Every month, we delve into the travel experiences of people in the extended WHL Group network. This month we talk to Kestas Lukoskinas, co-founder of The Beautiful Land of Nevermind, the whl.travel local connection in Vilnius and Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Both Kestas and his business partner, Vilija, are devoted travellers themselves. Together with a group of friends, they’re always travelling around Lithuania and the Baltic region, whether it be for a weekend getaway or a month-long vacation. Kestas’ love for his native land inspired him to start a business dedicated to sharing its beauties with others.
WHL Group: Which is your favourite WHL Group destination and which would you most like to visit?
Kestas: My favourite destination is my homeland of Lithuania, but I would like to visit my whl.travel counterparts all throughout the whl.travel network. I’m interested in every single country that’s a whl.travel destination, especially the ones that I have never visited.
WHLG: What would you never travel without?
Kestas: I don’t hit the road without my mobile phone with integrated GPS, a good camera and a credit card with its details protected.
WHLG: What do you miss most about home when travelling?
Kestas: I would have to say my circle of friends – if they are not travelling along with me – and my two cats.
WHLG: What’s the most adventurous trip you’ve ever taken?
Kestas: I’ll always remember a 15-kilometre urban trek I did from Dublin city centre to Dublin Airport in the spring of 2006. I had no cash and my credit card was blocked, so I could not take a bus or a taxi. I had found a cheap plane ticket to go to Amsterdam for a weekend to meet up with some friends. Walking on the highway to the airport is prohibited, so I needed to go through huge districts with nothing but a maze of warehouses and office buildings.
To be on time for check-in, getting lost was not an option. I left from my starting point in Dublin city centre very early in the morning with nothing but my backpack. I underestimated my own walking speed, which gained me some time, but then a nervous detour around some long fences in a prohibited area cost me some time. Somehow, I found a way through and reached the airport on time!
WHLG: What is your funniest travel experience?
Kestas: Of all the funny, crazy things that have happened to me on my travels, there are two that I remember most. One is this vacation where I was driving through Texas and was pulled over by police in the middle of nowhere. The situation was so odd and unreal because there was no one for hundreds of miles in all directions. I even took a picture with the police car, to prove to myself in the future that it really happened.
The second was when I was travelling in the country of Georgia with friends. For a couple days we stayed in a resort by the Black Sea on the border of Turkey. Since we were so near to the Turkish border, we one day decided to walk to Turkey, just to see it. The plan was to have a pint of Turkish beer and then head back to Georgia. Instead we spent around three hours at the customs stations on both sides of the border. Then we paid enormous fees for visas only to find out that there was some celebration going on in Turkey and all border pubs were closed.
We had a couple of bills of Turkish currency, so we bought two small bottles of beer in a shop, but we were not allowed to drink them publicly. So we returned to Georgia, sat down in an open-air pub and drank those two bottles. In the end, we set two records on that trip. The first is that it was our shortest country visit ever; we were in Turkey for about a half an hour. The second is that it was the most expensive beer we had ever bought; considering the visa fees each bottle cost around $25!
WHLG: What is your scariest travel experience?
Kestas: While I was living and working in Ireland, on one of the national holidays I rented a car and went to see the famous Cliffs of Moher in the west of the country. I stopped somewhere near the dramatic coast (but before reaching my destination) and went to watch the huge waves roaring and crashing against the cliffs.
I walked down approximately 100 metres to where waves almost reached my feet. Suddenly, I slipped on wet rocks, twisted an ankle and fainted. Thank God I did not fall off the cliff. I awoke in pain and regretted that I had made the trip alone. It took me forever to crawl back up from the ledge and then to drive to the nearest guesthouse, where I got some ice to cure my swelling ankle. I rested and returned home to Dublin without ever having reached the Cliffs of Moher.
WHLG: If you could go on holiday with anyone famous – living or dead – who would you take?
Kestas: I’m going to go with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Richard Branson. I think the three of us would have a great time.
WHLG: Describe the best and worst accommodation you’ve ever stayed in.
Kestas: The best would have to be Peric Family Camping in Croatia, near Dubrovnik. Early in the morning, while you are still sleeping, the owner, Mr. Nedjeljko Peric, quietly brings delicious red and white handcrafted wine, fresh spring water and bowls with fresh mussels and oysters, and leaves them by your tent! Because of this camping spot and the hospitality of the owner, I have been to Croatia four times and plan to keep returning.
I’d say the worst was an apartment in Amsterdam. I had found a place through a website of private accommodation providers. The apartment was so dirty that, even though we had paid up front, my girlfriend and I did not stay, choosing instead to leave a note to the owners with a suggestion to clean their apartment.
WHLG: Describe your earliest travel memory.
Kestas: I was riding in the child seat of my father’s three-wheeled motorcycle. I was wearing the helmet, but not goggles or glasses. I was crying as bugs hit my face all along the road.
WHLG: Please briefly explain what you think local travel is.
Kestas: Local travel is interaction with locals. It’s getting to know not only a bunch of facts about their history, but also how they live nowadays and what they dream about. Economically, it means choosing to buy travel services more from locals than from international corporations. Geographically, it’s about visiting not only established tourist destinations, but also going off the beaten track. Local travel in Lithuania is like having a friend or acquaintance in the destination you choose. Local travellers explore a destination slowly, without “consuming” it.
WHLG: In what ways do you see local travel benefiting the country in which you live?
Kestas: If travellers find a trusted local friend and advisor in a destination they plan to visit, this local contact will suggest the most beneficial ways to travel in the country they live, one of value to both the travellers and the locals. Locals like us love to support small family tourism businesses and their communities.