I had to think long and hard about what makes somewhere my favourite. Is it incredible views? Great food? Or something special you can’t experience anywhere else?

For me, it’s none of the above. My favourite place is a country that completely blew me away. Because of the unexpected, life changing experience we had there.

My favourite place in the world is Albania.

My girlfriend and I were house sitting in Montenegro, our next house sit was in Greece. We had 3 days to drive from Herceg Novi to Athens.

The thought of driving through Albania scared us. All that we knew about Albania was from movies or the media. They made it sound like a scary, and dangerous place.

We crossed the border into Albania and were making good time driving down the country.

Not far from Lake Ohrid, our camper decided to break down. Not being at all mechanically minded and having no working cell phone we were stuck on the side of the road.

After a half hour, we decided to walk down the road to a workshop to ask for help. Unfortunately, no one spoke English, but it was clear they were eager to help.

The locals that had come to help were not mechanics but quickly started making calls. To our relief, a mechanic from down the road was coming to help. We killed time by chatting through Google Translate. The guys offered us local watermelon from their fruit stand and even gave us a couple of beers!

The mechanic tried to get us back on the road but had no luck. Unfortunately, we needed a tow back to his workshop where he could have a proper look with light and his tools.

The mechanic insisted that we stayed at his house for the evening. But after the day that we had had, we had asked if we could stay in his workshop in the camper. He gave us the keys, alarm code to his workshop, and gave us his phone number. He wished us goodnight and said he would be back in the morning to get us on the road again.

Morning came and we woke to the mechanic and the first guy we met arriving at the workshop. They had breakfast and coffee in hand for us.

They got to work and things looked promising. However, after a while, things were not going too well. The mechanic advised us Citrons are not very common in Albania.

It started getting late again. Around 15 or 20 friends and other mechanics had come to look throughout the day. They thought they knew what the problem was, but it would take 5 days until the parts could come in. We were on a tight schedule and needed to be in Athens in 2 days.

A man arrived who spoke English. We advised him on our situation and said that we had to get to Athens ASAP. We wanted to know if the mechanic just wanted our car (we were going to need to sell it in Athens in a couple of weeks anyway).

The translator said to us – look they will not take the car, but will offer you 500 Euros for it. We were amazed. We had a deal. We spent the next hour going through all of our things. We offered most of it to the locals. Including our bedding, pots & pans, camping gear and even a road bike!

We celebrated the deal with some homemade Raki (local Albanian alcohol). There was a bus direct to Athens the next day – so we stayed with the mechanic for the evening.

Us and the mechanics after we had sold the camper.

We arrived at the family home to a very excited Albanian mother. She had never met a foreigner before. We shared some local wine and were taught all about Albanian culture and life.

For dinner, we went into the local town of Korce. We had no idea what to expect. We were welcomed by a modern, trendy town buzzing with people at bars, cafes and restaurants. We went for dinner at our host’s favourite local spot.

Our bus left at 2 pm the next day. After a huge breakfast spread our host suggested we visit the town of Pogradec. This was a beautiful town on the banks of Lake Ohrid. We had a wonderful day trying local food and touring around the sights.

It’s crazy how we can build up an idea of a place without going there. What we hear in the media and see on TV plays a big role in our assumptions.

I feel very lucky and honoured to have experienced this beautiful country the way we did. We were overwhelmed with kindness and hospitality. We can’t wait to go back and spend more time in Albania!