Interview by Ukrainian Elena

Elena’s weblog Imagineth says ‘Sometimes you need to stop from whatever you are doing and start dreaming, because dreams come true’. I agree… Elena asked me for an interview, and I lóve interviews:

Tell us about yourself and where we can find more about your traveling.

I go by the name Cinderella, or Cindy, that’s easier. I started to cycle three years ago, and with that it is my first cycling trip. Before I bought a good, strong bicycle I was backpacking the world. On three trips lasting from one year up to 3 years on end I explored many countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan and I eventually found out traveling by public transport is missing out on all what lies in between. Now, cycling is a way of living for me. I feel much more connected with nature around me (or that what is left) and it has simplified me in such a way that my way of living has become minimal, yet very rich.

You can find a lot about cycling life on a blog with many photo’s and handy information for if you want to start cycling.

South India

The freedom while cycling is great, here I choose a campspot in, Oman
The freedom while cycling is great, here I choose a camp spot in the open nature of Oman

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 don’t count the countries where I have traveled but since more people start asking, I needed to come up with a number. I think I cycled through 36 countries, but I have been to much more if I include everything done by public transport (including India where I have been over 15 times/Iran 3 times/Pakistan 3 times including a year/Turkey 4 times). I guess the countries I visited comes close to 60, maybe over a 70? I really do not know?!

I could settle in a place with plenty of nature around, and as little modernization as possible. I want to settle (for some time at least) where I can connect with nature and try to live a self sustainable life style. A few years ago I settled down in a valley in Pakistan called Kalash. Only for 9 months and only because the place matched my childhood dream: in the middle of rough mountains, where a river meandered through three valleys and where the indigenous people were beautiful, creative and simple. There was little to no electricity, no phone reach or internet yet. Life was set around birth, death, love, animals, the seasons and it’s festivals.

Place where I could live (and did for 8 months. Pakistan) This valley is called Kalash and is very near to the Afghan border
Place where I could live, and did for 8 months (Pakistan). This valley is near to the Afghan border, and overflowing with deep traditions. I loved it here, one of my most interesting experiences!

What do you miss most, aside from your family, from home?

Nothing at all! I never miss anything because I have it all.

What is the most common misconception that people have about you during your traveling?

  • That I get paid to do this (I wish!)

  • That I am on a holiday (it’s hard work!)

  • That I must be very rich (in a way I am)

Is there any place which you wouldn’t visit again and why?

Any place is good to be. Some better than others. A country I don’t enjoy as much as others still bring me overland from point A to B, where ever that point is. I see cycling as a way of life. I cycle because I feel I am living and experience life to it’s fullest. For instance, I lóve India but cycling there on my own in summer, while the heat simmering to above 50 degrees, was hard work. I was often refused to stay in lodges. I was a constant attraction, a most entertaining show, while I could not vent my frustrations. And due to the heat I was already tired when I woke up.

Where did you meet the friendliest people and how did you feel about being around them?

Iranians, together with Kurds, are perhaps the most friendly in the world as far as I know. Kurdish people are a minority looked down upon by the many of the people surrounding them. I think it is more about fear, oppression and what’s been said on television. Maybe the history, and a constant strive plays part too. I was very welcomed by Pakistani’s too. Being around people who are so hospitable feels like a refreshing bath after a real warm day. I feel like a princess. Like someone who is welcome, even if the host is a complete stranger, which is almost always the case. I feel lucky to trust people. I feel appreciated by people who might initially see me as weird (a woman alone on a bicycle is still weird in many cultures) and yet being invited by them; that is very extraordinary! It is simply incredible to be fed, to get a bed and an overload of tea and good care by people I have never seen before.

Hospitality from the Kurds is amazing. Here I slept with a Turkish mom and her youngest on the rooftop on one big mattress
Hospitality from the Kurds is amazing. Here I slept with a Turkish mom and her youngest on the rooftop, all together on one big mattress
The guy asked me, in Dutch, what I needed. Bread, I answered He gave me plenty of food, a bed in his sister's room, a SIM card, and much chai. Iraq kurds are extremely hospitableJPG
The guy asked me, in Dutch, what I needed. Bread, I answered He gave me plenty of food, a bed in his sister’s room, a SIM card, and much chai. Iraq Kurds are extremely hospitable
Sharing in Pakistan
Sharing in Pakistan, an offer of 100 goats, three villages eat, me too

Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?

