Sonja Lapatanov, ballerina, writer, traveller, Secretary General of the International Dance Council CID-UNESCO Serbia
Text: Žikica Milošević
To mankind it is inherent to migrate and move in space. For me it is especially pronounced because in my being, my soul and heart, all four parts of the world meet: east, west, north and south. I come from two great people, from Russian father and German mother and I have in me yet French, Bulgarian, Tatar genes, I was born in Bitola, I live in Belgrade, being citizen of the world.
Travelling is my lifestyle, my school and philosophy. This is more than any science. And all this fits into my motto: carpe diem, and to an eternal pursuit of unlimited freedom and new journeys, for which I, during my life, deprived myself of many, often more important things, the art of ballet excluded. Once a ballerina, always a ballerina! I am only following my passion and I have the courage to be who I am, despite the particularities and uniqueness, which is often attributed to my by the environment. Nevertheless I go my way and let people say what they want, because the calm sea never made a skilled sailor. This is my distinctive iconography and energy that suits me well.
They say that travel is the best investment, because no one can steal the memory, and getting to know the cultures makes you a rich person, and changes you.
In this sense, I am a very rich person. It is known that memories do not apply if we are not in them. I’m happy for that and I for having a choice. “The world is like a book. Those who do not travel have read only one page” said St. Augustin!
How do you think the journeys changed you as a person and what was the journey that influenced you most and changed your thinking, perception, and even character?
Travellings sharpened my perception to perfection, while my character, as a combination of different properties that give a complete picture of a person, did not succumb to the influence of the changes, which also applies to my peculiar temperament, a sanguine. Travellings have upgraded me and awarded me more than they changed me. They change me that much, that after each one I am even richer, and happier, especially when I get home. I am more concerned about the fact that there are fewer places I can go today. Many countries I have already visited, but there are those which I will never see, because they are destroyed by wars, destruction and pollution of the environment. Due to human greed, arrogance and neglect, we destroy resources, nature is dying, wildlife disappearing. Our planet has long suffered silently, but now it warns us: global warming, volcanic eruptions, floods, erosion, earthquakes, tsunamis… for a reason. This is a price to pay, which catches up with the human race. I am always shaken by Afrisa and revolted by destruction of tropical forests that are being cut in uncontrolled manner, although it is known that they are the lungs of our planet.
Which travel would you choose as the best and why?
As for the remains of ancient civilisations, I would say Cambodia, Burma, Guatemala, Mexico, India, Sudan… I love Africa, especially the Sahara, because people are the greatest wealth of that continent, but also the fact that it is a “cradle of mankind” from which we all emerged. French Polynesia, the dream and reality, which I touched, and the prehistory of the Galapagos, Easter Island mystery, eroticism of Boracay…
How much it was different to travel without a credit card, Internet, mobile phone, compared to the present time of global networking?
It seems to me it used to be easier to travel without those present novelties. I was carefree, I paid in cash, never being a slave to the Internet, mobile phones, social networks, laptop chargers… Now it’s different, because in the middle of the Sahara, the Mongolian steppes, ravines of Himalayas, South American pampas, Amazonian tropical forest, or the Indian jungle, you have the ability to hear with relatives or associates to send an email and you’re acquainted with the world events. How to resist this technological benefits now could put you in touch with all parts of the planet at no time? Tesla knew it a long time ago.
Give me the top 5 countries or regions that you have visited in my life? And how many (current independent countries, not counting the “Soviet Union” as one state, but the individual republics) countries have you visited?
I travelled over 100 countries across the globe, and they include those who have parted ways amicably and cultural as Czechoslovakia or disintegrated as Yugoslavia or the USSR. Early on I started travelling, first with my parents through Europe, and then with the ballet ensemble of the National Theatre in its “golden age”. To the remote and unusual destinations I started to travel the 90s, when I started to write travelogues. One story says that the Venetian Marco Polo, on his deathbed was urged to admit that, everything about his life and traveling about, was just a bunch of fairy tales. He said he had not told even half of what he saw. So neither did I, as an avid traveller, writer and reporter, before I start writing, take the position that it is enough to visit the exciting and exotic places and record all the details, and it could already be a good travelogue. This could not be further from the truth. Travel writing consists of travel and writing. And the travel is the easy part!
Young people have a lot of options today for professional exchange, hostels, cheap air tickets, so that the low-cost travel can be easily calculated in advance. Do we use enough in Serbia all the benefits?
Although the benefits of exceptional, it seems to me that it is not kept pace. There are different agendas among young people. Some will prefer to give money for a new mobile phone, or clothes, rather than travel somewhere. It often happens that on excursions instead of visiting the historical sites, they spend time having fun in the hotel, or a club. Young people in Serbia are necessary to be initiated, motivated, familiarised with the culture of travel. We have to point out to them that they will be enriched by the travel experiences, which will constantly improve them and make them more productive in their daily life. Young people want a change, but do not know how to implement them, they are ambitious, they have role models and idols, 35% of them wants to travel the world in the future. Although the end of 2009 the Schengen Area abolished visas for travel, the expectations did not come true. The number of trips are higher, but did not jump “dramatically”. Only there is an increased number of flights from the airport “Nikola Tesla” due to the emergence of low-cost airlines.
Fortunately, there are people who promote the idea of a completely different journey. Alternative modes of travel. Travelling as opposed to tourism. The goal is to see as much as possible and to travel as cheaply as possible. With a backpack on your back with a cheap or free transport in the form of hitchhiking, accommodation in hostels, camps, or with host, which will host the guests free of charge through Couch Surfing and other sites.
I was taught how to travel by the Australian backpackers. And you?
I was taught by my parents and experienced world travellers. For the rest my instincts, optimism, incredible curiosity, unstinting courage, willingness to accept the challenges and temptations that without prejudice, concoct risk took care of. So from a successful ballet artist, I became a passionate globetrotter, an adrenaline junkie and successful travel writer who has had a myriad of travels and six books on travelogues: “In the foot of the Himalayas,” “Paradise Island”, “Mamma Africa-the cradle of mankind”, “Mundo Maya”, “Milky way of the ocean” and “The Green continent “. These interesting books are my personal touch, by which I now am recognise even by those who do not know me personally.