Overland Journey - Journal of Nomads

Life-update: Why we’re not continuing our Overland Journey around the World

 

Yes, you’re reading it correctly. Niko and I have decided to stop our overland journey around the world. This might come as a surprise if you’ve been following us since the beginning of the adventure. Three years ago we were so excited and motivated to take on the challenge of traveling the world without taking one single airplane and even though we’re not continuing anymore, it has been an incredible and unforgettable journey to hitchhike slowly from Europe to Central Asia.

 

The route we hitchhiked from Ireland to Kyrgyzstan (it took us 3 years!)

 

 

 So why are we not continuing this overland adventure?

It all started last winter when we were living in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. We had decided to rent a small apartment so we had a warm and comfy place from which we could teach English online and save some money for our upcoming travels.

 

The idea seemed perfect at first because we really wanted to explore Kyrgyzstan more once the winter would be over. And since we weren’t taking any airplanes and couldn’t fly off to a warmer destination, we had to find a solution to get through the cold winter in Central Asia.

 

Camping in winter in Central Asia - Journal of Nomads

 

 

It was quite a unique experience to spend the winter in Central Asia. We went skiing in Kazakhstan, which was very special for me since it was the first time in more than 20 years that I was back on the ski slopes. Niko went on an awesome horseback riding trip to Son Kul with his brothers who came to visit him all the way from Canada and we did some beautiful hikes in a true winter wonderland.

 

What you need to Know and Pack before you go Trekking in Kyrgyzstan – A Complete Packing List for hiking in Kyrgyzstan - Journal of Nomads - Horseback riding in winter

Horseback riding to Song Kul in winter

 

 

But apart from those occasional little trips, we spent most of our days inside the apartment in Bishkek. It’s just not ideal to travel, hitchhike and camp in temperatures of -30ºC. It was fun and cozy at first. We enjoyed the small luxuries of having our own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and a warm living room but after a while, I started feeling like I was trapped.

 

People who know me well, know that I’m not a city person. I don’t mind being in a city for a few weeks but after a while, I crave being in nature. I’m an outdoor person and I feel at home in the mountains, in the forests, and at the sea. But it’s just not so inviting to camp and be constantly outside when the temperatures are way below zero. So most of the time I was inside the apartment, sitting behind my laptop to work (or to procrastinate by watching movies and videos).

 

I’m not going to go into much detail here but let’s wrap it up by saying that I started feeling depressed and I was often physically very ill. I didn’t take good care of myself and instead of doing things that made me feel good, by going outside for a good walk for example, I wrapped myself in the dark blanket of the winter blues, so to speak.

 

Overland journey - winter in Central Asia - Ala Archa - Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan

I might look happy here but in reality, I wasn’t doing too great

 

 

Niko noticed that I wasn’t doing too well. That’s when we first started talking about maybe quitting this ‘project’ of traveling the world overland and flying to a warmer place for the winter where I could spend a lot of time outdoors without freezing my ass off. Niko suggested that we could then fly back to Kyrgyzstan in spring.

 

I considered the idea and started already checking out some destinations. But then my resistance kicked in. It felt like I was giving up and not finishing a goal I had set for myself. I didn’t want to abandon our whole mission just because I was going through a hard time. The winter would be over in a few months anyway so I told Niko I wanted to stick to our original plan and that I’d get better soon.

 

In the following weeks, however, the topic of taking airplanes returned a lot into our conversations. Somehow a seed was planted. Even though we really had loved the challenge of hitchhiking from Europe to Central Asia, we started to feel limited in our coming options.

 

We couldn’t get a visa for China as we couldn’t apply for one in Central Asia. That meant that we would have to hitchhike through Mongolia in a timespan of only one month, travel through Russia on a transit visa of maximum 10 days to take the ferry from Vladivostok to South Korea or Japan. Not only would this mean that we’d have to rush through these countries (and as you know, we love to take it slow), it would also become a costly affair.

 

Read: How to travel Overland from Europe to Asia

 

We realized that the challenge of not taking airplanes became more of a task and that the prospect of traveling towards South East Asia wasn’t inspiring us anymore. We felt much more motivated by the idea of flying and exploring Pakistan, hiking in the Himalaya’s in Nepal and discovering off-the-beaten-path places in North Africa (just to name a few) than traveling to popular destinations like Bali, Cambodia or Thailand.

 

Niko and I loved the intrepid experiences in Central Asia and it became clear we wanted to continue having more outdoor experiences like this. So, after a lot of talking (over a few bottles of wine) we made our decision: we wouldn’t continue our overland journey around the world.

 

 

Overland Journey - Journal of Nomads

 

 

 

So what’s next?

