Living on the road with Flavio Alagia of Thinking Nomads

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I met Flavio when heading to Eastern Europe last March. We were attending Berlin’s ITB and I can tell we had fun. His unique sense of humor, travel tales and night life make him an interesting guy to have over in our On The Road Interview Series. Check out everything about living on the road.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about travelling?

I was born in Switzerland but grew up in Italy, moving regularly from Northern Italy to the South and to Switzerland. My first travel experience as a lonely adventurer consisted in six months in London. I left to research for my college thesis and ended up touring all the squat parties in town. But most importantly, I realized that with a backpack and a lot of curiosity I could go everywhere in the world. Travelling is like eating from a wonderful table: it doesn’t matter how delicious was your last meal, it is always worth to try something new. After college I became a journalist – or blogger? Story teller? Spiderman? – and I enjoy any chance to leave for new places, taking along my camera and my laptop in order to share my travel experiences on the web.

Luch with Fula, Wadi Halfa, Sudan

Luch with Fula, Wadi Halfa, Sudan

  • Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of travelling?

Right now I am roaming through Italy, hitting Milan, Bologna, Rome, Sicily, Calabria, Apulia and much more. In January I will start a big tour of the Mediterranean on the road, moving from Italy to France, Spain, Morocco, all the way to Turkey – hoping to move safely amid the hot zones – and getting back through the Balkans. I prefer to move slowly by bus or train instead of flying, even because – as everybody knows – flying is extremely dangerous and you don’t even get a parachute but a useless life jacket. What should I do with a life jacket if I’m falling down from 10.000 metres?!

Lilongwe, Malawi

Lilongwe, Malawi

  • What do you think of travelling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when travelling long-term?

Hard to say. I am not sure if I really had a purpose on my last journeys. Travelling is already the purpose for most things I do: working, eating, waking up in the morning… Maybe since lately I started to look more carefully into my destinations, trying to uncover stories and realities worth to be shared with my (few) readers. Roaming Italy, for example I picked up places with controversial issues, like the failed reconstruction of L’Aquila four years after the dramatic earthquake which almost obliterated it, or the campaign against mafia extortions pulled up by the fantastic people of AddioPizzoTravel in Sicily.

Alviano, Umbria. Italy

Alviano, Umbria. Italy

  • How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road fulltime? Tell us what you do for a living.

Well, as I already told you, I am Spiderman… I mean, a journalist. Or was it a blogger? Anyway, the websites I work with allow me some small income that usually goes wasted in 0.032 seconds in the first pub on my way. I also sell my blown up competences as a freelance, digging into any kind of communication related task the web has to offer. In this way I can work with my laptop wherever I am. I am not expecting to get rich anytime soon, but I am a free bird in the big sky, and this is well worth some sacrifice. By the way, how much did you say you are going to pay me for this interview?

Flavio Alagia, a wonderful guy (his own words ;) )

Flavio Alagia, a wonderful guy (his own words 😉 )

  • Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.

After coming back from London, I just wanted to leave again as soon as possible for India. So I got my (useless) degree and packed up with all the money I could save from my job as bar tender (I make a pretty good mojito). I spent almost one year roaming from Goa to Tiruvannamalai and up again to Mumbai, including a one month break in Thailand to renew my visa, collecting pictures and writing a few articles about the most interesting situations I met. When I ran out of money I got back and started again, working during the day as freelance on the web and in the evening as Spiderman… I mean, bar tender. Six months later I was on my way to South Africa. I worked for six months in Cape Town, for a magazine published by an NGO. When I became jobless again, I decided to get back on the road, and started travelling through Africa on buses, trains, boats, cargo ships, hitchhiking and walking a lot. Even because – as everybody knows – flying is extremely dangerous. I spent a week hosted by a Sun people tribe in the Kalahari, Botswana, and was among the first Italian journalist to enter the newborn state of South Sudan. I spent twelve days on the Blue Nile, on a cargo ship, with a bunch of amazing Somalis who take incredible care of me. I was in Tahrir Square in Cairo while the last demonstrations took place before the presidential elections in 2012. In the end I was quite out of energies, and unable to find a boat to Italy from Alexandria I took a plane from Cairo. An extremely hazardous choice, but I survived it. Because, as everybody knows…

Cargo ship, Blue Nile. South Sudan

Cargo ship, Blue Nile. South Sudan

 

  • What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid in order to succeed.

