Postcard from Slovenia and the trials and tribulations of life on the road.

Bled

I’ve been on the road in Eastern Europe for about a month and a half now and I’m kinda tired. Perhaps it’s the road, perhaps it’s the fact that there has been relatively little photography or maybe it’s the bad weather, which has contributed to the lack of photography.

Perhaps it’s the stupid decisions I’ve made before leaving – like taking a 25 year old car on a 5000 + km journey. In Asia transport trouble often led me to make new friends and gave me a glimpse into their worlds. Believe it or not, leaving yourself vulnerable in a difficult situation can really show you what a certain culture/people is like and that can make any transport trouble pretty bearable. In the places I’ve traveled in Asia there’s always a positive aspect that emerged, sometimes something as profound as the affirmation of the great potential of human kindness. When a stern looking desert man who speaks no word of English sees you’re in trouble, goes 10 km one way and back to bring some tools to fix your motorbike and then, after all that invites you for tea and chapattis with his family, insisting that you come back for lunch, well that makes any human being with emotions almost teary eyed.

My experiences in Eastern Europe (not including Belarus) have been pretty far from anything like that. They’ve mostly been all about paying, and paying lots. The mechanic doesn’t invite you for lunch either, and doesn’t introduce you to his  family, which is obviously totally understandable, but it sure puts things into perspective. Why do people in India and Indonesia do that? Are they so much more hospitable and open to human interaction than Europeans? I guess in general, the answer is “yes” and I guess that’s why I love being there so much.

The sole exception of a sort happened in Maramures, Romania. My car’s exhaust pipe fell apart after I hit a pot-hole, there was no equipped garage nearby and the only mechanic was one with a very simple set-up. We couldn’t drive too far with the exhaust dragging on the ground and so we had to act on the spot. The mechanic had enough sympathy to understand that and came up with a solution. It was decided that everyone who was there – me, two guys I traveled with, the mechanic and his friend were gonna push the car on its’ side, so the exhaust pipe could be welded together. The four of us were slightly short of muscle power and a passing-by neighbor was asked to help. Without any hesitation he did.

me-and-car

We managed to sort everything out and I was back on the road, thanks to the resourcefulness of these villagers from Maramures. That was about as close as I’ve come to an Indian experience in Europe.

Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t really, if I don’t think about it, but as mentioned, I feel these situations help me put things into perspective, to appreciate the countless amazing moments that have filled my life while I’ve been traveling. They help me gain some sort of an understanding of this crazy world we live in and that in turn can’t be all that bad for my photography.

I don’t advise anyone to do what I’ve been doing – driving in a 25 year old car, I mean. But when I think about it, I got myself the best thing I could can afford at the time, the other option would be not to go at all. I’ve been my own guinea-pig, seeing how far I can go and what adventures and experiences will come my way. I did all the main things I wanted and I can’t complain about that.

Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the kindness of the amazing strangers who have come my way in the past. Typing this in an overpriced hotel room and paying for a crappy internet connection somewhere on the Slovenian border in Italy, I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to get back to “reality”.

Tomorrow I will see if my car is fixable. It was a little unnerving to see smoke come out from under the bonnet, you don’t need to be a mechanic to know that’s not the best sign.

My little adventure is almost over, I originally planned to return to Belarus around the middle of December, I still hope that I can drive back and not have to fly there. 🙂

The top image is from Bled, Slovenia – an unbelievably beautiful place. I was lucky enough to have a sunny day when I arrived, it was all rain and fog later. The next image is me with my car flipped on the side, while the exhaust pipe was getting welded.

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15 Responses to “Postcard from Slovenia and the trials and tribulations of life on the road.”

  1. Monte Stevens Says:

    Another interesting post about your travels. I have found there are differences here in the US from city to city, state to state, coast to coast. I think people see the world with very different eyes due to the cultural environment they have lived in and therefore react differently. Good luck with the car. Oh, and I drive a clunker and carry a few simple tools but plenty duct tape. LOL

  2. Heimana Says:

    Hi Mitchell!
    I recognized the top picture, as I went to Slovenia (http://heymana.com/picsengine3/#page=albums/album=22) for a short trip 2 summers ago… Enjoyed very much, but the weather waas better too 😀
    As for humankind, I don’t have such experience as you do have (I mean, never went -yet- to Asia) but I can imagine the sort of “coldness” of Europeans in general (let’s do not make the mistake to generalize) can produce.
    Would it be something as “less you have, more you’re open to the others”?
    Anyway, wish you good luck to travel back to Belarus!
    Take care!

