A writer by profession, George draws both inspiration and stories for his work from his travel journeys. He has covered 35+ countries. With a non-exhaustive itch to find stories, he sets out rather frequently. The name to his website ‘Letters to Barbara’, echoes his old-school romance with his German girlfriend Barbara! In the following conversation, George speaks on how maps and travel literature has had major impacts on his travels, his work as a writer and the way he sees the world today.

Tell us something about yourself- your background, interests, and passions?

I guess that's the toughest part of every interview. I never concluded my studies in BA because I had a thing for literature. I've written 3 novels and there is a book of short stories pending publication. Also, I'm a travel writer for over 15 years. I come from Athens, Greece, but have been living for over a decade in Berlin. Apart from writing, I adore cinema and photography.

Would you say that all your books have 'Travel' as a common theme?

Well, that's a good one! I would say, in general, yes. Most of the characters seem to be traveling constantly. Sometimes they go to the edge of the world, other times they are walking endlessly in the city. You know, this old idea of a "flaneur" applies to most of them. On the other hand, I try to use the concept of the "inner journey". Especially on my first novel, the three main characters end up in a hot air balloon and try to reach the Arctic.

How many countries have you ticked off till date? How and when did you grow an affinity for Travel?

I will soon travel to the 40th country. Never thought it would happen, but it did. It's not about the numbers though, it's mainly about my personal need for stories. I guess I travel for stories, that's how the affinity for travel started in the first place.

I was 14 when I traveled abroad for the first time, but I caught the travel bug when I traveled solo for the first time. I was 19 back then and I traveled to Berlin and by 21 I reached the Arctic Circle. After that journey, all I wanted was to travel and write.

A woman walking towards the metro of Tbisili, Georgia. PC- George

Travel is just closely knit to Life itself, isn't it! When did you start your website to document your journey and what was the initial motive behind it?

The website is not that old, I started it just 7 months ago. It was launched the last days of September '18. But, it was a logical next step: I've been doing travel writing for almost 15 years and the last couple of years I was writing for publications in Greece. I was also writing in Greek about my journeys on my Greek website. The thing is (as you probably know), the situation in Greece is not that good due to the Greek Debt Crisis; therefore last summer I decided to do something on my own.

I chose to write in English for several reasons. The main reason was that my girlfriend comes from Germany and she couldn't understand a word of Greek. The initial plan was to travel together, but this didn't happen (she has to work a lot). So, the initial motive was to narrate my travel stories to her. Also, at par with what you said, ‘travel is closely knit to life itself’ I wanted to narrate stories while talking about life in other places. I'm glad that the website is growing and it's a pleasure to see that people like the writing as well as the stories.

Did the Greek Debt Crisis have any impact on the areas that travelers visit?

Greek Debt Crisis, that had a major impact on society. I had left Greece before the Crisis, so in my returns, I could observe the changes. Right now the situation seems slightly better though.

You see, the Greek islands have always been an attraction for the tourists. The impact was significantly smaller in the touristy areas of Greece. The biggest problems appeared in places that tourists don't see. If you visit Greece for a week you will hardly notice anything. These are things that remain beneath the surface. You might hear some stories, but it's gonna be hard to understand the extent. So, tourists should visit Greece without second thoughts. They will have a great time, the country is 110% safe.

You say, “I ‘m still not sure if everything was about the journey; I suspect that it was all about escaping.”- what do you think you were or are escaping from, in the form of Travel?

Well, I'm still searching for an answer. The thing is that I can't stay in one place for a long time. After 2-3 weeks, I always have itchy feet. I will check the map and see where I haven't been and I will try to go there. I don't really know what I'm escaping from. It seems that I'm unable to find joy when I stay in one place. I also dislike having a daily routine: I often find myself hating to do daily stuff, like going to the supermarket, going to the bank, taking the same bus or metro. These things have a significant weight that I can't handle well. Also, I often talk about "walls": I see walls everywhere, literally or not. I love hotels, there are no memories in them. I often say that I could spend my life in hotels. Maybe, I travel just to sleep in different beds as often as possible.

The statue in Brest, one of the Hero cities of Belarus. PC- George

Can one really break those metaphorical walls through traveling? You seem to go in that direction. What has the journey been like?

I'm not sure if you can tear those walls apart through traveling. It's a constant battle. What you can do for sure is to decorate them. To make them look better. To eventually accept them. Once in a while, maybe you can demolish one: it's some sort of a victory definitely. Haha of course, it was just an exaggeration :D Well, the journey has been rewarding so far. I have met lots of people, I have seen some places that I could only daydream of visiting.

Which aspects of travel are you most attracted to?

What attracts me the most? Well, I'd say it's a set of things. First of all, stories. Then, architecture. I love architecture. Also, it's always motivating to see what I can capture with my camera. Sometimes you see one thing with your eyes but you capture something different. It's the angle that matters. Last but not least, the loneliness. Every place has its own loneliness. You don't feel the same sort of loneliness in every place. I never had a dull hour while traveling. But I had plenty at home. Satisfying my inner curiosity is what matters while traveling.

Which has been your most favorite destination?