 

It was honestly a very liberating feeling knowing we can travel spontaneously again instead of moving through a planned overland itinerary of countries. It suddenly felt like the world was at our feet and we had so many options to choose from. One thing was clear however, I wanted to spend the coming winter in a ‘warmer’ destination.

 

So after another couple of bottles of wine (those drinks are sooo good to make decisions…), Niko suggested traveling to Morocco. He lived there for nearly a year before we met each other and the country felt in a certain way like home to him. As he traveled there for such a long time, he knows the country and the language pretty well. He already mentioned more than a few times that he wanted to return to Morocco and explore the off-the-beaten-places with me.

 

While I’m writing this post, Niko is already in Morocco. I went back to Belgium for a few weeks to reconnect with my roots, my friends and family (it had been many years since I spent some quality-time here) and I’m joining him in just a few days.

 

This feels like a new chapter in our journey around the world. We’re definitely not quitting our travels, not even after living full-time on the road for more than 7 years. We’re just altering our travels to what suits us the best at this moment in time. Why limit ourselves when we have the freedom to make our own choices and nothing is standing in our way?

 

We’ll stay in Morocco for a while and we’ll see where the road will take us. One thing is for sure though: once the winter is over, we’re returning to Central Asia. We had so much fun with our group adventure tours last summer, that we are organizing more Adventure Treks and Overland Expeditions in Kyrgyzstan in the coming summer.

 

 

 

Even though it wasn’t an easy decision for me (and us) to take in fear of ‘giving up’, I came to the realization that it’s so important to do what feels good instead of trying to achieve something that doesn’t really matter in the end. I want to be happy in what I do, feel inspired by my choices and feel fully alive and kicking.

 

Just like we grew and changed, this blog is also transforming itself. From now on we’ll also be writing about our outdoor and unique adventures in the uncommon destinations we’re going to visit. I hope you’ll still join us for this exciting new journey!

 

 

Follow Cynthia - Journal of Nomads:

Writer, travel photographer, Panasonic Lumix Ambassador and co-founder of Journal of Nomads

I have Belgian roots but the world has been my home for the past 8 years. I'm an artist at heart and often get lost in my thoughts. I like to create some-thing out of no-thing and once I feel inspired, I'm unstoppable. I love telling stories and taking photos, showing the beauty and extraordinary of the world around me. Oh, and I love making the impossible elegantly probable. Once you realize that you're a creator and the world is your playfield, there's no limit to what can be done!

24 Responses

  1. Floria lena
    | Reply

    You two have been an inspiration with your overland journey and I am sure you will continue to inspire with your new adventures! It is always best to follow your heart and do what brings true joy! Best of luck in Morocco!

  2. Daniela
    | Reply

    I had noticed that there were suddenly appearing photos from Morocco on Facebook and had been wondering. However, I was so busy that I didn’t try to find out what happened – until today. Changing plans is totally all right, it’s your life, after all. And I’m sure it doesn’t mean that you’ll now start FLYING all around the world and become “just a normal digital nomad”. I always liked the fact that you’re different somehow. All the best for your future plans and travels.

    • Hi Daniela, Thank you so much for your support! We’ve been now one month in Morocco and we haven’t regretted our choice one bit!! We’re still doing what we love: hitchhiking, connecting with the local people, exploring uncommon places, going on some outdoor adventures,… The only difference is that we now take airplanes to places that we’re interested in and indeed, we’re not planning on becoming ‘just another digital nomad’ 🙂 Hope you’re happy and well in Peru! We’re thinking of heading towards South America next year so maybe see you there!!

  3. Desi
    | Reply

    You two have been an inspiration with your overland journey and I am sure you will continue to inspire with your new adventures! It is always best to follow your heart and do what brings true joy! Best of luck in Morocco!

  4. João Leitao
    | Reply

    Hello!! I’m glad you’re moving to Morocco! So funny you want to escape winter and will move to a snowy cold mountain country such as Morocco. Expect a lot of snow this winter. Get ready for cold again… 🤩🤩🤩 But at least with blue sky… See you in Ouarzazate. Hug from Japan.

    • Hi Joao! Haha, yes, I’m aware that it can snow in Morocco but at least we’ll be able to travel around a bit and not get stuck in temperatures of -30 degrees 😉 At the moment it’s already -8 in Bishkek while I’m still sitting in a T-shirt in Tangier… hahaha. But I’m prepared, got my winter clothes with me but at least I’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors. I don’t mind snow, I just mind being ‘locked up’ in a small apartment in a capital city 😀 See you in Ouarzazate and enjoy your travels in Japan! Big hugs!

