Entrevista en “The Centurian” -Travelers´ Century Club (TCC)- Member Profile, Spring 2020 edition

Actualizado: 23 de nov de 2020

La siguiente entrevista que me hicieron fue publicada en la revista trimestral del TCC, una de las organizaciones más prestigiosas a nivel mundial de viajeros extremos.





What was your early life like, and did you always have the passion to travel? What influenced you?

Life has been good to me. I was born in Bogotá 50 years ago to a highly cultured, traditionalist family of Ashkenazi Jews (my mom is a Holocaust survivor) and grew up inside the bubble of our very small community. At the time, Colombia was still very parochial, underdeveloped, and starting to suffer from what has become now decades of guerrilla and mafia wars. Living on the edge made it easy to grow up aware of politics, rivalries of the cold war, plenty of adrenaline, and strong identities.


Travel came natural because my maternal grandparents remained in Budapest, so while my peers in school would spend their summer holidays in Cartagena or Miami, we would enjoy two months behind the iron curtain and then a couple of weeks visiting a new country in Western Europe. Hungarian became my first foreign language (even before Hebrew and English), Red Army military parades were the norm and news coverage about the ongoing wars in Angola or Vietnam from soviet lenses were equally as common as were those coming from Voice of America. It became easy to see the world in shades of gray and not in black and white. I enjoyed watching documentaries and reading National Geographic more so than watching or reading cartoons. I was a nerd with a critical eye.


There have been many “Aha! moments” of enlightenment: Enjoying alone the night skies in the deserts of Mauritania, talking to a former Sandinista rebel in Granada, or to a monk in Tibet about the origins of the world, or conversing with official museum guides in Minsk and Gagauzia, or with the frustrated mother of a young doctor in Cuba. There are then the visits to conflict zones like Abkhazia or Kosovo or enjoying the unexpected warmth at a Sudanese wedding party.

Since I was four, I could recite the capitals of most countries and started ruining with markers all the maps in our family´s Encyclopedia Britannica, drawing up roads already traveled or planning desired itineraries, and redrawing political maps to allow every country to have access to the ocean. By the time I turned 15 I had been to 15 countries and realized my pace was too slow to cover the world. That´s when I started to step on the gas.

What did your family think of your traveling?

Travel was a passion for us all, so issues only arose when what was left for me to visit were rather “bizarre” destinations in Africa and Asia. (I know, very ironic when home is Colombia!). That´s when the maternal instinct hit my mom, but deep down she knew it was a lost case. Now, even she enjoys joining us for a trip to the border of Kuwait and Iraq or being in the crossfire along the Nagorno Karabakh – Azeri border.


My father was more conservative, considering places like NYC or Paris as ideal destinations. When I graduated High School with outstanding marks, he told me I could choose a destination for our holidays, thinking perhaps I would opt for those cities. He went nuts when I told him back in 1986 that the chosen place would be South Africa and Zimbabwe. He acted his part for a while, but ultimately joined us and loved it.

What travel experiences have changed your view of the world?

Wow, that´s a tough one for us to answer in the travel community for the list can be quite long. We travel to enjoy the entire package and in order to transform our souls and minds.


There have been many “Aha! moments” of enlightenment: Enjoying alone the night skies in the deserts of Mauritania, talking to a former Sandinista rebel in Granada, or to a monk in Tibet about the origins of the world, or conversing with official museum guides in Minsk and Gagauzia, or with the frustrated mother of a young doctor in Cuba. There are then the visits to conflict zones like Abkhazia or Kosovo or enjoying the unexpected warmth at a Sudanese wedding party.


However, I would like to single out two trips. One for its lasting effect on my soul, and the other one for its impact on relations with the other side.


Back in 2010, I went solo across most countries in Eastern Europe, focusing on battle fields, concentration ca