It's really hard to pick just one destination. I will say the one that comes first to my mind: the Faroe Islands. I have been twice there and hopefully I will revisit the islands soon. I have a thing for unspoiled places, places that mass tourism haven't conquered yet.

The Faroe Islands are also inhabited by wonderful people. They are not the most extroverted and it's a bit of a challenge to enter their minds. But the landscape is unique, life is interesting and the stories are countless.

What is that one distinct travel memory that remains vividly etched in your memory and why?

I can always go back within the blink of an eye to Anafi, a remote island in the Aegean Sea. Spending time in an isolated beach. I often think of that beach in Anafi and I am always looking forward to returning there. It's special because it's one of the few places I feel totally free.

One of the beaches of Anafi, a remote island in Greece. PC- George

Which element in Anafi instils that kind of freedom in you?

In Anafi, freedom comes from the elements: the open sea, the strong wind (sometimes you can't even open the door), the fact that only 150 people live there. It's liberating to stay for some weeks in a place that you don't have access to the basics: no pharmacy, a ferry every 3 days (and not always), limited amounts of food, etc.

Your blog is filled with odd places like ANAFIOTIKA, KATSKHI PILLAR, ANAFI, etc. Why such affinity towards odd places in particular. How do they work as motivation?

Well, it's not about the oddities for sure. I have a thing for the unexplored (or better: for the less explored) places. Throughout the years I have discovered that there is a certain joy to visit places that I haven't heard before. Nowadays, with the invasion of Social Media you sometimes feel that you've been everywhere through the info+photos. I want to see places that are still unphotographed, or less photographed anyway. It's a more original feeling to be in such places.

Well, it's not about the oddities for sure. I have a thing for the unexplored (or better: for the less explored) places. Throughout the years I have discovered that there is a certain joy to visit places that I haven't heard before. Nowadays, with the invasion of Social Media you sometimes feel that you've been everywhere through the info+photos. I want to see places that are still unphotographed, or less photographed anyway. It's a more original feeling to be in such places.

Your Twitter handle, plus a major segment in your website is called “Letters to Barbara”. What it’s about and how did you come to think of it?

Well, I wanted to create a website with some old-fashioned touch. You know, bringing together the digital and the pre-digital era. At some point, I wrote a note to Barbara (something silly, like a grocery list) and then I add a word or two like "see you later" or something. Then I just thought that people don't write letters anymore. And then my mind went back to the epistolary novels. You know, novels that are written in letter format (Goethe wrote one, Balzac too). All of a sudden I had this idea, to make a site that will be written in epistolary form. That's how the Letters To Barbara, the main section of my travel blog, was born.

Now that Barbara actually reads them, what does she tell you about living or missing each destination?

She is jealous most of the time. Haha. But, she appreciates the fact that traveling keeps me in balance.

How has the 2 books, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Songlines’, as mentioned in your website impacted you, which you feel is now reflected frequently in your travels and your work vice-versa?

Well, the Stranger unlocked some aspects, I'd say it shaped some sort of worldview for me. It's a deeply political book but it has also a strong existential character. The way that Mersault sees the world (the distance he takes from things, the hidden passions, the idea of justice) had a strong impact on me. It's not a travel novel but still has this short of long inner journey. As for Chatwin's "Songlines", I think that this is the way travel books should be written. It has passion, narrative and most of all an eye for detail. The fact that he dealt with an unknown topic and brought it to life (and eventually saved it for the future generations) is something that I admire. That's probably a travel writer's duty, to save stories from oblivion. Both books impacted my writing, from style to topics I choose.

Your favorite travel books and guides that you feel can inspire many and is packed with information?

Well, regarding travel literature, I have written a dedicated post on my blog (https://letterstobarbara.com/best-travel-books/ … ). They helped me to travel and get inspired. As for the travel guides, I usually prefer the Bradt ones.They have excellent info and great writers.

If you could time-travel to anywhere, where would you go?

I think I wouldn't go back to the past, I would prefer to see the future. Probably a hundred years from now, either in Athens or Berlin, the two cities I live in. I would be curious to see the changes and -hopefully- be able to understand them.

A Soviet cable car above the river in Chiatura, Georgia. PC- George

Travel is often the greatest teacher. What’s the most recent lesson you’ve learned through travel?

The most recent lesson was that I could beat my claustrophobia. Not 100%, but close enough. Everything thanks to traveling: I went into a man-made cave in Armenia, I took a ride with old Soviet cable-cars and I entered a cave in Mount Etna. For somebody like me something like that would have been impossible without traveling. So, one step at a time. But traveling reshapes our minds and maybe unlocks the fears. I feel better after doing these things and that's thanks to traveling.

Can you share one of your travel highlights that have had a major influence on your take on the world today? And, what do you think is the biggest myth about traveling, globally?

A big highlight...I'd say the one in Norway, almost two decades ago. I met with a group of travelers that were significantly older than me and I traveled together with them. I was a newbie back then but they have been everywhere. They helped me to understand how to travel sustainably and also not to fear. So, I'll add this as the biggest myth: that there are dangerous places to travel. Apart from war zones, I'd say that the rest of the world is safe when you use common sense.


Home is not the place to be. In summer 2018 George decided to leave his daily life behind. Odd stori...

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