A while ago I hitchhiked from Maastricht, the Netherlands to Borsh, Albania in five days.
If you want to see what these days looked like, and to hear my three main reasons for hitchhiking (besides "it's free"), watch the video here:
I've been living as a nomad - without a permanent home, wandering from place to place with a backpack and a half - for the past year. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that all these things have happened. I have hitchhiked over 17,000 km, been hosted by complete strangers, camped at a wedding, met many new friends and created this blog. This adventure has no end date. I like moving around and I hope to keep doing this either my entire life or until I decide otherwise.
And of course, I've learned a lot. But it's also interesting to think how much I haven't learned yet, how the same patterns, questions and occurrences follow me wherever I go.
In many ways, this year was exactly what I wanted it to be: adventurous, unexpected, ever-changing. I'm happy about this decision. I never regret it, because even when I think of something I
might miss, I remember how I felt when I was living in one place. Bored. Confined. Almost imprisoned.
There's a lot I'm still struggling with. These aren't necessarily things that are related directly to living a nomadic life; many of these were familiar to me before. And this is what I want to share today, in honor of my travelversary.
1. How to maintain a balanced diet
One day I'm drinking smoothies in a well-equipped kitchen (made of fruit found in the dumpster), the next I'm hitchhiking thousands of kilometers, the food in my backpack is not enough (I never know how much to bring) and I'm buying overpriced and undernutritious snacks at petrol stations. For a while I avoid sugar successfully, then I tell myself that a little bit is alright, and suddenly I'm eating spoonfuls of jam every day and wondering why I feel out of balance (sugar triggers my mood swings). And then I realize that I'm mostly eating plenty of wheat for all of my meals, while one of my current paid jobs is creating presentations about healthy lifestyle.
I'm pretty good with math, but when it comes to finances, my brain flies out of the window. And I've learned a lot about spending less (or even nothing) on accommodation, transport, food and other things, but I'm still paying off thousands of euros/dollars to my beloved bank due to old debts.
3. Time planning
Create my comics. Write my book about alternative travel. Write my novel. Make videos. Draw. Learn Dutch. Work on my Italian. Read books. Watch films and TV series. Exercise. Eat. Talk to people. Take walks. Sleep. Hitchhike to new places. See the town I'm in. Skype my friends and family. Write a journal. Meditate. Work.
I want to do all of these, all the time, and I keep making schedules after schedules. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I have no idea where my time is going.
4. How to explain what I'm doing
Whatever I say, I often feel that I'm only presenting a small part of my life. If I say I'm a blogger, I'm excluding my studies. If I say I'm traveling, it sounds like I'm seeing twenty new places every week, not staring at my laptop for 10 hours a day. Maybe #3 explains it best: I'm trying to do a million things at once and often not doing most of them.
5. Rolling up my tent
I've probably done it over twenty times by now, but I tend to forget the right way, and then I find myself trying to squeeze it into the bag anyway because I'm too lazy to do it all over again. Of course I still end up doing it all over.
Somehow I always have long lists of little things to do that keep growing. And when I start executing them, it always takes much longer than I'd expected. When something happens on time, I'm quite surprised!
7. Not getting distracted
I was just about to stop writing this post because I heard someone in another room ask a theoretical, non-urgent question in another room that I might have an answer to. I think
this illustrates the situation pretty well.
8. A new language (namely, Dutch)
I've been learning this language for a few months now (why? I like languages, and I like Dutch, and yes, I know that almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English) and I still can barely
string a sentence together. Listening comprehension is even harder - my current level is animation for preschoolers, where I can understand about 85%!
I only have two words to say: No Clue. Probably one of my biggest struggles even as a non-nomadic person. At least, being nomadic, I always know that at some point I'll move on to another place, and leave everything behind.
I'm not sharing all of this to complain - I think I've chosen a beautiful life and all of these are an inevitable part of it. But instead of talking about how perfect this year was - and in many ways, it was - I wanted to share what my life really looks like. It's imperfect and unbalanced. And real.
I've decided to create a podcast in which I'll answer questions about alternative travel.
You can follow the videos on Youtube or Facebook. Here's the first one:
In late March, after spending twelve days in a Vipassana meditation center, I had about a week and a half with No Plans. My no-plans-plan was to spend them hitchhiking and wildcamping
Two days were enough to see the flaws. There wasn't really anywhere to wildcamp properly (or maybe I just didn't find the right places), and it was still cold. From a library in Brecon, I started sending Couchsurfing requests to people all around Wales. The only places I really didn't want to go to were Cardiff and its surroundings. I just wasn't feeling like going to a big city again. But if I don't find a host for tonight, I thought, I'm going to hitchhike to Cardiff and find a hostel there. And I was about to do just that, when I received a message from a couple living near Lampeter, a small town in South West Wales - about an hour's drive from Brecon.
I slept here for a night (using my backpack as a bed; I couldn't really pitch a tent on stones). Well hidden, but too cold even in late March!
Despite road works on the way (an obstacle that was conquered by the lovely owners of The Hours who took me via the detour and all the way to my hosts' home), I arrived in Cwmann (by the way, that w is a vowel, as it is in Welsh. Easier to read it now, right?)
I stayed with Sion and Hope for two nights that turned into four. I've done my best to describe my stay in the Couchsurfing reference I'd written afterwards. Here it is:
"I enjoyed so many things about my stay that I'm not sure where to start! Sion and Hope made me feel perfectly at home in their lovely house from the moment of my arrival (only a few hours after I'd sent the request - which they quickly accepted, despite being busy, and even offered me to stay longer!). Their place is so cozy that you could easily just spend the day chilling on the sofa and looking at the rain outside (and that was what I did on one of my days there - together with Hope, who was great company!). There was always tasty food on the table and various music out of their huge collection playing in the background. Sion even found me a beer that I really liked - quite amazing since I've never really enjoyed drinking beer before. I enjoyed talking to both of them about many different things (and noting the differences and similarities between Israel and Wales/the UK...) and staying with them made me think about the way I'd like to live, if I settle down somewhere someday :)
I'm so grateful guys! Hope to see you again in Wales and maybe even in Israel, and good luck with the wedding planning!"
Lately I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award! I know it's not the Oscars, but I was really excited – I'm very new in the blogging scene, and it's nice to know that someone has read my blog and liked it.
I was nominated by Dan from IAmDanElson.com – thanks! Dan is a travel blogger and a digital marketer, and his blog has a lot of information on both travel and financial issues – making money, saving money, and all kinds of stuff that might be useful even if you aren't travelling.
There are some rules - but I think this award is all about having fun answering and asking questions, and telling the world about fellow bloggers you feel inspired by. So my rules are - do whatever you wish! Answer my questions (or some of them, or none!) in any medium you like - writing, drawing, video, whatever you like; nominate eleven bloggers (or more, or less, or none if you don't feel like it); ask your own questions (as many as you wish). My nominations are somewhat long (like everything I write), because I wanted to tell you a little bit about these people and why I enjoy their blogs! I also haven't numbered my list because the numbers and the order really don't matter at all.
Anyway, let's start with my answers to Dan's questions:
1. Why do you travel?
Because I enjoy constant change, and travelling is a convenient way to incorporate it into my life. Because I enjoy being in places where I know nothing and no one, meeting new people and listening to their stories. Because as a person who has known unhappiness, I feel that's right for me to distance myself from the place where I grew up and from my familiar surroundings. And because it's actually easier for me to do the things I love (drawing, writing, learning languages, reading books, meeting people) while traveling than when I'm in one place.
2. Number of countries you’ve traveled to?
19 on my current journey, but one of them is my birth country (Ukraine) and I passed through Germany hitchhiking without really seeing anything. So maybe 17 would be more accurate.
3. Do you prefer long term travel or holidays?
Generally speaking, long term travel – I enjoy travelling slowly, meeting people, sitting down to write or draw in random places… Having said that, during my long term travels I like sometimes setting aside some time to be "on holiday".
4. If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would it be and why?
I'm in Scotland now, so thanks but I don't want to go anywhere else!