Middle of the night: I thought I would get raped by four or five men. It was when I was camping by myself on an empty beach in Oman. While sleeping I was woken up by harsh voices. I was immediately alarmed, started to think frantic about what to do with my bicycle and stuff? I could not save it all, so I only brought my photo’s, passport, money, credit cards and smart-phone to safety, and was prepared to sprint in case I needed. I decided to keep quiet and not run from the scene unless absolutely necessary; when they’d zip open my tent.

It turned out the men were trying to haul their fishing boat to shore. They were tinkering the nets which got stuck. When they passed my tent they saw me… and kept on walking. Only when I noticed the men walking past with their boat I became quieter. The men came back the next morning to repair the nets. While doing so they brought me a fresh fish. They even washed my dishes while they did not dare watching me. I was ashamed that I had these bad thoughts about them.

Beach camp in Oman. Here I experienced a scary night
Beach camp in Oman. Here I experienced a scary night. I was thinking to have an extended rest but turned out slightly different

What has been the most under-rated country/place you have been to and why? Most overrated country/place?

I can’t answer as I don’t read travel destination books or magazines. Neither do I watch television. So I don’t know what are the latest popular places to be. If I ask them, my friends talk to me about certain countries I might like, and they are usually right about those places.

Tell us about a favorite dish from the world and one from your country that everybody should try (If you have a picture, share it with us).

What comes up first is eba and fufu from Nigeria. Eba and fufu are made from cassava, or manioc. I love Indian food too, aubergine and okra my favorites. A good, varied thali makes me happy too.

A dish from my country is more difficult as I hardly eat Dutch food (boiled veggies, boiled potatoes and a piece of meat). Sometimes I really long for mayonnaise and fries though (guess you can picture thát).

Fufu, Nigerian foodSouth Indian thaliEba, Nigerian foodBramborove from Czech Republic

What is your favorite author and what did you like about his style?

I have no favorite author. I prefer to read what is in harmony with the country I am in, to learn about the background. I found Congo from David van Reybrouck a great work, interesting, insightful and catchy. His style is honest, well described without trying to add scents and colors. He did research for many years to write this book, and he went over to Congo many times. The book really is very helpful when you would go to West Africa.

What is your favorite music (You can share a playlist/link)?

I listen to world music. I like to listen to music heavy influenced by India, even devotional. Gnawa, inspired by Moroccans during slavery, is a style I love to listen to. I have much Arabic music on my device as well as Iranian, Rai, Qawwali, African and Nepali music. Here are a few names: Natacha Atlas, Idir, Alpha Blondy, Mugar, Nitin Sawhney, Khaled, Kutumba, Rokia Traoré, Oumou Sangare, and Fela Kuti.

What song from your country everybody should know?

I don’t know a great song from my own country, as I listen mostly to CD’s. Besides, the music played on radio is very commercial and hardly ever has soul. Or maybe I just don’t know any who has, because I don’t listen to it.

Just now, this song came to mind ‘Simple Life’ from Jacqueline Govaert.

Give us one of your favorite phrases in your mother tong and explain what it means.

Lekker en gezellig are two words which are typical Dutch. ‘Lekker’ means delicious and can be applied to food, traveling, cycling, a person, weather, a fluffy animal or having success at the toilet. Practically to everything! ‘Gezellig’ means cozy and is often applied to the very nearby surroundings. Imagine a wood cabin with a blazing fire, a handmade carpet underneath you, a steamy cup of tea and the sounds of heavy rainfall. That is gezellig. It could be a tent too, the warmth and the security of it while outside it’s windy and cold. Your sleeping bag is all puffed up, your socks colorful and the thermos, again, full with tea. Your solar panel will feed the device you will read your book on. All is set, that’s very gezellig!

Best foreign curse you know?