  5. Arianne Wolodarsky
    | Reply

    Wow, it’s so refreshing and comforting to read that you guys are being true to yourselves and also forgiving. This is so important, but sometimes so hard to accept, because as you say, we set goals to ourselves that we’ve told everyone about, and suddenly it feels like you’re abandoning or giving up. But that’s not the case, and I’m glad you’ve made this post. I’m currently going through s travelling hiatus myself right now. I’m happy to say I’ve finally managed to transition to online teaching, which is giving me financial and geographical freedom, although for the moment I’m not planning to travel much. It’s wonderful to be open to change though, and not just from external factors, but from something within ourselves, when things don’t feel quite right, to rediscover the freedom of choice! I’m very happy for both of you, enjoy the warmer winter…..and I would absolutely love to joing you on one of your excursions…..I’ll ponder about it… maybe it’s a possibility, and it would be wonderful to meet you guys! Love and light to the two of you.

    • Hi Arianne, as always, thanks so much for your beautiful and kind words! I had to go through this limiting self-believe and I’m actually very glad to hear that many people can relate to this. I’m happy with this decision, finally feeling I’m doing my thing again, which is to travel spontaneously, see which options will come my and our way and choose the road that makes me feel happy. I seriously hope you can join us on one of our adventure tours, it would be amazing to share an adventure like that with you, really! Lots of love and light to you as well and good luck with the online teaching!! <3

  6. Nina
    | Reply

    Go your own way for 100 %!

  7. Maya
    | Reply

    That was soooo inspiring Cynthia and Niko! I loved “it’s so important to do what feels good instead of trying to achieve something that doesn’t really matter in the end” and it’s so very true. We often have huuuuuge goals and a certain idea of what we want to do and then letting go of it seems negative, like abandoning it and even failing. But you said it so well. Why do something that makes us fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled when you can just tweak it up and be so much more excited about life! It’s so great to see you guys following your hearts. Your plans to travel off the beaten path until next summer sound amazing!!!
    Maya (from Gab & Maya :))

    • Thank you so much Maya for your beautiful words! <3 It was indeed not easy because I felt I was failing at something but now I'm feeling so good again and very excited about where the road will take us! It's good to follow your heart instead of your head sometimes 😉

  8. Sabrina
    | Reply

    This completely resonates with me! Congratulations for identifying what you want versus what you feel obligated to do or complete. This year, my partner and I wanted to travel for one year. About 8 months in, I got salmonella in Nepal and it completely destroyed me. I didn’t want to go home (somewhere that felt safer), because I was convinced I was giving up. But, when we finally decided to go home, I felt immediately lighter and happy. We’re back on the road, but on our own terms (traveling a lot slower with time for rest). We can’t wait to follow your journey to Morocco and everyone else!

    • Hi Sabrina, so sorry to hear that you got so sick in Nepal!! It must have been awful for you! I’m glad to hear you took the decision to return home and recover there. It’s horrible to be so sick in a foreign country. Where are you traveling now? Maybe we’ll meet you on the road. Enjoy your travels as well! <3

  9. Katie Featherstone
    | Reply

    I’ll be following wherever you go. 😛

  10. Julie Cao
    | Reply

    I support your decision and I agree sometimes when the things you do become a task it is time for a change. I also feel that as we getting older, too much overland trips in the not-to-good weather conditions has started taking tolls on our body. I look forward to seeing your new journey and I also plan to join your Overland Expeditions in Kyrgyzstan in the next two years. Have fun and hope to see you one day!

    • Thank you for your support Julie! <3
      We just really felt we needed to make some changes. We're also not the youngest anymore and our priorities after living on the road for more than 7 years have changed. I just find it very important that I feel good at every level. Since we made this decision, a lot of doors have opened and I'm really excited about this new chapter!
      And... it would be AMAZING if you'd join our overland expedition Julie!! Would be great to share such an adventure with you!!! Hope to see you soon!

  11. Shara Johnson
    | Reply

    I definitely think you might the right decision to do what makes you happy instead of sticking too stubbornly to a “goal” whose meaning becomes more diminished. I hope to do an artist’s residency in Morocco within the next year, so I look forward to seeing what all you guys discover and share!

    • Shara Johnson
      | Reply

      oh shoot, I mean to say, I think you *made* the right decision. 🙂

    • Thank you Shara! Even though I’m fully behind this decision, I’m always a bit anxious about how people will react to big changes like this. But yes, there’s no point of sticking to something that just doesn’t work well anymore. I want to do what makes me happy and that gives me energy!
      When are you planning on going to Morocco? Maybe we’ll meet you there? We’ll definitely share our discoveries with you!! 🙂

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