A collection of off-the-beaten-path destinations, compiled into an intimate adventure travel blog, with inspirational tales, tips and photos of less traveled places. Intense journeys across Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North to South America, Oceania and through more than 126 countries.
My name is Joao Leitao. I’m a 36-year-old visual artist born in the beautiful city of Lisbon. An extremely curious person since an early age, I’ve always yearned to explore new countries and encounter different people, historic backgrounds, religions, languages, architectural styles, foods, smells, sights, and sounds.
Now an avid enthusiast of adventure travel, photography and cooking, communication and human contact are also of great importance in my life. I’m quite like a sponge thriving on knowledge – A spirited child backpacking around the world, absorbing new things on a daily basis. Interaction with people from other countries always motivating me to travel further, travel completely defines and is my personality.
The greatest aspect of traveling, for me and for so long, is the ability to witness all elements of life come together into a kind of foreshortened timeline. It’s as if we are simultaneously time traveling through our past and future secured by its focal present, collectively combining all lessons into our own being at each point in time and in each present moment.
Yes, while in search of destinations one may find those places that do not actually exist. I’ve traveled to the de-facto country of Transnistria (Pridnestrovia), and spent a few days in Tiraspol. Filling anonymous voids with experiences while committing them to memory, these places then take on another life. Now, I can say they definitely do exist.
Then, there are the other nonexistent places between destinations, the interstitial and transitory “places”. Lived during moments when we may be recollecting where we just were while foreshadowing what is soon to arrive, these unnamed territories can also be the most memorable. I’ve experienced three one-month train journeys across Europe. On the road, I’ve passed 15 days driving in Iceland along the Ring Road and Westfjords, then driving solo through Afghanistan followed by a 14,000 km. (8,700 mi.) road trip through South America, across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. Next, I took a 4,383 km. (2,723 mi.) Russia road trip, driving 20 days throughout the bitter cold month of February, and an equally cold yet fascinating two-week Antarctic expedition to its Circle. En route, I’ve even found myself becoming a member of an 18-man local convoy enduring a 22-hour trip in northern Mali, from Gao to Timbuktu, perched atop a pick-up truck’s cargo. By water, I found a cheap last-minute Galapagos cruise in Puerto Ayora, later also passing 550 hours crossing the Amazon River by boat and while sleeping in a hammock for several months. The means are endless!
While traveling, I’ve learned it to be imperative to keep an open mind, to be prepared for and even embrace the unexpected as these experiences can offer invaluable life lessons. Following such a belief has led me to live six months in Istanbul, then another half-year in Lviv, Ukraine. I once stumbled upon Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, finding it one of the craziest and most delightful places in the world! Putting stigma aside, I even rerouted to visit North Korea and, quite unexpectedly, ended up liking it a lot! Another day, I found myself taking bread baking classes in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Sure, why not?
Yes, there can be downfalls to the Traveler’s rhythm, even danger. Precautionary measures must be readily accessible, and consciously aware, at all times and in places-unknown. I’ve had guns aimed at me in Mauritania, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Mali while, because of several travel-related misunderstandings, I’ve been detained by police in South Sudan, Spain, Mauritania, Barbados, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monaco, Uzbekistan, Germany, Nagorno-Karabakh, Lithuania and Russia. I’ve even been afflicted with malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo, taking 8 months to fully recover. Conversely, there are times when the experience obtained by setting aside one’s own fear is beyond rewarding. I can now say I’ve traversed the infamous Chernobyl Dead Zone, where the worst nuclear disaster in mankind’s history took place and departed unharmed.
My answer is this:
In this way, you are incorporating the world into your own life and your life into the world while becoming a part of it and its global society, not only seeing it through a protective (or pixilated) glass window. Wherever you may find yourself along your journey, aspects of life usually put on hold for a vacation remain, or return, as they are already a part of you. Attributes such as work, spirituality, education, friendship and even family resurface because they are human, existential needs and will somehow need to travel with you.
We all carry our beliefs with us, the extent of our knowledge and opinions of people and the world. Whether discovered in a group, partaking in others’ rituals or finding one’s self alone in a moment of quietude after scaling a mountain, travel can truly reinforce and challenge our convictions greater than any experience. Alone, I’ve camped in the Kazakhstan mountains’ wilderness and even lived like a monk in a Nepalese Buddhist monastery. One of the best travel experiences I can recall was attending an authentic Amazigh triple-marriage in the Sahara Desert. Then, the unexpected reward can occur, like a century-old, evening ritual concluding by feeding hyenas in Ethiopia.
Of course, necessity sometimes brought about periods when pausing to work was imperative. Or, was it really a pause? I’ve worked on a farm in upstate New York, spent countless hours in six months compiling a list of 2300 travel blogs, then making it available online.
The result? A growing list of notices and awards for the work, finding unexpected places while in search of work-driven answers, even arriving just in-time to be the first travel blogger to enter the new country of South Sudan! Then, having the ability to reach out to you and share such advice and incredible stories as these – stimulating movement, awareness and inspiration on a global scale.
In summation, the most important aspect of travel, of Adventure, is that it is mind-expanding, offering free life lessons and a lasting education. I remember New York, attending photography classes with world famous photographer Steve McCurry, then taking part in a student exchange art program at SAMK (Satakunnan ammattikorkeakoulu) while living half a year in Finland. Among so many others, these opportunities prepared me for an unforgettable experience as a volunteer in Almaty, South Kazakhstan, where I was responsible for teaching self-expression through plastic arts, to 30 eager children. All of my personal studies, observations and experiences resulted in the ultimate exchange – moments when I can give back, seeing others’ same smiles I had when I began my journey, half a lifetime ago.
Welcome to my life, my Adventure Travel Blog!
See you later!