Hi, we are Cynthia (Belgium) and Niko (Canada) and we are the storytellers behind Journal of
Nomads. It’s been almost a year now since we’ve left Ireland and started our hitchhiking adventure
around the world. Our goal is to cross six continents and reach Alaska in about five years without
taking any airplane along the way.
How did we come up with the idea of not taking any flights?
We met in September 2014 during the grape picking season in France. There was an instant click
between the two of us and we shared a common dream: hitchhiking overland from Europe to South
Africa and film the whole experience. We were both looking for a travel partner so it didn’t take us
long to decide we would go on this adventure together. The only problem was that our financial
situation was quite limited and we didn’t even had money to buy a proper camera. So with the little
money we earned from the grape picking, we booked a flight to Ireland where we would get a job
and save up for this big adventure. We didn’t know then that this was the last flight we would take
for a very long time.
We spent almost a year in Ireland where we did all sorts of jobs to earn money. I, Cynthia, was
cutting bog myrtle in the Irish swamps before I found a waitressing job in a hotel. Niko worked as a
carpenter and landscaper. He did that last job in exchange for food and accommodation so we could
live cost-free in a small caravan on the property of friends.
We were practically strangers when we moved into that caravan and there was no escape from each
other while living in such a small space! We connected really well and had a lot of fun together but
there were also moments when we didn’t get along so well. We had no choice but to learn how to
deal with the other person’s flaws if we wanted to survive a long overland journey together. Not
only did we become best friends but we also fell in love. That’s when we decided that we didn’t
only want to travel to Africa but see the whole world together. So we took the initial plan to a new
level: we would travel across six continents to Alaska without taking any airplane.
We’ ll hitchhike across the countries because we both did it before during our previous travels and
really loved it. It’s not just about the excitement of not knowing who will give us a ride and where
we’ll end up but hitchhiking is also a great way to meet local people and learn more about their
country and culture. By traveling overland we’ll be able to experience the vastness of our world and
feel the transition between countries and cultures. We’ll cross the many seas and oceans by boat,
just like the explorers used to do when there weren’t airplanes yet.
The challenges of not taking any flights
Traveling around the entire globe without flying isn’t something we can do in just one year. That’s
not an issue as we have all the time in the world. The only thing that we have to keep in mind is the
time that visas allows us to stay in a country. On an average basis we can stay three months in
one country, which is enough to visit and cross the country before we have to leave. Certain
countries don’t allow us that much time though and there we have to plan ahead to make sure we
can make it to the next land border without overstaying our visa. We’ve overstayed our Turkish visa
( ) and were very lucky we could cross the
border with Georgia without any severe consequences but certain countries are very strict about this
and overstaying could mean paying a huge fee or even spending some time in jail. We’re always up
for an exciting adventure but spending time in a foreign prison isn’t exactly on our bucket list. So
it’s very important that we keep track of how much time we have to hitchhike across an entire
We also have to research where and when we have to apply for our visas. Not every country
issues an electronic visa so we need to figure out in which embassy of which country we can get a
visa for our next destination. We also have to keep in mind that certain visas have a restriction on
the time between the date of issue and the date of entry. This requires calculation, organization and
Unfortunately there are countries we won’t be able to travel to. We’re lucky we both have a
strong passport and generally we won’t have problems getting a tourist visa but certain countries
have restrictions. With Niko’s Canadian passport it will be hard to enter Iran independently and we
can’t travel to Pakistan because we can only get a Pakistani visa if we apply for it in our home
We can’t plan our journey years ahead. Instead we do it step by step, or better continent by
continent. The first continent on our world trip was Europe and that was probably the easiest one.
The borders between the European countries were easy to cross and we had plenty of time to
hitchhike from Ireland to Turkey. The real challenge will start in the second part of our adventure
when we will hitchhike across the Asian continent. Not only do we have to take note of the limited
visa time of certain countries, there will also be borders which are restricted or closed. For
example, if we want to travel to Armenia, we won’t be allowed to enter Azerbaijan because of a
conflict between the two countries. The border between China and Nepal or India is closed. There
is just no way we can get from Central Asia to India without taking a major detour through
Thailand and Myanmar. If we want to cross Asia without getting stuck, we have to plan our route
carefully and do enough research on how, when and where we can cross the various borders.
To cross a sea or an ocean we have no other option then taking a boat. A sea is easy to cross by
ferry but an ocean will be more challenging. To do this we have to keep three things in mind. First
we have to know the routes of the sail boats. Most boats will sail from East to West because of the
dominant winds which means it would be very hard to find a sail boat that crosses the Indian Ocean
from Africa to Asia (West to East). The second thing we need to know is to where to find the right
ports. The ports of India, Singapore or Indonesia are possible options to sail across the Indian
Ocean. Then last but definitely the most crucial point is to find a boat that will bring us to our
next destination. We know that it is possible to hitchhike a sail boat if we work on that boat as
cook, cleaner, guard,…in exchange for the passage. We’ll definitely have to be patient and plan
ahead of time to find a captain who will be willing to take us with him (or her)!
Traveling the world without flying definitely has it challenges. It requires organization, flexibility
and creativity. If plan A doesn’t work, there will always be a plan B, C or D. After all, there are 24
letters in the alphabet so we believe that with an open mind, a strong will and enough dedication,
we will always find a way.
How has the journey been so far?
We started our world trip in October 2015 and so far we’ve hitchhiked 7500 km over 10 countries
and traversed the European continent. We are now in Tbilisi, the capitol city of Georgia, where we
are taking a little break to work online as English teachers before heading off on our overland
adventure across the Asian continent.
It has been an amazing year with lots of highlights and occasionally hard moments. Hitchhiking in
winter for example was quite challenging. The days were shorter which didn’t give us much
traveling time as people weren’t very eager to pick up hitchhikers when it was dark. We mainly
slept in our tent and camping in winter was very cold. There have been nights when we were
wearing all the clothes we had to stay warm!
Luckily we had many beautiful encounters with people who offered us a bed in their house during
those cold nights. That is one of the advantages of hitchhiking. We practically only meet kind and
genuinely good people who are supporting us in our project and they often invite us to have a
coffee, a meal or even to spend the night in their home. We felt so much gratitude during this past
year and it has been a beautiful reminder that despite of all the negative news in the media, the
world is still a good place. We were in Turkey when the coup happened. There were travel
warnings that made travelers cancel their holiday but not once did we feel unsafe. So far this has
been the country where we’ve met the most hospitable and kind people!
We’ve also seen plenty of beautiful places and had many amazing moments. We lived for two
without any electricity or running water . We hitchhiked a gondola in Venice (
city that only locals have access to. We camped by accident in the Plitvice Lakes National Park (
waterfalls without having a living soul around us. We were invited by an Albanian family to spend
a few days at their home and got a real authentic taste of the Albanian culture (
explored routes off the beaten path and climbed the rock pillars of Meteora (
called Hercules. In Turkey we stayed two months for free in a luxurious resort, saw the birth place
and tomb of Santa Claus, visited the eternal fires of Chimeara and enjoyed watching the sunset in
were flying over the magical fairy chimneys.
We live by the idea that good things happen to good people and that with the right intentions, we
will go a long way. We know that there will be challenging times ahead of us but we like to see
them as invitations to grow and to expand our mind. There are no limits, only the ones we set for
ourselves. We are very happy that we can share our adventures and experiences with other people
through our videos and blog. One day we will look back on our Journal and say “ Hey, we traveled
the whole world over land and sea without taking a single airplane!”
You can follow us on this unique adventure on: