It’s the 9th of March, around 5pm, and we’re all on Google Meet, that’s where this interview will take place. We’re exchanging pleasantries, and Simone comes across as a charming, sharp individual. We had heard a little about him from our Graphic Designer, Gessica (a lifelong friend of Simone). We knew he was well-travelled, busy, but nice enough to take the time to recount his trips to us.
For the next couple of hours, Simone would thrust us into the stories of his adventures. The experiences of a true globetrotter.
From Riva Ligure, Italy, Simone left home for Australia. “I didn’t have many plans.” He had no clue that his first stop would be such a significant cornerstone to his life.
After working as a waiter on a boat that toured the Sydney Opera House, Simone wanted to see more of Australia. He figured working on a farm outside the major cities was a good way to do that.
“My English wasn’t good.”
He ended up working on three farms. Each experience different from the last. Simone’s English is fluent now, but back then, “it wasn’t good.” “A German friend translated for me” as he spoke to a farmer about working on his land.
“It was a 10-hour train, a four-hour bus, and a two-hour car ride.” Finally, they arrive at the farm, and the job is to remove massive logs and sticks off of the farmer’s land so that his wheat crops can grow.
One thing that became clear as our interview progressed was that Simone is a genuine animal lover. Even before he told us he “used to watch the Discovery Channel” as a kid, there was a different enthusiasm when he would talk about the animals on his travels. There was more energy, and you could sense the authentic affection he felt for them.
More proof of this was when he talked about the backbreaking work at the first farm. His respite was being “surrounded by kangaroos, albino peacocks and monkeys.”
The job on the second farm was to care for the animals on the land. Simone learned to shear sheep and milk goats and cows. More centred around his interests, he enjoyed the second farm. His “best friend” might have had something to do with that too. Seven dogs lived on the land, most of them working dogs. But one, “Ginger,” the smallest of the pack, seemed to enjoy Simone’s company, “she was my best friend, she followed me everywhere.” Obviously, Ginger left an impression on Simone as he tells us about his “best friend” on an Australian farm far away.
“You create a family with the people you work with.”
The final farm was a citrus picking farm. Simone admitted to living a simple life here. He showered outdoors and exchanged physical labour for food from the local bakery. He and the other workers didn’t have much, but they had each other to lean on. “You create a family with the people you work with, you share the same experiences and grow closer.” Simone enjoyed the camaraderie he built with the other workers on this farm and the people he met on his travels. Coming up, it will be clear why knowing the right people can sometimes change your life.
But before that, Simone wraps up his farming experiences by recommending that travellers should do farm work in Australia. He dispels rumours about “farmers taking advantage of people looking for work.” He “doesn’t buy it.” “If you find yourself in a bad situation, it is most likely your fault.” He “loved it.” He “wouldn’t do it again because it was hard labour, but I loved the experience.”
After a year and a half of traversing rural Australia, he stumbled upon a scuba diving internship. He credits an Italian woman (a friend of a friend) for placing him in a hostel in Brisbane, where after some rummaging in his seven-litre backpack, he found a brochure. In that brochure was a scuba diving apprenticeship. He was dangerously low on money, so this opportunity came at the perfect time.
Knowing the right person (the Italian woman) prompted the domino effect that led him to a job that he would love and take full advantage of.
The company was looking for cheap labour as they transitioned into new management. They offered Simone a three month probation period where he would earn his spot. He would be working on the whale shark boat. Already an avid fan of marine animals, he was more than happy to be on that vessel.
“I fell in love with the sport as I was born and raised by the sea.”
He loved working with these “10-metre giants” that would pass by Western Australia every year as part of their migration. Simone also interacted with humpback whales, “which are much larger by the way. They had eyes the size of my face, and their singing was a surreal experience.” Simone was living the dream, scuba diving for a living, “I fell in love with the sport as I was born and raised by the sea.”
Simone explained how his dive centre would spot the marine giants. “We had a plane that would fly over the water and eye-spot the whale sharks. They were so large you could see them from a few thousand feet. Once the plane saw them, they would tell us on the boat, and we would get close enough and watch them.”
