Jota and Dani: two Argentinians who don’t fit the stereotype, two beautiful crazy people, the type that go breaking boundaries, throwing away labels and erasing prejudices. They have traveled together for seven years, to 39 countries, have hitch-hiked a total of 46,574 km in around 926 vehicles, but for this couple, only one number is important: that which corresponds to the amount of stories lived, and they lost count of this one a long time ago. Last month, they spoke at the “great travels” conferences put on by the Estrella Damm factory in Barcelona and in such, they explain to us what it’s like to live with backpack in hand for seven years, chasing dreams and going against the grain.
I’ve met many couples along the way, and I’ve noticed that there’s always one who is the first to take a step forward and push the other a little. In your case, who was the first to suggest leaving your comfort zone and beginning to travel? Or was it both of you?
In our case, we feel that we complement each other as a couple. At the beginning, Jota and a friend proposed going to New Zealand to study English and several of us went together. Afterwards, the idea to continue traveling developed between the two of us as we decided to do so along the way. Had we planned to travel for several years from the beginning, we surely never would have made it, but we progressed by created small goals.
I’d love to learn a little about the logistics that go behind your trips. How do you organize them? In general, people often proceed by gradually adopting different roles – he who was born with a naturally good sense of direction leads the pack, he who has a knack for numbers manages the budget – how do you two do it?
Yes, in this case it’s good that every one does what they enjoy the most. Jota is who generally plans the itineraries and I often engage in the technical parts, like finding lodging, managing our budget or looking for the best hitch-hiking route.
After seven years of running around the world, what does traveling mean to you?
Traveling is discovering yourself. It’s realizing that the world is not as out of reach, as unattainable (or as dangerous) as we think – as well as that the mass media is deceptive because “good news” doesn’t sell. It’s necessary to remove yourself a bit in order to see things in a different light and gain a different perspective…
If you had to choose a place to live in the world today, where would it be?
It’s very difficult for us to select ONE place in the world – we still imagine ourselves living in some corner of Argentina when we stop traveling – but if we had to choose an alternative location, it would be Malaysia. The people are incredible, the food is amazing and cheap, and the climate helps, too.
I imagine that after so many kilometers, you have a long list of routes that have been checked off the list. What are some steady themes that characterize “Marcando el Polo?”
We love to ask for local music recommendations in each place that we visit. The two that we like the most are Salak Music, a Malaysian reggae band, and Ahmet Aslan, a Kurdish musician who has songs that are capable of virtually transporting you to his land.
After countless beaches, mountains, deserts, volcanoes and jungles, the eye often begins to see things as less exquisite and it becomes increasingly difficult for a new landscape or horizon to surprise us. How do you deal with this, or do new places continue to surprise you in the same way?
It’s just like that. When you’ve seen 100 mosques, it’s probable you’ll view the next one as “just one more.” The same happens with regard to Buddhist temples, beaches or with monuments. We had a key moment that relates to this point when we arrived to Japan on a trip: we looked exactly like two kids in a toy store. Everything caught our attention as if it were the first day we had ever traveled. It’s just that Japan is another world completely…
This is one of the negative things that results from traveling for such a long time; one is surprised less and less. And it’s negative to a certain point, because nowadays, many things pass as being “normal.” The most common way to see someone eat, for example, can be with their hands, with sticks, silverware, in an apartment or at a table. The fact that some praise a cow while in other parts of the world, others place it on a grill is a cultural difference that we’ve learned to accept.
The touristic places have ceased to surprise us because, as beautiful as they are, they tend to be photographable, yet seldom provide us with an interaction. On the other hand, we will always have something to discover with regard to people and as a result, we always search for the attractiveness of humanity in each place we visit.
I know that you’re both great readers – give us a book recommendation.
It’s difficult to recommend just one. We really like to read Paul Theroux; all of his books are great, but one of our favorites is “The Happy Isles of Oceania.” Another that we recommend is “Videonight en Kathmandu,” by Pico Iyer, or “Pica la caja,” by Seth Godin.
I understand that you’ll be in Argentina for just a few months and then, you’ll jet off again. What’s next? Where is does the compass point for Marcando el Polo?
That’s right. Two weeks ago, we arrived in Buenos Aires and had originally thought to stay there in order to finish various ongoing projects, among them our second book, which will be titled “Eliminando Fronteras.” It’s about the trip in which we trekked Asia from fingertip to fingertip. Next year, we’ve planed to start a new travel project, but this time it’ll be on two wheels: we’re going to discover South America on bike.
Have a good trip, guys! Let the adventure begin.
Translated by: Kirstin Meyerhoeffer