Are you ready to embark on an extraordinary journey through the lens of a true wanderlust warrior? In a world brimming with wanderers and explorers, there exists a breed of traveller that stands apart.
Today, we have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to Nicholas, a Crazy Puffin whose passion for adventure knows no bounds.
Nicholas is more than a traveller; he's a wanderer who has forged an unbreakable bond with the road less travelled.
He is not merely content with the allure of the familiar or the comfort of routine; instead, he's on a perpetual quest to unearth the extraordinary hidden in the mundane, to chase the horizon's ever-elusive edge, and to set his spirit free in the embrace of the unknown!
Nicholas has been an unwavering companion through our wildest escapades, and today, we're sitting down with him to dive deep into his unquenchable wanderlust.
What inspired you to seek out off-the-beaten-path destinations and explore the world in a unique way?
"I grew up with a Dad who used to travel a lot for work, and I used to travel a lot with him. He passed the “travel bug” onto me at a very young age and I’m obsessed. Now, I make films in remote places, I travel to gold mines with children climbing into holes – crazy situations, for my work.
Somewhere down the line, I found myself in a more sedentary life with having kids and then getting divorced, having a new girlfriend –and then breaking up. At this point, I realized I wanted to get back into travelling. This is when I came across Björn’s advertisement on Facebook.
I'd been wanting to go to Mauritania for 10 years – and all of a sudden, the advert came up. I called Björn. We had our 15-minute chat, and we got on like a house on fire!
That’s my philosophy – there are plenty of places I'll be able to see when I’m old, but there’s only a few places I can visit now while I’ve got working legs. I can make my way around central Europe when I’m 70. Right now, I'm seeking windows of opportunity. With the current geopolitical climate, you don’t know what’s coming around the corner – so when a window of opportunity presents itself to visit a place, you must take it. If I don’t go now, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to go there.
Crazy Puffin goes to places with these windows of opportunity, so I’m grabbing them. Mauritania was my first trip, which led to my next trip which was Syria. "
Tell us about a moment when you felt truly connected to the local culture and people during your travels with Crazy Puffin Adventures?
" Because I’d been working for the UN for 15 years now and I’d covered all the conflict, I had such a heartbroken impression of Syria. When this opportunity came up – I realized I had to go and change what my impression of Syria is. I didn’t want to just think of Syria as a place that was destroyed by war.
It’s not like other middle eastern countries. Syrians are very sweet, very kind, generous, and full of love. As a visitor in Syria, there’s no one running after you trying to sell you things. In fact, they’re just so happy to see you and to connect. Now that people are travelling to Syria again, It gives them hope that there’s a different future taking shape for them. That was inspiring.
When we were in the Krak des Chevaliers, we met the guardian of the castle, Sabry, who was telling us his story of when the rebels came and captured him. They tied him up in the castle and didn’t feed him for weeks on end. As he was telling us, he broke down in tears. I took him in my arms and we were both crying. It was a powerful moment.
All of sudden, as we were coming out of this very emotional moment, we could hear drumming and chanting outside. We moved over to see what was happening – and there were two busses full of university students with drums, rhythms, full of positivity and happiness.
One minute, we were crying in each other’s arms and the next minute we were dancing, singing and jumping amongst the future youths, the future leaders of this country. There was so much love that we were sharing.
I had goosebumps all along and it was the realization for me that this is exactly why I came to Syria – for that experience. In Palmyrah, again, I was really touched when the guide broke down in tears. Although he does the tour every week, he remembers the days before the war, and all the people lost along the way. He mourns for them. That’s when I realized, all the wonderful people I met during this trip are mourning for somebody. All they’ve known for the last decade is conflict and terror. Yet, they still have such loving hearts.
I really loved Syria and I would go back to Syria in a heartbeat. I felt safe. The people were helpful and kind. I had goosebumps the entire time.
Out of all the places you've explored with Crazy Puffin Adventures, which one activity gave you the most thrilling adrenaline rush and why?
"It's a very hard question to answer! Every place was very exciting. Mauritania was very special – I was so happy to be in the Sahara and live these incredible experiences in the desert. Syria was a human experience that lso felt like an adventure because we were all over the place. It felt so exciting to be driving and to see signposts telling us we’re all the way up near the border of Iraq.
Madagascar was a really beautiful experience – they have such an interesting rapport with death. When the locals have enough money, they will dig up their ancestors and clean their bones and have a celebration before packing them back in until next time.
On the first day we arrived, we came across this ceremony. We were invited to join in, and we danced with the people there. A few days later, we saw the whole village again in a different setting. And on the last day, as we were on the road again - the sun was rising, and we came across the villagers in the middle of the main road.
Our bus came to a halt, and we just had to slowly push through the crowd. Hundreds of people. In the front of this, there was a group of about 50 men, running. They were pulling a chariot – and inside was the body. It was such a special moment to realize I had somehow witnessed the entire process at various steps along the way of my journey.
I felt honoured to have experienced this fascinating ceremony.
In terms of adrenaline, it would say it was the excitement of riding the Royal Enfield Motorbikes across the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Northern India. I could have done that for weeks – I just loved it so much.
The rafting aspect, camping on the beaches at night, sleeping under the stars with the fire. Being a whole team, creating the camp, having the afternoon relaxing and bonding with the group, that was magic."
With so many amazing experiences under your belt, can you share a future adventure destination that's at the top of your bucket list?
" The top of my bucket list is Ethiopia although it’s not on the itinerary at the moment. I've been wanting to go since I was a kid! I will be going with Crazy Puffin Adventures to Somliliand (Somalia) in December 2023 and I love the idea of extending this by crossing over into Ethiopia! I'm also excited for Socotra (Yemen). There's crazy biodiversity there! "
What advice would you give to fellow travellers who are looking to step away from the tourist trails and embrace adventure off the grid?
" Do your research. Don’t base all your decisions on what governments say. You’ll find a lot of travel warnings are based on things that happened years in the past. Look into it, do your research and make your decisions yourself.
There’s a lot of judgments on the state of these countries, but during my experiences, I didn’t feel unsafe at all. The tours are with local guides who know their way around. It’s well organized. I took the “risk” and had the time of my life.
Adventure is the unknown."
Let the Adventure Unfold
As our conversation with Nicholas ends, one thing is abundantly clear: the world is his playground, and he has mastered the art of making every moment an adventure. Through his tales of Northern India’s mystical beauty, the warmth of Syria’s welcoming locals, and the inspiring cultures and ceremonies of Madagascar, he has reminded us that life is meant to be lived with unbridled enthusiasm.
Nicholas is not just an adventurer; he's an inspiration to all those who yearn to break free from the shackles of routine and embark on their own remarkable journeys. He's living proof that when we embrace the wanderlust within us, we awaken our truest selves—a self that is eager to explore, learn, and connect with the world in profound ways!
So, dear readers, as we bid farewell to Nicholas, let his adventures serve as a spark of inspiration! Grab your backpack, board that plane, and set forth on your own wild escapades.
The world is vast, its stories are endless, and the adventure of a lifetime awaits just beyond the horizon. Let your own journey unfold—it's time to discover what wonders lie ahead!
To see upcoming trips, visit our website at www.crazypuffinadventures.com
To learn more, schedule your own 15 minute chat with Björn here - https://calendly.com/CRAZYPUFFIN/15MIN