Meet Jeff Larsen, a 28-year old traveller who lives in Warsaw, Poland. Originally from South Africa, Jeff quit his 9-5 film editing job to teach English and travel the world. He joined us on an Expat Explore trip in 2016, after winning our #BigTicket2Travel competition. Here is why Jeff decided to quit the rat race and make his travel dreams a reality.
I travel to experience different cultures and traditions, and meet new people along the way. The main reason I travel is for the beautiful photographs, videos, and memories. My girlfriend and I recently started an Instagram account to capture all our adventures around the world. It’s a great platform to add memories along with a story.
When I still worked a 9-5 job, travel seemed like such a luxury. Of course, it is expensive and it can take a while to save up. But more importantly, you have so little time. When you work a traditional job, it can be difficult to find enough time to chase your travel dreams. As an English teacher, I now have the school holidays to travel around Europe. It was the best decision I ever made.
Born to travel
My first encounter with the notion of travel was looking at my grandfather’s pictures. My Danish grandparents left from Denmark and travelled from Europe to Africa, where they would settle, in an old two-stroke Saab. I used to love looking at the pictures they took along the way and the destinations they visited. My parents had also backpacked around Europe and America many years ago. They instilled this absolute love for travel in my sister and myself.
My first international trip was when I was 14. I went on a primary school trip to Greece to play football and we visited a few islands. This instantly sparked my wanderlust and I fell in love with the idea of travel. I saved every cent I could for many years after that to travel to Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Poland.
How winning with Expat Explore fueled my travel fire
I heard about Expat Explore via Facebook. A few of my friends had been following this amazing travel site and it really caught my attention. Little did I know that liking their page would lead to the adventure of a lifetime. When I entered the #BigTicket2Travel competition, I really hoped I would win. I was anxiously waiting for the live stream of the competition. When the winner was announced it felt surreal, I’ve never won a competition like this on such a large scale. I was overwhelmed and yet so excited. I shouted, screamed and phoned all my family and friends to let them know. It was always my dream to travel to a lot of different countries, and this prize helped me reach that dream.
I am so grateful for everything Expat Explore has done for me. They are extremely professional in their customer care and putting their travellers first. From the first email till the day we left our tour they have helped and cared for every small detail. The tour leaders are always professional and so knowledgeable about every country or town that we visited. The drivers are amazing as well and add to the overall adventure and atmosphere on the tour. Overall, I would highly recommend using Expat Explore and their professional service.
How South Africa shaped my travel persona
I really enjoy travelling in my home country of South Africa. There is so much to see and explore – stunning landscapes, wild animals, different cultures. The people are friendly and always willing to share their experiences with you. I would suggest visiting Table Mountain, and experiencing an artsy district like Maboneng. Naturally, everyone also needs to go on a safari and have a braai. If you have the time, go to a rugby match and try biltong (beef jerky). It’s unlike any place you have experienced. Africa will always have my heart.
Related: Check out Expat Explore’s brand new South Africa tours.
I believe that growing up in a country like South Africa shaped me into the adventurous traveller I am today. I love exploring cities and looking for awesome things to see and do. I like to see as much as I can in the short time I spend in each city. I travel for the incredible experience of immersing myself in different cultures. This is why I love going off the beaten track and exploring different parts of a country. I am lucky enough to have a travel partner with me, my girlfriend Samantha, who motivates me. We have the same interests in seeing the world. My sister also lives in Europe and I am lucky enough to be able to travel with her too. She’s very adventurous and loves travelling as well.
Coach travel? Yes, please!
I think coach travel is the best way to be able to see different countries and experience a taste of each place. Travelling with a coach tour also allows you to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. We got great insight into the beautiful places we visited because we had such an amazing and knowledgeable guide along the way.
This mode of travel can be a little daunting at first. Our first time, we didn’t know what to expect. But after an introduction to the group we felt comfortable and started chatting to the other travellers. We learned more about their countries and which countries they were excited to see. There were a lot of different nationalities on board, including Americans, Filipinos and Australians. There were also Canadians, Vietnamese, Russians and South Africans.
The biggest advantage of guided coach travel interacting with other people who have the same mindset about travelling. The scenery was also beautiful. Another advantage was not having to worry about getting from one place to the next; it’s all taken care of. The travelers we met on our tour have become lifelong friends. We still keep in contact and plan to visit them one day, especially the Canadians.
Next stop: America & Egypt
Travel has opened my mind. It helped me gain more confidence, tolerance, freedom, independence and patience. It allowed me to get a better understanding of different cultures and why people do certain things a certain way. Most importantly it helped me step out of my comfort zone, a place most people are quite content. I now know that great things never come from a comfort zone.
There are still many places I would like to see. I would love to visit America, especially New York. It has always been a dream of mine. Another destination that I would love to explore would be Egypt. The landscape looks out of this world! It is a country with such an amazing history and a fascinating culture.
Related: Get in on our amazing travel deals to find your own adventure!
Jeff’s top tips for travelling in Poland
Poland is an amazing destination that should be on everybody’s bucket list. It is a place that takes you by surprise – I instantly fell in love with it. Choosing my favourite Polish destination is tough, but I’d have to say Zakopane. It is very picturesque and so beautiful. Food people should try include pierogi (of course!), zapiekanka (baguette-meets-pizza) and Polish beer.
Things travellers should know before coming to Poland? Always bring a warm sweater. The weather constantly changes; it even snowed in spring this year.
As for travelling in general – when packing, pack essentials only; you need to get your bag from point to point and don’t want to lug around loads of kilograms. You will also need enough space for souvenirs. Always take a raincoat or umbrella no matter where you go. Bring a power bank tell help charge all devices. Plan your time well, so that you have enough time to take in all the sights. Look at the local transport, this is the cheapest and most effective way to get around a town.
Also, use your free days to see as much as possible. Avoid late parties and get up very early. This way you can see much more of a country. Snap plenty of photos and videos; and try the local cuisine. I find this is the best way to immerse yourself in a culture.
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