The Humans of Kiwi.com series is back with episode #4! This time we had a chat with our Junior Trainer Barbara. She told us a lot about her job, and shared memories from her amazing travels in Europe and South America. Make sure you don’t miss it!
What is your current state of mind?
My current state of mind… I’m a bit confused, I guess. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had the worst start of the day. And as I was getting out of bed, I dropped my phone. I didn’t even have time to make breakfast, so I thought I’d at least take some coffee with me. Then I arrived at the bus stop, and I realised I hadn’t made any coffee at all. I was ready for the worst of days.
At work I was supposed to be presenting a soft skills module called ‘Positive attitude’. On the one hand, the idea of presenting this topic was kind of enjoyable. It wasn’t something process-related, where you have to make sure you provide the group with all the relevant information, including process updates that might not be reflected in the materials.
On the other, it was the kind of module where you have to make people talk and discuss, ironically, positive attitude. This morning my attitude couldn’t be more negative. But then, just after I’d gotten off the bus, I saw Catalina with Argus, and I thought: “Okay, this is getting better.” I prepared the materials for the module and I went to the classroom.
There’s a preliminary ritual we always perform before a module — we put the trainees in an uncomfortable situation by telling them that we must change plans. Usually, we have to face lots of complaints but this morning they all surprised me. They were all like: “Okay, it won’t be easy, but let’s do it!” It was so easy to engage them in a conversation that they just overturned my negative vibes. They completely made my day.
And so now my state of mind is this: you prepare for the worst, and what you get is the best out of people.
When did you join Kiwi.com and what brought you here?
Well, my second anniversary with the company is approaching. It will be in approximately two weeks. I joined Kiwi.com in March 2017. I moved to the Czech Republic just before the weekend, and the next Monday I started the training.
What brought me here is actually the job. After I had finished one of my bachelor studies, which took seven years, I wanted to find a job in the travel industry. I had worked in the industry in Kraków already, but I wanted a change, and I wanted to find something outside Poland. That was my main goal.
I got a job offer in Athens, but I wasn’t convinced. Then I received the Kiwi.com offer, and I thought I’d give it a shot. The plan was to stay six months or up to a year, but then… I’m still here!
What do you like most about Kiwi.com?
People. There may be things I do not like, but people are the thing I like the most, and the thing that keeps me here more than anything else.
I’m surrounded by amazing people, and I keep meeting new ones all the time. I’ve made some real friends here, friends I’m very close to and I can count on. There are also people that have left the company, but still remain around, and that is super important to me.
What department or position at Kiwi.com would you apply to if you weren’t at your current department or position?
Well, I’ve been thinking about it lately. I like being in the Training team, it’s really challenging. Some people think that we just have to go into a classroom and talk in front of people, and nothing else. It’s not true. We do a lot and it’s hard work. You need to take care of so many things. But then, you have amazing groups like the one I had this morning, which makes you think: “I can do this.”
Perhaps what I would like to do, though I cannot name an ideal position, is work with our Vendors Management or be in contact with our vendors. Since I became a Trainer, I’ve had the chance to go on four business trips to vendor sites — twice to India and twice to Tunisia. I worked closely with our vendor trainers and our vendor agents. It really filled me with joy.
The kind of work you do there is very different from what you’re used to here [in Brno]. It’s refreshing, interesting, and challenging, but in a good way. It helps you understand some things better and see the larger picture. It’s also a great opportunity to travel. Such a position would be perfect for me.
I say Kiwi.com, you say…? Three things maximum
Okay. Dogs, who give emotional support. People, lovely people. And… [Thinks about it] I don’t know, free breakfast! [Laughs]
I say travel, you say…? Three things maximum
Purpose of life, adventure, and getting to know yourself.
Do you remember the first time you travelled by plane?
Yes, I do. The first time I travelled by plane was the first time I could actually afford it. From Poland it’s easy to travel almost everywhere in Europe by bus or train. When I was a teenager, though, my biggest dream was to go to Spain. I started to learn Spanish. I managed to reach quite a good level of the language. The year before I joined Kiwi.com I worked the whole summer, and I saved up some money.
One day, while studying for my final exams, I started checking flight tickets. I found a super cheap connection to Barcelona. And I booked it. That was the first time I travelled by plane. I don’t remember which airline I travelled with, though!
