Most of us have experienced a point in our lives where we have no idea what we want to do. The majority of us might react to this feeling with moping around, hoping we had made different choices in life. Nicholas Andriani did something different. During this period in his life, revolutions were beginning to occur in North Africa which then spilled into the Middle East. Nicholas decided that he needed to be there; he needed to witness this history. He landed an internship in Jordan with his background in Archaeology and bought a one way ticket to Morocco. He's been witnessing history ever since and is now working on a book which chronicles these experiences.
Nicholas was kind enough to take the time to sit down and answer a few questions for T-Time. He had a ton of amazing stories to tell:
You travel all around the world. What's the most interesting place you've ever been? Why?
I would have to drop the Morocco card. To wander Marrakech is to bring your wildest dreams to life. The nights are wild, full of mischief. Acrobats, magicians, fire-breathers and snake charmers busking for your attention. Camel milk, hookah bars, speakeasies and frowned upon boozing. Prayer calls, food carts of snails and oranges picked, pressed, and juiced within the walls of this ancient city. It’s addicting and leaves you with this high unlike any other.
Who is the most interesting person you've met on your travels?
That would be Khaleed, my Bedouin partner-in-crime who I spent a great deal of time with in Jordan. He’s this charming example of the classical Middle East. Belonging to one of the tribes that occupy the land around Wadi Musa, including Petra, we would spend days exploring the surrounding area, traveling through moonscape deserts talking of Islam, culture, and learning about the Bedu. A humble, generous human. I owe the success of my travels to him.
The power of compassion and hospitality is so alive and present in the Middle East. I would say that 50% of my lodging came from willing strangers who would welcome me into their home for nothing more than conversation. They would share their whole world with me, even if that only consisted of bitter tea and khubz (flatbread).
What's the most dangerous situation you've been in?
Honestly, this sounds crazy--The worst situation I found myself in was not in the Middle East but Spain. In Barcelona where I was robbed, probably asking for it, as I spent a few days vagabonding around town. Two men, Moroccan by their accents, asking for directions to the train station from the Arc de Triomf led me away from my travel mate, Matteo, so as to rough me up and take the daypack I had slung over my shoulders. They succeeded and I quickly learned the value of hesitation.
When these Moroccans walked up to me I got overexcited to exercise my Arabic, so I dropped all suspicion, expecting them to be cool cats. Wrong!
I’m not saying don’t trust the world openly, just be sure to not let your emotions get in the way of sketchy situations.
I hold no resentment towards the thieves and I learned a great, sobering, life lesson.
How are you able to travel the world as much as you do? How do you make that possible?
The key to my success on the road is a great support system at home. Without their guidance and aid none of my trips could have become manifest. Minimalism is essential. At least, in my current situation.
Ultimately it comes down to my girlfriend. She has been so bloody patient and helpful, supporting my lifestyle, editing my material, even traveling by my side at times.
I work extremely hard though. Between travel gigs I keep up a part-time job as a cheesemonger, in Kansas City, all the while pumping out articles and working on my book.
What advice would you give to people who want to see the world, but don't know where to even start?
Start small. Great movements begin with atomic beginnings. What I find to be most expensive is the most boring part of travel--the transit. Once you get beyond that hurdle the best way to travel is by public transportation: city bus, train, shared ride. As Paul Theroux says, “stay on the ground”, by doing this financial issues can be alleviated and you will find yourself on a genuine, organic adventure.
Don’t be afraid to mingle with locals, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their hospitality.
Utilize outlets such as AirBnB, Couchsurfing, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and choose voluntourism over a vacation in a sterile resort (those can be fun too). These days, we have access to incredible resources that for global travel to any lifestyle, budget, philosophy.
Most importantly, do your research. I’ve suffered time and again from my lack in preparedness.
You're working on your first book right now, tell me all about it!
You must understand this is top secret, highly sensitive material here! So this book, Yallah’Bye, chronicles a period of movement across North Africa, Spain, the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece. The struggle of a long distance relationship, my burgeoning food obsession, archaeology, Islam, learning Arabic, indigenous people, architecture, history, the Arab Spring and on and on. I wrote in a fever as objectively as possible through my journals which are being translated into the manuscript for Yallah’Bye.
What do you hope to say/accomplish with this book?
Yallah’Bye is a vehicle to expose the wrongs and misrepresentations our world is plagued with. I’m writing this book for the people I met on the road. For the unrepresented and voiceless and unspoken for. To share the value of approaching the world holistically and putting faith in something bigger than yourself. I went into a region of supposed “Jihadi extremists” and American haters to find how alike we really are and that what differences we do have are more beautiful than the terrorizing fear that media outlets love to project.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I cannot stress enough how magnificent our world is. People are inherently good, I find this to be especially true in nations that are classified as “third world” or barbaric, which is hilarious and sad.
Above all, thank you for reading this interview and for supporting the dynamic girls that are the Duck and the Owl.
(All photos from Nicholas Andriani)