My trip is already more than halfway over, so I figured I should write some sort of update. So far, I have been to Washington State, Japan, China, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria. (Map) I’m currently in Brasov, Romania. I have been using the website couchsurfing.org to find people to host me in each city I visit, so I have only rarely paid for a night’s accommodation. This means that not only am I under budget so far, but I’ve also met great people at every stop along the way. I’ve had tons of great experiences, including seeing old friends and new scenery, experiencing tons of different lifestyles, foods, and worldviews, sitting on trains and buses, trying to understand foreign languages, and being really confused by public transportation.
People are always surprised that I am traveling alone (the number one question I’ve gotten, especially in post-communist countries, is “Are you married?” - sometimes from men but more often from middle-aged women), and they say I am very brave. I don’t think traveling like this requires bravery, though. It only requires a willingness to endure some discomfort. Basically you have to want it bad enough. I have never been scared during my trip (okay, maybe a little bit when scrambling up a mountainside alone with 40 lbs on my back). I have had moments of sitting in front of the closed bus station at 5:30 am, not knowing when and where the bus will come, and I have had moments of walking a city, without a map, with my backpack, hoping I’m heading for the center, but I always know that I will get where I’m going eventually.
It was especially fun to go to Russia again. I felt much more comfortable there, culturally, than I was even when I was living in Ukhta. I got to practice Russian a lot and met a much wider range of people than I ever had before - from young couples or young university students and their families while surfing, to older women and drunk (and the occasional sober) guys on trains. The other countries have been good, too, though, and I just took a couple-day hiking trip to break up the monotony of walking around new cities every day (yes, there are important differences from country to country and city to city, but after a point you don’t want to see any more churches or ruins or monuments or fortresses or even outdoor cafes). The hike was a bitch at times due to snow and rain, etc., and it ended up being more expensive than anticipated (bought a backpacking stove and stayed in cabanas rather than my tent), but the views were great, and I did make it up one small mountain (Piatra Mica, 1816m/5958ft).
After a couple more days in Brasov, I’m planning to go to Croatia, and then to Germany for the next month to work on a farm near Freiburg and do some traveling to Berlin and maybe Dresden and some other cities. Then to Switzerland for more hiking and finally to France. I miss you all, but part of me wishes I didn’t have a plane ticket home. I just want to get a job on the internet and travel forever.