So far, these are the noble figures that have traveled along side during some of my journeys. I strongly recommend you read about all of them, for they are quite awesome.
One of the common traits I’ve noticed among travelers and wanderers I’ve met is Is a divergence away from convention. However, last year in Georgia, there was one person I encountered that took this mentality to a whole new level. It was while he was attempting to cycle all the way from his native Ireland to India, and Georgia, being a good resting place en route, brought him to the hostel where I was working at the time. Now here is Peter, the next addition to Hobo Heroes.
In a brief summary, I could say that Peter is a musician that lives on a boat and travels around the world (often by bicycle). But that leave out so much more. Whenever there were social events at the hostel, Peter would usually be the one spearheading it or directly involved, whether it be group dinners, music nights, or whatever else happened to be going on. He wasn’t doing it to call attention to himself at all either. Instead, Peter is just someone who enjoys what life has to offer and is eager to share that among others.
However, although he liked traveling, Peter often discussed how his ultimate goal was to create an off-the-grid guesthouse back in Ireland. His idea was to create a place where backpackers, cyclists, and travelers could stop by and stay that would coexist with the natural surroundings. People would be able to work and help build the place in return for a free stay, and anyone willing to help farm the land and gather from local orchards could partake in the benefits. And while I’ve heard other people come up with grand ideas before, Peter was the real deal. Currently studying permaculture and sustainability with every chance of free time he gets, he was driven to make his idea happen. Unlike most of us that never think much of it, Peter always seemed well aware of the impact of his actions, and was determined to make as positive of a difference as possible. He has a different outlook and mindset than pretty much anyone else that exists on planet earth, and I mean that in the best way possible. He always questions the bizarre world around us, but found comical ways to mock it.
Travel like Peter: Travel to learn, make jokes of everything, and keep the curiosity alive.
It was a hot Thursday afternoon in the Kyrgyz town of Karakol as I stood with a friend alongside the road, holding out our thumbs in an attempt to hitchhike. While the events that were soon to unfold were exciting (see 'Stories': A Hitchhiker's Guide to Losing Cameras), my focus here will be of the above mentioned friend: Gautier. Just one week earlier, we were both strangers in the comfortable Almaty Dom Hostel in Kazakhstan, but here we were, new country and several exciting journeys later.
Several years younger than me and just finishing up university, Gautier was already a well seasoned traveler, having been around the Persian Gulf, through South America, into Africa, and all over Europe including the meltdown site of Chernobyl, Ukraine (yes, you read that part correctly). Early 20s and seen more of the planet than most ever dream to in a lifetime, and now this was his next destination: Central Asia. But despite having done so much, there was nothing in-your-face about his personality and he never bragged about it. Gautier was, instead, chill and laid back, ready for a conversation and always up to go explore somewhere. For me, he was the perfect travel buddy to suggest, "Hey, let's go wander and see whatever we'll see." Case in point, even when confronted by a belligerently drunk guy at a cafe who kept talking about methamphetamine (you meet bizarre people on the road), Gautier remained stoic unfazed.
Most of all though, Gautier had this knowledge about odd yet interesting bits of information that helped make the adventures all the more exciting. For example, there was a zoo in Karakol which, despite being rather run-down and depressing. was home to this very rare species of horse called the Przewalski horse. Previously, I had never heard of such a thing, nor was I even aware that the small Kyrgz town even had a zoo, but Gautier did. And on top of that, he knew the whole backstory behind the horse and the specific reason why they had a hard to pronounce Polish name and were in this small remote Kyrgyz zoo (he explained, but I've already forgotten, therefore, I cannot pass the information on to you).
Ultimately, as travel usually goes, we soon parted on our separate ways, with me heading back to Bishkek and Gautier on a 20 hour bus ride to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he would go on to continue to go on to such places as Turkmenistan and Tajikistan among others, encountering such things as the Pamir Highway and Turkmenistan's Door to Hell (google it, you'll be glad you did). Anyway though, I'll end with an over-used cliche and say for Gautier's upcoming adentures, "Let the good times roll."
