Interview with our Albanian Guide Gent Mati

EE: Who are you?

GM: Gent Mati, living mostly in Tirana, Albania and often outdoors in the world.

EE: Why do you do what you do?

GM: I am an 'outdoor bureaucrat' at Outdoor Albania - our company organizes 'Journeys in the Albanian Nature and Culture'. Outdoor Albania's mission is to provide unforgettable and exhilarating holidays to guests from the entire world, that trust in us for such important experiences.

EE: Can you describe your connection to Albania? To nature?

GM: I was born and bred in Albania, and was lucky to grow up in a family that had a strong connection with nature, especially with the sea and the mountains. As a matter of fact, Tirana - where I live, sits in-between the two. In the early 90’s, during my teenage years, the country entered its teens itself, transiting from dictatorship to 'developing country' or something of a rather unique kind. For both parts it started an interesting 'learning curve'. It is not always easy, but where on earth can you say that during your entire existence? Life here is full of contrasts - like it tries to mirror the incredible wild landscape diversity that Albania withholds. I find this combination mysterious, theatrical and irresistibly attractive. Throw in some good fresh food, cheap drinks and plenty of Mediterranean sunshine, and that 'seals the deal'.

EE: What is the difference for you between being in the city and being in nature?

GM: To be honest I like both, but I only truly love nature. In the city I consume energy at work, meet people, roam Tirana's endless cafes, terraces, restaurants and bars, and gather at home with my family. In nature, I mostly 're-charge', refill with energy, think quietly or do not think at all, and share with friends on the same trip. It often resonates, and I love it.

EE: In what way has your connection to nature evolved over the years?

GM: My connection with nature started to evolve and grow deeper when as a teenager, I was lucky and privileged to explore Albania with some of the very first international outdoor guides that came to discover the No.1 unknown country of Europe. Soon, active elements such as mountain-biking, backcountry skiing and white water kayaking became my strongest personal allies. Growing up, no matter what was going around me or in my life, while charging a virgin slope or descending wild rapids, I always found inner peace, clarity of mind, flow, and connection to a larger reality. In good moments (and occasionally in bad ones), I sometimes brought the ride to extremes. I carry these with me as truly mystical and life- enriching experiences. Now, with my 30’s almost behind me, I find myself to listen and pay more attention to nature and the elements, rather than just demand and shout to them. I am becoming a better partner, I believe.

EE: Why is it valuable for people to be in nature? A week in nature, why should you take the time?
GM: Because it is good. The more you will detach yourself from all that you leave behind, and focus on being in the corner of pure nature that you chose for that time, the more the

experience will benefit you and your dear ones. Life in town is often too loud and busy, and suppresses parts of our senses and fine instincts. We all need a break every now and then to remember.

EE: Do you see changes in people when you take them on a longer journey in nature?

GM: Often. Especially if they forgot about it for a while.

EE: What do you learn from being in nature? From being in nature with a group?

GM: Respect for nature, myself and the others. A group can grow in nature as well. By bringing out our best values and sharing common passions, our experience in nature can expand considerably.

EE: What does nature teach you about fear? About life? About love?

GM: About fear: that you should listen to it. Not always obey it, but ignoring fear, or pretend that it does not exist it is not wise.

EE: Which advice would you give your younger self? (e.g. Gent at age 20)

GM: Make the most of it! (like a good older friend of mine advised me back than) Your 20’s are a precious treasure! And, try to drink responsibly...

EE: Wat does it mean to be a man?

It brings the burden of responsibility to the lightened up soul of a boy. So train hard, get stronger and learn to live with it in the best of your own ways.

EE: How is it to guide an Elements expedition?

Special. I love it! It means to switch off from routine and turn your inner self on (with no malicious intentions I mean:-))), for yourself and other man, in the consolidating expedition tribe. Although I guide on this trip in my own country - that I know very well - I learn so much from the colleagues and the participants, and I feel spiritually rejuvenated at the end of the expedition, with great memories and a good load of positive vibes in stock.