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Niko and Cynthia from Journal of Nomads have spent the last two years hitchhiking around the world. And they haven’t taken any planes. Travel Continuously caught up with them to find out why they live the Digital Nomad life!
Niko and Cynthia are emailing me from Bishkek. They are spending the winter hibernating in Kyrgyzstan’s capital and apparently, “It’s very cold… between -5°C and -10°C”, so instead of the usual tent they call home, they have been forced by the elements into “renting a small flat in the city centre”.
Since September 2015 they have been hitchhiking across the world together, from Ireland all the way to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, “Covering more than 10,000 kilometres and living countless adventures along the way”, and as they tell me from Bishkek: “We still have a long way to go before reaching our final destination, Alaska! Especially since we travel very slowly and our aim is to set foot on every continent”.
An Uncommon Love Story
Niko and Cynthia may have been hitchhiking for the last two and a half years, but they’ve both been on the road for much, much longer, and the road is where they met.
Cynthia tells me that “Before we met, Niko had been travelling for 7 years, mainly in North and South America and Europe. I had been on the road for 4 years, venturing around Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia and Europe.
“We met during the grape picking season in France in 2014 and there we decided we wanted to travel around the world without taking airplanes. However, we first needed some extra cash before we could embark on this journey. That’s why we first went to Ireland where we worked in a hotel and did some landscaping before starting this overland adventure”.
A Different Life Before The Road
Cynthia and Niko both have different stories to tell, but both are stories which eventually threw them together for a life on the road.
Niko’s is the most unusual:
“I grew up without electricity in the countryside of Canada. My dad used to run a wilderness survival school so I learned how to fend for myself at an early age. Growing up in this very alternative lifestyle also broadened my mind and when I was 18, I decided to start travelling and seeing the world. Once I hit the road, there was no going back to a normal life in Canada. I quickly became addicted to seeing new places and discovering new cultures”.
Cynthia’s story will be more familiar with Digital Nomads around the world, but it is equally inspiring, as she turned what was supposed to be an adventure of one year, into a life of continuous travel:
“I lived quite a conventional lifestyle in Belgium before I started travelling at the age of 26. I was working as a special needs teacher in a small school in Bruges. Although I studied for 6 years to do this type of work, I quickly realised that I wasn’t meant to do this in life. When my contract finished, I floated between jobs trying to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do. Travelling had been on my mind for a long time, ever since I lived for a little while as a teenager in South Africa. I just never thought I could make a lifestyle out of it. Then one day, I decided to just try it and booked a one way ticket to Australia”.
Journal of Nomads
Niko and Cynthia have been documenting their travels together through their website Journal of Nomads. Through their website and You Tube channel they have been posting about the reality of long term overland travel, the good and the bad.
Cynthia says that “Ever since I started my travels, I always wanted to write about my experiences and how it was to live a full-time life on the road. I also really loved photography so I played with the idea of starting a blog for a few years”.
Niko had also worked on an online video series before, where he and a friend “…filmed their adventure hitchhiking from Canada to Mexico”“. They both had the ideas, but it wasn’t until they met that they began to put their plans into action.
Cynthia says that when they found each other in France “…it was an instant click. We both wanted to travel and we both wanted to document our adventures. It didn’t take long for us to come up with a plan and create Journal of Nomads”.
Despite the fact that they both had little experience in media, or anything website related, they learned everything by themselves: “From editing photos and videos to building a website and an audience”.
The main resource they could draw on was themselves. Before they started Journal of Nomads they’d both been travelling for years, and now they simply had to share that “..knowledge on how to create a lifestyle of continuous travel”.
And Their Aim?
“With our blog and vlog, we’d like to show people the reality of long-term travel, what you can achieve with a certain budget and a positive mindset and how you can make an income from anywhere in the world. We want to bring people to the realisation that they don’t need to wait until retirement to realise their dreams”.
Financing A Life Of Continuous Travel
Niko and Cynthia have tried many different avenues over the years in order to finance their long term travel, but recently they have been focusing on Teaching English online while they monetise their website, and they would recommend it to any Digital Nomads.
“We used to finance our travels by working on the spot in the countries that we visited, including teaching in local schools. It was only when we reached Turkey in 2016 that we discovered the possibility of teaching online. Once we opened that door, a whole world of opportunities opened for us. Teaching online is so convenient!”
They didn’t have any TEFL qualifications before they started either- just teaching experience- although they admit this would have made things easier. They firmly believe that now is a great time to be a Digital Nomad, as “…it’s very easy to get a job online with a very basic skill set”.
A Long Journey To Alaska
Since they started their epic hitchhiking journey in Ireland they have crossed 14 countries overland. They travelled by ferry to France, overlanding it through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania before catching another ferry onto the Greek islands, and then another onto Turkey.
It’s been a slow journey, but an immersive journey. In Turkey, they lived and travelled for 9 months, and then in Georgia they spent 11 months living, travelling and teaching online before recently crossing by cargo ship from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan.
“It’s fun to see the landscape and the culture gradually change”, they tell me of their love of overland travel. “Travelling overland makes you experience the vastness of our planet, and hitchhiking allows us to meet so many locals along the way. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn more about the local culture and traditions. Travelling for us is not only about visiting stunning locations, but also about connecting with the local people”
Cynthia and Niko are now spending the winter in Kyrgyzstan, and ultimately- for this one, long journey at least- they have Alaska in mind as the end point.
“But that won’t be the last place we’ll visit”, they stress. “We have no idea where the road will lead us, one of the reasons why we love this lifestyle so much. All the doors are open”.
The Journey Is More Important Than The Destination
These two have a long journey still ahead of them, but they are living life and travelling the way they want to. For any aspiring Digital Nomads and travellers out there who are debating whether to hit the road or not, they have this final advice from their years of travel:
“Don’t overthink, just do it! The first months might require some adjusting and could be a bit stressful. To make the transition, it might be a good idea to already have some savings. This way you won’t stress too much and it’ll give you time to get used to this new lifestyle. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the process! The journey is after all more important than the destination. Why do you think we travel so slowly!”
Follow The Journal of Nomads Journey!
Article Compiled By Richard Collett. Thanks To Niko And Cynthia Of Journal of Nomads For Their Awesome Story!
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