About us and magickervan.com:
We are Magy and Mr. Shushtari from Bulgaria. We have travelled the world and have lived in different places for 10 years now. Some of the countries we visited before our current journey are Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, most of Europe and we have lived in Spain, Czech Republic and China where we trained in Kung Fu. In April 2015 we embarked on our current journey that started in Bulgaria, travelling through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Thailand and now we are in Malaysia.
We call ourselves extreme travellers – we travel on a very low budget (roughly 200 USD for both of us per month), we are hitchhiking and sleeping mainly in our tent – not because of the need, but mostly because we love being in nature and connecting with people.
Magy is studying biology and we both have enormous interest in wildlife – on our journey we have spent many days in jungles and wilderness, and sometimes we wait stalking for hours, to see some wild animal. So far we have had two close encounters with tigers (although we didn’t see them!)
We created our blog because we see many people have negative stereotypes for different countries that are rarely true. So we describe our journey day by day in order for people to see for themselves, how one is treated in different countries. On our journey we are also inspired to write documentary notes, fairy-tales, impressions and other art articles related to the places we pass through (blogs’ section; spirit and food).
How we met Joan?
One foggy morning we arrived at the headquarters of UFO (Universal Friendship Organziation) located at the capital of Manipur State, India. Our six month journey in India was coming to an end. We still had one week till our visa expired and we crossed the India-Myanmar border by land. UFO was a focal point for strangers from all around the world, all of them traveling the India- Myanmar overland route.
Upon entering we came across a young charismatic man. Joan was emanating joy, was very energetic and an erudite. [erudite meaning ‘having or showing great knowledge or learning’]. We spent a week with him and were very impressed and shaken by his travel stories.
What was your life before you started to travel without money?
I was born in lleida a small city in Spain. After I finished school, I studied physics at the Universitat de Barcelona. As a student, I realized that something was not right; I felt lost, and my life seemed purposeless. Since I had enjoyed working in an international campus, I thought about volunteering and found this project in Indonesia. I quit the university and went to Indonesia to teach English in a university.
What provoked you to give up on money?
I was in Jakarta, accommodated by a couchsurfing host, and I wanted to visit the Ujung Kulon National Park and see the rhinos. I didn’t want to spend much money but hitchhiking was not an option for me back then. So, I took a bus and a cab van after that. I had to bargain for the price. This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth. I am sure that bargain battles leave both parties unsatisfied.
When I arrived at the final destination late at night, I was dropped in front of a cottage – the only available accommodation. The price was decent and I paid for one night. In the morning, I was told that I was not allowed to go to the park alone, and must hire a guide. There was no place around to buy food and I had to order food. In addition, I had to stay another day, and yet I might have had no chance to see the rhinos. It meant I had to pay a double amount for a guide, fees and food of course.
The next day, I tried to bargain and felt uncomfortable and exhausted again. So I decided not to go, paid what I owed and left. I remember the manager asked me, whether I wanted a taxi… There was nothing I wanted less! I was maybe in one of the most remote places on Java Island, but I didn’t care; I just wanted to leave that place. I was walking furiously and quickly, mad at the world, mad at myself and the whole low-budget-traveling idea…
And then suddenly, as if by magic, I started to laugh so loudly and an extraordinary feeling of freedom overwhelmed me. I had a tent, water, clothes, and a book. I needed nothing else. I kept on walking. When it started to rain, I found a shelter. I was reading my book when the rain stopped. It was beautiful and blissful. I decided to keep going. After some time a car stopped, though I wasn’t even hitchhiking. The passengers wanted to help me.
I wandered for a while and then I started to hitchhike again. I met wonderful people, I had an amazing time and it was fun. I found what I wanted.
Is it easy to trust strangers?
After crossing the border between Thailand and Myanmar I started hitchhiking and after five minutes I got a ride. It was 4 p.m. They were a family going to Hpa-An. I was so happy. After three hours the old guy at the back and the little girl got out off the car and paid the driver. It was a damn taxi! Though they looked like a family going from one place to another. When we arrived to Hpa-An, I still had some dollars. I didn’t want to argue or bargin. So I ended up paying.
It was around 9 p.m., dark and I was looking for a place to pitch my tent. I was angry. All of a sudden, a guy came to me and offered me to stay in his home. I told him that I had no money. He didn’t care. We went to his place together and the first thing he gave me was a traditional T-shirt from Myanmar. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. He asked me if I was hungry and took me out for dinner. The next day he first cooked a breakfast for me and then asked where I wanted to go. I said to Kyayktyo and added that I would hitch a lift. He didn’t understand. He bought me a bus ticket and gave me some money for food. After several days, I learnt that hosting foreigners in Myanmar was illegal…
Can you describe us a typical day of your life?
Whenever I have to hitch a ride, I wake up early in the morning when the sun rises. If someone has hosted me, then usually they drop me at a place where I can easily stop a car and feed me before they let me go. Otherwise, I walk out until I find such a place, maybe an hour or two, not more. Then I wait until the right lift arrives. There is always a vehicle on the road meant for me. Sometimes, I am fed, sometimes I am not, but I never stayed hungry for more than one day. Sometimes I arrive to my destination in one day where almost always couchsurfing is waiting for me, sometimes I don’t.
Both options are good for me and I greatly enjoy my journey. My trip is a pilgrimage. I eat what I am given and sleep where I am invited. I am patient, persistent and accept everything with equanimity. Every experience teaches me a lesson. There are many solutions for each problem.
What is the place that impressed you most?
Thabarwa Centre in Yangon, Myanmar. I cannot explain it briefly. Google it.
What is your dream?
I just want to make the world a better place. If I may quote Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Now I am on my way to grow up personally and spiritually. Learning how I can be a better person, how I can get wiser every day will enable me to spread the change to the world.
What are your future plans?
I don’t know. Maybe I will try to hitch a ride in a boat or an airplane.
End of interview
We want to shed some light on an interesting phenomenon that Joan noticed and we witnessed many times.
It happens quite often during our travels that someone (a person on the road or a passer-by) asks us where we are going to and whether he/she could help us. When we say we are travel hitchhiking she/he says that in this country no one will take us and hitchhiking is impossible. The irony is that he himself stops to help us. Every day we meet dozens of people who help us and give us a ride.
The question that arises here is: Aren’t we all surrounded mainly by good people? Do we think that our neighbour whose political views differ from ours and whom we hate for years, the driver with whom we quarrel on the road in the morning; the “friend” who gossips behind our back and so on, are all good people? Maybe we were simply programmed this way; the roles we have to play in the society make us hurt the people around us, and sometimes even ourselves…