Michela Fantinel
 
Michela, you are Italian who has spent quite some time in Germany and you are now based in Australia. How has living in these different countries changed you as a person and how could you compare the experience in each of these places?

I lived in Germany as an expat and my 12 years spent there were an eye-opener offering a great opportunity to grow professionally. I am very glad I did that. In Australia I have been travelling long-term around the country, but I am not a resident. I know many think I am based there, but not yet, no. I think I am now ripe to becoming an expat again, possibly in Australia, if not somewhere else in EU. Moving to Australia is very difficult if not an impossible venture, in fact there is an age limit along with very strict regulations. 

In what way does Australia differ from the stereotyped view that foreign travellers may have of it? And in what way does it justify these stereotypes?

Well, people tend to regard Australia as an overly expensive country to travel to, and also with lots of dangerous animals. None of these myths are completely true. While on the one hand Australia is an expensive country, I don’t think it’s much more expensive than Western Europe. The issue with Australia is that you need to have your holiday well planned and organised otherwise you may drain your budget very quickly. Last minute changes or poor planning can disrupt your plans and empty your wallet. While in Europe it’s easy to find other things or nearby places that can replace your initial travel plan, in Australia you get stuck where you are because internal flights and all ways of transportation are too expensive if you don’t book ahead. It’s a BIG country and truly much bigger than what people can ever imagine! 
 

You have a website called 'Rocky Travel’. Can you explain the title, and what exactly the site is about?

The title? This is the first time someone asks about it and I thank you for it. :-) Rocky has a sort of dual meaning, Rocky is the heroine, the champion within us, adventurous women who courageously travel alone. At the same time rocky also means unstable, uncertain and challenging too, as things in life - and in travel - may get. :-)

You have also published a book called 'Your Australia Itinerary'. Firstly, tell us about the book writing experience, what motivated you to do it and the challenges you faced.

I wanted to write a book that is really helpful to all solo travellers but in principle to anyone who loves to travel independently. The book gives not only answers to all questions the first time traveller has, but also offers itineraries with many combinations and variations to suit different needs/wants. The big motivation for me to write the book was to help travellers. Many people came across my site but sometimes don’t return. With the book I have sealed my expertise and understanding of Australia as a solo traveller. Although I know the country so well, it wasn’t easy for me to put together a book for someone who hasn’t visited the country yet. I collected many questions first but also tried to swap roles and thought of myself as a first-time traveller, trying to answer all questions and put it into an easy and quick way to use it. The book is a success, and I am very pleased with it. I have received outstanding reviews from readers as well as from journalists and fellow bloggers.

So what can travellers learn from this book that they can't find in a usual guide?

I have structured the book in a way that almost no questions remain unanswered. Readers can soon find what they are looking for, in less than one hour they are through and can start working on their trip. The book saves at least 20-30 hours of research online and can help you save at least 1000-1500 AUD on your trip. The book is not for the traveller who wants to be inspired to travel to Australia. It’s built for the traveller who has already decided to go to Australia and needs clear answers on many planning and itinerary issues. You will not find the detailed itineraries with the various combinations, interactive maps, estimate of costs, etc. anywhere else or in any other guide book. Plus the first-hand experience is also a big difference. It’s 100% based on my own experience, and I think that with nearly 100 thousands km around Australia in 12 years of solo travels I can call myself an expert of Australia.

Can travellers get you to help them individually with their trip planning too?

Yes, they get 15 min of free consultation when they purchase the book. But they can also get my personalised trip planning expertise that I offer through the website.
Do you think travelling solo in Australia is for everyone? What are some special difficulties that Australia presents for the solo traveller?

Yes and no. Yes because Australia is a safe country and you will never feel alone: Aussies are kind and very helpful. As a solo traveller I can highly recommend Australia to anyone who wants to start travelling alone. No, because it’s a huge country and for many people travelling alone in remote and rural areas may make them feel lonely and uncomfortable. We Europeans are not used to it, travelling for long hours in the middle of nowhere. Then when you get to a small village there are hardly people around. So if you do mind being alone in isolated regions, it may become challenging to travel on your own in Australia. In that case you should stick to more populated regions or cities with surroundings only.

Do you still travel overseas a lot? Give us a travel story from the past which has left a lasting impression on you.

I do. I try, as much as I can, to build other destinations like South East Asian destinations into my Australian trips or use a stop-over and visit a city like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, I travel in Europe to nearby countries like Germany, Austria, Slovenia etc. I love short trips in Europe. I love visiting cultural cities. This year I am planning a tour around some EU capital cities.

How do you view Europe, and especially your native Italy, now that you are based so far away?

I can answer your question anyhow even though I am not based - yet - in Oz. I think Europe is a very beautiful continent with a rich cultural and historic heritage, with so many languages and people. We have so much in Europe that you hardly will find in any other part of the world. Rather than Italian, I regard myself as a flaming European. However EU failed to grow both economically and culturally at the same time. Populist movements are not going to move us forward, on the contrary they are real threats to our acquired freedom and independency. Italy has many assets like history, culture, food, fashion, design that are not easy to manage on one hand but where we could do better to make the country more competitive and more appealing to foreigners. And I must admit that I do have a hate-love relationship with my own country. But that’s another story and I could talk for hours about it!

So what are your travel plans, and your professional plans, for 2017?

I actually have the plan to move to Australia against all the odds I hope this will come true. I still have a few months to go, after that I might have to reshuffle all my plans. As for travel plans, I would love to visit EU cities where I haven’t been yet, like Prague and Warsaw.

Finally, a question we ask many travellers - if you could invite any four people from any period in human history to a dinner, who would these people be and why?

Oh that’s a hard question but I’ll try to answer it. Einstein because I think he was a genius and he would explain difficult things in an easy way. Martin Luther King for his courage and his determination. I think he would inspire people of all races and across all generations. Thomas Bernhard, an Austrian novelist and poet, because by reading  his poems I often lost myself, I think he had a profound sensitivity. Dalì, the Spanish painter, because I love his paintings and as a painter myself I would have liked to have him as my maestro!

The photographs accompanying this interview are all taken in different locations in Australia and are from Michela's private collection.

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