Can you imagine the adventure that can be hitchhike from Europe to India? Well, this is what I had decided to do but visas will not let me. I will get you guys up-to-date: as you know the last seven months I have been traveling around Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Transcaucasia, and now I was heading toward South Asia. Hitchhiking I had done quite a lot already when I lived in Romania, in the same country and in neighboring countries, but in the last months months I’ve done almost everything everything with my thump up, I realized that with tenacity and a good triceps to support the arm up, hitchhiking will take you wherever you want to go.
My girlfriend, who since I started the adventure has been joining me coming few weeks until she stayed the last three months with me, decided to join the adventure completely and then we began to work everything out. If we were going to South Asia, why not to hitchhike across the countries that are in the middle to get there? With this idea in mind, we took a world map to see how we could reach India from Europe, and although the expression “All roads lead to Rome” was more certain than ever, we saw two distinct paths: one getting to the Asian continent via Turkey and there continuing to India, and a much longer crossing Russia to reach the same place.
- Via Turkey
We looked it up on internet and obviously we were not the first ones who had had this idea and in fact some had already done it. I saw most of them spoke about the shortest route, and this was getting across the entire Balkan peninsula until Turkey, to cross it all and move to Iran, Pakistan and finally to India.
The truth is that this route, even having the great incentive for us to visit Iran and Pakistan, did not fascinate us that much because after all, all the other countries which we should go through not only we have been there yet but also we did them hitchhiking spending much time in each of them, and for this adventure really wanted to tell the difference between what we were seeing along the way and what we have seen in other countries.
- Choosing the longest path
Considering what has been said and seeing that the route across the north would give us the opportunity to visit a dozen of new and different countries before reaching India, we decided to choose this one.
The route was gonna be this then: We would begin in Romania (country where my girlfriend and I met) and would go through Ukraine and Poland to the Baltic countries, where would pass to the Russian Federation. After crossing a good part of this large country, we would get to Kazakhstan, head down to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, to connect with Iran and Pakistan, and finally end up in India.
All this would take us several months because obviously we would not pass by these countries, but the idea was to visit them in depth.
- Falling in love with the plan
For starters, Russia attracted me a lot because of the challenge of having to make myself understandable in their language. I always do it in English, but for example in Transnistria or Armenia, I realized I had to learn some Russian or deppending where I would feel totally isolated. The fact also of having such a different alphabet,made it more difficult and therefore more attracted I felt.
Countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, though not too popular destinations, seemed very interesting to me since I visited Turkey and I felt in love with it. There I discovered that the Turks were nomads who came from Central Asia, ie from all these countries, so their personality and their own languages nowadays are very similar. If I felt at home more than two months being in Turkey, I could not wait to see these new places and meet locals from all these other countries.
Finally, Iran and its ancient Persian culture is a country that calls me for a while and more especially these last few months, when being in the Caucasus I kept meeting travelers coming from there, and they only had good words for Iran and their people. And with Pakistan, I met a girl from Karachi who told me southern Pakistan was quite safe but if I wanted to reach India I should be careful the Taliban-controlled areas I was going to pass by. I began checking it but did not last long, because not much later I found something that started stopping everything… Visas.
- The bureaucracy comes into play
I was two months ago between Asia and Europe, in Istanbul, when I began sending e-mails to embassies and informing myself which visas I could take for free, which I could get at the border and if there were any that should be done directly from home, and also I was checking if I should get vaccines since I was heading South Asia.
I still had several weeks I wanted to spend again lost in Eastern Europe, until reaching Romania in order to begin the long journey to India with my girlfriend. I was not planning going home unless it was absolutely necessary, and if so I wanted it fast, spending a few days and returning quickly to the subject. However, I find myself here writing this post from Barcelona, where I arrived already four weeks ago.
The fact is that of all the countries that I have said, with my Spanish passport, It was visa-free only in Kyrgyzstan. In Kazakhstan, I had the option of taking a free transit visa with which I can be in the country up to 15 days, but since Kazakhstan is almost as large as the total area of the European Union, I could not see nothing at all in those days. None of the other countries let me issue and pay at the border, and while a few gave me the opportunity to do it in the embassy of a neighboring country, many of them forced me (or “recommended” …) to issue the visa in Barcelona.
Once here I started to pull strings but I saw that this would be anything but fast. Some asked me to formalize the papers in Barcelona, while others told me to go in person to Madrid. The case of my girlfriend was worse because being from Bologna, some embassies sent her to Milano and some others to Rome. Some countries such as Turkmenistan, asked me a letter of invitation from a local or a travel agency there, some others asked me the flights I was supposed to take, so that the statutory 15 days that each embassy said it would take to formalize it, would be many more.
It was time to rethink the operation. Not for being impossible, because certainly it was not at all, but I do not want to waste so much time making arrangements. Since at each embassy I should obviously leave the passport and they told me it would take already longer than expected, in the best of the cases I would spend 3 or 4 months doing this, while my girlfriend would do the same in Italy. Having left the job earlier this year, my apartment and basically all my life in order to do this long journey, I found a waste of time to be in Barcelona these months in my parents just issuing visas. Next time.
- New plan
Still with the disappointment I keep on having right now, I just booked a plane straight to India within a few weeks, and the truth is that once there do not know exactly what the plan will be. As I had only planned the coming months to go calmly country to country until India, with the idea once there to continue to the East. Will I travel one by one all the countries of South Asia? Will I fall in love with one of them and I will not want to leave? Will I continue going east all the way to go around the world and return to Barcelona? I have no idea, all I know right now is that I already have a visa for India and that on November 16th everything starts. I have left exactly 40 days.
Get ready Asia, because after spending these weeks here without traveling and being busy with visas and vaccines, I’ll take this continent with more strength and enthusiasm than ever.