“Danger is real, but fear is your choice.”
One of our favourite Simone quotes was when he talked about his experiences with the tiger sharks that lingered around the reef. For Simone, swimming with these predatory creatures taught him that the “fear of danger creates the danger itself. At any point, these massive sharks could have been a real threat to me, but I learned to channel this fear. The danger is real, but fear is your choice. And now I apply that to all of my travels.”
His internship was a huge success. He ended up taking more scuba qualifications and growing within the company, but after five and a half years, Simone got bit by the travel bug. He wanted to move on.
The most meaningful realisation he took from Australia was “the kindness of strangers and community.” Building connections with people is ultimately what made Australia so special for Simone. “The people I came across while travelling are the best I’ve experienced. It gives me hope for humanity. When you are away from home, the people you meet become family away from family.”
After Australia, Simone travelled around South East Asia. But he tells us he’ll talk about Asia after South America. He explains that South America is another significant chunk of his globetrotting experience. He wants to talk about it first.
“It was one the hardest decisions of my life.”
Leaving his job in Australia was tough, “on paper, I had everything. I was co-manager for a company that was growing, I had a good salary. I would spend every day at a tropical reef swimming with whale sharks. But I wasn’t happy. Some of my closest friends left, and I missed those relationships. I felt like I needed to travel again.”
Simone says leaving Australia was “one of the two best decisions in my life.” His first was “to leave home for Australia,” and the second was “to leave Australia for South America.”
He landed in Colombia first, where he volunteered to teach English.
He kept moving around Colombia, volunteering with Work Away, until he got to Buritaca, in the north, where he came in contact with an aboriginal tribe. “I was always fascinated. I grew up watching documentaries about wild animals and wild places and people going and living with tribes. Part of me when I was a child thought one day I’ll do that.”
Simone got himself a guide. Their plan was to walk through the nearby national park to meet these tribes. He would come bearing gifts, “I packed my backpack with rice, beans, tuna cans, medicine, small bottles of olive oil, sharpeners for the machetes, anything they would need.”
Young Simone would have been proud of his older self. He was hiking through these “very wild” forests lugging around a 30-kilo backpack, searching for indigenous tribes. Doing exactly what he envisioned for himself as a kid.
After an eight hour hike, they got to the first village and exchanged food and medicine. Communication wasn’t easy as the tribe didn’t speak much Spanish, and it became harder the further he and his guide went into the park. “They were completely detached from society.”
“500 years back in time.”
Simone was amazed at their lifestyle. “These people live like they are 500 years back in time.” One of the images that stuck with Simone was a little girl, “maybe six or seven years old,” with a strap around her forehead connected to a sack she carried behind her. In that sack was her little brother. All this while hiking through untamed land effortlessly. The perspective was life-changing. “I have a very good picture of that.”
After meeting several tribes in between 8-11 hour hikes, Simone wanted to check another experience off his bucket list. Visit the Amazon Rainforest, which ended up being the highlight of his South America experience.
He got to Peru and visited different docks along the river, looking for commercial boats he could hitch a ride on. Simone would pay the captain, and they would “set up a hammock in the back,” his accommodation for the ride.
“I always pictured myself going on the Amazon River.”
He didn’t care that “sometimes you had to sleep close to the pigs. I always pictured myself going on the Amazon River.” His sleeping quarters were the last thing on his mind. Again, Simone was living out his childhood dreams.
He would continue this until he arrived at a village by the border of Brazil and Peru. He met a guy that would help him visit an indigenous community nearby. This tribe, the Bora, were more connected to civilisation, “they wore western clothing, they spoke more Spanish.” Simone took the chance to learn more about these people, understand their culture and appreciate their being.
Again, his passion for wild animals reared its head. This time, Simone wanted to encounter an anaconda. “I was always interested in predatory animals.” He convinced the tribe, familiar with the area (and anacondas), to help him hunt down these infamous reptiles. Stars of a couple of horror films, does the Hans Bauer four-film series ring a bell? Movies have created a frightening perception of these animals, but here’s Simone and his unwavering infatuation with the wild, taking him deep into anaconda territory.
