Although there is something exciting about boarding a plane, watching hours worth of free movies, having a terrible upright sleep and waking up a few hours later in a completely foreign country, ditching air travel altogether opens up so many more opportunities.
A few years ago now my boyfriend, Tyral, told me of his dream to travel the world without flying. At first I was a little confused and to be honest was completely against the idea because it meant him leaving me in little old Adelaide while he traveled the world. After a lot of hard work and flying all over Australia for farming jobs, he had saved enough money to start off on a yacht out of Australia and across land through the world.
My first point I visited him was in Thailand where we took a different approach to the popular holiday destination and hitchhiked our way through the beautiful country and into Laos. About six months later I packed my bags and embarked on my own adventure; studying in Copenhagen for six months. After this incredible experience, I stayed in Europe for another six months, and Tyral and I went on an overland adventure of our own.
Together we headed through Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, the country that’s not a country Transnistria, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy and France (exhausted “phew”). Having joined Tyral it meant that I had to give up airplanes and instead endure long hours of buses but mostly hitchhiking. Although when I first met up with Tyral in Thailand I wasn’t overly optimistic about hitchhiking, after a few days and a crazy adventure it had completely won me over.
When planning our trip through Europe for six months we had pretty different ideas on what we wanted at first. I have always had countries in Europe I’ve longed to go to, mostly because they appear in romantic comedies and are included in Contiki tours so I’ve heard about them from friends and Facebook. Other European countries I know absolutely nothing about, countries like Albania, Montenegro, Belarus, and Bulgaria just to name a few. Tyral on the other hand was drawn to these countries. He had little desires to visit the Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum or other popular European hotspots. He’s always drawn to the weird and different, a place that he’s never heard of soon becomes his obsession if he’s told to avoid it. This made our first sit down and planning of our trip difficult. It wasn’t until I visited these ‘hotspots’ that I soon began to realize that I wasn’t fazed in them either. The places that I knew so little about were the ones that drew me in and become my favorite memories of our trip. I would never have thought to visit Romania and Bulgaria if it wasn’t located between Ukraine and Turkey, and the moment we entered these countries I regretted the short amount of time we allocated to them and now long to go back to.
Our hitchhiking experience in Europe was incredible, and some of the best memories of my year away. We hitchhiked in the snow, through the Arctic circle, in negative temperatures, in countries that spoke no English, with crazy drunk Bulgarians and across border crossings. Cutting out air travel took us to many small towns, made us interact with more locals who never saw tourists and see more authentic experiences unique to each country. At some points, we were the first Australians that people had ever met, and they would cross the road to come introduce themselves to us. This was such a vast contrast to being in popular tourist spots, where it just felt like the locals are always trying to get money out of you.
Although at some points I secretly thought ‘why don’t we just get on a fucking plane…’ It’s been worth it as a whole. Land travel has opened up a completely different experience traveling than I have had before. It’s helped me discover some of my favorite places and get a better understanding of countries that you miss out when jumping from capital city to capital city. It meant we took our time slowly creeping down the east of Europe and saw the same number of countries in six months some people see in one. However, I feel like I have a real and authentic understanding of almost every country I was able to visit.
As well as opening up new experiences we saved bucket loads of money from eliminating planes. Through hitchhiking as our main source of transport, we would have saved about a thousand dollars each and got to interact with more locals, even being invited into their homes. It meant when we passed through a small town if we liked the look of it, we could simply get out the car and stay.
I’m now sadly sitting back in my own bed, in my own room in my own country and reflecting back on my year away. Looking back on my trip I can honestly say the best places I visited were the smaller unpopular tourist spots, and I can happily thank Tyral for it. Well done kido.