5. How do you fund your travels?
My last job was private tutoring, and now I'm actually looking for something new and interesting I could do online while travelling. Or I might go back to tutoring. We'll see! I don't need a lot of funding though because I don't spend a lot of money – for example, I've used public transport only twice in the last two months (but traveled ~1800 km in England, Wales and Scotland by hitchhiking) and only paid for two nights of accommodation in the last six months.
6. How did you get into this whole traveling around thing?
Mostly thanks to some of the blogs I'm nominating for the award! These blogs, as well as the Facebook hitchhiking groups and the very informative Hitchwiki, helped me understand that travel doesn't have to be expensive, short-term or limited in any way. Then I decided to leave college and study
online, so I didn't have a particular reason to stay in Israel, and it was much easier to decide that I'm going.
7. Best experience so far and why?
I've had a lot of them lately in Wales. I got to meet a lot of people who did so much for me – like driving me to places even when it wasn't on their way, inviting me to share tasty meals,
hosting me in their home despite my very spontaneous requests, or walking with me instead of cycling like there were planning to so that I wouldn't walk alone.
8. Worst experience so far and why?
Getting stuck on the Italian-Swiss border when hitchhiking at night, with no tent or sleeping bag and nowhere to hide from the cold except a staircase which was only partly closed. I was so cold
I couldn't really sleep, and all I had was my Kindle to read and my feet to take a walk once in a while so I wouldn't freeze completely. But it turned out to be enough! Then at 5am I caught a
ride into Switzerland and it went quite well from there.
9. Tell everyone your first story you always tell other travelers you meet along the way.
10. Where is next on your travel hit list and why?
In the near future I'm planning to explore Scotland – honestly, I'm really excited about it after reading the Outlander books! In the farther future, I'd love to travel to Africa and to Central
and South America, but this will take a while…
11. And finally, what would you do with your life if money wasn’t an issue?
Just what I'm doing now. Really. The things I'm not doing despite wanting to aren't money-related at all.
Here are some blogs I enjoy (and websites - some of them don't consider themselves bloggers). If any of the people I've nominated are reading this - I really hope I managed to describe your blog accurately enough, but if I got anything wrong, please let me know!
Iris from Mind of a Hitchhiker
Iris' blog is the proof than you can hitchhike anywhere and anytime, and enjoy the ride (pun intended). She is one of the bloggers who inspired me to hitchhike, and whenever I feel that hitchhiking might fail me, I look at her blog for motivation. She's also a very honest blogger – she writes about small things that might seem "unattractive", such as falling asleep at a petrol station or unpleasant encounters with people, and I like it because travelling (for me) is not all happy and lovely (not that I'm complaining, it's totally worth it). Plus she writes guides for Digital Nomads!
Jamie from Great Big Scary World
If I'd need to summarize Jamie's blog in one sentence, I'd say "Things are possible." He is the one who made me believe it was possible to travel cheaply (even in Europe), to buy a one-way ticket and see what happens, to camp for free, and even to build a raft and sail the Danube (alright, that's the only one I haven't tried myself yet). He has also written two books – I've read The Boy Who Was Afraid of The World which I really couldn’t put down, and have just started Across The Moon which looks as promising!
Leah from The Vegetarian Traveller
Leah left the US a few years ago to find adventure in Europe and currently lives in Malta (but occasionally visits the US and blogs about it). She obviously writes a lot about vegetarian food (a lot of it is vegan too! Yum!) – but actually her blog is really diverse, ranging from travel stories through philosophic musings to alcohol and bar reviews, and I really enjoy that.
Amanda from Burger Abroad
If you love animals and vegan food, or if you're a travel blogger (or any blogger, really) trying to figure out how to be one, you'll enjoy Amanda's blog. It's very inspiring and cheerful, but also has a lot of practical information – it has helped me personally to start housesitting and to create this blog. She's also a minimalist who travels with carry-on only (!) which would be my goal in an alternate reality where I don't need my tent and sleeping bag for camping.
