for clogged ears. I don’t know what the medical explanation for this is, but it helps me. If we hitchhike or blablacar, or sleep at someone’s place through couchsurfing for example, it is essential that someone close to us has that person’s details, car registration number or address. You never know! Powerbanks – especially during road trips such as in Iceland where there is no easy access to stations to charge phones. Eat where the locals eat, beautiful tourist eateries don’t always reflect the local food style and prices are certainly inflated. If I was travelling alone and felt unsafe in an area, I carried pepper spray, never used it but felt much safer with that knowledge. And last, something I stick to. If you have a planned trip with a list of attractions and you can spend more than just a few days in a place, there is no point in chasing after just another museum, sculpture or pub. If you feel that warm and homely feeling in a place if you meet wonderful people rich in stories and experiences, stay with them a few days longer. This will certainly give you more than completing the checklist. You will build a bond that can last for years and you will undoubtedly understand more about a culture, country and people by staying for a while among the locals and living with them, rather than running around the attractions designed for tourists. Soak up the place you are in, listen to the people and their stories, explore, taste and try to focus as much as possible on the moment, try to really experience the trip with all your senses.
Got any gear you can’t travel without?
You can travel without anything, but super helpful is of course phone, internet, a good app with maps, powerbank and in my case camera. Consider also insurance!
What destination are you eager to go back to?
Iceland without any doubts. Can be also Azores Islands.
How do you stay safe when you’re travelling?
I share the information (with my friends or family) about people I live with or travel in that place with. They always know where I will sleep, who I’m going to have a road trip with, which car, number or address. I don’t like parties in general, but even if I wanna go somewhere, I never go alone to a nightclub in a country where the culture is so different. I don’t recommend also night walks in the city, but if I really have a need to go out alone in such a place, I usually don’t dress provocative or sexy. I’m a feminist but in those moments this belief won’t help you (maybe if you’re a karate king you can try). So I used to wear in those situations a comfy sweatsuit, not a mini dress and high heels. Last but not least is respecting local rules. We come to this place as a guest, so I believe that we shouldn’t teach them how to live with an attitude that our way is the best. We can share and exchange experiences, but without understanding deeply the tradition of this place, we can’t criticize others. If you come to the hiper orthodox place where religion regulates everything, women are humble and zero provocative and you decide to have a walk in the city looking like a supermodel, sexy and half-naked, don’t expect respect. Maybe a better option would be doing it in a place with a culture closer to your one. Respect is a clue!
What’s the best way to experience a destination like a local?
Surround yourself with locals. If I sleep somewhere in a hostel, on the first morning I always spend at least half an hour talking to the receptionist about the place. I get in and listen. When I go for a coffee in a bar, my conversation usually doesn’t end with ordering a coffee, if there is no queue then I try to find out more. I look for local events, maybe there are holidays or special days in the area. If there are, I’ll definitely go to them. I look for friends, for example through Instagram, if I’m interested in photography, I look for local photographers, I get in touch with them and I go out to eat. If I like sport, I join a local run, a beach volleyball match or do yoga in the park. I just take the initiative and try to build some value into the trip, some kind of bond, and try to get in.
What’s your favourite word in another language?
Spanish GRINGO, english HEAVEN or SHALLOW, german LECKERBISSEN and polish LEKKI, WODA
Since Day 1 Travel with Jane has been about levelling the playing field for women in Australia. In 2020, we’re taking the fight global. Stay tuned to learn how you can support the women who tackle the gender divide here and abroad.