Published in German via DAZ on December 9, 2016 and Novastan on January 10, 2017.
Sara Izzi is an Italian travel writer and blogger. She comes from Sora, a small town near Rome. Today she lives in Scotland, where she works as a Content Manager. Her job is to produce relevant content and optimize websites. In 2014, she launched her own travel blog, The Lost Avocado, together with the travel filmmaker Timur Tugalev. The blog has gained world-wide attention, especially the trip to Central Asia.
What´s the story behind “The Lost Avocado“? What does the name mean?
I had a personal blog when I was a student, then I started travelling more and more often and I wanted to share the best time of my life with my friends. I started my travel blog in 2014 and I suddenly realized that more people were following me, not only my friends. It is still a surprise every time somebody sends me an email or a private message just to say “Hi“ or “Thank you“, because they love our work. The name “The Lost Avocado“ tries to convey the idea of something exotic to be discovered (in Italy, the avocado is an exotic product), with the perception of getting lost somewhere. That is the meaning of travelling, I think: getting lost to find yourself again, all the time somewhere new. Anyway, in the end it is just a crazy name, but everybody remembers it… So I guess this is the most important thing when you have a blog.
Can you make a living by traveling and writing on your blog?
Timur and I both work full time, but we have also started making money recently with our blog. More people get to know you, more brands and tourism boards want to work with you and that’s how you get money by owning a blog. In the last few months The Lost Avocado grew so much that we started thinking of hiring people to help us. It doesn’t look so complicated, but working as a travel blogger or a travel filmmaker requires a lot of effort, passion and sacrifice. At least, if you are obsessed with details like we are.
It was the first time in Central Asia for me and the first time in Kazakhstan.
You could have gone anywhere else. Why did you decide to travel to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan?
Timur grew up between Argentina and the UK, but he was born in Almaty. We wanted to see the place where he was born and make a trip through his memories. It was the first time in Central Asia for me and the first time in Kazakhstan, so I wanted to make the most out of it. That is why I also planned a road trip through Kyrgyzstan- a beautiful and fascinating country nobody is talking about as a touristic destination yet in Italy.
It is a world of wonders with a fascinating culture, many different traditions and nationalities living together.
In your eyes, what makes Central Asia special in comparison to other countries you have visited?
I think Central Asia is still a mystery for many of us coming from Europe and the USA. It is also a huge area and most of it is covered by stunning nature. There are mountains, but also deserts, canyons and salty lakes, forests and steppes, small villages and metropolis. It is a world of wonders with a fascinating culture, many different traditions and nationalities living together and great food! If I were to describe Central Asia in three words, they would be: fascinating, stunning and underestimated.
How did your parents and friends react when you told them you were going to travel to Central Asia?
My parents were surprised, but they know I usually have great chances to visit beautiful places so they were just curious to read my final reportage and to see my photos. Here in Europe, many still think about Kazakhstan (and Central Asia in general) as a scary place to visit. Many of my friends only know Kazakhstan because of the movie Borat. I didn’t even watch that movie. I usually don’t like that type of film, nor do I like preconceptions and I think there are still too many about Central Asia. I am happy to share all the great footage we have collected and to encourage people to visit Almaty, Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
Many of my friends only know Kazakhstan because of the movie Borat.
What were your expectations before you traveled to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and what was the reality when you were actually there?
I didn’t really prepare for the trip. I already knew Almaty was a modern city and I was looking forward to it. I also really wanted to discover the nature. I was also sure that people in Central Asia know how to welcome a guest, so I was not scared about having any problems at all. I was amazed by their hospitality, the kindness of the locals we met along the way and blessed by all the love I received. I also had the opportunity to be invited by local families to share a traditional meal with them and I felt at home. I really want to come back one day and hug all the wonderful people I met again.
I felt at home!
Can you outline the travel route in few words?
I visited Kazakhstan with Timur only, but in Kyrgyzstan we also had an expert driver with us and Timur’s dad, Vladimir Tugalev, a photographer and former professional mountaineer. We spent two weeks in Almaty and we also had the chance to visit: Medeo, Shymbulak and Talgar Peak, Big Almaty Lake and Charyn Canyon. We had the pleasure of being guests of the beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel in Almaty, with its stunning view of the city. We made a five day road trip from Almaty to Bishkek, then Burana Tower, Song Kol lake (where we slept one night in a yurt), then Issyk Kul and Karakol.
We uncovered some hidden gems and showed the beauty of places no one in Europe considers when planning their holidays.
You have immortalized the trip on your blog in words, photographs and in two videos that caught the attention of National Geographic, El Pais, The Huffington Post, The Traveller and many others. Were you surprised about this great success?
Some of our videos have been published by many international magazines but “Lost in Kazakhstan“ and “Lost in Kyrgyzstan“ went viral. We expected a good reaction and we knew people from Central Asia would love sharing our videos with their friends. They are proud of their countries and they should be! I think we uncovered some hidden gems and showed the beauty of places no one in Europe considers when planning their holidays.
For generations, nomads have lived in yurts and wandered through the steppe with their animals. Photo | Timur Tugalev.
Do you speak Russian? How did you manage your trip to remote places in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan where people don’t speak any English or Italian?
I do not speak fluently. I only know few words and phrases in Russian (mostly related to food), but I can understand when people talk. Timur speaks perfect Russian and helped me a lot by translating and communicating with people. I do not think I would have had problems anyway. Italian people can talk with their hands and everybody understands me when I travel, even if I do not speak their language. It is part of the game and I like it: finding new ways of connecting with people by only using your eyes, for example, or by waiving your hands at a restaurant just to say “No, thanks“ or “A little bit more“. In the end, it is funny and that’s how you create hilarious anecdotes you’ll never forget.
Which moments from this trip will you remember the most?
I will never forget the starry night spent at the Song Kol Lake in Kyrgyzstan. I slept in a traditional yurt for the first time, in the middle of nowhere, so far from Italy and from everything that is familiar to me, while falling stars were cutting the sky and leaving luminous scars above us. That’s something magical everybody should experience at least once in a lifetime. Also, I will never forget the light reflecting on the golden domes of the Zenkov Cathedral while the bells rang. Suddenly, the busy, everyday life seemed so useless, so poor compared to that rich moment. A miracle of light and an unforgettable learning.
Falling stars were cutting the sky and leaving luminous scars above us. That’s something magical everybody should experience at least once in a lifetime.
Was kommt als Nächstes? Gibt es Pläne, Zentralasien erneut zu besuchen?
Anfang 2017 werden Timur und ich einen Monat in Asien verbringen. Wir wollen auf alle Fälle Singapur besuchen, die anderen Reiseziele sind noch in der Planung. Ich weiß, dass nächstes Jahr die EXPO in Astana stattfindet, was ein guter Anreiz wäre, nach Kasachstan zu fliegen, wo wir anschießend den Norden des Landes erkunden können. Ich möchte auch nach Usbekistan und Tadschikistan reisen.
Thank you very much for the interview.