I never dreamed of traveling the world, and I never intended to see as many countries as I have seen. Quite the contrary. I used to find such desires hard to understand, if not even reckless. Since childhood, I had been incurably shy, unreasonably sensitive, and definitely nonathletic. I was able to conceal my limitations, but not to overcome them. All I wanted was to settle down, find my Prince Charming, and live with him happily ever after.

I remember that one of my friends was obsessed with round-the-world trips. He was heavily influenced by someone he knew, who had left everything behind to do nothing but travel, working occasionally just to make ends meet. Back then, I felt a strong aversion to the idea, and my default reaction was one of dismay rather than admiration. Not that I didn’t have my reasons. Before the age of thirty, Lyme disease had almost crippled me. I had panic attacks on planes. I was terrified of wild animals and tropical insects. Above all, I could not stand being alone.

Ironically, that friend of mine never made it around the world as he had dreamed. Instead, he settled down with his beloved. I was the one who would end up exploring Borneo’s jungles, climbing the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and swimming with sharks in the Galapagos…

My journey began accidentally in Greece, gained momentum on the Camino de Santiago, continued through Asia and East Africa, and then moved to South America. It included expeditions in the Himalayas, in the Amazon Rainforest, and in the Serengeti during the wildebeest migration. It was a solitary quest, where most of what I learned and became resulted from individual experience and exploration.

Lonely as it was, my journey was full of color and excitement. At the end of it, like after a long, tight embrace, I feel closer to the spirit of this planet and its inhabitants. But things are changing fast—even as I write these lines. Due to growing concerns about excessive pollution or the destruction of biodiversity, travel to remote areas is increasingly overshadowed by moral dilemmas. Added to that, the global expansion of epidemiological risks, along with terrorism, can turn even a short trip into a source of fear and frustration.

In my recent travels, I often had the feeling that the world around me was caught up in a chaotic rush, spinning much too fast, at an agonizing speed. Such ailing restlessness was detrimental to self-reflection, for which there was simply no time left. Or, it is precisely the inner transformation that can make a travel experience more valuable than the mere consumption of tourist services. Such a thorny path could also enable us, I hope, to enjoy the beauty of our planet without destroying it and without harming other beings. This is the kind of travel I would like my journey to inspire, through both its achievements and its mistakes.

Coming back from my adventures often felt like stepping out of a dream. It was as if everything happened in a moment of reverie, and the details were fading too quickly. Only when I started to share it, did the dream become real… This is how I got the idea to write about my travels. Only this way, I feel that they are complete.