Travel Talk With Maria: From Bulgaria to Italy, Thailand, and Beyond
My Travel Talk interview series highlights some of the most fascinating travelers I’ve met around the world and on the web. Today’s edition features Maria of 203 Travel Challenges, who hails from Bulgaria and has spent significant time in Italy and Thailand – in addition to the many places she’s visited – while writing about her adventures.
Hi Maria! Thanks for joining us. Tell us about yourself!
My name is Maria Angelova, a twenty-something Bulgarian traveling disaster roaming the world for the last ten years. I’m crazy about mirto from Sardinia, speaking in foreign languages (even if I can’t – actually, mostly if I can’t!) and studying fortune-telling. I’ve lived in Italy and traveled long-term in Thailand. Currently I’m based in Sofia, Bulgaria, and I’m behind most of the travel stories and travel challenges in 203challenges.com. I don’t travel full time, but I can work from wherever I want in the world, so it’s kind of the same thing. I enjoy spontaneous trips, nights when I swap my bed at home for a hammock hung in a forest (that’s my latest favorite thing) and going to places where nobody goes.
What inspired you to start traveling?
At first, it was only curiosity, but now it’s more about story-telling. I travel to tell the stories of people, places, and all amazing, weird, inspiring or otherwise worthy things people do around the world. I think books, movies, songs and all kinds of stories are the best things that can motivate you to travel.
So true! How did you begin writing about your travels?
Ever since I learned how to hold a pen, I started creating my own “newspapers,” which my parents received in their mailbox monthly. I have never really dreamt of doing anything but traveling and writing about it. So now my hobby and my profession have melted together in something I could call a perfect life.
How cool that you’re living your perfect life! What do you enjoy most about being a travel writer?
What I like the most is that when something weird and crazy happens to me, I share it with so many people that there’s always someone who can relate to it, and then I don’t feel like I’m the only person in the world who attracts hitchhiking grannies, drunk AirBnB owners, and friendly engine drivers who let me drive the train!
You mentioned you’re crazy about foreign languages – which languages do you speak, and which is your favorite?
I speak English, Italian, Russian, and Bulgarian, I understand a little Spanish and even less Turkish (enough to bargain at the markets in Turkey). I love learning phrases in the language of the country I visit, but sometimes things just go wrong. Like in Thailand where people only laughed at my attempts to speak Thai. This, however, didn’t stop me trying at all, although I have to admit that I didn’t succeed to get anyone understand what I was saying.
Making the effort is truly the most important thing, though. What brought you to Italy and Thailand? What were your experiences there like?
Studying Journalism brought me to Italy, while Thailand was my first one-month trip. Both trips changed me in different ways. Italy opened my eyes for the world, while Thailand moved my attention to my inner self, helping me travel deep into myself.
What’s the most amazing place you’ve traveled to?
One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far was when I spent the night on a floating bungalow in Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand. After the sunset, I could hear the whole jungle waking up – exactly when I was about to fall asleep. The gentle swaying of the raft house all night was like a lullaby, while the sounds of the jungle were a reminder that I needed to get out of my concrete box more often. After I came back home, I decided to turn this idea into reality. I spent many of the summer nights sleeping in a hammock in the woods near my city and then, after having my campsite coffee, going to work, as fresh as a daisy.
What a life! What three places would you recommend to travelers visiting Bulgaria?
Three mountains: Stara Planina (Balkan Mountain), Pirin, and the mysterious Strandzha full of ancient Thracian sanctuaries. Three cities: Plovdiv, Burgas, and Stara Zagora. Three rivers: Iskar River Gorge, Veleka River mouth where it flows in the Black Sea, and Danube River with its wild islands.
If you could live any place in the world, where would you go?
If this were possible, I’d change places every six months. Diversity is what fuels my inspiration.
What trips do you have planned? What’s on your bucket list?
My bucket list is ever expanding, so I’ve come to realize that sometimes you need to give up something before you go insane. My biggest dreams include an expedition to Antarctica and riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, but I’m always open to exciting new offers that come out of nowhere.
Want to be a part of my traveler interview series? Let me know!