I’m from Transylvania. Let me contribute to all stereotypes: Yes, my great-uncle was a vampire, but we only drink blood for breakfast in my family. By the way, in case you didn’t know, Transylvania is a part of Romania.
Like most people my age in Romania, I went to university right after having finished high school, started a master’s course right after having finished my university and got a job right after having finished my master’s course. Lucky me, I got a good job in Berlin, Germany in risk management.
But like many other people worldwide, after some time of doing a 9 to 5 (or 6/7/8/9) job, I felt that I was dying inside, that my life was passing by, that I was wasting my youth doing something not only meaningless, but also something I didn’t enjoy. I felt stuck. I loved the city, but I hated the job. I felt an acute urge to live and the only way I could think of was to leave it all behind.
So I quit what could have been a dream job for maybe 80% of Romanians my age, in a country and a city where maybe 70% of the world’s population would like to live – of course that the percentages are made up, the real figures might as well be 10%, 5% or 0.5%.
I quit my job with some savings, but without having any plan of what would come next. Travelling the world? But how fast would I finish my savings if I just traveled? What would I do after I finish my savings? Back to an office job? Go back to Romania? Try to get another job in Berlin? And could I even get myself to travel without an objective, wouldn’t I feel guilty about spending all my savings on travelling? After all, there are so many people in the world struggling to get an income, and there I was, spending it all in a few months.
China, here I come!
A friend of mine told me about workaway website. I made an account and found a vocational college in Guizhou, one of China’s poorest provinces, looking for volunteers. They were offering free accommodation, a monthly allowance for food and twice a week Chinese classes. They replied very fast, they were very prompt with all the paper work I needed and off I went to China on a half volunteer, half student deal that would last one semester. Perfect arrangement! On 30th August 2014 I landed in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province holding a 120 days visa.
After a while, they started asking if I was interested to stay longer. I hesitated. I had planned everything for maximum five months. I had sub-rented my flat in Berlin and left all my clothes at friend. On top of that, my sister would give birth to my first niece in January. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made: I could learn more Chinese, I could get a bike and explore the villages around better, I could become a better teacher, I could see my students graduating, I could spend Chinese New Year in China. Result? Extended the visa.
After one year of China, it was decision time again. Should I stay longer? Should I go back? Should I go somewhere else? Should I get a proper job? Should I just travel now? Investment in education, I thought, is always a good idea, so why wouldn’t I learn some Chinese? After all, learning Chinese is really fun for geeks like me.
I discovered an affordable language school in Kunming, Yunnan, 700km away, perfect distance to move by bike to the new place. I would be a “full-time” student – still, 8 hours of classes per week gave me plenty of time for self-study, reading Harry Potter in Chinese (only made it to page 10), exploring the villages around by bike AND have a part-time job that would cover for my daily expenses. I only needed to teach a maximum of 8 hours per week to pay for most of my expenses (I maintained a very cheap life-style, though). Learning Chinese opened a totally different experience of China: suddenly I could communicate with people who didn’t know any English.
Getting home by land
Summer of 2016, two years later, I was getting ready to go back to Europe for the first time. It was time to see my niece and I needed a new passport. No better way to go back home than by land, without a real plan. It all started with a 33 hours train ride to Beijing (without a bed) in order to get a visa for entering Russia, it continued with a hitch-hiking adventure in Inner Mongolia up to Manzhouli (the crazy Chinese city at the border with Russia) where I met two friends who were also heading to Europe via Russia.
After one month of trains in Russia, we made it to St. Petersburg and went on different directions – I was going to visit a good friend in Lappeenranta (Finland) and continue with a hitchhiking adventure through the Baltic countries, the guys were heading to England and Germany, respectively.
My goal? Get to Budapest (it’s the capital city of Hungary, not of Romania, in case you were wondering) by 19th of August – my family was going to Croatia on holiday (with a short stop in Budapest) and I was invited. Perfect timing thanks to my sister who was driven crazy being part of an annoying family who would constantly change their plans. So I finished the two months Going Back Home By Land ”project” with a proper holiday.
Going to Africa? Sure!
At some point during my long way back home, I got an e-mail from a former high school colleague. Him and another friend had planned a four months trip: two months in Africa, getting from Zanzibar (Tanzania) to South Africa by land, one month biking in Australia and one month biking in New Zealand. Their budget? Relatively low, a maximum of $1,000 per month. Would I be interested to join them? I checked my account…around 7,000 euros. Spend now, worry later. Buy a flight, plan later. What I knew for sure was that two months in Africa won’t be enough for me.
So this time I left without having a “4 months” period in my mind. Starting with friends who were on a schedule made the transition easier. But I left Europe for an undetermined period of time that could be anything between a few months and a few years, depending on how it all goes.
My current “assignment”? Discover the diversity of Africa and learn how to make an income while being on the move. Maybe learn one more foreign language since I’m in a different country? Oshiwambo? Setswana? Herero? Swahili? Too many choices…but Oshiwambo took the lead since I’ve been in Namibia.
So far it’s been three months of Africa. I’ve passed Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana with my two friends. I’m currently in Namibia, I’ve decided to stop here for a while so that I can learn how to fix bikes with bennamibia.org. I’ll be for sure around Namibia until the 18th of March. Afterwards, we shall see. I’ll keep you posted, in any case.
Let the adventure continue! 🙂