Meet Your Trip Director: Lukas Leitner
St. Paul in Lavanttal (St. Paul in the valley of the river Lavant), Carinthia (Kärnten), Austria (Österreich)
Graz, Styria, Austria
What sparked your love of travel?
Many things. First my mother, who’s also a passionate traveller. Another spark is motorcycling because it’s a unique way to travel. A motorcyclist can usually skip the big highways and solid lines of cars. There are so many hidden streets to discover that are not used by many cars and lead you to amazing places only known by locals, other bikers, and some lost car drivers.
My time at university also helped me fall deeply in love with travel. My studies of Geography and History gave me some good background information and a lot of time to travel. Well, with studying comes a time where money isn’t really available… but it opened new ways of traveling. On the one side, there were excursions with my university, otherwise a lot of catching rides with people, and on the other side, I found a job to earn some money with traveling!
What is the first foreign country you visited?
To be honest, I don’t know. Austria is only as big as South Carolina and situated in the center of Europe, so borders are very close in every direction. I’ll venture to guess that it was Slovenia because the border is only 15 miles from my mother’s house!
Best way to interact with the locals:
Show respect to their culture and traditions, be friendly, and start every conversation in the local language. Even just a few words or short phrases are good enough to show that you want to get in touch with them. And don’t be afraid! They might hear you stumbling on some words and switch to English anyways, even French people!
What is the most adventurous thing that you’ve ever done while traveling?
It happened in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The whole trip was an adventure but the highlight of the trip happened on the hills of Sarajevo. There was an abandoned hotel that was occupied by the Serbian army during the siege of Sarajevo for nearly 1,500 days. It was bombed by Nato forces and nearly destroyed. For the next 20 years nothing happened there… As we arrived there we could feel shivers down our spines. It felt like traveling back in time where the Serbian-Bosnian army retreated just a few days before. Bomb crater, destroyed rooms, big holes in the roof and the walls, left personal belongings from the soldiers, crashed furniture, windows and dishes everywhere. It felt a little bit like being Indiana Jones on the hunt for a treasure in a forbidden place! Only the nature, which claimed the hotel for itself again, reminded us that this happened 20 years ago.
If you were a country, which one would you be and why?
I think I’d be Austria. It might sound boring because I’m from there, but Austria is influenced by many countries because of its 1,000 year history and central position on the continent. The Austrians have picked out some cultural stereotypes from all of these countries! I can work as hard as a German; I can relax and enjoy life like an Italian; I can eat like a Frenchman; I love cheese like a Swiss or Dutchman; I enjoy coffee culture like the Arabs,… Austria is a kind of a European melting pot of cultural stereotypes and achievements and so am I! And maybe it’s also because of these many influences that I want to continue to travel and discovering the world!
What is the first thing you want to eat when you get home from traveling overseas?
Definitely brown bread! I don’t care about the topping, just freshly baked dark bread.
Where is your happy place?
On my motorcycle. It’s only me, my motorcycle, and the road. After riding for a while you’ll reach a perfect spot with a beautiful view to have a rest, enjoy your break, and have a simple but great day!
What is the most ridiculous thing to happen to you while traveling?
A one day motorcycle trip with a friend to Croatia is one of my top ten. Everything went wrong! We missed the meeting points in Austria and Slovenia. I arrived to the destination on my own and had been waiting for her and after two hours she called me and said that she had already turned back to Austria in Slovenia! In the end I decided to stay the night in Croatia instead of driving all the way back home and met some very interesting people during my one day adventure, so in the end I really can’t complain!
Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
A normal-sized duck once attacked me to protect her biddies. Mama duck was not amused about my approach… And yes, I lost the battle in seconds, so I would admittedly rather fight the duck-sized horses!