It was exactly 2 years ago, in the summer of 2015, when Arturs and Laine were only thinking about the possibility to go on a long trip around the world. They had traveled before, but none of their previous trips was as close as ambitious as this new idea they were now talking about. Yet it didn’t stop them. And in about 3 months, with less than 10 000 EUR between two of them, they left Latvia and flew to the USA.
And in the spring of 2017 – 527 days, 64 countries and 5 continents later they have returned to Latvia. Now let me introduce you to this adventurous couple from Latvia!
– Please, Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourselves and Your Trip!
We are two world travelers, Laine and Arturs, and two years ago we went on the biggest journey of our lives so far – a 17 months long round-the-world trip.
I had just finished my Masters studies in Riga Teacher Training and Educational Management Academy and Arturs was working as a cook in a fancy restaurant EGLE in the heart of Old Town of Riga. And then there were these conversations going on – are we really in the place we wish to be? Do we really wish to continue our lives like this? Walking the same safe path?
But that’s not when it all started. A spark, that in the end lead us to these thoughts, and its origins could be traced back to the events that happened few years earlier. It was summer. And I was studying Estonian language. I had decided to do it, just to learn something new. And so I met one girl from New York there, in these language courses. She had come to learn Estonian because her ancestors were coming from Estonia. But after her time here she continued to travel. In Latvia. Europe. Asia.
She was traveling around the world with the money she saved while working as a nurse… And it hit me. So it’s possible! It’s possible to travel long term. And there is no need for tens of thousands to travel around the world!
And so we decided to do something similar.
To make our money stretch further we were mostly hitchhiking and instead of hotels or hostels we slept in our tent. We didn’t know much about the world back then. And we didn’t really try to learn too much before the trip either. Because, well, you can’t learn everything about every country in the world. And you never know, what exactly you may need later. So, why to worry about that?
Instead, we just took a map and said – we can do that – it doesn’t seem that huge after all. Haha, and what a surprise – actually the World IS HUGE!
We didn’t go to the countries where visa was too expensive, and where traveling around is very complicated (e.g. many African countries). And we skipped also those where expensive vaccines are required in order to obtain the visa. During the trip we did change our initial route – for example, we visited India and skipped Australia. At the end we also didn’t have any free pages left in our passports. I believe that everything happened as it should.
Our route looked like this:
Sweden, USA, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Andorra, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Cyprus, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, India.
– Tell Us About Your Previous Travel Experience!
This wasn’t our first time abroad. Well, we hadn’t had this crazy journey before, but still.
When I was a kid, my parents took me on excursions around Latvia. And later I had that amazing chance to travel also further – to other European countries, and Turkey, Egypt.
When we started dating, Arturs introduced me to hitchhiking. At first we did it only in Latvia, but later we successfully hitchhiked around Lithuania and Estonia as well. During my studies I was taking an internship in Hungary and joined an exchange program in Romania. Arturs has worked in Finland and Denmark. Together we have participated in 10-day projects outside Latvia as a part of Erasmus+ Youth Exchange program.
So we had some experience of traveling and living abroad. And the more we got to know other cultures, different lifestyles, the more we wanted to see.
– How Long It Took for You to Prepare for This Around the World Trip?
It took us less than 3 months to prepare.
Yeah, we can call it quite spontaneous idea as we jumped into the action so soon! I was checking flight tickets on Skyscanner.net and one day there I saw a really good deal – 100 dollar flight from Sweden to the USA. On the 1st of October, 2015. We booked these tickets. And started to prepare for the trip. Now there was no way back.
Our total 2-person budget was 13 680 euros. It can seem a lot, but if you divide it by 527 days, then it’s only about 12 euros per day (per person). And that’s including EVERYTHING, also all our flights.
We had some savings, but not that much. So we started our round-the-world journey with even less money. But then we met people who helped us – also financially. There were some days when we didn’t spend money at all. Once our flight was delayed and we got a compensation. That flight cost us 150 euro each, but the compensation was 1000 each. And we weren’t forgotten on our birthdays as well! This is how we handled the financial part of this adventure.
During those last months in Latvia I was reading about the countries we were planning to go to. I printed out some lists with things like possible diseases, most dangerous regions, currency rates etc. But, of course, you can never be fully prepared for this kind of adventure. The most important is to open the mind and open the heart.
