Truth is, I didn’t choose Albania. Before I ever set foot in this country, I knew very little about its history, its people, its culture. I hadn’t heard much about it either. I had no real ideas about Albania. No images of what it would look like. What everyday life would be like.
If I did hear something about Albania, it hadn’t been many positive things. War, communism, poverty, blood revenge, drug criminality. But lately, it had been quiet. After the fall of communism in late 1990 most Albanians had left the country. And they hadn’t come back.
So why would anyone go there, really?
It didn’t really cross my mind either. I had just finished my studies, and freedom overwhelmed me. I was surfing the possibilities online when my attention got caught by a new flight connection from my home town to Tirana. It immediately caught my attention because I’d never considered it before, and therefore the idea of going to Albania instantly beat all other options. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought that if I wanted to know more about this mysterious land, I would simply have to go there and see it for myself. And so I decided to follow my intuition.
No, I didn’t choose Albania. I believe Albania chose me. Because ever since I went there, I haven’t been able to resist coming back, time after time. And with every visit things looked a little different. I always ended up in new hidden places I had never heard of before, and kept meeting new and old friends along the way. Albania chose me because once you get to know the people, the rich culture, the incredible nature - it won’t let you go.
This is my journey through Albania. It has enriched me in so many ways - by being received with open arms in a heartwarming culture, by travelling to jaw-dropping wonders of nature, and by learning that despite its negative image and difficult history, Albania has a lot to offer. Things that are unique and can be found nowhere else. I’d almost want to keep it as a secret to myself. But it’s not just about what I want. It’s about what Albania needs, too.
My goal is to organise self-guided tours in cooperation with small local guest houses and native tour operators - and this is what I’m working on at the moment. To give you the most authentic experience of Albania, but also to get more Albanian people involved in local tourism (it’s only normal for them to receive guests in their house for free!), creating sustainable opportunities for economic growth - which is very much needed. I want to involve the deeper, rural areas of Albania, off the beaten paths, to give travellers the most authentic experience of Albania as a culture and as a country. But also, in turn, to help contribute to the development of remote areas, and to create opportunities for growth on a local level.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Albania, or you’re interested to know more, don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to chat :-)