What is one thing you love and one thing you hate about your own country and why?
My country? Well, it’s a tough question. [Laughs, then thinks about it] I love food. I went to Kraków with some friends who struggle with Czech food a bit. I struggle with Czech food myself. In Poland, everything was fresh, tasty, and diverse. And, even though Polish cuisine is not traditionally vegetarian-friendly — Polish people love to eat meat — it’s very easy to find vegetarian dishes. What’s more, Polish food is not as heavy as Czech food. It is still a bit heavy because Poland is a cold country, but it’s not too bad.
However, what I hate is the kind of mentality where… How to put it nicely? It’s hard to explain. It’s the conservative approach — the narrow-minded, backward attitude that doesn’t welcome anything or anyone that’s different from you. I don’t think that everybody is like this, but it’s rather widespread an attitude, and it bothers me. That’s what made me want to go away and live abroad.
What is one thing that annoys you when you travel?
I usually travel by myself. I might travel with a friend, but usually I’m alone. What annoys me a lot is that I have to be twice as careful as a man travelling alone. It annoys me that I have to think twice before I engage in a conversation with new people, choose a place to stay or pick a path to walk on.
I have to think about my safety much more than if I were a guy. And it annoys me because I feel that this either limits me or puts me in danger.
What trip or travel have you loved?
One!? [Laughs] I guess it was when my biggest dream finally came true. It happened after a very long time, when I believed it would not happen anymore: I went to Colombia.
I’m truly and completely in love with that country. Just ask me: “Hey, do you want to go to Colombia? Here are the tickets.” I don’t care what I’d do there — be it work, travel, lying in a hammock, drinking Club Colombia [beer], or eating amazing Colombian food… I’m in.
I spent three weeks in Colombia between late September and early October 2018. Even today, I still check for flight tickets from time to time, just in case. I do that when I’m in a bad mood — both with Colombia and the Balkans, because Colombia is a bit too far.
Where would you go if you won a weekend trip voucher to a city of your choice?
There are so many places I’d love to visit and still haven’t seen. If I only had a weekend, I wouldn’t really go too far. [Thinks about it for a while] I might go for some Scandinavian countries because I’ve never been there, but… It’s a hard question! I’ve never been to France either, but it wouldn’t be my first choice, I believe…
You know what? I would go to Switzerland. I would go to Lausanne. For me, there are many reasons to visit the country, and it would be the right choice. I wouldn’t probably visit it otherwise. With other destinations like Paris, Italy or Portugal you can find cheap tickets and organise the trip more easily. Doing that with a niche destination in a rather expensive country might be a bit more difficult.
What is one thing you couldn’t leave out of your luggage when you travel?
Well, I love scarves. I’m addicted to scarves, so… I’d say a scarf. And, in particular, this blue scarf I’m wearing now.
It’s very special to me, so I always try to have it with me when I travel, especially if I’m not going to familiar destinations like Slovenia or Bosnia. It makes me feel safer, it brings me luck, and it’s multi-purpose. With the scarf, I can find shelter from the rain, protect myself from the sun, or cover myself and enter a Sikh temple or a mosque. I can even use it as a top.
What is your ideal means of transport when you travel and why?
I love to travel by train, especially if I’m travelling long distances. Buses are also okay, but they’re less comfortable. I will take a bus if I cannot take a train. But sometimes it’s not about the destination, sometimes it’s about the journey.
I have two examples that explain why I love it. One is from Bosnia. I went on a four-day trip in October two years ago. I had two days on my hands for travelling. If you’re in Sarajevo, and you want to go south, you want to take a train. If you travel in the daylight, what you see from that train is likely to be one of the most beautiful sceneries you will ever see in Europe. The railway was built on high ground in the 1960s or 1970s. The train crosses the mountains and goes past rivers and forests.
There’s even a point where you actually see the change of climate zones along the way. Before you disappear into one of the tunnels, you see green forests and turquoise rivers. When you come out of it, the scenery looks Mediterranean, with flat terrain and lush vegetation all around you.
The second example is also from Bosnia. I took the train from Sarajevo to Zenica while I was on my way to Travnik. In Zenica, I jumped on a bus to Travnik. It was one of the best trips ever. The view along the way — with the ever-changing autumn colours of the forest, the snow-capped mountains on the horizon, and the beautiful weather — was incredible. I felt like I was in a fairy tale or perhaps a painting.
