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This week I would like to introduce you to an incredibly inspiring traveler – Zof Bałdyga.  Zofia is not only a world traveler, but believes in changing the world while she does so.  She in a veteran international volunteer and has seen sides of the world people never even think to dream of; impressive considering she grew up in a time where travel was almost impossible for those living in Poland.

Her blog “The Picktures” is a visual diary of her world-wide adventures, and so of course this traveler interview comes with a ‘Pickture’ for each different answer!

What do you love the most about travelling? 

The diversity of the world.  I love discovering differences and similarities between the place I come from and the new land I explore, as well as differences and similarities between the people I meet on the road and myself.

A traveler is a person who is courageous enough to go to an unknown place and let it change him or her. I love change. I’m addicted to change. I’m incredibly grateful to all the places which left me a changed person. Just to name a few of them: Czech Republic where I went for student exchange, Armenia where I volunteered at an NGO and The Netherlands where I worked with asylum seekers in a temporary accommodation center.

Asylum-seeker center in Markelo, The Netherlands. I volunteered there in summer of 2011.

Asylum-seeker center in Markelo, The Netherlands. I volunteered there in summer of 2011.

What inspired you to start travelling? 

My Mom and Dad. They made me to become a traveler. They showed me Italy, Greece, and Croatia, just to name a few.

When I was 17 my mom convinced me to go for three weeks to France on my own to participate in a language course. Poland – the country I come from –used to be sort of an uneasy place to live if you wanted to travel. Before 1989 it was hardly possible because of the Iron Curtain. Most of the people just couldn’t make it too far, especially if someone wanted to travel self-catered.

Lots of people would dream about the road though. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side. After 1989 the political system changed. Borders became open, we could go and see the world.

Of course it wasn’t easy in the beginning. Almost every European country was extremely expensive for us. Everything was so new and seemed to be so hard to actually plan it, pack and go. Some fearful tourists preferred to stay in country and just spend all the holidays at the cold, rainy Polish seaside.

And here the inspiration comes . My parents kept telling me travel was the best school. I’m currently doing my homework!

Athens, Greece. Something you should show to your kid. Perhaps.

Athens, Greece. Something you should show to your kid. Perhaps.

Describe your travelling personality. 

Visual addict, always with a camera.  A hopeless case of a city slicker. Walking miles on foot. I never plan much. I hardly ever go to any kind of organized tours. Usually I travel on my own or with a friend. I need to feel independent when I travel. I love being an intellectual on the road.

I’m keen on art and culture and I need to encounter them in the places I visit. This is better than any cultural studies in the world!

Also, as someone who has a blog filled with photo essays, I take a picture on every step. I’m famous for capturing every single piece of street art I encounter on my way This probably makes sightseeing with me a…slow?:-)

One of my street art pictures. Taken in Nicosia, Cyprus.

One of my street art pictures. Taken in Nicosia, Cyprus.

One thing which you don’t like about travelling? 

I’m never sure if the places I miss remember me too. One of the thing I adore is making friends on the road. Some of these friendships becomes close, long-lasting relationships which is a great, rewarding experience. But…there is also a negative aspect of all that. I hate being so far from the people I miss and I care for. Of course we can always meet online but…have you ever heard about time zones?!

How do you afford to travel? 

I prioritize. I volunteer abroad which makes travelling extremely affordable. Well, at least If you volunteer with a good program.  When I do European city breaks I usually choose bus as the cheapest mean of transport. I don’t buy stuff I don’t need. I’m on Couch-surfing, which might also significantly reduce your travel expenses.  Sometimes I’m staying at backpackers hostels which are not very pricey either. Especially if you chose a big dorm. Where is a will, there is a way, right?

The coolest person you have met on your travels? 

So many of them! I believe that every local is wise and  every traveler is cool. That’s why I love hostels because they are filled with pure inspiration. In the beginning of May when I was in Batumi there was a French couple. They were biking all over the Caucasus, planning to move to Caspian sea afterwards. I loved it. I really appreciate people who go to misunderstood places to discover them for themselves. This is how you make a change. Also, I loved all my fellow international volunteers.

Discovering misunderstood corners of the globe.  Armenia.

Discovering misunderstood corners of the globe. Armenia.

Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling? 

Still to be experienced. I don’t like this wording though. I think that in a way everyone represents different culture. Sometimes I feel shocked in my own country. Also, I believe that when in Rome you should do as the Romans do. This makes you much more open. Don’t forget that technically it’s always the traveler who is foreign, not the lands. I love this Stevenson’s quote.

The greatest challenge you’ve faced while travelling? 

I already mentioned I was volunteering on the road. I think the biggest challenge was to work in asylum seekers centre in Markelo, The Netherlands.  The facility had two hundred something inhabitants from all over the world (well, all over the global south).

People from Iran, Iraq, Russia, Mongolia, Kyrgyztsan, Armenia, Georgia, Somalia, Erytrea, Afghanistan were all there.  I was there to organize outdoor activities for kids. That was really interesting and beautiful experience but was also extremely tough. Imagine how different their concepts of discipline and what to expect from a leader were. How different sense of playing was. Fortunately, in the end of the day everyone smiles in the same language. This helped me much to carry on.

Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment? 

Going to a tattoo studio without any knowledge of a local language. Of course I went there on my own. I got what I wanted! Of course it was a really safe and clean place recommended by friends. I’m always trying to be precautious even if I do things other consider as silly and insecure.


The famous tattoo. Taken in Batumi, Georgia. The writing says “courage”. I got it done in Armenia and it is in Armenian, of course.

Three things you can’t travel without? 

My camera, something to read and my laptop!

Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list? 

Iran, Morocco, Portugal.

Most practical piece of travel advice? 

Always listen to locals. They know better.

Why should people travel?  

It broadens mind. Travelling makes you wiser than any school. Also, I think that this world is simply too big for the person to just stay the whole life at one spot.

Zofia Bałdyga aka Zof is a Polish Yerevan-based NGO worker interested in international migration issues, translator from Czech and Slovak, an occasional poet and photoblogger. A visual addict.  Her blog, The Picktures presents photo essays from her travels. She feels at home everywhere but her favorite places in the world are Prague and Yerevan.

Follow her journey on Facebook.


  1. Great post and inspiring insights. Wise words indeed. Thank you.

    • Thanks Steve :) One of my favorite traveler interviews – Zof is incredible :)

  2. Glad to see my dear friend Zofia here :)

    • She’s great! Glad I had the chance to feature her :)

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