Nina Sedano is one of the few women to have visited every country in the world. An amazing achievement. In this interview, she shares some of her favourites. She is the author of three books. Her first book ‘Die Ländersammlerin’ was 80 weeks on the German Spiegel-Bestseller-List and is now available as an audiobook. As she is making her living on her books, giving interviews and talking in front of audiences, she would be delighted to find international publishers.
I went to Ireland for the first time in May 1994. When I was looking out of the window flying across the lush green island to Shannon Airport, I was overwhelmed by a deep feeling of finally coming home. Even writing this now after such a long time, I’m getting goose-pimples again.
Back home in Frankfurt, I loved to go to the An Sibin Irish Pub with its regular live-music sessions. I was in a small group horseback riding for a week on the Galway-Clare-Burren trail from the An Sibin Horse Farm. The same name, what a wonderful coincidence! I had such a great time and fell head over heels in love with Eire’s landscape, the relaxed, funny people, the live music in the Irish pubs, the cosy B&Bs, the patient horses and especially my lovely Irish Hunter gelding Blaze. I would have loved to take it home with me. A year later, I came back again for horseback riding the Ring of Kerry and again a few years later. I promise I’ll write more about my unforgettable experiences there in my next book.
In 1998 I came on a direct bus from Cape Town all the way to Windhoek. There I stayed in the ‘Crazy Kudu Backpackers.’ Thanks to them, I got on a great 10-day-trip around the Northern part of Namibia. Indeed did I have an encounter with a real Kudu, a tame one in an enclosed field. He allowed me to touch him and admire his heavy majestic horns. A couple of minutes later, a funny young warthog running around free came to me. When I travel, I always need to be either in contact with animals or enjoy watching them in their natural habitat.
In Swakopmund, I went, of course, horseback riding and the day after sand-boarding for the first time in my life. In the beginning, I was just a little bit scared to lie on my belly on the thin board and slide headfirst, holding up the front down the biggest dunes in the world. With helmet, gloves, knee and elbow protection, I expected to eat a lot of sand. Luckily, I didn’t scream and kept my mouth shut. After the first time safely down the dune, I was hooked, and it was only fun to go faster and get further! Each time we went down a different way. Only walking up the dune under the hot African sun was hard work. In my first book, I dedicated a chapter to my special time in Namibia. I always wanted to go back and had planned to do so at the beginning of 2021. When more restrictions regarding Covid-19 were imposed, I had to postpone my plans.
In 1996 I went my first time to New Zealand, starting in Christchurch on the South Island and ending four weeks later in Auckland on the North Island. For a couple of years, I belonged to the Frankfurt Hash House Harriers, HHH – a so-called drinking club with a running problem. You find them all over the world running where possible. So did I in New Zealand, where I ran with different H3 groups and was invited to stay for a couple of days in the homes of the so-called Hashers/Harriettes. I’m deeply grateful for people’s hospitality. Especially having travelled many countries on my own, it is always best to be someone’s good guest.
In addition to Hashing, I enjoyed the awesome activities around Queenstown a lot – flying in a helicopter, flying in a special pit plane with the pilot doing loopings, among other crazy things while sitting behind him, bungy jumping from the pipeline (102m), white-water-rafting and last but not least tandem-skydiving.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Wonderful to be at the right time at the right place!
Which was to see and be in the middle of the migrating animals in the Serengeti in Tanzania in January 2005. We were so lucky because you never know when they are migrating. I was in a small group organized from Arusha, the hotspot for getting on a safari. In the afternoon, with enough time before sunset to get to our accommodation, the Serengeti plain was empty, not a single animal insight, but it rained cats and dogs with thunder and lightning.
The next day we left the lodge early in the morning, not driving far, and we couldn’t believe my eyes, my heart definitely beating faster. They were there all around us as far as their eyes could see and further – wildebeests, zebras, antelopes and lions enjoying their meal in the shade of a bush. Two days later, the plain was again as empty as we arrived, and we were heading on the only road into the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater full of (non-migrating) wildlife. The animals, the nature – awesome!
On a three weeks expedition-cruise to Antarctica
It was one of the best trips I did in my life in February 2016. I had the best 50th birthday I could have imagined. Great people on the ship and walking quietly in between thousands of noisy penguins, sea leopards sunbathing, hungry little seals were calling their mothers on the Island of South Georgia on a much too warm sunny day for this rather cold region. To make our journey much better, we were so lucky in seeing two Blue Whales playing. Else with each other on the way to Antarctica. Being surrounded by several friendly Humpback Whales or walking on one of the remote Sandwich Islands were the favourite moments of a lifetime.
The wonder of the universe
Between my first time in a foreign country in Berwang, Austria – aged an innocent four years (only a few days from turning five years) with my mother – and my last nation were 40 years, seven months and some more days. With the iron wall always there and not too far from home, travelling the world was neither a dream of my childhood nor my youth, but owning a horse was. It only became an idea, but never an obsession to travel all UN-Membership states when I was at the end of my thirties.
As an independent adult, I never thought about having sponsors for my trips. I saved every penny, travelled as modest as possible and did a lot of it in non-digital times for the love of our Planet Earth, which gives us everything we need and so much more. We are all together, and each one of us separately has to protect it as best as we can. Our planet is the wonder of the universe! We haven’t found anything like it!
