Silvana Nicholls and her husband, John Nicholls, were some of the earliest local partners to join the whl.travel family. They launched their Vanuatu destination portal in November of 2005 and have been strong collaborators ever since.
Silvana was born in Italy and moved to Melbourne, Australia, at the age of four. In the late 1990s, she slowly moved her way up Australia’s eastern seaboard – first to Sydney for seven years and then to Queensland for five years. She arrived on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific in 2001 and spent the first three years on the volcanic island of Tanna before moving to the capital city of Port Vila on Efate Island, where she and John still live.
WHL Group: Which is your favourite WHL Group destination and which would you most like to visit?
Silvana: Favourite? There are so many! I love archaeology, hence Greece would be high on my list in order to visit all that history, but I also dream of trekking in the highlands of Peru.
WHLG: What would you never travel without?
Silvana: After a valid passport, credit card and local currency, it would have to be a reliable map of the destination I was to explore, insect repellent, snack food, a water bottle and a good book. You never know how long that flight, train, ferry or bus is going to be…
WHLG: What do you miss most about home when travelling?
Silvana: It would have to be my husband’s humour (and rants) if he is not with me. When we travel together, I miss the comfort and karma of our home the most. Although I would rather spend money on seeing and doing than sleeping, I have never been the backpacker type; I need a good and clean bed in a secure, private environment at the end of a packed day on the road!
WHLG: What’s the most adventurous trip you’ve ever taken?
Silvana: Moving to Vanuatu. I left a great job, packed all my belongings – including my dog – put my house up for rent and flew to an island that I had never known existed in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Not to mention the fact that it was created by its still-very-active live volcano and that the place is known for Melanesian cults and their past cannibal culture. The place did not even have electricity or running water – we had to generate our own!
WHLG: What is your funniest travel experience?
Silvana: When I won a Christmas party costume contest as a very pregnant Virgin Mary. The prize was an ‘indulgent’ weekend in the penthouse of a five-star resort in Cairns, Australia. At 2am the first night, we felt so guilty about leaving our dog Chloe behind by herself that we couldn’t even sleep. So we took the complimentary champagne and caviar, and returned home for what became a great weekend with our four-legged baby.
WHLG: What is your scariest travel experience?
Silvana: Hmmm. Between facing an oncoming four-metre-high tidal surge, a 7.5-force earthquake or a category-5 cyclone, I’m not sure which to choose. They were all terrifying.
WHLG: If you could go on holiday with anyone famous – living or dead – who would you take?
Silvana: Sir David Attenborough. I would just love to forage and find fossils with him.
WHLG: Describe the best and worst accommodation you’ve ever stayed in.
Silvana: It’s ironic, but the best was the penthouse of the five-star resort in Cairns, Australia, mentioned above, that I left to be with my dog. The worst was a hotel in Kuranda in North Queensland, Australia. The mattress was infested with lice and felt as if it was created for an S&M torture chamber.
WHLG: Describe your earliest travel memory.
Silvana: When I was four years old, my family emigrated from Vibo Valentia in southern Italy, to settle in Australia. So returning to Italy some 16 years later to see my extended family and the village of my ancestors was an emotional experience. In addition, we visited other parts of the country I had never been to before, like Florence, Rome and of course iconic Venice to find out who was producing that contorted alien-like glassware in my mother’s home.
WHLG: Please briefly explain what you think local travel is.
Silvana: I think finding the ultimate solution to changing the prevailing ‘Me!’-travel culture to one of local travel is important. Local travel needs to be felt in order to be manifested. It is akin to comparing real love to self-love. Local travellers will make that extra effort to empathise, understand and share in another person’s life, as opposed to those who use a destination as a new host to satisfy their whims and indulgences.
Frankly, I don’t understand some travellers. Without an emotional interest in a country, what is the point of visiting it? If one cannot feel for the people and country one is visiting, then one will not comprehend the local-travel concept. Caring about others – their welfare and the environment – and balancing your own self-gratification with support for local people when travelling should come naturally. How you behave and what you do will follow, as is mentioned by all my WHL Group counterparts.
WHLG: In what ways do you see local travel benefiting the country in which you live?
Silvana: Travel is a fantastic opportunity to experience how others live and it engenders global tolerance. Independent, sustainable travel in particular can contribute enormously to local communities who need opportunities to develop some economic strength in a fast-moving and interconnected modern world. As whl.travel local partners, we have a role to play as educators, promoters and facilitators connecting travellers to the most effective tourism service providers in our regions whilst leaving as minimal a footprint on the environment as possible.
A more detailed explanation of our activities in this area is found at http://www.vanuatu-hotels.vu/aboutus.