Juan Caldaroni, 26, and Daniela Elias, 24, broke their regular routines in 2008 to follow their dream: to travel the world. Born in Argentina, they are now world citizens and plan to explore every corner of the Asian continent in the most genuine and challenging way: hitchhiking.
One couple. 1641 days on the road. 24 countries visited (and counting), all with one goal: to show that hospitality exist in every country of the world. How? By crossing Asia from Philippines to Turkey overland, hitchhiking, camping and staying in the houses of hospitable locals along the way. This is the story of two young and energetic Argentinian travelers that left their comfort zones to see their dreams come true.
After graduating in tourism, back in 2008, we still remember the words of our lecturer: “If you want to travel the world, do not study tourism. Choose another career like law or engineering that will give you more money and longer holidays”. Well, we decided to break the rules. Our dream was to backpack around the world. I guess you could said we enrolled in our own version of “Tourism University”. In January 2009, we finally heeded the call that told us, “Fasten your seatbelts, your adventure is about to start …”
Change of Plans
The initial plan was to go to New Zealand for three months to study English, but traveling is an addiction (the healthiest one!) and once we started, we couldn’t stop. 1641 days have passed since then, and we are still on the road. After more than four years of travelling, we have already visited 24 countries. We camped with the nomads under the stars in Mongolia, learned how to eat with chopsticks in China, discovered remote towns in the Australian outback, coexisted with a constant diarrhoea while in India, and shared a ride with a vomiting pig while hitchhiking in Philippines. But above all, we learned to believe in ourselves and follow our dreams.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve had to date was traveling to Iran in 2010. Despite how it has been portrayed in the media, we found that this this enigmatic country had the most hospitable people of all our travels and decided that we wanted to share our experience. It took us two years, but we finally launched our travel blog, Marcando el Polo (in Spanish), where we write about our travels and help other travelers plan their own.
Seeing the World In a Different Light
For us, traveling is more than crossing countries off the bucket list. Traveling involves discovering more than monuments and tourist attractions. What we were most interested in are the people and their culture. For us, a fascinating, deep conversation with a local is more rewarding than beautiful scenery or an ancient site. That is why, last January, we launched a project called “Without Borders”, where we plan to travel from the Philippines to Turkey, going across Asia overland, hitchhiking and being hosted by locals in every country.
Why do we travel this way? The aim of this project is to put an end to prejudices about many of the countries that we would be visiting in Without Borders. These countries include Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other central Asian countries. We want to show that hospitality exists on every country of the world and that people from these countries suffer because of the negative image painted of them by sensationalist media.
Currently we are in Melaka, Malaysia. We have travelled 11.000 kilometers in 222 different vehicles since we started with this project last January. Except for ferries, all the trips have been done by hitchhiking. Oh yes, we know what you are thinking right now… is it safe? Or are you guys on a suicide mission? Now that we’ve done a fair bit of hitchhiking, we can say that hitchhiking can be even safer, faster and without any doubt, much more enjoyable that taking public transportation. But let’s be frank: hitchhiking is not for everyone. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself waiting for hours at the side of the road under the blistering sun, and that can be immensely frustrating. But when a beat-up old truck finally stops for you, and you get the precious ride you’re after, you will experience the what we call a “backpacker’s orgasm”! So far, in 222 vehicles (and that’s just the number of rides we’ve taken this year!), we felt a lot safer than taking bus rides. When we were taking buses (especially overnight buses), we always had to be on the lookout for our belongings. We were almost robbed more than once on buses!
I bet the second question you’re asking right now is, “Are you guys multimillionaires or is Oprah Winfrey paying for all your expenses?” The answer is none of the above. We are committed to the goal of this project, so money wasn’t too much of an issue. We have done seasonal jobs in Australia and New Zealand (from cleaning mussels to managing a resort) to support ourselves. And, we also write travel articles for publications. But our favourite way to earn some cash is to sell handmade postcards of our pictures in public squares and touristy spots along the way! (Note from Material World: That was how we found ourselves acquainted with Juan and Daniela. They were selling beautiful postcards of pictures they had taken on their travels the weekend MW visited Malacca)
Today, we are enjoying Malaysia. In a month? Who knows? Maybe Thailand, Burma … perhaps we’ll linger awhile longer in Malaysia mulling over our next move over a teh tarik with a friendly local, and you know what? That’s the best part about our lives now, and the reason we wake up every day.Traveling is our passion, and a life full of it should be everyone’s goal!
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