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing!
I had eaten some disgusting pieces of mutton (not lamb), which had tasted as the animal smelled. I only ate it because I was so hungry I and a guest to locals in Quba, Azerbaijan. I got sick very quickly and had to run several times to the toilet, an outhouse with a hole in the ground. On the way back to Baku within a public minibus, I started shivering and getting very cold. Back in the flat, where I was a paying guest, I had developed a fever of almost 40 degrees Celsius. I can only remember it last time so high when a child. The next day still dizzy, but the fever was 2 degrees down. I had to pick up my visa for Kasachstan. And the day after, I was scheduled to fly to Uzbekistan and did. Puh, you cannot believe how deeply grateful I was for my body to have recovered quickly.
Don’t always believe what people tell you!
Arriving January 2011 from Sarh at the border town Sido in Chad/Central African Republic. I was told there isn’t a problem to find accommodation in then the bordertown of the CFA. Very unfortunately, it was. So I had to sleep on the concrete floor in a house where everybody had access to and walked in and out. People were not friendly, but no harm either. On top of it, I arrived in a rebel area in times of elections. I was stuck there for two nights (luckily not longer) and couldn’t walk anywhere during the day – too dangerous. We had to wait for two guys from the army with equipment to get us safely through the rebel area. When we left, I was sitting with 20 other Africans on top of all the luggage on a Toyota pickup. It took several days and was quite an unsafe adventure to get to the capital of Bangui. Had I known better before, I wouldn’t have done it that way and rather flown from capital to capital. Now I have so much more to tell. You only know afterwards what you shouldn’t have done before.
Taken into custody in Sierra Leone
In 2010 I had a camera team (author/cameraman) with me from a TV station to film a documentary about me in Liberia and Sierra Leone. When I was walking down the road in Kenema being filmed on our first morning in Sierra Leone, we were all taken into custody. I was so shocked, as what I didn’t know and just learned, the team had no filming permit. So far had I travelled 178 nations without getting in such kind of trouble. We were first called terrorists by the chief of police and then interrogated for several hours by the staff. I was lucky that the guy interrogating me was friendly, and so was I. When I had to go to the loo in a house outside the main building, the idea of escaping over the not so high wall entered my mind just for a short moment. No way, as white as I was, I’d have stuck out of the crowd everywhere. After a lot of phone calls with the TV station, we were finally allowed to leave in the afternoon after 8 hours with the order to getting a film permit miles away in Freetown the next day. More about it in my first book.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Learn languages and don’t be afraid to speak them. While travelling most important is to make yourself understood and be able to communicate with people. A language is the key to people’s hearts, opens many doors and makes you understand people so much better. I’m so grateful to be fluent in seven languages and have a basic knowledge of three more. Not knowing them, I’d definitely have missed many interesting conversations and a lot more on what was going on around me.
Bring your own toilet paper or at least a handkerchief
You may never know when you desperately need it and cannot ask for it anymore. I’m just not in favour and cannot imagine using my left hand only instead. And I know what I’m talking about, as I have written an entire book about it all in 36 chapters (18 researched and 18 own experiences).
Do it while you can, and don’t postpone!
Most of the time, we regret the things we haven’t done more than the things we have done. If the time is not right, make it the right time for you! Don’t make excuses! Don’t wait! Go for it! Life is to be lived! Make the best out of every situation and treat yourself, your body with respect – you is all you have. And always keep a good sense of humour!
Do you have any favourite hotels or restaurants?
Best ice cream on the planet and value for money, unfortunately, closed in autumn/winter: AROMA Eismanufaktur, Frankfurt.
Best Italian restaurant on earth with great lunch deals: Fontana di Trevi, Frankfurt.
Delicious fish-restaurant: Hamsilos und Schenck’s, Frankfurt.
German restaurant with typical local food&drink: Apfelweinwirtschaft Frank, Frankfurt.
Do you have any favourite cities?
Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and San Francisco.
What are some of the worst places you’ve stayed?
Apart from sleeping on the concrete floor in the CFA, as above mentioned. Places where I realized waking up from sleep in the middle of the night with a rat in the room: Jamaica, El Salvador, Rwanda, Liberia. Places in Turkey, Mauretania, Malaysia, among many where I caught a flea – luckily not bringing any back home.
In a hostel on Big Island, Hawaii, the owner didn’t clean up the dead cockroaches in one of the bathrooms for days. Finding cockroaches under my ear in the pillow in the Philippines or crawling in my t-Shirt in Fiji – making me a “cockroachphobic”. A hostel in Santa Fe, everybody had to do “chores”, e.g. clean up the bathroom and such. I leant this new word ‘chore’, which I never had to do in a hostel before or ever after.
A hostel in Albuquerque where the worn mattress let me feel its bedsprings, which luckily didn’t get stuck in my back.
If you can only choose one:
Favourite airline: Emirates.
Favourite airport: Frankfurt Airport.
Favourite city: Paris.
Favourite island: Orkney (main island).
Favourite people: Hospitable people.
Favourite small town: Hofheim am Taunus.
Favourite travel book: The World Is My Home, James A. Michener.
Favourite travel movie: Out of Africa – not a travel movie, but it made me want to go to Africa.
Favourite travel website: NomadMania and MTP (Most Traveled People).