I’ve got something to say about this trip. It’s really no big deal to travel in Russia as I did. The visa is the hard part, and then any jackass—no offense, Ryan Lochte—can buy train and bus tickets. Hitchhiking has risk, of course, but that’s just my thing. Russia has an abundance of hostels, Airbnb, couchsurfing, and cheap hotels like most other other countries and plenty of buses, trains and Blablacar rides like most other countries. Communication is a problem, but not frustratingly so (Google Translate is your friend, maybe your BFF) and certainly not a legitimate reason to avoid coming. Give Russia a chance.
I might experience Russia in a vacuum. I’ve seen an idyllic Russia. My experiences are different from others I’ve meet and the stories I’ve read. I’m not going to dwell on it.
I created a public trip on Couchsurfing to see if anyone would host me, but instead a Serbian girl getting her Masters here wrote to ask if I’d like to meet in town. When Saturday came around and the weather was good, she proposed we hike to a beach she had heard about. It was the ultimate in fortuitous timing, as we went to a cape I hadn’t known about and doubtful I would have tried to have go to on my own anyway as there were no signs. It was the prettiest place I have seen in all of Russia: Cape Tobizina.
We took a bus to the end of the line, then I told her in a moment of bluster that we could hitchhike to the trailhead, which we did quickly and easily, to her and my surprise, then we hiked in for 3 or 4 kilometers. I took this 36-second panoramic video from one of the best vantage points. (Link is here if you can’t see below.)
A quick thing about this: where else in life is a girl half my age inviting me to the beach for the day? She was interested in the amount of traveling I had done, but still. Couchsurfing acts as the conduit, but that kind of engaging spirit is impressive and not easily found these days. Big fan of Serbia all of the sudden.
There’s a Whatsapp English-speaking group called “Vladivostok English” that gets together every Sunday at 5pm at Travelers Coffee in town. My Airbnb host brought me. It’s always a good idea to attend such meetings to meet new people. Always.
Tomorrow I fly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the World Nomad Games. My friend, Stephen, took amazing photos from the last one two years ago. My plan is to visit Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and then go back to western Russia before escaping the cold weather altogether.
It’s a good thing I am going to a backwater like Bishkek (via Novosibirsk). Otherwise, in summer you can get stuck here. Flights can be cheapish to South Korea, but boats aren’t cheap to Korea or Japan and you can’t fly to so many places from Vladivostok.
This is my route in Russia if you can’t see the map below. 12,500km (7700 miles).
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