HOW TO TRAVEL BY AUTO STOP
You hitchhike a lot. What attracts you to this option besides cheap?
Cheap hitchhiking is a wrong concept. Hitchhiking is not a way to save money, but an opportunity for deeper communication with local residents. I visit not places with restored sights, five-star hotels and English-speaking guides, but small villages, where they know nothing about tourism yet. I live with the locals, eat like them, work with them. Fully immersed in their lives, and not just visiting for a “tick” or beautiful photos.
Is hitchhiking dangerous? For example, recently in the Irkutsk region punks killed a tourist.
This can happen. But this is the “petty” of the dangers on the road. Someone heard a story about a murdered tourist, and I, for example, every day hear dozens of stories about pedestrians hit by cars. Everything in the world is relative, to draw conclusions about the danger.
Did you come across inadequate drivers?
Yes. In Lebanon, one of the drivers offered to spend the night at his home. I get out of the shower, and he sits on the bed in the women’s lace underwear. A bearded man weighing under a hundred kilograms! He did not understand the explanations, the conflict was resolved with the use of force. To spend the night that day I went to the park, but after an hour I was taken to the police and charged with assault. After an explanation, my driver was kicked out, and I was fed and left in the station. Unfortunately, in the morning I was deported to the border.
In Egypt and Turkey it happened that the driver agreed to drive for free, and after arriving at the place he demanded money. Sometimes it came to the point of absurdity. Somehow together with a partner we stopped a trucker with three passengers in the cab. With difficulty we squeezed in with our backpacks and a guitar there – everyone was practically kneeling with each other. Having driven ten kilometers, the driver began to ask for money for gasoline. When they refused and wanted to go out, he said: “Okay, let’s go further”. And a couple of hours later he stopped at the police post and tried to take money from us through an officer. Fortunately, the officer spoke good English. He understood our explanations, laughed, and sent the driver on.
No matter how difficult the situation on the road was, everything was always solved safely.
In 2008, you made your first big trip to the Middle East. On your website you write that it was after him that you realized that without constant travel it became difficult to “just live”. What did you do for a living up to this point and what do you earn now?
I changed a lot of different professions – from programmer to bricklayer. I also receive a pension and periodically find all sorts of side jobs – from writing websites to connecting washing machines and installing water meters.
The list of countries you visited includes Afghanistan and Sudan. How to behave in these places? Did you have problems due to language barrier?
Both Afghanistan and Sudan are Muslim countries, where guests are loved and respected. And you need to behave as a guest, and not as in a hotel where “all inclusive” and all you owe. Afghanistan is often associated with drugs, but since they don’t interest me, I haven’t heard about them and haven’t seen them. But local drivers say: “For a bottle of vodka in a car is death, for heroin is a fine.”
In Sudan, English is the second state language. Not everyone knows him far from the center, but even in the villages there are those who know him, and my English and Arabic are enough for communication. In Afghanistan, they speak the language of the Farsi group – just like in Iran, and in Tajikistan. The basics of the language I received in traveling around these countries, in combination with Arabic and English, I always had enough in dealing with Afghans.
You write on the site that you spend most of your time on the road. It seems that you are running from something.
I try to live, not to exist. Life is quite a short thing, and I want to have time to do as much as possible in the time allotted to me.
At the same time you are married and raising a 15-year-old son. How do you manage to remain a family man when you are traveling?
Probably, I was very lucky in life, because my family understands and supports my hobby. Periodically I try to travel with my loved ones. Katya, that’s the name of my wife, for example, last year I took to the western peak of Elbrus. This year we will go with it to the eastern summit, through the Acheryakolsky lava flow, and to Kazbek.