Macca Sherifi is an author, blogger and photographer who has worked in the travel industry for the past four years. He has travelled to over 50 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh and worked in both China and Australia.
Recently, he published Your Round the World Trip Planner: How to plan a trip of a lifetime Aimed at 17 to 35-year-olds planning a big trip for the first time, Your Round the World Trip Planner is designed to give you all the information and advice you need before you go. Whether you are travelling after college, after university or in-between jobs, it is designed to give you the confidence to travel the world in style.
Here at Hostelworld, we basically love anything and anyone that’s going to inspire people to get out there, see the world and start travelling. So, when we heard about Macca Sherifi’s new book, we just had to interview him. Here he gives us his best travel stories, insider tips and golden nuggets of advice in hope of inspiring others to don a backpack and hit the road.
HW: What’s the biggest culture shock you experienced on your travels?
Without a doubt the first time I arrived in New Delhi, India, at the start of my round the world trip. I remember leaving the airport, and as soon as I stepped outside I was overwhelmed by the heat, the masses of people and just the sheer chaotic nature of Delhi. It took me about a week in India before I was like “Ah, I get it now!” That’s when I fell in love with the country.
What’s the scariest or weirdest experience you’ve had while travelling?
The scariest experience was catching a bus from the border of Bangladesh to Dhaka, the capital city. On that 12 hour bus ride I saw four head on collisions and it was one of the few times I’ve genuinely feared for my life.
Weirdest has to be the night I took an Aussie guy to the hospital after he got stabbed by a ladyboy in Thailand. That’s almost a separate story itself but it was just so, so, so weird.
On both occasions everything worked out in the end; that’s travelling for you and both stories are firmly filed under ‘after dinner anecdotes’.
Which travel story in particular can you see yourself telling your grandchildren one day?
I think I’d say hiking in the Himalayas. It was before guides and porters became compulsory, so I just packed up a few things in this tiny little backpack and took off to the mountains. I didn’t even have hiking boots, just open sandals! Walking in that setting and waking up to the sunrise breaking over the mountains every day is something that will always live with me. Who knows, maybe it’s something I’ll get to show my grandkids one day!
I love sampling local food, but you always come across that odd dish where you think ‘really!?’ What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten on your travels?
The first time I went to Vietnam I had an 11 course snake banquet; the first course was its still-beating heart in a shot of its own blood. The second time I went to Vietnam I tried to step it up a little – I had a fertilised chicken embryo (which was surprisingly tasty) and dog (which was also surprising tasty).
Another incredibly important part of the whole travelling thing is the people you meet. Who’s the coolest person you’ve ever met while travelling?
That genuinely is an impossible question to answer. I would like to think those reading this interview will know who they are, but I’ve met some extremely cool people while on the road.
Who’s the weirdest person you’ve met while travelling?
Now that one I can answer: In Arambol, India, I once met a guy called Baba Mango (father Mango). He was shrouded in myth and legend, but apparently he had been living in a tree hut in the forest for the past 20 years. He would only come down once every other week (to sell weed and mushrooms) to buy supplies for the forest. What he did there, no one really knows. I mean, that’s just weird, isn’t it?
Then there’s the dorms. Have you had any nightmare roommates?
Literally three nights ago in Montenegro a 24-year-old American guy pissed on the dorm room floor, and I was the one who had to clean it up. I think that classifies him as a nightmare roommate.
Still, staying in hostels can create some of the best travel memories you’re ever going to have. Give us one really cool hostel story or memory.
For me that was in Langkawi. Ah, the Gecko Crew in Langkawi, Malaysia. Every now and then an amazing group of people come together in the right place at the right time. I was only supposed to stay at this hostel Gecko for a couple of nights, we all were, but we had such a good time hanging out around the hostel and drinking beer on the beach every night that 10 of us stayed for nearly two weeks. Sometimes, it’s not the places you’re in, but the people you’re with.
Staying safe while travelling is so important, but it’s so easy to let your guard down or get carried away. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve done while travelling.
I’d probably say tubing in Laos. Back in the day, tubing was where you’d ‘float’ down the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng. However, add in all day drinking with bucket after bucket of booze, include a pinch of the local Lao Lao whiskey (aka paint stripper), throw in rope swings, slides and zip lines, and you’ve got one of the most hedonistic places in the entire world, so much so they had to close it all down as too many people died. I’d say that was pretty stupid at the time (and with a lot of these things an incredible amount of fun).
Naturally you have to be a little stupid and let go while you’re on the road. What’s the funniest thing you’ve done on your travels?
What a question. I mean, most of these stories involve alcohol, right? In China, if you’re looking for a good time, you go to the KTV – that’s karaoke to you and me. The Chinese love three things at the KTV – beer, cheap whiskey, and bad singing.
Being one of the only foreigners in the KTV, more than a few beers and whiskeys were thrust upon me, and after that I was duly thrust on stage. With only a few songs to choose from, I was left with Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’. Not my first choice and not my finest moment, but one incredibly funny time.
I think it’s time we talked about your book. In what way do you hope this book will inspire people who have never travelled before to don a backpack and hit the open road?
Your Round the World Trip Planner is a mixture of third person advice and first person anecdotal evidence from someone who’s been there and done it.
Being an independent author, I don’t have to favour a particular product or company, so all you get with me is the nitty gritty truth. Nothing more, nothing less.
The book is packed full of advice and information for both first-time backpackers and seasoned travellers. All I want to do is inspire people to have the trip of a lifetime; I hope my book does that.
What common held fears about travel do you think this book will alleviate for first time travellers?
For those of us who have travelled, it is easy to forget how daunting planning a round the world trip can be.
Your Round the World Trip Planner is everything you need to know before you go and it is designed to give first-time travellers the confidence to travel the world in style.
Also, I think a major market for Your Round the World Trip Planner is parents. I hope by reading my book it will put parents’ mind at ease that their children are well prepared for their round the world trip. They are not the first ones to have done it, nor will they be the last.
Can this book help the more versed traveller and, if so, how?
Of course! I state at the end of my book: “There are two things that I want you to get out of this book. I want you to be inspired to travel, to have the confidence to go and see some of what this world has to offer, and I want you to take on one piece of advice. Just one. As long as I have made you think “ah, that’s a good idea; I’ll do that on my travels!” then I have succeeded in what I wanted to do.”
I’m sure even the most versed traveller will find one or two nuggets of information that they’ll find useful. Also, as it’s free to download, so what have you got to lose!
Can you give us a little taster of the advice your book offers?
By reading this interview, by downloading my book, you have taken the first step on what will be the trip of a lifetime. Go out and explore. Go out and start living the dream. Oh, and most importantly, enjoy it…
Now for a little inside information. Tell us a secret about backpacking that people don’t know.
A lot of travellers talk about how countries and cities have changed over time. The amount of times I’ve heard “Thailand is nothing like it was in the 70s and 80s – that’s when travelling was truly travelling, man.”
Fuck that. If you’ve never been to a country or city before, what have you got it to compare against? My secret is this – don’t retrace your steps and try to recreate old memories while backpacking and travelling – just make new ones. That way, you won’t have any regrets.
Finally, give our prospective backpackers one invaluable tip.
Say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything (within reason of course). It’ll take you so amazing and unexpected places. You’re in for the trip of a lifetime.
Macca Sherifi’s ebook, Your Round the World Trip Planner: How to plan a trip of a lifetime, is out now and free to download from Amazon.
Have Macca’s stories inspired you to hit the road on your own backpacking trip? Book budget accommodation around the world with Hostelworld.