“It’s not a friendly place for humans.”
As brave as he is, even Simone admitted, “it was very scary. The Amazon rainforest is not a friendly place for humans. We had to cross lagoons in the middle of the night, waist-deep in muddy water. An anaconda could have been right under me, and I was a done person.”
Unfortunately, after six nights of hunting, he didn’t get his wish. They didn’t find an anaconda, but Simone told us a story one of the tribe leaders told him on their hunt. It’s a fable told to help people understand where anacondas could be found.
There was once a family of Bora walking down towards the village. The daughter of the family watched as something fell from the sky and landed in the cabaña (ritual house of the village). She lets go of her mother’s hand and rushes into the cabaña. She finds that it’s a seed that’s fallen from the sky, so she bites it. As she bites it, she starts turning into a giant anaconda. At this point, her family has rushed in behind her and is watching the transformation. They realise that the only way for them to be together again is to bite the seed and become anacondas too. They take turns biting the seed, but they don’t transform into anacondas. They turn into the tree of the seed. This tree grows tall, breaks the roof of the cabaña and turns into a lagoon.
“And this is why you’ll always find anacondas in lagoons very close to this specific type of tree. If you follow the legend, the family is the tree, and the lagoon is the cabaña where the magic happens”, Simone explains.
“I didn’t think I could get a better job than the one I left.”
That was Peru, which was towards the end of Simone’s South American adventure. “It was one of the best trips of my life,” but he couldn’t help but feel that coming to South America was “the biggest mistake. I didn’t think I could get a better job than the one I left.”
He had applied for a job on his travels through Ecuador and kept track of its progress. At the end of nine months of travelling, he checked back again, and he had been moved to the next stage of the hiring process! He got the job, and it’s the one he’s currently in now. It all ended just as he wanted it. An unforgettable trip with another great opportunity coming up.
Australia and South America meant a lot to Simone. The way he described them, it seemed like those journeys changed him. Extraordinary experiences.
Don’t forget, South-East Asia came right after Australia and before South America. I know we haven’t been going in chronological order. Bear with me.
“South-East Asia was completely culturally different to what I was used to.”
Thailand was Simone’s first stop, and coming from Australia, it was “completely culturally different to what I was used to.” It was here he realised he preferred travelling with limited spending money. He enjoyed taking the buses, backpacking, volunteering, and immersing himself in all the country had to offer.
If you’re squeamish, you might not want to read this part. Because Simone tells us that he “ate and drank anything you can imagine” during his travels in South-East Asia. He tried spiders, maggots, scorpions, and snake wine (yes, there’s a full-size snake in the bottle for flavour). In Vietnam, the delicacy at the barbeque he had been invited to was a whole chicken embryo, and he had that too. As I said, Simone immersed himself.
“It was a full day of pure joy.”
Volunteering with elephants was something he really enjoyed. For about a week, he helped care for these gentle giants rescued from circuses and tourist activities that were unhealthy. Simone is clearly drawn to animals, but the feeling is undoubtedly mutual. “My favourite elephant was Boony. We would walk together to the waterfalls every morning, and I would wash her. She was 80 years. She’d lift me with her trunk, follow me everywhere. One day, there were no guests scheduled to visit, so we spent the whole day with the elephants. It was a full day of pure joy.”
That was South-East Asia in a nutshell. Simone told us a few more stories about finding a snake in his outdoor shower and a near-death experience on a tuk-tuk, but our interview was winding down.
We wanted to end with Simone telling us what being a serial traveller meant to him. He travels so much because “I try to do what I love every day. You get to meet many different people, cultures, and backgrounds, and you never get bored with life. One of my missions was to prove that you can follow your dreams while you travel, build a better career on the move, you can still meet your goals.”
And he did. He currently works for an American active travel company and bounces between Tuscany, Iceland and Costa Rica. He couldn’t be happier.
“I try to picture my life like a book. The protagonist keeps getting better and better.” We asked him if he had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring traveller, what would it be? Simone answered, “leave home who you were and be ready for who you might be.”