Aleks, Dominika and (sometimes?) Laura from Poor Gays on Holidays
As the name suggests, these lovely people are queer, travel to many pride events (not that you have to be queer to do it!) and organize their own in Poland. They usually hitchhike to places and
care a lot about people, animals and the environment. And (again, as the name suggests) they're into cheap/free travelling and managed to spend less than a euro per person a day during 42 days
Eamon from A Backpack, A Chair and A Beard
Is it possible to travel the world without being able to walk? Eamon doesn't let the fact that he uses a wheelchair stop him from travelling – he goes on road trips, camps outside, and he has even hitchhiked successfully in his wheelchair. If you want inspiration for getting out of your comfort zone, this might be it.
Jona from Backpacking With a Book
You already know that I especially enjoy blogs that have more to them than stories about "What's There To Do In X" (not that there's anything wrong with these). Jona is a traveler from the Philippines. I have to admit that though I know many people who have been to South East Asia, I haven't met many travelers from there – and it's not a coincidence, since traveling as a citizen of a developing country can be much harder, for passport reasons, financial reasons, and probably other things. I'm honestly not the right person to be explaining this because I don't really know what I'm talking about – but Jona does. Besides openly talking about subjects – these and others - that people might find difficult to tackle, she's also an experienced writer and photographer, and even teaches writing.
Lee, Rachael & co from Epic Animal Quest
Lee, Rachael, their kids and their dog are travelling around the world with a mission – they want to help animals and to promote compassion for all living creatures. They create cartoons about being vegan, blog about vegan food they find on their journey, and volunteer in animal shelters. I love the way they are using their time to help animals as well as gain interesting experiences for their home-schooled family.
Alfonso from My Travel Toons
This is another comic/cartoon travel blog - there aren't many of us out there! Alfonso makes travelling anywhere seem amusing and fun as he turns anecdotes from his own travels into colorful cartoons. His site is actually great for travel tips as well as funny cartoons – whatever you're interested in!
Nas from Nas Daily
Nas Daily is based on a seemingly simple idea - travel and create a 1-minute video every day. But it's not as easy as it sounds - besides showing us a bunch of places and landscapes, he meets many people of different nations and beliefs, talks about Israelis and Palestinians (in a positive way, which is a welcome change from what's happening in the media), and posts an open invitation for everyone in the country to come to his home (people did come!). His videos are really funny and interesting - I don't usually watch a lot of videos but I'm really enjoying his! And I swear I'm only partly biased by the fact we're from the same country…
Ellen from Ellen's OCD blog
I first read about Ellen in this article about travelling with emotional disabilities, and since I'm as interested in human emotions as I am in travel, I knew she had to be nominated. Ellen talks about OCD openly, sharing her own experiences, thoughts and tools. I really enjoy the practical aspects of her blog – she gives a lot of ideas for people who deal with OCD that might be helpful for other issues as well. And she's eighteen, blogging since the age of fourteen, which might make her blog very relatable for teenagers who sometimes don't like taking advice from grownups (hey, I'm the same, and some people might think of me as a grownup… weird!)
My questions for the other bloggers
(I know some of you don't usually write posts – feel free to answer any of these via any blogging medium you prefer, if at all!)
1. Which good book/movie/TV series have you read/watched lately?
2. Is there a place you love, like a small town or a village, that many people probably haven't heard of?
3. What's the most unusual or unexpected item you might have in your pocket/backpack?
4. What do you wish people wrote about more than they do now?
5. Is there a funny or annoying question you get asked a lot?
6. Where are you now (town/country/whatever you wish to share) and what do you like about the place?
7. Could you tell us about a memorable or inspiring person you have met?
8. Have any of your opinions or beliefs changed because of travelling and/or blogging? How?
9. Tricky question – is there anything about travel blogs (or blogs in general) that annoys or upsets you?
10. Is there anything you've written/filmed/drawn that you're particularly happy about?
11. Let's say you've had a bad day (it happens), now it's over and you have the evening to do whatever you wish. What do you do to feel better?
Thanks to all the bloggers out there for creating awesome content! Shine on!