Name one place (city or country) you’ve visited which blew your mind
Just one?! [Thinks about it] There is one place that literally blew my mind. It’s in northern Colombia, more specifically in Tayrona National Natural Park, close to Santa Marta.
There are camping sites there, but there is a spot where you can find yourself in a secluded place with no civilisation. I spent a whole night there in a hammock at the camping site. On one side I could hear the sounds of the jungle and on the other the rumbling noise of the Caribbean Sea. There are no artificial lights, only lanterns, and they’re switched off at night, so it’s completely dark.
I woke up at 4 am, and I decided I had two options. One was to go back to sleep. The other was to go to the beach and watch the sunrise. I struggled a bit, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I couldn’t miss. So I went. I walked to the beach, past all the other people that were watching the view at the camping entrance, and toward the rising sun. [Laughs] It was just me on the beach, with the Caribbean Sea and the jungle behind me.
I like calling moments like this ‘romantic moments with myself’. Yes, it’s nice to share certain moments with somebody close. But it’s priceless to learn to live these moments only with yourself. You learn to love yourself and be with yourself. It gives you strength because sometimes you really have to be just with yourself.
You have to choose a plane seat: window, middle or aisle?
Window. Definitely a window seat. Unless I know I have to rush out of the plane. Because from a window seat, you can take photos and enjoy the view.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I had multiple ideas. When I was very little, I guess I wanted to be a doctor. I remember I had a teddy bear and I would try to operate on it. [Laughs] At some point I also wanted to be a social worker or a tour guide.
But the dream that lasted longer than others — which I also tried to fulfil, though I didn’t succeed — was acting. I wanted to be a theatre actress. I spent three years in an amateur theatre group (though the teacher had a semi-professional approach).
Then I realised that I don’t have to imagine that I’m someone or somewhere else. I can go around the world and see things. And also, I might not be an actress on stage, but when I’m standing in front of the people in the training room, I kind of feel like a stand-up comedian! [Laughs]
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I used to think ten years ahead, but then I realised I couldn’t even see myself in a year. But in ten years, I probably don’t see myself in Brno. I’d like to explore more, go to different places, South America included.
I know where I see myself when I retire, though, and it’s Slovenia. I consider it a kind of home. It was my home for a few months when I studied there. Or at least it felt that way. Whenever I go back there, I still feel like I’m going home.
Where is your favourite place in Brno?
[Thinks about it] When I’m with friends, I definitely love going to Lužánky [Park]. When I’m by myself, I will go to Špilberk [Castle], because it reminds me a lot of the castle in Ljubljana.
Just the other day I was walking up the castle hill with one of the trainers from Indore. I was explaining that it’s quite common in this part of the world to find a castle on a hill in a city. That’s when I realised the connection.
Where would you go if you could time-travel?
I wouldn’t travel to the future because I wouldn’t want to see it. But there are two countries that do not exist anymore, which I would have wanted to visit.
One is the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There’s this Austria felix myth, or Happy Austria. I’ve seen it apply more to the Western Ukrainian (then Polish) or Czech contexts. I guess I’d like to see it. It’s what I’m always reminded of when I travel to Lviv because it looks like it’s stuck in time. That part of Ukraine creates that kind of atmosphere. The same applies to Budapest, or places in the Balkans or even the Czech Republic. There was something cool and interesting about that.
The other is Yugoslavia. I would have liked to visit Yugoslavia when it was still Yugoslavia. The notion itself fascinates me a lot. I’ve studied Serbian and I’ve visited all the countries that made up former Yugoslavia. I watch old movies from those times. Even the džezva I use to make coffee in the morning has a Made in Yugoslavia stamp on it… So yes, Yugoslavia. I might be thinking about it more at the level of pop culture, history and music.
What was your favourite school subject?
I’ve always loved maths. I’ve never studied anything related to it, but it’s always been quite easy for me to understand. You don’t have to think about the meaning or learn things by heart. You just have to understand how it works. It would be so easy if life was more similar to maths. You can still find different formulas, but it’s something that can be explained. It’s safe.
What’s your favourite question from this questionnaire?
[Laughs] Okay. I guess the first one. The one you hit me with!