Tiago Salazar, The Portuguese Cousteau and a Modern Nomad

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Only 39 years old and already he’s been to more than 80 countries. His name is Tiago Salazar and he’s a Portuguese journalist, who started travelling the world in the early 1990s. Travelling and writing: that’s what this freelancer does for a living.

Tiago Salazar (on the right)

He also teaches travel writing in Lisbon and has three books under his name, with a fourth on its way. All of them are about his trips and are seasoned with details of his life and ideas. He also hosts and guides tourists on what he calls ‘literary journeys’. He takes them to places where great writers found their inspiration, from Istanbul to Naples. He is currently hosting a TV travel show in Portugal, in which he takes us through Eastern Europe. He’s different from other hosts because he doesn’t care about the way he looks. He doesn’t even put on any make-up for the show. He’s a professional traveler and a real adventurer. But despite his wandering ways, Salazar is a family man. He’s married and has two children. How does he find the time for all this? Youth Time caught up with him in Lisbon to find out.

Do you have any idea how much time you spend at home and how much you spend abroad each year?

It’s difficult to answer that because I can’t evaluate how many miles or how many kilometers I do in a year. I can only count how many hours I sleep. So, when I have time to sleep it’s because I’m at home at last. But I don’t sleep a lot anyway. But I obviously spend more time away than at home. Only this year exceptionally, I was asked to write my fourth book in record time and I said that in order to do it in two months, I couldn’t travel for that period. So I stayed those two months at home. I can’t remember the last time I stayed at home for so long.

Are your books written versions of your trips?

Yes. My books are my trip diaries reviewed and enlarged. This one is based on the footage from Unknown Address [Endereço Desconhecido in the original Portuguese], my TV show. Making the show has been a big satisfaction for me. It was 76 days of footage to do 12 shows of 30 minutes each. We traveled around Eastern Europe, visiting the last countries that joined the European Union. We have a previous script that allows us to know where to go, where to shoot, which artists to interview, but then we let lots of anonymous people star in this show. For example in Romania, we met some Romanies. They took us to their campsite. We interviewed them and we wore their clothes. It was both unexpected and fun.

Do you always keep a travel diary of everywhere you go?

As far as I remember. I only missed it once when I met two Israeli girls in India. They were drug dealers and I fell in love with them both! It was a long, long time ago. So I went to Tel-Aviv to meet them. It was a delusion because they only wanted to convert me to a religion which was not Jewish. And they wanted to teach me some cultic rituals with music. Well, whatever!

Was it the trip of your life?

No. It was only weird. I started to speak about a couple I greatly admire, an Israeli woman and a Palestinian guy who were in love and had to immigrate in order to be together. My new Israeli friends didn’t like the story and banned me from the group. Once, in Eastern Germany, immediately after the Berlin Wall’s fall, I was sent out of a bar because they didn’t like my Western ideas.

I see. You made a lot of friends then?

[Laughs.] Usually people are nice, you know. I’m an optimist because trips taught me that. A traveler has to be optimistic. But the truth is that people all over the world are always more open-minded than we may think. They are always more friendly than you think. They are always more helpful than you believe they will be. Those two stories about Israel and East Germany were bad exceptions.

You have already been to more than 80 countries around world so you are in a good position for comparison. Which one state did you like best? Was there a place where you felt the most comfortable? Which country could you name your own?

Brazil, undoubtedly! But now I’ll have the chance to do a little bit of that. I’m going to shoot the second season of Unknown Address there. Sometimes, when I’m a bit depressed, I just phone up one of my Brazilian friends, just to hear them speaking, because they naturally have a good vibe. Or I read some Brazilian literature, which is just like medicine. Then I’m fine.

Let’s talk about your personal life. You’re married. How do you balance such a crazy pace of life with family life? I guess it must be really tough.

My wife travels too. She’s a singer and she gives concerts all over the world. As we are speaking now, she’s in Norway. Sometimes we organize our schedules in order to be separate [laughs]. Just kidding. It’s because one of us needs to be here in Portugal to take care of the kids.

So you never see her! Do you still recognize her when you bump into her in the street?

Sure I do [laughs]! We often manage to show up on each other’s trips just to flirt a little bit. It gives a sort of movie feel to our romance.

It’s weird, because when you go on vacation, you seem to do the same thing you do every day: work!

The best thing is that I make some trips with her, which I never do on duty, like crossing southern Africa in a Jeep. That was awesome.

So at the top of your life’s to do list are journeys above all else?

You know, Obelix fell into the cauldron full of magic potion when he was a baby; I fell into the trips cauldron! I was greatly influenced by my grandfather. He was a reporter and he travelled around the world. I grew up looking at the things he brought from abroad, the books, the pictures, and that was fascinating. I dedicated my last book, On The Dream’s Routes [Nas Rotas do Sonho, in the original Portuguese], to him.

So, Salazar’s next big project will be travelling around Brazil for three months while shooting the second season of his TV show. He is delighted to be going to his favorite country. Though, once there, he tells us bemusedly, he immediately starts speaking Portuguese with a Brazilian accent, which is not really politically correct on Portuguese television! The professional traveler wants to show his audience that Brazil is not just sandy beaches and supermodels. It has a vibrant society, economy and culture. And, he will of course be looking forward to his itinerant singer-wife’s visit on this trip.

Photo: Archive of Tiago Salazar

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