I have extensively hitchhiked Baltic states, bench-marked in Norway, lived and hitchhiked in Carpathians, traveled by train in the Balkans, hitchhiked 10% of circumference of the Earth from Riga to Madrid, worked in Romanian and Finnish farms, cycled the Camino de Santiago and filled my days with adventures. I think I can give some helpful advice on efficient, cheap and easy adventuring!
It is too easy to over-plan and over-pack but much more important is to stay flexible and light! Many people plan more than is humanly possible; returning angry, frustrated and disappointed.
Travel with a purpose instead - set a single theme - visit the museum, help in the farm, hike the trail, run the marathon, take the picture - everything else should be spontaneous! Locals can suggest better things to do and the purpose of travel sounds way more casual and impressive!
- Wikivoyage is a Wikipedia for travellers briefly describing popular places for every budget in nearly any destination;
To maximize efficiency and reduce the cost I suggest jet and hitchhiking. Wisely planned continental airfare may cost next to nothing. Hitchhiking draw the most interesting people together!
Cheapest mass transportation out there has lost its class, but gets you to where you need. Book at least a month in advance. Some airlines even transport bicycles for a very modest fee. Be sure to have a hand luggage size pack organized in manageable modular chunks. Remove metals before flight and have a good plastic belt buckle. Here are some services I found useful planning my adventures (please use incognito mode when doing so):
- Skiplagged is my often-most used service I scan on nearly monthly basis. It is not uncommon finding sub €20 tickets to popular destinations;
- Skyscanner similar service to skiplagged;
- Google Flights - I was skeptical at first, but it may be by far the cheapest and most secure alternative. I have been matched directly with airlines instead of resellers;
Hitchhiking is straight-forward - put a smile on your face, place a firm foot on the road and know your destination! It is important to learn a few things to maximize efficiency of hitchhiking:
- Hitchwiki contains information on local customs, hitchhiking culture and best of all - locations and directions;
- Have a map of local area to plan and orientate. You can travel without a map or rely on phone battery, but map is easier to plan on and ask for advice;
In most cases crude sign with bold letters indicating country, region or city might even hinder one’s hitchhiking attempts to get closer to the destination. Typically a sign would be made only if major highway separates in different major directions before reaching notable populated area;
- ..surprise potential driver standing on bends in the road, hitchhike from behind a building or a tree;
- ..hitchhike in the middle of a major highway, next to continuous line, behind the bus stops or anywhere the driver’s can be fined;
- ..refuse hospitality - in some places that is a moral currency;
- ..engage in politics;
- ..use highly visible places - well lit bus stops, rest stops and gas stations behind the city or last in desired direction;
- ..ask for a ride - in some countries smalltalk will significantly increase the chance of hitching a ride;
- ..share with your experience, be grateful and politely inquire about the driver - there is a reason you’ve met;
- ..ask for advices - locals probably have seen it all and will be enthusiastic showing best of their area;
- ..follow the road - sometimes you may be taken in wrong direction and too far away;
It is crucial to plan your stay in advance. Hospitality networks like Couchsurfing and BeWelcome are great way to meet and stay with locals, but they also have their limits. Hosts in popular cities receive up to 150 couch requests daily, so you have to spark their curiosity. Second is AirBnb or hostels depending on time of the year and price. Cities like Barcelona host massive festivals daily maxing the couchsurfing hosts and filling even shoddiest of hostels for €200 a buggy couch per night. Here are my suggestions sorted by recommended:
- Couchsurfing / BeWelcome - best way to meet real locals for a beer or more. Here are some realities of couchsurfing to get you started:
- Often maybe accepting hosts are disregarded and ignored;
- Smaller villages around popular destination are less frequented by surfers;
- Last minute groups haven’t proven useful in my experience;
- Nobody wants to host a blank-slate profile with no or generic information about surfer;
- Couchsurfer meetings bring travelers together - it may help finding a great chat, a place to sleep or a beer buddy until your early flight;
- Warm showers - better for cycling adventurers, personally I had no experience with;
- volunteering Helpx/WWOOF - usually pay once a year and have access to thousands of volunteering work opportunities in farms and homesteads. Typically work at a farm and have some time exploring countryside or doing anything on days off. Some hosts may provide some food, basic transportation, sleeping accommodation, but one should not rely on any “standard amenities”. Definitely great to escape the city and chill;
- hostels vary from astonishing to gopping. Some offer amazing service in a clean environment for next to nothing per night with cheap vegan breakfast/dinner options, other’s will take you to their “other” location full of bedbugs and expired biscuits. So far experience has been overwhelmingly positive;
- tents / hammocks - a million star hotel! Be respectful, leave no trace;
- Tinder - the world is your oyster;
- AirBnb - not that they have agreeable business practices, but beats sleeping in the train station or hotel. Prepare to give up a lot of private information;
- hotels are for old people;
Less is more. Carrying less will prove to be lighter, reduce stress and clutter, will define the purpose of the trip and simplify organization. Going full modular - organizing technology, laundry, med-kit, hygiene into separate bags will help ease airport security check and rapid deployment/packing on the location.
