It’s almost the end of the year according to the calendar I grew up with and all the bloggers seem to be doing it, so here’s a recap of my year in hitchhiking, adoring nature and meeting people! 2015 was not the most exciting year I’ve had in travel, as there were a few sad things going on personally. I stayed in Europe mostly as I was trying to hitchhike to all the missing countries I haven’t been to, but suddenly a happy change happened and now I’m in South America continuing the adventures in hitchhiking! There were so many opportunities just up-for-grabs and I’m happy I hopped on so many of them. Hitchhiking as a means of travel is always full of surprises, the following stories (not in chronological order) all happened because of it. Enjoy!
#1. Albania! All of it!
After getting back in my hitchhiking flow, starting from my new base of operations in Belgrade, Serbia, I went to some previously unhitched countries, of which Albania was the big winner in terms of nice people and experiences and generally a big surprise.
Albania has everything: snowy mountains and sunny beaches, Italian espresso or Turkish coffee with WiFi however you like it. For sleeping, there’s couchsurfing hosts, hostels, freecamping spots, mosques with friendly Imams and amazing squatting opportunities galore, all showing Albania’s hospitality. Yet somehow, Albania doesn’t have a good reputation abroad and is often described as silly dangerous to travel in. This is why the other travelers you’ll meet in Albania are generally really cool because they don’t listen to what the media has to say or the people from some of its neighboring countries.
Through Facebook and Couchsurfing I already made some connections with locals, for example the amazing Anxhela, who loves traveling too and got a big fine for blackriding a train in Italy. She put the piece of paper in her travel diary with the caption “never gonna pay this”. When volunteering in a hostel ran by tattooed long-term moneyless traveler Mattias, I met Neri, who was in fact someone else’s Tinder-date, but we all became friends really quickly as the hostel was put out of business by the owner of the building and we all had to leave.
I’ve never hitchhiked together with so many people as in Albania, as I ran into my friend Dongbum, whom I originally met in Montenegro and met again in Albania on the “Balkan Trail”. He runs the Korean website likewind.net where he blogs about his hitchhiking adventures, currently in Kenya. Together we ran into Trudy and though we only met shortly, we managed to hitchhike from Gjirokastra to the beach city of Sarandë with three people! There’s so many other people that deserve a mention for making Albania as enjoyable as it was, like Scott for whom I volunteered at Berat Backpackers Hostel, Gabriel, Aurora, Adela, Indrit (whom I never met but gave me tips for getting around), Hashim, Assaf & Shira and their Amazing Israeli pastries, the awesome Yohan from France with his blog Les Voyages de Yohan (in English, too!) and Margarita and her family after they went voting.
There’s so many good memories of hitchhiking with complete strangers who became friends, meeting people who sung in the finals of The Voice of Albania and riding along with local election candidates on promotional or fundraising tour. Finding out after a few days of thumbing that all old Mercedes cars ask for money and subsequently only putting your thumb up for newer cars is all part of the hitchhiking-Albania learning curve. Most of all, there’s still so much more to explore! I’ve basically been looking forward to returning to Albania since I crossed the border to Greece.
Got inspired to learn more about Albania’s history and sights? Check out Albania by Bradt Travel Guides to learn more about this Mediterranean country!