Travelling can become a lifelong passion, a profession or a dream. Everything depends on the opportunities that cross your path. Julia Dolezalova is my friend with whom I share the same cultural background – we grew up in former Czechoslovakia during communism when travelling for the masses was simply not an option. In the 90.-ties the borders slowly opened up and Julia made the best out of it.
Julia studied tourism management at the Faculty of Economics in Slovakia and chose her major purposely.
“I have always been such a reading maniac and I remember that when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old, I was very attracted by the book The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World written by Slovak author Vojtech Zamarovsky who has been focusing on historical nonfiction themes. When I read that book, I was excited about the fact of what was built and what amazing things people actually created. And I wanted to see it all right away…”
Julia is originally from Liptov, the mountain region of Slovakia and she travelled with her sisters and parents a lot around Slovakia at a younger age.
“I have always thought that Slovakia is a beautiful country, but I found it too small for me. I was truly curious about other places, and what interesting can be found in other countries. I remember as I said once to my parents, that I am sure that I would visit New York once in my life. Because I saw it in some magazine and became fascinated by it… And I remember that when I got abroad for the first time, I thought yeah, it is possible… When a person makes up his mind and is interested in the world outside the borders of his home country, it is simply always possible to discover it.”
As a teenager, she wanted to be an archaeologist, so she could travel around the world seeing all the historical places by herself.
“I don’t come from a family who would have money or contacts to travel abroad during the communism era. We only travelled around Czechoslovakia. I remember when I went to Greece for the first time. It was a trip organised for children from my home town and because I had good grades in the school I was chosen to take part at this trip. We went to the beach and I saw all the ancient ruins and I was just astonished…”
After upper-secondary school, there was no wonder she decided to study tourism management in Banska Bystrica. The studies focused on how hotels and travel agencies work and how regional agencies can develop tourism in a region. Julia’s generation also had the opportunity to travel abroad for their internships.
“My first internship was at a hotel in Prague, I learned there for two months. Straight after that, I did an internship in Germany for half a year, and it was clear that I’m already saving money for that expensive flight ticket to the United States… And when I actually came there, I knew that this was exactly my world… After that long working summer there, I could have saved all these earnings and bought an apartment in my home town, but instead, I travelled and spent most of it. During the first summer of the Work and Travel program in the USA for university students, we travelled with friends for two or three weeks in the American Midwest. I was so excited that I can see the things that I’ve seen in a movie sometimes… I was very much grateful for it, which I perceive as a general thing about myself, that when I get somewhere, I am so happy that I had the opportunity…”
Julia speaks several languages and it is her huge advantage when she wants to connect with local people. She said it has always opened the doors for her and she gets to know the culture and local lifestyle much deeper. Every summer during her university studies she found work abroad and saved money for travelling to some other parts of the country. North America, then half a year in South and Central America with language learning and volunteer work, which Julia describes as the best time of her life. After she finished her studies she went to live abroad for a longer period and worked in different positions in the tourism business that would allow her to earn enough money for exploring the world…
“After some years I came back to Slovakia and I got a job in one of the leading hotels in Bratislava. I worked there in the sales and event department. I started as a junior sales coordinator and event manager for our clients in all kinds of social and business events… I learned how to run the hotel, how to make a budget, and how to set the strategies that simply need to be adopted in order for the business to work.”
After Julia moved to Finland with her family, she wished to work for the hotels again. Without connections and knowing the local language, it was difficult and became an impossible task. She was visiting the hotels personally and found out that the hotel industry works here differently. Julia admits that the work in the hotel is demanding – long shifts, required flexibility, staff downsizing…
“It is a job more for the younger, more flexible ones. When you have a family, you already consider other things and you have different priorities… Even if I don’t work in the hotels anymore, I know that whenever I’m in a nice hotel, it comes back to me right away… That feeling that I just belong in that space, that I enjoy that beautiful lobby… And I really enjoy the service. I don’t mind paying for the service when I get it. I’m happy to pay because I know what it takes and costs, and how much work is behind it. I appreciate the fact that someone attends to me nicely, serves me a nice meal or just makes the environment beautiful. So I think this will stay with me forever…”
After many years in the hotel industry, Julia refreshed old networks and started to work for the travel agency she knew from Prague. Travel agency focuses on the Nordic markets and brings travellers from Nordic to Central Europe. Julia came back to sales and cooperated with various travel agencies in Finland. After the first successes, they wanted to expand also to Estonia and Iceland, but the Covid pandemic started and hit the travel industry hard. After a few months, it was clear, that travelling is interrupted and Julia started to search for another job. As a sales professional, she worked for a Finnish building industry startup and her focus was on making connections with Central European markets, with a focus on German-speaking countries.