Studying is always a good thing, no matter in which field, just follow what passionates you. But what really makes the difference is experience on the field, nothing else. Try to keep an open mind, be kind and respectful, and any kind of travel experience will end up being an incredible source for knowledge and new skills. And if you really want to support your travels as a journalist, well, think it twice, then thrice, and if you really didn’t come up with a better plan start figuring out your life without a respectful bank account, nor wife, girlfriend, children, social life. Get familiar with dealing with avatars instead of friends and make sure you gave up any unnecessary costly habit, as clothes, shoes, haircuts, washing, eating… Then get back to step one. Maybe this time you come up with an alternative.

Port Saint Jones, South Africa

Port Saint Jones, South Africa

  • What does a perfect day in your life looks like? Do you follow any particular routine?

No room for routine, but a perfect day – the kind of day I dream of constantly but realized only once or twice in my life – is: waking up at seven (yes, I am a morning breaker), alone (she just left without waking me up), going on the beach for some yoga, having a healthy breakfast. Then I find out an electromagnetic storm put out of use any electronic device, so I spend the rest of the morning reading a good book on my hammock. Before lunch I head for the food market of this unknown little village in some corner of the Middle East, taking my camera with me. I shoot only great pictures of wildlife, traditional activities and unicorns, and nobody yells at me because he thinks with a photo I may steal his soul or some other stupid reason. I eat only fresh veg food, while the cook, a charming, ever smiling old lady, tells me the incredible story of how his family was once the ruling power of the region, but lost everything during a revolution, and assures me I can use every detail in my next article. In the evening I seat around a fire with other local people, chatting about daily matters and ancient customs, and nobody tries to sell me anything. And before going to sleep, I smoke a huge joint, since in that country, as everywhere in the world, weed just got legalized… Sorry, too much?

Table Mountain, Cape Town. South Africa

Table Mountain, Cape Town. South Africa

  • Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?

No. Just no to all the above questions.

  • Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies or do something else while travelling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you definitely take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And movie?

Does anybody really sing while travelling?! Anyway, being a lonely traveller I use to read a lot. I am not going to list all my favourite books, but I will mention a couple which positively surprised me during my journeys: Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by you know who (I found it in a hostel and never read the previous novels, but I loved it when Harry kicks V’s ass!). And now about technology: I hate it. I really believe we should get back to carrier pigeons, and allow to use typewriters only those people whose handwriting would be otherwise incomprehensible. And no, I am not moaning and needing it at the same time: I do not need technology, but in order to work I need to stay updated towards a market whose rules were decided by people in want to decide what I “shall” need.

Kampala city centre, Uganda

Kampala city centre, Uganda

  • Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your (craziest) dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth? (feel free to add any other information you would like to share with our readers here)

Bucket lists are quite ridiculous. Craziest dreams? I don’t think we are on the right kind of site for that. And there is not such a thing as my favourite destinations. I would go pretty much everywhere, but because of my current working attitude I am especially attracted by the Middle East. I love their culture – and at the same time I despise many aspects of their society, starting with the role of women – their food, their fascinating language, and I want to see with my eyes what’s happening in the hot zones, since there is no doubt the mainstream media are telling us loads of bullshit since ages.

Coffee Bay, South Africa

Coffee Bay, South Africa

Suddenly felt in love? Wanna know more of this peculiar multi nationality guy? You can read his travel tales in both Thinking Nomads and Non Solo Turisti  , become a new fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or pay him a beer if you ever find him in your local bar 😉




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