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Around the world with 81 year grandmother

She tossed long blond hair over her shoulder and showed gleaming white teeth, perfect as it would be made in Hollywood. She showed no signs of fatigue after a long working day, after only a few hours of sleep. Mateja Mazgan still gave an impression of a super model. In a dark skirt with flowers she sat on the chair next to me and ordered a lemonade as the day was really hot: "This night I was in a cave in Sežana, 350 meters deep, so I didn’t sleep a lot."



Beside her numerous hobbies she studied Tourism and also studied at a College of Horticulture and Visual Arts, majoring in landscaping. For postgraduate she chose tourism and then it came to her mind, that maybe she would like to teach one day. So she signed in parallel on the Faculty of Education. But for Mateja that was not enough to fulfill her day. There is not enough space on these pages to describe all the hobbies she has. Adrenaline passionate athlete, who just recently returned from skiing from Mont Blanc, is an active caver. In her free time she is also diving, climbing and plays flute in two brass bands. During her schooling she trained mountain biking, and still likes to sit on her bike. She is enthusiastic surfer, water and alpine skier. She loves travel photography; maybe you came across at one of her 10 solo exhibitions. Mateja is full of energy, sleep to her is a necessity and she has reduced it to 5 hours a day. Her big passion is traveling, and here she also goes beyond the typical traveler. Yes, many people like to travel, you might say. But Mateja is something special in this field too. In addition to solo travel and travel with her boyfriend every year she goes on an adventure with her 81 year old grandmother Ivana. In the following lines read what Mateja trusted to Globetrotter readers. She is a traveler who has already checked out 61 countries around the world. In a great deal of those she was accompanied by her super granny.

How do you coordinate your job, love for travel and all the hobbies you have?
It has been quite difficult for me. At the time of study I slept very little and had some problems because beside two parallel studies I also have a lot of hobbies. But I managed to finish my studies. And before I graduated from both universities I got the job. Then I enrolled in two postgraduate studies - educational and tourism. Now, I think I will go back to collage again. Security Studies really interests me.

How did your love for traveling start?
My grandmother was a reason for this, as she was traveling a lot with my grandfather. When my grandfather became ill and could no longer go on the road, I was a replacement. So from my eighth-grade in elementary school we are traveling together. We make at least one trip a year or two. In addition, I travel alone and with her boyfriend.


How come that a young girl, still in puberty, travels with her grandmother?
My family is a little different, I think. My grandfather had a job, where he had the opportunity to hire a bus and that is how we all started with the trips in nearby regions, and after further to all Europe. First me and my grandmother choose our destinations mainly in Europe. Then I began to travel beyond the borders of the old continent. And one day I said, "That's it! Let's go out of Europe."

Our family is really connected. Even when I was an adolescent, I didn’t think of our trips as something terrible. I traveled with my family and my grandmother. I do not imagine not traveling with my grandma anymore. We'll discover the world as long as she can. And when that time comes my mother will hopefully replace her.

How do your trips look like? Are you traveling with travel agencies?
It started like that as I was a child and it was easier. Now we travel on our own. I get travel guide such as Lonely Planet, we buy airline tickets and rent a car. For example, last year we came in Morocco, sat in a car at the airport in Marrakech and we were deciding where to go next. I always check the basic features of the country ... Somehow, as I would travel alone, but my grandmother is accompanying me.



What are grandmother's impressions? Does she like the way you two travel?
Ah, of course. She said that the agency makes her feel limited. Last year we went to the U.S. and it was very interesting. We went to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. We traveled by car through many interesting destinations such as Jordan and Syria; we drove through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This year we have even bigger extreme. Boyfriend’s grandmother will join us. And she has not traveled at all. She expressed her wish to go to Canada ... and in September I will be on the plane with two grandmothers.

What connects you and your grandma?
We have been traveling since I can remember. Besides, we have always been in a good relationship. Even when I was a little girl, we were hiking and climbing mountains together. I am very attached to my family, and that bond was created before we started traveling together. I never felt we had a parental relationship, I would say that these ties were more like based on a friendship. Not just with my grandparents, also with other family members. My uncle, for example, got me into the mountain bike, which I have trained for many years.


What do grandma or grandpa needs to be able to travel with grandchildren, to travel as you two? And what do grandchildren need? What is the recipe for this kind of trip?
I think that we are both very flexible. Now I have to be a bit more flexible than my grandma, because she is her eighties. Nevertheless, it is great. We get up early in the morning and all day there is so much going on. We look for accommodation late in the evening when we're really tired. And when we get to the hotel, we go straight to bed. Probably we do not have time to quarrel, because so much is happening all the time.

And where do they sleep? What do you think about hostels?
We sleep everywhere. Of course, in hostels also.  The accommodation should be inexpensive, because it is only a place where we sleep over. If there is an option to get a private room, we take it, as it is more comfortable. However, my grandmother never complicates things. She was ready to sleep in the car if we couldn’t find the bed.


What fascinates you most on your travels?
Nature is the one that attracts us. And hills and mountains. So when we went to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, we made a little mistake. I traveled round whole Europe, but I’ve never been in these countries, so we went there. It was interesting, but for both of us too much flat. Morocco was a different story, as well as America.

What about the people you meet on the way?
We are attraction for all who get to know us. They just cannot believe that such a combination can travel together. In America people did not noticed us, probably because we were driving around with their car, unless we got into conversation. Totally different story was in the Muslim world. They do not get it at all. First, a woman behind the wheel, then we both have light complexion and to top of it all here is this combination - grandmother and granddaughter. But I've noticed that in this world older woman are much more respected. I had a feeling that I was much safer next to my grandma, as if I would be traveling alone. We met a lot of locals as they often approached us out of curiosity.


How do you decide where your next trip will be?
Behind each decision there is the story. This year boyfriend’s grandmother decided, because she was watching the TV show about British Columbia and wanted to go there. Last year we planned a trip with my grandmother to Albania and three days before departure I was calling her that I am going to buy the airline tickets. And my grandmother said: "No, now I am watching a program about Morocco. Let's go to Morocco." So we went to Morocco.

How does grandmother faces all the problems that can happen on a trip?
We travel mainly in spring and autumn to avoid the heat. We are fully insured. But we are not thinking about the problems, as otherwise we wouldn’t have gone nowhere.

What is the difference between traveling with grandmother and for example friends, boyfriend?
When I go alone or with my boyfriend it is some sort of obligation to include extreme sports because I love it. With my grandmother is a little different, though she rode a camel in the dessert and horse also. However, I cannot take her into caves or to climbing. When I'm all alone, my journeys are full of extreme sports.


Can you trust Globetrotter readers one or two adventures on your travels that made the biggest impression on you?
Alaska impressed me most, I would say. I was alone in a car and made 6000 kilometers. It was wild! When I got out of town and had no signal for my self-phone…I was totally alone. I have traveled over a couple of passes and there is not a soul. Maybe one moose appears on the horizon and I saw a bear also. It was really wild.

What would be your advice to all young people who are hesitating and cannot gather the courage to go abroad?
If you are a bit scared to go alone, it is good to take an experienced traveler with you. There are many forums where travelers are looking for a company. You can simply start like that, and then you can always go separate ways. It is good to choose a country that is safe for travel. I always say Thailand is a country for beginners. The most common excuse not to go is the lack of money. But it is possible to earn a lot back. I always repay at least some of the costs of travel with travelogues, on photo competitions, with articles etc. It is important to make the best of things and be consistent.

 
 
 
 
 

 
Anja Turk
Volunteer of Hostelling International Slovenia 
anja_turk@hotmail.com

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