Every month, we delve into the travel experiences of people in the extended WHL Group network. This month we talk to Laura Payne of Outdoor Albania, the whl.travel local connection based in Tirana, Albania.
Laura has a large collection of fearless travel tales from the carefree days when she was in her 20s. She did a lot of solo travel, ranging from a Greyhound bus trip all over Canada and hitchhiking on Vancouver Island to a road trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg in South Africa.
She marvels at her luck. In all her years of young and adventurous solo travel, she never found herself in a bad situation. Her best memories are of the people met and experiences had on the road.
WHL Group: Which is your favourite WHL Group destination
Laura: Albania, although I may be biased.
WHLG: Which would you most like to visit?
WHLG: What would you never travel without?
Laura: Mosquito repellent.
WHLG: What do you miss most about home when travelling?
Laura: My bathtub.
WHLG: What’s the most adventurous trip you’ve ever taken?
Laura: Rock jumping in Greece (from 18 metres above the sea!), driving solo from Cape Town to Johannesburg and a camping trip in a snowstorm in Canada.
WHLG: What is your funniest travel experience?
Laura: I was still in my teens and on a Eurail train trip in Europe with a close friend of mine. We decided to use the very last of our money to buy tickets to a rock festival. The only problem was that we had no money left for food. Soon we discovered that we could ‘earn’ food and drinks by returning plastic cups to the catering company. We had so much fun collecting the cups and trying to get as many as possible that we almost forgot to listen to the music!
WHLG: What is your scariest travel experience?
Laura: It really was not scary, but once when I was hitchhiking, a car stopped and I opened the door. At first glance there was nothing wrong in particular, but my intuition said to not get in. So I said thanks and closed the door, letting him drive off without me. I still think it was a good decision.
WHLG: If you could go on holiday with anyone famous – living or dead – who would you take?
Laura: Johnny Depp! Do I need to say why?
WHLG: Describe the best and worst accommodation you’ve ever stayed in.
Laura: Best: A really nice hostel in South Africa, where they gave us free lobster with their Christmas dinner. Worst: A hotel in Cumbucco, Brazil.
WHLG: Describe your earliest travel memory.
Laura: I was trying to snowboard with one ski when I was just three years old.
WHLG: Please briefly explain what you think local travel is.
Laura: As I’ve written elsewhere, it involves as many local actors as possible in the travel experience of the tourist.
WHLG: In what ways do you see local travel benefiting the country in which you live?
Laura: We have created a network of local drivers and guesthouses which we helped get ready for tourism. Nowadays we supply them with many tourists a year!