Now we know that actually we didn’t have a clue, where we were going. Oh… So they speak only in Spanish in Latin America? Well, let’s learn it while hitchhiking! Now we both can speak and understand any Spanish, but we still cannot read or write properly. It’s forbidden to hitchhike in many states in the US? Well, ok, let’s walk then! And we understood that the main thing is to have that positive will and everything becomes possible!
– Once Again – What Was Your Initial Plan When Starting the Trip?
At the beginning we were planning always to be “in the summer” – not to have too many clothes with us and so that we could sleep in a tent most of the time. Another thing is that we had a list of the countries and places, that we would like to visit. Apart from that we were absolutely flexible.
Sometimes we had to skip some places because of the bad weather, mudslides and even tornado. When we wanted to visit Acapulco in Mexico, locals told us that at that time there were shootings and killings going on. Drug dealers were fighting with each other. They weren’t killing tourists, but still – we decided not to risk.
We didn’t plan to go to Malta, but then, when I wanted to celebrate my name day in Italy and finally have a shower and soft bed, we realized that plane tickets to Malta for both of us are cheaper than one day in a hotel, so we just bought those tickets and went to Malta instead. We had a plan to go to Australia, but Arturs received his travel permit too late. It can be tricky (not always) for Latvians to travel to Australia. He had to provide a lot of papers, and when the approval came – 4 months later – we were already too far away.
One day we just decided to skip Indonesia as we weren’t sure about the visas there – one said, we need them, another said that there is no need for a visa. Two days later a devastating earthquake hit the island we were planning to visit , and many people died.
Lack of free pages in our passports made India the last stop of this journey. And we weren’t even planning to visit this country.
To sum it all up: for the most part everything went as planned, we visited all 5 continents in the order as we were planning. But we were flexible and always took into consideration different circumstances. We listened to what the World had to say.
– How Much Did You Carry with Yourself?
We didn’t take too much because on this kind of trip every gram matters. And now we know, which things are the most important and necessary for a 17 month long journey around the world. We only had a carry on backpack each. At the beginning they were – 7 and 13 kilos, but later they got a bit heavier because of small souvenirs we tried to take with us from each country. And also because of gifts that our new friends gave us.
The most important gear we had was our portable free hotel or, in other words, our tent. We ordered it from an online store in China. Waterproof. Brown. What we actually received was a bright orange tent, that wasn’t waterproof at all, so we had to cover it with many raincoats every time it was raining. But it was our home for 17 months.
We had two sleeping bags, no mats. So it was very important for us to look for soft ground, when planning to pitch our tent. Raincoats and rain covers for our bags were the next most important piece of travel gear in our case. If something gets wet, it is very difficult to dry it. Then we would wait for sunny days and then we would put all the wet clothes on our backpacks and just walk around. Yeah, it was a funny sight for locals.
Then we had some of the most necessary medicine, some clothes. On this kind of trip shoes are very important. We had to buy new shoes time after time. As we always bought the cheapest ones, they were wearing out very fast. Well, but that’s the fun part of a budget trip like this. At least for us. We wore our slippers till that hole in the middle of the shoe became so big that we could put the whole palm through it. That was the right time to buy new ones.
Mobile phone was also our camera and our map. We weren’t too flashy with fancy things. But we had an extra battery and a power bank, tough. As often it’s very difficult to find an outlet! We always had some cash in underpants (in a secret pocket).
And we had also some small souvenirs from Latvia with us as well – small flags and ribbons in the colors of the flag. It was our thank you to everyone who helped us in our journey.
Paper is important. No, I’m not talking about the documents. Yes, they are important. Passport, vaccination-passport, copies of them, passport-sized photos. You will need them on the borders. But let’s not forget the toilet paper!
After traveling for a while we understood that it’s good to have some snacks in the bag. No, not for us. But for those desperately hungry animalss, which often joined us for a walk. And the more we gave, the more we understood, how nice it is to give.
We also had a flashlight, portable gas stove, small plates, knives for cutting and for safe defense. Our toiletries were toothbrush and shampoo.
What else? We always carried all the nice wishes and positive thoughts of our loved ones. That even didn’t take any place in our backpacks. We carried them in our hearts.
– What Helped You to Travel on Such a Tight Budget?
Well, first of all – that huge desire to go, to do and to be there helped us to travel on such a budget. That wish and that confidence that we can do that!
Of course, some efforts in planning are necessary as well – every day I was looking for the best flights so we could spend as little as possible.