Trekking Travel Buddy
A few years ago there was a marketing campaign launched by the beer company Dos Equies about the 'Most Interesting Man in the World.' Well, that ad was fiction because in reality, Stefan's like easily takes the prize. My first encounter with Stefan was in the living room of Almaty Dom Hostel on my second day in the country while a couple of other backpackers were discussing a particular mountain climb they just did in the area that had taken them just over eleven hours to complete. This caught both of our attentions. We asked how to get to this location, and once we got the information, we agreed to attempt it the following day, but under one condition. We were going to go fast. Getting riled up, we ultimately challenged ourselves to cut the other group's time in half. That's how it began, and little did I know, it would by no means be our last trek or adventure. It was to continue not only across Kazakhstan, but would continue into it's neighbor, Kyrgyzstan, as well.
You can probably guess by my opening line that Stefan hasn't lived the standard life. Initially, I wasn't aware of this (although I could probably guess, since standard people don't usually go backpacking through Kazakhstan) but once we began sharing stories during our first trek together, my attention was instantly hooked. As it turns out, Stefan decided to up and leave his native Germany in his mid 20s and travel around the world in as many places as he could for as long as he could. He had no money and did the entirety of his traveling either alone or just with his brother. And over the next seven years, he would see more than 100 countries on six continents (not Antarctica) before ultimately settling into a job that required him to go from country to country, working on engineering projects.
While I thought that overall summary was beyond impressive, the stories he then dove into absolutely blew my mind. Such notable ones go as follow:
- working at a fishery in Australia
- getting robbed by members of the Nigerian army at gunpoint
- hitchhiking in the US and getting picked up by a heroine addict
- staying with a nomadic family in Mongolia
- illegally train hopping (hoboing) through multiple countries
- dangerously close encounter with a black bear
- Riding on top of 18-wheel freight trucks in India
Seemingly everything he had done so vastly differed from the standard human experience. Most of us live our entire lives without doing anything remotely close to just one of the many occurrences he spoke of, yet Stefan did each and more. And to cap it all off, he still had the energy and stamina to keep up with me, a caffeinated former marathoner during mountain trekking. For this, I think only one quote will do: "Impressive. Most impressive."
Travel buddy #1
Of all the people I've traveled with, this first accolade has to go out to my friend, Blake. Blake has been a friend of mine since college, and when I mentioned I was thinking of doing a backpacking trip in Eastern Europe back in 2015, he was the first one to jump at the chance and join in. Together we went on to see six countries over the span of one month, and, largely Blake's credit, didn't have a single dull moment.
I feel like the word 'friendly' is used far too often to describe people (I too am guilty of using this), and as an unfortunate result, it loses its emphasis. I say this now because 'friendly' in the most extreme sense is the first word I thought of in order to describe Blake. And by this, I don't just mean to say that Blake is a standard nice guy. Instead, I'm trying to say that Blake has this uncanny ability to make genuine friendships with nearly everyone he meets. To put it simply, Blake is like a dog (and I mean this affectionately). He is always happy to see people, never judges, and absolutely never runs out of energy. Additionally, because of this, I must acknowledge that many of the experiences I had and friends I made during our trip would never have happened without him.
Let me use this mini story to emphasize Blake in a nutshell. It was during our time on the Aran Islands in Ireland (see 'Stories' section: Rule of Thumb), and we were walking along the shore after exploring the shipwreck. The rain had not started yet, but it was still pretty cold and windy. I had gotten a bit of a chill, but Blake got an idea. Spontaneously, he looked over at me and said, "I feel like going for a swim."
"Now?!" I replied feeling a bit stupefied, "Blake, the water is freezing and you've got nothing to dry yourself."
"I could use my shirt," he shrugged.
"Do you have another to change into after?" I asked.
""Here, take my phone. I want this on film." Blake then stripped down to his boxers, ran to the ocean, and dove in. "OH MY GOD! IT'S FREEZING!" He shouted while hysterically laughing (Blake has this tendency to laugh uncontrollably in extreme situations. And despite being soaking wet for the next six-or-so hours, Blake kept laughing and never once complained.
Blake is a personality that is one of a kind. He's the type of person who, if you do get the opportunity to meet, can make literally anyone laugh and is thoroughly unforgettable. I'll put it this way, you cannot be negative while Blake is there. It's just not possible. Kind of like how you can't be cold when its 100F (39C) outside. I don't care how hard you try, it's just not happening. So, Blake, this one is for you. Always bringing the fun and good times without fail. In the words of Jerry Garcia, I bid you "Keep on Truckin."