Today I interview Hanne Hellvik from Places People Stories. Hanne is from Norway and writes an incredible blog that focuses on the people and culture she encounters on her travels. Hanne has an amazing story which I am excited to share with you today, so let’s get into it.
Tell us a bit about your story and what types of adventures you go after.
I usually like to travel to countries and places where few tourist goes. What interest me the most about travelling is people I meet on the way. I love to learn about their cultures, their ways and listen to their stories.
I have visited more than fifty countries. Usually I travel sustainable, and stay for a longer time in each place I visit. This is how you really get to know people and a culture, and see what is not so obvious.
Do you have a particular song/video/poem/quote that particularly inspires you to travel?
My favourite travel quote is: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. I travel because I want to learn more and be enlightened. That is my inspiration.
I really like that quote too and is so true. I couldn’t bear to just stay in one place without ever leaving. Can you let us in on a secret? What is one place or town in the world that you’ve been to that was truly ‘the road less traveled’?
The road less travelled that I have visited would defiantly be Jos, in Nigeria. Few people travel there due to the ongoing armed conflict. However, it is not as dangerous as media puts it to visit there. The local people really take good care of you, due to that they are not used forging travellers. They really appreciate that you come, and show it with taking you in as one of them. I have almost never experienced better hospitality.
What did you do there and why should I visit?
The first time I was in Nigeria, I was an intern for a local NGO. The second time, I was there to write my master thesis. I also travelled around the country, and have seen almost every part of it.
You should visit Nigeria because the people there are truly welcoming. Few people visit the country, and you will have a unique and eye-opening experience. Many people are poor, and most live without water, and electricity. It will really make you appreciate what you have at home.
How did you find out about Jos?
I was looking for an internship, and found a very interesting internship at this place. It was all actually a coincidence.
Sometimes the best travel experiences can never planned, right?
So tell me a bit about the food in Nigeria. Was it different to anything you’d experienced before?
The food was actually pretty bad. I got very skinny both times I lived in Nigeria for some months. I also got sick due to the food several times. There is no international food to find, besides in two small restaurants in the city. There is just traditional food, usually with some dry rice, fries and meat. However, this is also a big part of the experience.
That must have been really difficult, but as you say, it all adds to the experience and I’m sure you wouldn’t have in any other way.
Could you explain a bit about the culture of Jos, or even Nigeria in general? Did you have much interaction with the locals?
I had a lot of interactions with the locals. I lived with a local family. All my friends there were Nigerians. So was my co-workers. I was more or less the only foreigner in the whole city.
The Nigerian culture is very interesting. For example many people have scars in their faces, because when they are born the parents cut the baby in the face. So if she or he dies, they can recognise him or her when born again, as they believe the baby will be re-born.
Wow. That is unbelievably different to anything we would encounter in the West. Was there anything you actually missed out on doing that you wish you had?
Not really. I was there for a longer time of period. I therefore, do not sit with the feeling that I missed out anything. But I still would like to visit more African countries.
If we had just met in a hostel, you are super excited about this place, Jos, that you have just visited, what tips would you give me to best experience it?
Number one: To interact with the locals. Get a local family to live with. The people are the most interesting thing to see in the country. There are few tourist attractions, as few travellers actually travel there. But by interacting with the people you will experience something truly unique.
The second tips I would give you would be not to be afraid due to the ongoing conflict. It is not as bad as they put it in the media. I did not feel unsafe while I was there. You as a traveller are not a part of the conflict, and therefore not in big danger. Most periods it is very calm and no fighting. But if the conflict is about to break out while you are there, listen to the local people during this issue to stay safe.
Changing lanes a little now, can you share with the internet one hidden secret of a favourite city of yours that people would likely skip past unless they knew about it?
Potosi, in Bolivia. The highest city in the world. You can visit the mines. See many traditional people, and learn about their lives. It is a city with much soul and history.
Last question and it’s an easy one, where do you live on the internet and social media for people to come visit?
My online home is at http://placespeoplestories.com/ . The blog is about the places I have visited, the people I have met during my trips, and their stories.
What an incredible story. Thanks so much, Hanne, for sharing with us today. And everyone reading this make sure you go and check out Hanne’s blog “Places People Stories” for more stories like this one.
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