This interview series features interviews with travel bloggers and writers. If you are a travel blogger and a writer and have something to share with your readers, please get in touch with me at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you!
In this travel blogger interview, let us meet my favorite travel bloggers Cynthia and Niko from Journal of Nomads. Cynthia (Belgium) has been traveling for seven years while Niko has been on the road for almost 11 years. They met three-and-a-half years ago during the grape picking season in France and they’ve been together ever since. In September 2015, they embarked on an overland journey from Ireland to Alaska, across six continents and without taking any flights. Instead of rushing through places and ticking of countries on a list, they prefer to spend quality time in the places they visit and connect with the locals.
In Journal of Nomads, they share their hitchhiking adventure, travel stories, beautiful places and lessons they learned on the road. Cynthia writes and Niko documents their experience through video. Their blog has many amazing stories and valuable travel tips and that I have spent many nights reading them. Their love story is beautiful and uncommon and it makes me believe magic truly exists.
Welcome Cynthia and Niko! Now you both have been hitchhiking through 13 countries in 2.5 years. What inspires you to hitchhike instead of taking public transportation?
We love traveling at a slow pace and we love the freedom of being able to stop wherever we want, whenever we want. Hitchhiking is also a very spontaneous and adventurous way of traveling. We never know who’ll meet or where we’ll end up at the end of the day. The main reason why we hitchhike is, because it’s an easy way to meet local people. They often invite us to a drink or a meal and sometimes even bring us in their home. That way we learn more about them and their day-to-day lives.
I read both of you speak several languages (Niko speaks seven). Could you share with us how you both are proficient in so many languages.
Speaking the language makes a huge difference when you want to learn more about the country and its culture. It gives a better insight into the way the locals think. Niko is an avid language learner, it’s his main hobby. He finds it very satisfying to understand what people in the countries I visit are saying. The key to learning a new language is to study on a daily basis. For that we use various online lessons and systems.
As revealed in your blog that you have stayed in Georgia for about a year. What is your favorite place there (not a tourist attraction)?
Our favorite place in Georgia was Vakhani, a small mountain village. It’s the home village of a Georgian friend. Although most Georgians nowadays live in cities because of job opportunities, they all feel strongly connected to their home towns. We loved it there as it was so quiet and pristine. We saw how people live in the countryside and came to really appreciate that lifestyle.
What have been your favorite hitchhiking moments?
We had many great hitchhiking moments but one of our favorite was getting a ride with 2 British guys, who were on a road trip from London to Vladivostok in Russia. We met them on the boat towards Kazakhstan. We connected straight away and ended up traveling with them during 3 weeks. We crossed more than 3000 km across the desert of Kazakhstan and into Kyrgyzstan. It was so much fun to be with kindred spirits. You would think that spending 24/7 in the small space of a car with 2 strangers is awkward, but it felt like we had been friends forever! We even made a video about it!
Did you have any embracing moments or disasters?
We never really had any disaster on our trip, maybe just a few uncomfortable moments. Once we got stuck in a mountain pass in Kyrgyzstan when it was freezing cold and we had to camp in the snow. We also still remember that day in Turkey when we got involved in a police car chase. The people who gave us a ride were completely drunk (which we only noticed once we were in the car) and the driver ignored a road block. Suddenly we had two police cars chasing us but after a wild 30-minute ride, our driver finally gave up. When the cops heard that we were foreign hitchhikers, they let us go without giving us trouble. Tip: always make sure your driver is sober!
That is a really good hitchhiking tip. Do you have any travel bloggers you would like to meet in person and have a meal with?
There are so many people that we got in touch with since we started our blog and vlog. We’d love to meet up with Ryan and Stephanie from Hedgers Abroad because we really love their YouTube videos and have been following them for a while. They produce great content about their daily lives in South Korea. We also would love to have a cocktail with Ashley Renne Simpson from Travel Lushes, talk about YouTube strategies with Jon Barr from Here Be Barr and hitchhike with fellow French Canadians Gab & Maya.
How do you balance hitchhiking, traveling, working, and blogging?
We take it easy and travel very slowly. We make sure we divide the blogging tasks so neither of us has a super big work load. We often stay for a long time in one place, like we did in Georgia and are currently doing in Kyrgyzstan. This way we get to know a country very well and it allows us to find and create better content as we take our time to do it. For us, traveling is not about a quantity of countries that we visit but about the quality-time that we spend in each place. This is also a good way to combine work and travel.
I also believe when comes to travel, quality trumps quantity. Currently you are traveling overland from Europe to Asia. Do you have any travel plans after Asia?
After our trip through Asia, we’d like to embark on a sail boat or a ship that would either go to Australia or Africa. Our final destination is Alaska but we first want to set foot on every continent without taking one single airplane.
Sailing to Australia and Africa would be exciting. What have you learned about yourself while hitchhiking across the world?
We’ve learned that sometimes we want to do a whole lot more than what we’re able to and that it’s okay to give ourselves a break sometimes. We discovered how much we love freedom, wide open spaces and nature. We realized on this journey how much we enjoy creating and sharing stories with an audience.
I have seen that your blog covers some unusual destinations. What are your favorite and unconventional places you would recommend fellow travelers to visit?
Chiatura in Georgia was very special as it was like walking back into the past. We’ll never forget the ride in the old cable cars! It was a bit scary to fly over the city in these old rusty metal boxes!
Thank you Cynthia and Niko for a great interview. Wish you continue enjoy your hitchhiking trip across the world and share more of your travel story with us!
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