- identification - obviously, also, email yourself a copy of a document;
- towel - A towel is just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough;
- extension cord - you can never have enough power outlets. Charge ALL your stuff at once overnight or be the hero the world needs!
- a marker is harder to find than a spare cardboard on the road;
- a well worn pair of hiking shoes will carry you further. Be sure to congratulate your feet with a basic massage at the end of the day;
- a trash bag may be invaluable in many situations;
- swiss army knives are cheap and can be checked in a luggage. I like that it is mostly a knife with bottle and tin openers, maybe a wine for a great company;
- a universal soap can be used for hair, body and clothes; twig can replace toothbrush if need be; children toothpaste is cheaper than travel toothpaste;
Ultralight backpackers would benefit from article by Chris Cage, Caitlin Quinn
- always visit local Tourist office for free maps, advice, information;
- most cities have free tours that are not only educational, but may include sponsored snacks and tour guides will always be glad to share with their favourite places and events;
- talk to other travellers - they definitely have seen something you didn’t;
- take lots of pictures - probably you meet people and see places for the first and last time;
- take notes - events, people, thoughts, paste the scarps of maps and odd ticket stubs, random pictures - the bulging notebooks are my most favourite souvenirs;
- walk like you belong - you can avoid unnecessary fees, tourist traps;
- Stash some money - Always have enough for a bus, bribe, a phone call in hard cash, you never know when you might need some;
- Encrypt - nuff said. Identity theft is way worse than selfie shame;
- check out most popular scams in the location or you will be given friendship bracelet, a found ring, fictional charity organization subscriptions, etc;
- take picture of your stuff - a single picture of lost stuff speaks a thousand words;
Smartphones have surpassed boundaries of our individual knowledge. Just think about it - people launched manned missions to space with far less computing power than we have in our pockets. Even the cheapest Android powered phone can be a life-changing device. Here are some applications one may need:
- hostelworld - find nearby hostels;
- Here WeGo - download offline maps and forget about Google maps - good for urban environment;
- AllTrails - find nearby trails and hiking paths;
- Soviet maps - still highly relevant in Europe and still serves as best tool for topo maps for military and outdoor enthusiasts;
- OpenStreetMaps - pretty much jack of all trades;
- Geocaching.com is a fun exploration and treasure game. I used to have fun with it for years;
- communication - Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp are a legit way to stay in contact, send coordinates, pictures etc;
.. is an important part for many travellers. Modern smartphones are capable of taking astonishing quality pictures, making dedicated cameras a luxury.
A camera body is a commitment to the whole system. Unfortunately gear is not interchangeable without adapters and sacrifices. Here are the options:
cheap entry-level DSLR (Nikon/Cannon) will do the trick just fine. You get reliable, tested piece of gear that will drastically improve picture quality;
- pros: plenty of cheap used lenses, great battery life;
- cons: heavy, bulky and simply annoying to carry, intimidating;
mirrorless - still interchangeable, still better than phone, but a step into the future!
- pros: smaller form factor, lighter, way faster, more pleasant, reliabile;
- cons: more expensive than DSLR’s, lenses are significantly fewer (or eases decision anxiety?) and expensive;
One can always mount cheaper lenses or even manual lenses onto mirrorless SLR, but often it means sacrificing autofocus, stabilization, speed etc.
Choice of lenses depends on preferred style of photography. DDGoing’ “best lenses for XXX” will result in plenty of great suggestions.
Career in Adventure
I couldn’t write better than Alastair Humphreys.
(TO BE CONTINUED)