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; 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; now I’m in South America continuing the adventures in hitchhiking! There were so many opportunities just up-for-grabs. 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 part one: Albania!
#1. Albania! All of it!
From my new base of operations in Belgrade, Serbia, I got back into my hitchhiking flow. My priority was to visit some previously unhitched countries. Albania was the big winner in terms of nice people and experiences. It was generally a big happy surprise. Again, I’m very happy I didn’t listen to the naysayers and doomsday thinkers who said it’s a ‘dangerous’ country.
Albania has everything: snowy mountains and sunny beaches, Italian espresso or Turkish coffee with WiFi however you like it. For sleeping, there are couchsurfing hosts, hostels, freecamping spots, mosques with friendly Imams, and amazing squatting opportunities galore. This all shows Albania’s hospitality culture. Yet somehow, Albania doesn’t have a good reputation abroad. People often describe it as silly dangerous to travel in. This is why the other travelers you’ll meet in Albania are generally really cool; they don’t listen to what the media has to say or the people from some of its neighboring countries.
Friends and connections
Through Facebook and Couchsurfing I already made some connections with locals. For example, the amazing Anxhela, who loves traveling and got a big fine for black riding 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. She was in fact someone else’s Tinder-date. But we all became friends really quickly as the property owner put the hostel out of business. We all had to leave, but it had been a cool few days, though stressful.
I’ve never hitchhiked together happily with so many people as in Albania. I ran into my friend Dongbum, whom I originally met in Montenegro, and again in Albania on the “Balkan Trail”. He runs a Korean website likewind.net where he blogs about his hitchhiking adventures, currently in Kenya. Together we ran into Trudy. Though we only met shortly, we managed to hitchhike from Gjirokastra to the beach city of Sarandë. With three people! There are 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 and Margarita and her family after they went voting.
There are so many good memories. I hitchhiked with complete strangers and befriended them. Somehow, I met two people who sang in the finals of The Voice of Albania. I even rode along with a local election candidate on his campaign tour. After a few days of thumbing, I figured that all old Mercedes cars ask for money. Subsequently, I only put my thumb up for newer cars; it’s 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.
6 thoughts on “Experiences of 2015, #1: Albania! All of it!”
Ah, I also went to Albania this year! 😀 love that country and totally agree with your view. So many nice people, couchsurfers, free coffees/teas and beautiful views.
Albania needs more upvotes indeed! Let’s make it happen 😉
Hey sister!! I’m in Greece about to hitch across the border to Albania. Actually I come from Israel and I think it would be super cool to couch surf with Albanian Israelis, any way you could tell me how to get in touch with them? Also, any Albanian fb pages you could recommend? Love reading about your adventures, very inspired. Thank you <3
Hey Hadar! Thanks 🙂 The article has a link to the Israeli pastry shop she’s running. Perhaps they aren’t hosting currently as they will be parents soon. There’s a few Albanian FB groups like Albania Couchsurfing and some Rainbow gathering group. Perhaps try to search for specific groups for cities like Tiranë and Vlorë. Happy travels!
Such a coincidence – I was hitchhiking from Piqeras to Tirana and got picked up somewhere along the way by a really nice guy who works with Assaf (he told me that they own a business together after I told him I was Israeli). I even spoke to Assaf on the phone (he offered to help find me a place to sleep if I’m stuck in Vlore, but I ended up freecamping in Tirana) and told him I knew about him and Shira from the blog. He remembers you 😀
Somehow I’m totally not surprised! 😀 Albania is such a small country. Not sure if I posted it here, but I met like the winner and runner-up of the Voice of Albania in my fairly short time there as well. Random things happen in Albania 😉 But go to Vlorë once, it’s close to some nice nature and Shira’s pastries are delish!