Inspiring people to travel by land and showing us the truth about hitchhiking, Alex and Mailin (Timezone Junkies) have been keeping me entertained with their adventures ever since I discovered them last year.
They began hitchhiking around Southeast Asia at the end of 2016 before deciding to ditch the return ticket and head back to Europe relying only on their thumbs and the kindness of strangers.
This trip would take them 5 months, stretch over 23000 kilometres, put them in 400 vehicles and show them 17 countries.
After all of that, they returned home to catch up with family and get married. But before too long, restlessness crept in and in May 2018 they flew to Istanbul to begin a new hitchhiking journey. This trip is on-going and has an element of impovisation to it, seeing them go around Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Southeast Asia so far.
New Day Adventures: So, who’s idea was it to hitchhike back to Europe instead of taking a plane, and where did it come from?
Timezone Junkies: Good question! Before we had even considered hitchhiking back to Europe we had already been hitchhiking, volunteering and travelling in Thailand for 4 months and when the time came to start thinking about taking our return flight back to Europe we really didn’t feel ready to finish our trip and didn’t know what we would do when we got back. We had actually watched a travel documentary on Vimeo by AugeFilms in which he cycled to India then decided to get back to Europe by hitchhiking and cycling. It was really inspirational and started a fire in us. Malin was pushing us to investigate the possiblity of us doing this as well. So we started planning a route which was feasible with visas and land crossings. So, yeah that is where the idea was born.
NDA: What were people’s reactions when you told them of your idea?
TZJ: Our families obviously thought we were pretty mad! Actually for a while Malin didn’t want to tell her mum and was going to tell her country by country but that idea didn’t last long! In general our families were just worried about our safety and if the countries we would be going through were dangerous or not.
NDA: Have you ever felt in any real danger?
TZJ: We have never felt in any real danger from people, however people’s driving is another thing! One of the best countries for hitchhiking in our experience is Georgia. It does however come with one major disadvantage: they drive like crazy! The amount of times we thought we might die can be counted on more than one hand! So if you are going to Georgia have this in mind so you can be mentally prepared to drive 160 km/hour on a tiny country road!
NDA: Imagine someone asks you today, ‘should I go on my own hitchhiking journey?’ What would you say?
TZJ: We do this all the time! We are constantly trying to encourage people to hitchhike! For us it was about getting out of our comfort zone, we had become too comfortable and needed to push our limits! If people want to meet real local people and get real local experiences this is the best way to do it!
NDA: What is it about hitchhiking that makes it your main way of getting around?
TZJ: We really believe that hitchhiking is a direct route to local experiences. Imagine you are on a bus or a train – the chances of chatting to a local person are not so high, you don’t have the option to stop and take pictures or stop for a tea or lunch wherever you want. Now when you hitchhike you have to speak to local people, they will stop at beautiful viewpoints and very often they will invite you for a tea, coffee, lunch or even to stay in their house! This probably sounds like we want everything for free, but that is not it. We ALWAYS try to pay for anything someone buys us.
NDA What was it like going from such an incredible journey to staying still?
TZJ: This is always going to be difficult for anyone who has been away for a long time and we are no different. We actually ended up staying at Alex’s parent’s house for seven months and this was really difficult for Malin. Living in a small town in the UK can be quite depressing and as we were on the coast it was really windy, cold and wet for a large amount of the seven months. However, like anyone else who has the ‘travelbug’ as soon as you get back you start thinking about the next trip!
NDA: What are the three most important items in your backpacks?
TZJ: Sawyer mini water filter (it can filter 300,000 litres!!!) 2. Our tent, of course! 3. PowerAdd 20,000 mAh powebank (can charge one phone about 10-12 times!)
NDA: If there is one place you’ve encountered in your adventures that you could go back to, where would it be and why?
TZJ: This is a seriously difficult question as we have visited so many incredible places and had so many special encounters! In terms of natural beauty there is always one country we tell people that they should visit and that is Kyrgyzstan. It is truly incredible and so untouched. In terms of people it has to be Turkey! We haven’t been to any other country where people are so hospitable!
NDA: What has been the best moment of your travels?
TZJ: Ohh, these questions don’t get any easier! There is no possible way to give you one specific moment. We would just like to say all the amazing moments when people have invited us for tea, coffee, food and even a place to sleep in their house. These are our favourite moments as it really shows how generous and kind people can be to complete strangers!
NDA: …and the worst?
TZJ: One which was particularly bad for both of us was being stuck in multiple storms at the same time! We were camping in Kyrgyzstan in an open field in the mountains with our old tent (old for good reason) and the rain just started coming down and the wind was howling, lightning striking and thunder booming! We pretty quickly found out that our tent was not waterproof and we had to put everything in the middle of the tent and huddle together. We used our towels to keep drying up the water that was leaking in around the edges and this went on for a good two hours! We actually thought we would spend the night sitting up, soaking up all the water! It was a pretty intense night!
NDA: What is the longest you’ve waited for a lift?
TZJ: There is a clear winner for this question! 16 hours in a petrol station in northern Italy! Actually we ended up sleeping in the trailer of a lovely truck driver’s lorry before trying again the next morning only to give up and take the train to France!
NDA: Can you give us a hint of what you’ll be up to in the future?
TZJ: Well, we are currently in the north of India in the foothills of the Himalayas, hitchhiking our way around and really enjoying the company of the incredibly friendly and helpful locals! We will be here for another two weeks then we will be flying back to Central Asia, Uzbekistan to be precise! We are so excited to visit this country, especially now that you get 30 days visa free on arrival! After Uzbekistan we will be travelling over land to Kyrgyzstan where we hope to spend some time catching up on editing, working and hopefully exploring this spectacular country again. We also want to visit the east of Kazakhstan too! That is our rough plan for the next few months.