The travel life beyond the travel guides.

Can travelling be ethical? Is there something beyond mass tourism, idealized instagram pictures, instrumentalization of the ”exoticism” of other cultures for means of soul searching and guides to ”low budget” aiming to get the most of our privileges while giving the least possible? These are the main questions I seek to answer, or rather, keep debating about.
Are you tired of hours of planning, only to arrive to a place and realize you already saw everything- through internet? You want to travel, yet you don’t want to be a tourist? You want the real experience, living like the locals, meeting people and understanding the culture? You want to travel, in a conscious, ecological and ethical way, outside of exchanges centered on money? Me too- and I know it’s not always easy to figure out how. This is one of the reasons I decided to write this blog!
I know I am far from being the first one to travel this way, or the most relevant voice, but somehow there seems to be a huge gap between how we generally conceive travelling and what long term travelers live. One of my goals is simply to help people understand my daily life as a low budget, ethical and long term traveler; the good, the bad and why I travel this way. 

My goal is not to dictate an alternative way to travel, but simply help give a more accurate representation of my type of travel life. Meanwhile, I hope to nourish reflexions about travelling and healthier and happier travels- whatever that means for you.

After experiencing a turning point in my wanderings, I had to stop and think: what does travelling mean for me? What’s the bigger picture? How can I do my part while travelling? Leave a trail of consciouness and critical thinking behind my steps by planting seeds of reflection along the way.

 

About ME

   Marika Handfield: Writer and photographer

 

At 22 years old, psychology bachelors in hand, I decided to leave university and my stressful conventional life to travel, giving myself space and time to learn and explore, live differently, and simply live. Questioning myself, pushing my boundaries and doing things I never thought about, or never thought possible make me strive, and I do my best to feed this fire. I’ve always been passionate about doing ‘’the’’ right thing, which led me to environmentalism, veganism, feminism, social and human rights and a general non-binary, critical and humane perspective (to put it simply). I’m also on a personal war against gendered socialisation, stereotypes and prejudice in general and constantly try to raise awareness, starting with mine, and hopefully yours as well!
For me, travelling is more about discovering new ways to live, expanding my possibilities and meeting people instead of visiting places. It also allowed me to explore a new passion: photography (mostly of cats).

MY journey

After travelling in Australia, Indonesia and Thailand, I made a decision: I had to travel again, but differently. I had to have no time limit and find a better way, a way to really travel and experience the culture rather than spend my time with other tourists. When I started this journey, I had no idea where it would lead me -and how. ”De fil en aiguille” as we say, I met amazing people and discovered a million ways to travel like I wanted: plan-free, plane-free, human-based rather than based on places, filled with discoveries, meaningful exchanges and learning and involving no or very little money.

[Travelling as a privileged white, cis, heterosexual, able, educated couple with passport and pretty privileges]

It all started in May 2017, in the Netherlands, Maastricht, where I joined Vincent during his semester abroad, after finishing my studies. For visa reasons (damn Schengen area), and due to a lack of preparation (forgot to consider visas before leaving), I realized I had to leave Europe. Within 4 days, I decided to accept a job as an au pair in Turkey for 1 month. Vincent and I met again in Montenegro, well, in Serbia, in a very dramatic scene at the airport (yes, I started my trip taking planes without a second thought,  or rather with the usual ”that’s what everyone does”) where we both landed, but did not use the same transportation to finish our journey. We spent our first month in Montenegro volunteering in exchange for food and accomodation (thank you workaway.info) at an eco-camp, Agape Farm Camp. This, is where the first piece of my ”how to travel” puzzle was solved; I discovered… Hitchhiking! 

How is it a solution? No planning, no tourist bus, guaranteed interactions with locals or fellow travelers and the best adventures. More on this here! In short, I fell in love with hitchhiking and decided to try it out! Our first journey? Hitchhiking from Tivat to Durmitor National Park, a 9 hour ride we made in… 9 hours! Adopted. We spent the next few weeks wild camping, hitchhiking and hiking around Montenegro, Bosnia y Herzegovenia and Albania, until we got another wonderful surprise… Sailing!

We had the amazing luck of meeting Gaelle and Leo, a couple from Belgium at Agape Farm camp where we volunteered, and Leo invited us to join him, his father and a few more people on an amazing 3-4 weeks sailing trip across Greek islands to Barcelona. After this awesome experience, we headed for Italy, where my mother and step-father joined us for 2 weeks of comfortable travelling in Rome and South Italy (except for a small incident). However, this turning point led us to appreciate and use even more the third piece of the puzzle… Couchsurfing! 

Whether it’s official (through the website) or informal (connections, or meeting people in the street), losing our tent and camping equipment right in the beginning of winter pushed us to find shelter another way: in people’s homes. Although I still miss the amazing tent and camping is incredible, being received in a home has one major advantage: the people. Like hitchhiking, this allowed us to always have interesting exchanges with people from everywhere, learn so much more about the culture and left us with a sense of home and friends, everywhere.

So, after a month and a half of volunteering in an oasis in the beautiful italian mountains of Seborga and getting ourselves back on our feet, we hit the road again, crossing to France to visit friends in Marseille and hitchhiking through Spain to reach Morocco (pictures here), where I spent the best 3 months of my trip, so far.

As the temparature was rising and the little cash I had disappearing, I flew to Italy (yep, after a year of plane-less travel, I made an exception, I’ll explain it later) to work as au pair in Pisa for 2 months, starting a new page of my journey: travelling solo as a woman.

[Travelling as a privileged white, cis, able, educated woman with passport and pretty privileges]

After Pisa, I train-hopped (actually black riding, as I was in the trains) to Verona and Noli to visit friends I met in Maastricht, and to L’Orto in Giardino-Seborga, where I stayed last November-December. I started hitchhiking solo across France, stopping in the idyllic Valensole and Paris to meet with my cousin, the hitched all the way to England, through the Eurotunnel (only in a day!). After a day in Ashford, I finished my journey crossing England from East to West to reach Cornwall, where I ended up spending 1 month and a half living at the amazing Newlina eco-gardens (follow the links for more information here, here to support them, or here to read an article written about them) -and if you’re in Cornwall (lucky one!) go see them!

Unfortunately, a family emergency forced me to rush back home in September, and I decided to take a plane as, again, the emotional and psychological impact of doing it seemed to outweigh my weight on the plane and I decided that I will have plenty of time to compensate that environmental impact. As I’ve mentionned, it’s not about perfection, but cultivating awareness and critical thinking as guides on the path of ethical travelling -and living.