“Well, it’s not the travel industry anymore, nor the event management, but it’s sales, where the principles are the same. I would like to stay in sales after my maternity leave, ideally in the travel industry, but you never know… Travel business is still tough but hopefully waking up again, so let’s see what the future brings.”
We spoke together about whether travelling can become an addiction and probably it can. It brings to people exciting emotions and memories and hopefully makes them also more sensitive and tolerant to other cultures. None of two of us likes fast travelling when you wake up each morning in a different country.
“People nowadays compare each other terribly… Life happens on social media. Everyone is posting everything everywhere. They want to be seen, show they have enough money to go there and there and the more luxurious, the better… Tourism was developing in the late 19th century, even earlier, when the first train tours were organized in England by Thomas Cook, the tourism pioneer in the mid-19th century. The focus then was on spa tourism. It was also in our Tatras and in the Alps. The goal was to relax because people worked so hard… And I think this idea is sometimes disappearing. It can feel like we just want to go everywhere, do and see everything quickly at any cost. Then we post photos and stories on our social media profiles and prove to ourselves that we do and have what it takes. And that is simply the image of the consumer society that exists here.”
Julia’s parents and later also her husband have always supported her in travelling. For the last 8 years, she has been living with her family in Finland. She finds it important to get to know the country where they currently live and that’s why they have travelled a lot around Finland, too. The natural question is what is the advantage of Finland from the perspective of tourism?
“I think it’s great to see how everything can be overflowing with greenery. You are really close to nature here… I think this is great, that there is such a closeness of nature to city life. That’s probably one thing that I find beautiful…also, it is so clean all over here and with fresh air… For my taste, there is only a little variety when it comes to the landscape. Finland has forests and lakes everywhere and then the Baltic sea. But not much diversity. When you come here for 2 weeks, it’s great. You can plan your vacation by combining into your itinerary visiting of nice lakes and national parks, enjoying a stroll in a clean city with lots of greenery, as well as various good services. But if you want to see something else, like more history, this region does not provide it. There are not that many cultural sights here. Tourists have to understand the fact that when you go to Finland you come for nature and to experience the Nordic atmosphere.”
Julia mentioned also the long days in the summer and possible trips to Lapland where the landscape is slightly different. City tourism is a bit limited, even though there are many good museums and galleries around here and a few interesting cities. And by the way, Finnish design is quite popular :). Sailing to various islands is also a wonderful experience. During the winter, snow sports and Aurora borealis also attract many travellers. During the summer, the temperature is mild which many people could prefer while sightseeing. And the country offers lots of attractions and facilities for families with children which makes travelling easier.
And what is still on Julia’s list as a dream?
“I would love to see the pyramids and the sphinxes. Unfortunately, nowadays, it does not feel as attractive as before. I don’t want to travel there guarded by soldiers with machine guns… but still I would love to see them and the Valley of the Kings… Japan is also very interesting country for me… There is the sea, interesting culture and architecture, and astonishing landscapes. Or Australia… Or to backpack all over Africa from the top to the bottom…”
Currently, mother of 2 small children on maternity leave living in Espoo, Finland.
She enjoys living abroad in multicultural environments, meeting interesting people and travelling locally. Besides Julia also enjoys doing various sports, yoga, reading books, going with her family to various places. She loves to sit in cosy cafes to sip on good coffee or enjoy a glass of wine and nice healthy dishes.
She hopes to live once back in the mountain region to be able to ski in winter and hike in the summer 🙂