I don’t curse in lines. When you are happy and doing what you love cursing is not necessary. I usually learn lines and words which help me being more friendly. However, cycling in Iran made me learn a few handy lines: ‘man mesl madaretam’, wich means ‘I am like your mother’ and ‘khejalat bekesh’, meaning ‘be ashamed of yourself’. I think reflecting on the man his bad behavior makes more sense than cursing (although I tend, out of frustration, to beat the man up instead). On the other hand, I often had no time to speak out this practiced line. Alternatively I would stop and note the man his numberplate; this was always most effective. The man would speed off immediately!

Cycling in Iran

Do you have a favorite name from the world and what does it mean?

I like the names Bibi and Sana, both come from the valley in Pakistan where I lived with a family for 9 months (on one of my three year travels). I don’t know what Bibi means, neither do I know what Sana means? I do know what Krishna means, the name for a cat given to me by Uran, the woman of the house. The word Krishna is known in India, but in the valley (either Pashtun/Kalasha/Urdu language) it means ‘black’, like the color of the cat I was given.

Krishna the Black cat, she was given to me by the mother of this girl, Uran
Krishna, a black cat, she was given to me by the mother of this girl, Uran. A long sweet stay deep in the mountains of Pakistan

You have a chance to ask one question to anyone in history and get an honest reply – what is your question and to whom?

‘Why did you start judging people on color?’ Or ‘why did you start using your own people as slaves?’ or ‘Why did you treat a woman less than a man?’ I don’t know to whom I have to address it though?!

What is your favorite website (apart from social media platforms)?

My own. I don’t have time to read other websites, so I stick to my own. Before I start cycling I red stories of ‘Helen’s take on Africa’ and ‘The big Africa cycle’. Now I don’t read it anymore as I live my own.

One thing you don’t like about other travelers or traveling?

Travelers: I feel a pity for travelers who stick to an itinerary set out back home: ‘Get away from all that is keeping you tightly in place!’ (Isn’t that why you travel?)

Traveling: it does disturb the inhabitants of a country. Travelers might think that poor/ignorant people need to be saved and local people see the distorted reality of a traveler.

Cycling in Spiti & Lahaul, Indian Himalaya. I just crossed a 4550 meter high pass
Cycling in Spiti & Lahaul, Indian Himalaya. I just crossed a 4550 meter high pass and am happy to go down for a long long time. Not that this is easy…

What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?

Not to plan, at all.

Iraq dinner. Shops were closed due to Eid, and so I was welcomed when I tried to buy veggies. The guy at the shop said 'come to my family'.
A dinner in Iraq. Shops were closed due to Eid, and so I was welcomed when I tried to buy veggies. A blond young guy (now fighting a war) at the shop said ‘come to my family’. I did!

If you have any question for me in return, I would be more than happy to answer to them below your interview.

Looking forward to receive news from you!

Hi Elena, I wonder why you like to have interviews from travelers? I am aware that more travelers are interviewing other travelers and I wonder where they get the time to do this from? I am curious how you are going to process them and what you will attract from them. Do you travel yourself, for instance? Or does reading other people’s stories and answers give you enough satisfaction?

Elena’s answer: I’ve been around, yes, but maybe not so much as you. So far mostly in Africa and Middle East. I do it because at the moment I stopped traveling and I would like to hear opinions of people who traveled a lot, like me. Simply because people who didn’t travel cannot answer my questions and so far it makes me happy to find out that all the people I have interviewed so far share my views almost 99%.

You can see everybody’s interviews here.

I’m having lots of fun reading everybody’s story. Yours as well! Thank you for taking a moment to share it! I enjoyed it! As about ‘attracting’ from them, their story, it is exciting. I wish you a safe journey. I loved Oman, for me the friendliest people were there!

I hope you enjoyed yourself while answering (if you want to add anything interesting, feel free to do so)

By Cindy

Years of traveling brought me many different insights, philosophies and countries I needed to be (over 90 in total). I lived in Pakistan, went over 15 times to India and when I stopped cycling the world, that was after 50.000 kilometer through 45 countries, I met Geo. Together we now try to be more self-sustainable, grow our own food and live off-grid. I now juggle with the logistics of being an old-fashioned housewife, cook and creative artist loving the outdoors. The pouches I create are for sale on

Don't just stop here, I appreciate your thoughts too : )

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