Expert's Advice: Independent Travelling Interview with João Leitão

24 Mar 2016 by Olga Brighton

Travel Information

Meet our March travel expert

João Leitão, brilliant photographer, the founder of Nomad Revelations travel blog about his 15 years of exceptional travelling chronicles and the owner of Dar Rita guest house with nearly 150 positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Living in Morocco since 2007, he organises personalised and private tours throughout the country and shares his unique travel experience with independent adventurers from all over the world.

João, you’ve been to so many countries that it is difficult to find a topic to discuss first. Do you remember that very moment when you realized you wanted to see the world?

I think I do! Almost every year during my childhood my parents took me to visit Ceuta - a Spanish exclave in North Africa. These overland trips, driving through south Portugal, Spain, and crossing Europe to Africa on a ferry-boat, were one of my early favorite activities. Once - while on a Ceuta’s viewpoint overlooking Morocco, I clearly remember what my father told us: “One day we will cross the border and visit Morocco”. I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I somehow had that magical insight of wanting to see and explore beyond unknown borders.

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What was your initial travel motivation and has it changed since then?

Well, independently and on my own I started to cross borders when I was 19. My Kung Fu master has always encouraged us to explore and engage ourselves in personal challenges. Somehow, traveling fits perfectly on my way to develop myself as an individual. Thus, from traveling along with my parents during my childhood to my teenage years until now, the Adult me, well, I feel more and more motivated to travel more frequently, broaden my horizons and enrich my overall culture and knowledge.

Please, name 3 things you don’t leave a foreign country without.

Well, I always try not to leave a country without talking and interacting with local people, without learning three words in the local language and without visiting at least three different historical places.

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João, why did you choose South Morocco as you place of residence?

This is a difficult question to give a straight answer. I often say that South Morocco chose me to live in. During my university years I engaged myself in guiding people on overland trips, driving from Portugal all the way to Sahara Desert in south Morocco. I was doing this 3 up to 5 times per year. I got to know desert people and made really good friends. Somehow this opened the doors to a job opportunity, where I created my own company reaching almost 100 clients - to whom I was doing online marketing, web design and content writing. Finally, back in 2010, I opened my own guest house called “Dar Rita” in the city of Ouarzazate. I closed my advertisement company in 2013.

In your opinion, what is the best way to truly get to know foreign country and its culture?

First of all, you have to learn a bit of the national language. Secondly, you have to actually hang out with local people and not alone or with foreigners. You can easily learn up to 30 words in any language that will open hearts and make people more receptive to your presence.

What is the greatest change travelling brought to your life?

Deep knowledge of different cultures and probably tolerance towards one another. Also, the emotional excitement of a journey is definitely very important to me. For several years, I engaged myself in an internal transformation that led me to various processes of looking at life, death, and even at myself. Traveling helped me to flee, to retreat, to understand, to mature, to awaken, to seek, to love, to be Me again.joao

Would you tell about the craziest thing you did while travelling?

I’m not a crazy traveler or the type of party guy. I like things quiet in terms of party wise. But maybe hitchhiking or traveling in several war countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and DRC might be extreme to some travelers.

Speaking of adventures, is any trip abroad is an adventure itself or do you do something really special to call your trip an adventure afterwards?

I’m an adventure seeker and I don’t know what I do but I always come home with interesting stories to tell. I guess that my extra-communicative skills put me where action is happening.

What travel preparation step do you consider the most important?

Personally, I don’t prepare my trips that much. On my trip to Tunisia, back in May, I got my air ticket just 2 days before departure. Also in July I went to Southern Africa with a ticket bought 4 days in advance. I arrived at the airport, I got myself a jacket for the cold weather, a road map, some food, and I hit the road on a rent-a-car for one month through Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, Botswana and South Africa.leitao

When you hear the names Iran, Switzerland and Ukraine, what things come to your mind first?

Iran = visa on arrival at any international airport, safe destination in the Middle East, friendly people, great history and amazing monuments (I've been twice to Iran); Switzerland = safe destination in Europe, great mountain landscapes, expensive country to travel and tasty chocolate (I've been three times to Switzerland); Ukraine = the cultural birthplace of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian people, Chernobyl, Puzata Hata chain of restaurants with traditional Ukrainian food (I've lived half year in Ukraine).

Read also: 5 Stereotypes You'll Dispel after Travelling to Ukraine

What is your main travel safety rule?

I do not have any specific safety rule. Well... maybe a padlock on my 30lt backpack.

In the end, give us your most influencing travel motivation, so that we would start packing immediately?

Some people need to be encouraged to leave their comfort zone, to lose the fear of traveling. For those who want to achieve this goal, but are not courageous enough to do it, my advice is: GO! It's now or never!

Thank you João for sharing your deep insight on the independent travelling and exploring this world full of icredible places to visit and precious moments to experience. We very much hope you will never lose your thirst of adventures and continue inspire us to travel!

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