The first time I saw Tim from South Africa was on Instagram. I was looking for something with Lithuanian hashtags and saw that Tim traveled a lot in Lithuania, so I always wanted to talk to him about how he sees Lithuania. As I started looking for his contacts I found his website Say labas and found out not only has he traveled in Lithuania, but lived here for two years! Why, how and much more – find out in this interview.
I follow you on Instagram (Timmytrips) and I see that you are a passionate traveler: you traveled in Baltics, France, walked Camino de Santiago in Spain… How many countries have you visited?
I’ve never actually thought about it, 19, I think. I’ve met a lot of people in my travels who have travelled more than I have. Some even have it as a life goal to see all countries before they die. That’s not how I would want to travel. I see travelling as a way to meet new people, make new friends and see how other people on this big blue planet we call Earth live.
What are your connections with Lithuania, where did the idea to visit Lithuania come from?
Bit of a long story but I was living in London for some time. Where I met Solveiga who told me all about Lithuania’s history, culture and legends. I was hooked! I never really knew too much of Lithuania or the Baltics at the time, so then I began to read more about it. I discovered a little country with some amazing stories and fantastic traditions. I am South African by birth and we believe: if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head; if you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. I decided to take up learning Lithuanian as a way to better understand Lithuania and Lithuanians. I didn’t realize at the time what I was getting myself into. So, I moved to Lithuania to immerse myself in all Lithuanian things. It helped my language a lot and I made some good friends who I really really miss.
You visited a lot of places in Lithuania (even I, a real Lithuanian, haven‘t been in such towns like Tauragė or Telšiai!), what did you like the most? What can you recommend for other travelers to visit in Lithuania? Are there any places in Lithuania you would love to visit again?
What I love most about Lithuania is all the small little villages and towns, that not many tourists get a chance to see. I love the nature, the forests and all the lakes. I also love ALL the seasons that Lithuania has, each one is just as beautiful as the last.
I love how in summer everyone is always going to some kind of lake. I also love the snow, coming from Africa we don’t have much snow (smiling). It’s quite hard to pick my favorite place in Lithuania but some of my favorites would have to be the forests near Vilkyškės, I love Nida (a must see for any travelers), The old town in Kaunas, I could walk those streets every weekend and find something I love. Ventės ragas and Šilutė are wonderful little places and some where I would love to go again.
Not original, but… how did you like our traditional food (cepelinai, kugelis, šaltibarščiai)?
The food… where to begin. I have a love-hate relationship with Lithuanian food. I absolutely love kugelis and many times when I was walking the Camino would crave it, I still do. I also have an unhealthy addiction to sūrelis (smiling). I could eat the stuff for days but only the Vilkyškių type. I remember the first time I ate cepelinai I felt like I had eaten a brick and was full for almost two days, but I quite liked it but too much potatoes for me. As for šaltibarščiai I didn’t like it much, when I found out it had sour milk in it. I just couldn’t eat it (laughing).
And, of course, are there some things/places/people etc. you didn‘t like in Lithuania? Why? Can you say that Lithuania is traveler-friendly/foreigner-friendly? Did you have any difficulties while traveling in Lithuania?
Very difficult question. In general, if you are a tourist I’d say YES, Lithuania is indeed traveler-friendly if you stick to the big cities. Is Lithuania foreigner-friendly? Yes and No. I think if you’re a tourist Lithuanians are friendly and welcoming especially the younger generation who all speak beautiful English. If you live in Lithuania as a foreigner, you get the good and the bad. All places have problems for sure, it doesn’t matter where you live but what I found difficult was large numbers of grumpy people and Bureaucracy. I also always hated Buying groceries, Paying for groceries – in Lithuania it is hands down, the most intense and stressful experiences you will ever have! The moment it’s your turn to be prepared… Seriously, once the cashier begins scanning your groceries, you have only a limited amount of time before she calls out your total and gives you that evil glare. There usually isn’t any room at the end after your groceries are rung up, so if you don’t bag up your stuff or get it back into your basket you’re out of luck. The cashiers move faster than you can even blink. To make matters worse the people behind you will be either glaring at you or pushing you down the line to hurry up. Hated it!
You and your friend Solveiga own a website Say labas, where you write about Lithuania and motive other to learn Lithuanian. How does our language look for a foreigner – is it hard to learn? Is your Lithuanian good?
I love Lithuanian! It’s one of the most beautiful and unique languages I have ever heard. I used to some times go to coffee shops and eavesdrop on people just to hear it. It’s even better when you can understand what people say. It sounds like birds chirping in the forest… I love the sound of it.
I highly recommend travelers to learn even a little bit of Lithuanian as it’s a great way to start up conversation and Lithuanians love it when foreigners make an effort. Is it hard to learn? YES! Can it be done? YES, I learnt enough to survive and live there for two years and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Is my Lithuanian good? I was able to hold conversations and know what was going on so I’d say I’m an intermediate speaker, I know some people living in Lithuania mostly Russians who don’t even bother learning so it makes me feel proud I learnt it. I am forgetting it so I need to practice (smiling).
What traveling means for you? What does it give you? What attracts you to travel?
I think from a young age I have always been fascinated with cultures and people. I’ve always felt like I was looking for something/someone and to me I guess travelling is a way of finding that something, finding myself and enjoying life. I’ve met some amazing people, made some incredible memories and I’ve learnt that we are all different. No one is the same but we all share the same human spirit filled with love and kindness. When you travel you realize how small you are and that you have one shot at life. I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s going to happen or who I’m going to meet, where I’m going to wind up. Life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what you’re going to get. You learn to take life as it comes at you… and to make each day count.
You live in South Africa. Is it possible to compare traveling in your country and in Lithuania or any other European country?
Europe and Africa are very different in terms of the way you travel. Europe has amazing infrastructure so you can get around very easily. Sadly, in South Africa it’s near impossible to see the country if you don’t have a car.
Where would you like to travel in the future?
Asia! I really want to go to Asia. Japan really fascinates me. Why? Everything just seems so futuristic there like another world. I also love Asian cultures and their connection to spirituality. There are a lot of things to learn and see there.
Finally – do you have any plans to come back to Lithuania?
YES, I hope to return there this summer for festival season. I’d also love to live in Vilnius and experience that part of Lithuania as I have only lived in Kaunas and consider myself kaunietis. So it would be cool to see how life in Vilnius is.
If you are looking for an interview in Lithuanian, click here.