If there was an option to travel very far at the same time spending very little, we always chose that. Even if meant long waiting times. We were OK with that. So patience is important here as well. We were always humble and thankful. We appreciated everything that was given to us. Every place we reached and all the things we got to experience. At the end we appreciated even every bad experience. Because we knew that the World is leading us somewhere we have to be, some place we have to reach.
If at the beginning we complained that something was wrong and differed from what we had imagined, then later we were happy about completely everything! Traveling crushes those stereotypes and that fake world existing in our minds.
We helped each other. Our loved ones, our dear friends, everyone we met helped us to travel like this. But at first – we had to open our minds and our hearts.
– For How Long Were You Two Together Before This Adventure? How Was It to Be Together 24/7?
Before this adventure we were together for six years. And we still are, haha, so it’s almost eight now.
Well, when we started our trip we thought that we are a great team – we were already living together, knowing each other for quite a time. But this journey was the one which made the best team out of us. Of course, it wasn’t like in a fairy tale where a girl and a guy goes to see the World, to climb the highest mountains and to experience everything world has to offer, all the while holding hands. No, we were fighting, and a lot!
Actually, we probably wouldn’t even be together anymore if we weren’t stuck in that “Far, Far Away Land”. Even though traveling so long is difficult, it had to be like this as only at the end we started to make the best team. We started to read each other’s mind, started to say the same sentences together… And we still do that!
Now it feels like we are together not only eight, but tens of years. Now I can assure you, that long term traveling really is one of the best ways to understand if that other person is Yours or not. Many have said to us: “Oh, so you are still together? Then nothing will split you up!” And they are right in some way.
This journey now is what unites us, like very strong and invisible bonds.
– One (or Few) Countries Where You Can’t Wait to Return?
This World is so beautiful! It’s just so perfect in any meaning! Every nation and every country is so special!
This is one of the most frequently asked questions. And we have noticed, that we always have a different answer. But do you know why? Because there is just so much to choose from! If we would need to choose between chocolate and vanilla, we could do it. But if we have to say, which country is the best from all those 64, it’s impossible! If one day we say Brazil, then afterwards we think – but why not Paraguay? Why not Belize or the Philippines?
If we could, we would go back to all of them!
Not only because of beautiful nature. Not only because of nostalgic memories. But also because of people. Because of that vibe. That vibe that we created there all together with locals, with nature, and with the World. That vibe, when we started to feel and understand the World. Travel and You will fell it!
– Are You Planning Any New Adventure Already?
When we first came back we thought – that’s enough for a couple of years now. We want to sleep in a bed for a while, we want to shower more than once a week, we want to eat amazing Latvian food again.
It’s been 3 months now since we are back in Latvia. And you cannot even imagine how strong that traveling spirit is calling us back. Everything is going well – we are with our families, we are safe, we have a bed and shower, you now. But now we have that World inside us. That World that is craving for unexperienced, for new adventures, for new excitements. For new knowledge that cannot be gained in any other way.
We have already published our first book about this adventure. Currently it’s only in Latvia, and it is the first book from the series of books “Hitchhiking Around the World”. We are concluding this journey by putting it into the book. By sharing it with the World that has given so much to us. We are still living in our journey. But you never know.
And we don’t know what is waiting for us around the corner. We have plans for this month. And for the next one. And then? Then we will see. We will see what the World has prepared for us!
– Anything Else You Would Love to Say to Others Thinking of Taking on Similar Adventure?
Every action starts with that inspiration. With that inner feeling.
Everyone has a special place in this World. And everyone gets there in a different way. If your way of reaching your real place in this World is by doing something like this, if you need an adventure, if you need traveling – then do it!
GET THE BOOK: Hitchhiking Around the World: North America’s Cocktail
You need to listen to your inner voice. If it says – “Go!” Then GO! Follow it! Inner voice is never wrong, we just have stopped to listen to it. And if it’s never wrong, all the circumstances will help you to make your way to your place!
You just need to make that first step. You will be afraid, yes.
We wish you to find that bravery to do it! Follow your inspiration!
Follow their future adventures on Facebook page – Iegriez Pasauli. Spin the World! They are writing both in Latvian and in English. And get the book!
In Latvian – “Ar stopiem apkārt pasaulei. Ziemeļamerikas kokteilis”.
In English (without photos) – “Hitchhiking Around the World: North America’s Cocktail”.
In English (with photos) – “Hitchhiking Around the World: North America’s Cocktail”.
All photos used in the article are taken by Laine or Arturs.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.