By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: Since 2017, Italian adventurer Ilario Lavarra has been on a non-stop solo trip on his Vespa scooter through 93 countries. Lavarra, 40, who was born in Milan and studied economics, believed following his passion for travel and discovery was worth giving a try. Kuwait Times spoke to Lavarra, who arrived in Kuwait in June 2022 on his Vespa Granturismo, to learn more about his epic journey.
Kuwait Times: When did you start your trip? How many countries have you been to so far?
Lavarra: When I was 28 years old, I traveled around all of America for the first time for two years – from 2010 to 2012 – and it was my first experience traveling on a Vespa. I began my journey from New York all way down to Argentina and back.
Traveling and Vespa are my passions. It was an amazing experience, so I returned to Italy to work and save some money. In 2017, I started my journey to see the rest of the world. I began by visiting all European countries, then headed to Morocco and all way down to South Africa, and from there up to Egypt. I covered the entire African continent in two years.
KT: What kind of Vespa do you ride and what is special about it?
Lavarra: I ride the 1968 Vespa Granturismo. The Vespa is my wife and I will never ‘cheat on her’ and replace it. I had a few troubles with fixing my Vespa, but I’m experienced now and I know her like a real husband knows his wife.
Vespa is my big love. It is a philosophy. It goes at 60 km/h, not as fast as a motorbike, so it allows me to see the world. When you travel on faster motorbikes, usually you only see what is in front of you, but with the Vespa, you can see your surroundings and enjoy your trip.
The Vespa is my business card – people smile and open doors for me, and I get the chance to discover their culture, keep in touch, talk with people and start new relations. Also, it has a very simple engine that I can fix easily, and its parts can be found everywhere.
KT: How did you find Kuwait?
Lavarra: I was supposed to stay in Kuwait for three days, but it has been more than a week now. I want to stay longer because I met good people here. Every day I meet new people and find new things to do. I am enjoying my time in Kuwait. The diwaniya is a unique traditional culture in Kuwait. I enjoyed the generosity of the Kuwaiti people and their social and political conversations. In Kuwait, there is a high standard that you cannot see in other parts of the world.
Kuwait has the perfect mix between the culture of Arab countries and the Western world, due to Kuwaitis’ constant travels. I noticed that people are really open-minded and almost everyone speaks English, which you cannot find in other Gulf countries. I communicated with my Italian roots through the many Italian restaurants spread around Kuwait. Kuwait is a country worth visiting for a second time, but in the winter.
KT: Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your journey?
Lavarra: The pandemic affected my travels a lot. I was going to Australia but got stuck in Iran when the entire world closed its borders. I stayed in Iran for eight months. The pandemic was the luckiest thing that happened to me. I enjoyed my stay in Iran very much, because I got deep into the wonderful Persian culture, places, food and wonderful people.
After that, I spent eight months in Turkey. Thanks to corona, I had the chance to enjoy more of my travels. Before it was merely going from country to country, but after the pandemic, I want to learn and spend more time in each place and enjoy it properly. Like here in Kuwait, I enjoy the culture and the place. It is a one-time experience – it is now or never.
KT: What was the most exciting experience during your trip?
Lavarra: It was in Dubai. I have a very low budget and always sleep in a tent, but in Dubai, there is no place to camp, so I asked the Catholic Mission in Dubai if I could sleep for a couple of days in the church. But it was the Easter holiday and it was full of people, so they refused. While talking to the priest, there was a guy from Nigeria who told me if you can wait for 40 minutes, I can help you. He told me to follow his car. He then stopped in front of the biggest hotel in the city and booked me a room for four nights. I discovered later that he is one of the 10 richest people in the world, according to Forbes.
KT: What are your plans after Kuwait?
Lavarra: My plan is no plan. I will go to Iraq and then to Turkey to relax. When the weather gets cooler, I plan to travel back to Iran and then to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka until I reach Australia, New Zealand and America, then go back to Italy, then probably go to the moon!
KT: Do you have a plan to quit traveling and settle in one place?
Lavarra: I do not have plans to settle in my own country. I feel I’m more related to the world. When you live abroad, you don’t feel like you want to stay in one place. But I may spend one year in Turkey. People there are very kind. You are always in contact with the sea and everything is very cheap.
KT: What is the scariest situation you faced during your travels?
Lavarra: In Africa, it was late at night, so I set up my tent around 50 meters from the road, then went to sleep under the beautiful stars. At around 3 in the morning, I heard some noises besides the tent. I thought it was a mouse, bird or something insignificant. Then I heard a roar, so I opened the tent to see what the sound was. It turned out three lions were playing with my bag outside.
Someone advised me that when you see a lion, try to relax as much as you can. Do not hurt them, do not make a sound, and just lie down. If they do not see you, they do not attack if they are not hungry. So I closed the tent, lay down and relaxed for 20 minutes, shaking a little. They then left.
KT: What is your message to our readers?
Lavarra: People are always afraid of traveling to new countries because of how media exaggerates negative news. I discovered the world is much better than they show in the media. There are some risks, but the world will surprise you. You only have one life – live it. Follow your heart, not your fears.