Boris Veličan: ‘The Man Who Sold the World’

14 min read
From Croatia to Sahara on foot

I met Boris Veličan 2009 as a genuine individual on a film set while working at the German movie ‘Max Schmeling’ by Uwe Boll. I had passed the audition as supporting actress ‘The Lady in the Cabaret’, which turned out to become the role of ‘Frau Göbbels’ (any similarities to actual historical persons is merely coincidental). I was introduced to Boris by the actress Vesna Tominac Matačić and to my joyous surprise, he appeared as tattooed young guy who had been the production manager for the film crew at Jadran Film.

M.A. producer, author of three travel books, independent documentary film maker of his journeys & adventures, travel writer, journalist, academy guest lecturer and father of 11-year old daughter Marla is a passionate traveller who has his own ideas about his endeavours.

When did you start travelling and who inspired you?boris velican

– I’ve read a lot in elementary school already. As years passed, I read even more and reading today is still a habit like toothbrushing. All kind of different stuff, mostly according to recommendations. Amongst others, I studied the travel books of Borna Bebek ‘Santana – One Man’s World’ and ‘U potrazi za Staklenim gradom’ (In pursuit of the Glass City) by Željko Malnar and Borna Bebek. At that time, I decided to investigate about distant people. Many questions arose as to whether the social “truths” that I have grown up with are the same everywhere or not. I did not find answers amongst my fellows. It hit me to see other cultures first hand, to hear what they think and what they desire, how they see the world. For the first time in 1999, I started a long journey to South America – Peru and Bolivia. I fell in love with people who see the world differently and who talked to me at a fireplace about the Moon which has separated itself from the Earth. It was before Facebook, Google Earth and Instagram. It was a long time ago, again, long since 19 years.


boris velicanYou travel long distances on foot, by scooter, by car… Was your life at risk at any time?

– In the last 19 years of travel, a few unpleasant things happened to me like being driven out of the car under gun threat … but those situations were so rare that it is not worth mentioning. Generally, people are good, and those few bad either rule society or threaten it. Walking from Russia to France (2609 km), only two times I ran into bad people. In both cases these people got the short end of the stick. I remember that in 2008, travelling with a scooter from Croatia to China and back, I stopped at the tribal area of Pakistan, where the Pakistani authorities had no jurisdiction, but where one was surrounded by armed tribes. I asked the crowd how things work, if I was kidnapped, what they want from me? They laughed and pointed at the scooter. “You came here with this from a country we have never heard of … who would want to kidnap you?” Soon I was invited by the tribe’s chief who helped me, not only in his area, but all the way through the tribal region.
boris velican
If you had to describe one of your luckiest moments, which one would be up front?

– There is this curse of the traveller described by the famous Croatian explorer Mirko Seljan. It says, “The curse of the intentional traveller is that at home he is longing for distant and unknown places and while on the road he is longing for home!” I agree on that. No real traveller is ever at home. Sometimes the happiest moments on the road are when I meet interesting people and listen to their stories, sometimes it is hours and hours spent on the hippodrome watching my daughter horseback riding with a big smile on her face. Both situations are appreciated and I consider them my treasures.

You meet people of different cultures and backgrounds, which encounters make you feel deeply grateful?

– At times of mass media and communication, I’m happy to hear some news where I can attach a smell … because I was there where the news come from. And because I know that things are presented unilaterally, and that the real truth has been told from the hearts of those wonderful people, somewhere far, below the stars, under the beautiful desert sky. Besides, I have learned to be patient. For 23 days I was waiting to move from Pakistan to China through the closed border. I even opened a company called “Alpine Trade Adventures” in Pakistan, because only as a trader I could cross that border. BBC and Michael Palin failed. They didn’t have the time …

What’s your next planned travel experience?

boris velican– In May this year I’m planning to travel by car from Croatia around the Black Sea and back … There are some countries I haven’t seen yet and in which I’m interested in. There is also a plan to travel on horses from Croatia to the Black Sea and to take my daughter with me. Again, maybe I will read some interesting book by then and go the third way … it’s all open. When I choose a destination, I try to prepare as less as I can, the opposite way the majority of travellers do. I don’t have GPS, just a small compass I got together with a cereal box. It gets stuck often … because of it I ended up in China from Kyrgyzstan and not in Tajikistan as intended … But I love it, especially that it has a small carabiner, so I can slip it on the belt. For occasional companions I often look like Jack Sparrow with his compass. The difference is not as big as it seems.

Would you travel with a woman as travelling partner?boris velican

– In 2002, I travelled with an off-road vehicle from Croatia through Siberia to Japan and back with my ex-wife Zrinka Matijević. We’ve been travelling for almost four months and it was wonderful. I would always like to have a fellow traveller as she is. For women it is often harder to travel, especially in some countries where, respecting the local tradition and customs, they have to wear scarfs and avoid eye contact. Again, the world is great and divine and I would recommend to choose a woman’s companion if you can. I love women!

You prepared a show called The Tourist Guide – Hidden Croatia … Promises loads of fun!

boris velican– This show passed the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) contest for support of television formats. It’s unique and not seen so far, whether in Croatia or worldwide. I’m proud that I came up with it. Now, my team and I are under negotiation with television and I hope we will run it this year. The idea came from a longtime format called TV Calendar broadcasted regularly on Croatian Radio Television (HRT) and is based on the unknown about the known, different insights into Croatian culture and customs. Of course, apart from education and tourist promotion of Croatia, there is a lot of humour in the series since I believe, everything one does should be done with a smile.

Tourists travelling to Zagreb can contact you via to become part of the show 2018?

– Of course! This is just the beginning and I want to live this way. Soon, tourists will be able to see what it is all about to decide for themselves whether another point of view on our sights and customs arouse their interest. Given my many years of travel experience around the globe, I think there will be a lot of interested people. Here is a trailer:

If you could pick only one word to describe our relation, which word would you choose?

– Trust! This is the word which connects us since we met. If I can trust anybody, this is you, dear Lidia!

Photo & video credits: Boris Veličan

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