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Why do you travel?

I travel because there is nothing more fun that exploring new places, learning about new cultures, and meeting new people. I love backpacking trips because you have a completely fresh slate every time you enter a new city or a new hostel. The excitement of a fresh start every few days is incredible and I can’t get enough of it.

Share a travel experience that really shaped who you are today.

I almost feel that the first time I entered a Nazi Concentration Camp is the most influential moment, but really it’s when I went to Bosnia and learned about their history and met their people. We learn about the holocaust throughout our childhood and we know it was the most terrible thing that has ever happened on our earth. We’re also taught that the holocaust will never happen again and that there is no way the civilized world would ever let it happen again. And then I arrived in Bosnia and learned about the brutal genocide that happened there only 20+ years ago! It’s insane and hearing the stories from a modern, civilized population of wonderful people is heartbreaking. It definitely changed the way I look at the world and geopolitics.

Check a bag or carry on? 

I am a carry on person through and through. I’m getting married in a few months and bringing my usual 65L backpacking bag. I just don’t like traveling without it. My fiance is going to have her beautiful expensive suitcase and I’m going to have a beat up old bag that looks like it’s been to 40+ countries. And it has!

Do you collect souvenirs when you travel? If so, what? 

For a long time, I didn’t and then I bought an old soviet beer magnet from an antique shop in Tallin, Estonia. Ever since then I’ve been getting magnets. And let me tell you, my fridge at home looks great!

You just won an all expenses paid trip. Where are you going? Who are you taking with you? 

Oh man. I’m a teacher so I’ve already got this planned out for a future summer. I’m taking my fiance and flying into Oslo. We’ll be renting a car and driving through Sweden to Copenhagen, through northern Germany, to the Netherlands, to Belgium, down through Luxembourg, through Champagne Region, and out of Paris. Once her vacation time (she’s an attorney) is up, I’m meeting my best friend in Kiev and driving through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. He’ll be done after that time and then I’d meet my sister for a week in Northern Spain, Basque country, and Andorra. You can tell I’ve thought this out!

Where are you heading next? 

Next is my honeymoon. 8 days in Bali and then twelve days in Japan. In Japan we’ll do Tokyo, hike Mount Fuji, four nights in Kyoto, and a few nights in Okinawa.

A quote you live by is… 

“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

Stephen Comanto (@comantos) is a high school chemistry teacher from New Jersey who has been backpacking through Europe and Asia since 2009. By the end of summer 2018, his travels will have taken him to 45 countries and 28 US states. Along with backpacking and road tripping, his sailing trips with his college friends top his list of best experiences.