- Tell us about yourself and where we can find more about your travelling.
I am Romanian by birth and a child of the world by heart. I currently live in Mumbai, India, and I’ve spend the past ten years of my life living in/traveling to different countries across 4 continents. I studied Business&Economics, but was fortunate enough to discover during my studies that my passion lies in education, and have been working in the field ever since. I love yam paste with pumpkin, I don’t understand the concept of boredom and I can take very small doses of superficiality.
- How many countries have you visited and where would like to settle down at some point (I know you fall in love in so many places, but choose one and tell us why)?
I’ve lived in/traveled to 49 countries to date, and have no doubt fallen in love with different aspects of all of them. Somehow I managed to feel at home in most of the places on Earth I’ve found myself in, no matter that they were thousands of km to the East or West from the town I was born in, North or South. I think that is one of the greatest gifts a traveler is given after a while: the feeling of home everywhere, because the traveler has found the home in her heart. And wherever she goes, home is right there with her, never missing a beat.
As for settling down… the place does not matter so much to me, as does the circumstance. I’ve never been the practical and pragmatic one, but always the one acting from her gut feeling – so whenever my heart says “Now stay”, then I do. Also, there is this Latin proverb that says “Home is not where you live, but where you love”. Sort of like “Home is where the heart is”. It’s very clear to me that in deciding to settle down I will not choose based on the place, but the person/people. Not where I am, but who I’m with.
- What do you miss most, aside from your family, from home?
Whenever I’m not in Europe, I miss seasons, especially winter, since that’s the one missing from the Far East, where I’ve lived quite a bit. I also miss oven baked bread and white cheese. I miss joking in my own language. But these days, due to technology and globalization, the only item of the above that can’t be shipped across borders is winter :).
- What is the most common misconception that people have about you during your travelling?
It differs so much from country to country! In Asia people tend to assume I’m American or British because I speak good English and, for a great deal of people, the map still ends with these two country. When I tell them I’m from Romania they either have no idea what I’ve just said, or break into a smile waiting for me to do a cart-wheel demonstration (those who watch Olympics have seen our gymnasts performing some spectacular feats). Then there’s the odd one out who puts on a panicked face expecting I’ll show my fangs at midnight, but that’s rare, as most people don’t know Transylvania (Dracula’s land) is in Romania – they think it’s in Pennsylvania instead!
5. Where did you meet the friendliest people and how did you feel about being around them?
Tough question, as friendly people live everywhere on this planet. If I am to pick a place that comes to mind it would be the Lao people, especially in the villages. We did not share any common language of communication, but that did not stop us from connecting heart to heart. I felt humbled and blessed to be in their presence.
6. Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
In a plane full of Indian people, I sit on the wrong seat (for the first time in my life, after hundreds of flights). I have a chat with myself after finding my seat, (“Well done, Iunia, you’re the only blonde on this flight and you just had to prove to these guys that hair color matters, didn’t you? Good job, lady…”), and my mental chatter is interrupted by loud voices and a non-indian accent behind me. When I turn around, shock and horror, another blonde (the only other blonde on the flight, this time confirmed), had gotten her seat wrong as well. I bow my head… Shake my head… Face-palm moment squared.
7. Tell us about a favourite dish from the world and one from your country that everybody should try.
I am a pescetarian, so I would not be able to say much about meat dishes, but one fish dish that comes to mind is ceviche, a delicacy from Peru. It’s raw fish marinated in lemon and served with sweet potato, corn and lettuce. To die for!
As for a dish from my country, it would have to be balmos, which originates from the mountains in Transylvania and actually very few people still know how to make it. It’s essentially corn and wheat flour boiled in sour cream – it does not sound exciting, I know, but oh boy, is it insanely luscious or what!
8. What is your favourite author and what did you like about his style?
I would say Richard Bach at this point, for his awesome crazy ideas and perspectives.
9. Give us one of your favourite phrases in your mother tongue and explain what it means.
I have to go with “varză”, probably one of the most versatile words we’ve got. The literal meaning is “cabbage”, but it can be used to mean a range of different things: “I’m cabbage = I’m exhausted”, “You’re cabbage = You’re an imbecile”, “My life is cabbage = My life is a mess”, “My job is cabbage = I only like my job marginally more than dying of starvation”, “The party was cabbage = never again!”, and the list can go on and on!
10. Best foreign curse you know?
I’m the kind of person who first wants to know how you say “thank you” and “love” in another language, and I usually never make it to the curses classes :)).
11. Do you have a favourite name and what does it mean?
Akira – it’s a male Japanese name that means “bright”, and also a Hindu female name that means “graceful strength”.
12. You have a chance to ask one question to anyone in history and get an honest reply – what is your question and to whom?
I’d probably ask Jesus for the whole story. Not the one people back then decided we should hear, but the real story.
13. What is your favourite website?
I like Elephant Journal, Brain Pickings, Upworthy…
- What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
Oh wow, there’re so many that one day I sat down to write them and 300 pages later realised I was not even half way through. If I were to choose the one that comes to mind first, it would be that life is how we make it. This is something I’ve seen over and over around the globe – it wasn’t people’s circumstances that determined their degree of happiness and gratitude, but it was their inner life, the way they chose to live their every moment from inside out. And the people who were the happiest were the ones who did not give a damn about their image in society and about what others thought of them. They just went ahead and made their own lives as they saw fit. And it worked :).