  3. @steve_happ Says:

    Great post, mitchell.
    hopefully, next year i can do the same..
    woot!
    cheers,
    steve

  4. Julien Dorol Says:

    Hi Mitchell,

    Really intersting post about the hospitality in different country. It is true that in Asia you can experience some crazy things on hospitality : I just remember my friend Krishna from Nepal who’s a farmer and has very little money : one day, we went together to pokhara from his mountain village, and after 20min ride in the bus, I realized that he had paid my bus ticket. It was just impossible to pay him back.

    Here is my idea about the difference between asia and europe :

    In Asia, there is little, I mean very little acces to money especially in remote places where your Royal Enfield decide to stop. No acces to money mean that you don’t have money, and that you can’t spend it anyway cause there is almost nothing to buy. That also mean that a man or a familly can’t live alone. People need to work a lot together in the fields as they don’t have big machinery and pretty much every thing is done by hand. I’ve notice that after 1 month and a half spent in some remote village in Nepal, shooting a subject on farming : The whole village sustainability is based on community, hospitality, brotherhood.

    Now, as long as you get acces to money and market that’s a another story. And that’s the case of Europe and maybe it’s more obvious in eastern europe as they had hard life before and now getting acces to money (you might know it better than me).

    Money lead to independance : If you have acces to wathever market you can, you’ll make some business, then you can afford to buy machines to harvest your crops, a car to move by your own, a welder to fix your 25 yo VW, a iPhone to be cool… And then you realise that money leads to individualism and that’s how people loose the sense of hospitality, community, brotherhood…

    And to go a little further in my idea, I’d say that once you get into this “all for cash” system, once your ressources are only based on money, that’s how some people get really selfish.

    I don’t know if you feel the same as me mitchell, but this is how I understand this issue after a some thinking and observations

    Enjoy your last days 😉
    I

  5. Michelle Says:

    If you come through Kyiv, Ukraine, let me know. I will cook a great dinner for you! 🙂 Hang in there, Eastern Europe is tough.

  6. Jeffrey Says:

    It is also my opinion that hospitality and friendliness is greater in Asia despite the fact that I am from SE Asia myself. But there are pockets of people in Asia that are a little less hospitable and friendly but then again perhaps it’s the language and lack of communication that’s causing that to not shine through.

    Best of luck in your trip!

  7. Mitchell Says:

    As always, thanks for your comments everyone.

    Julien: I think you are write about many things, but I feel that it’s a little more complicated than that and other factors come into play – religion, ethics, sense of identity etc. Still, mechanization of labor and money has a lot to do with the lack of “humanness” in humans.

    Are you gonna be around the Indian subcontinent next year? It would be good to cross paths one day and chat. 🙂

    Michelle: Lol! Thanks for the offer. Not passing through Kiev this time. Maybe ext year. 🙂

  8. Julien Dorol Says:

    Yes, there is a lot of other factors that I forgot or didn’t even thought about… This kind of issue would be a big topic for a PhD in social behaviour. 🙂

    If everything goes as I wish, I’ll be back in Nepal next year and maybe in north india. ‘ll let you know 😉

    PS : I just read my previous comment, just forgive me guys for all the mistakes. My written english isn’t that sweet.

  9. Sumod Says:

    nice article, I am addicted to your blog Mitchell :).

    @Julien : the thought of money and market being the culprit is intriguing. I guess another factor is the natural environment. The most of Europe, there is very severe unfriendly, cold weather, where as most of Asia it is not true (there could be exceptions like Nepal, Arabia, Tibet etc..) and therefore everything has to be fought and won, this makes the ppl also to react in the same way, whereas in Asia things are abundant by nature + other factors like religions etc..

  10. Rob Says:

    Lol mitch awesome story and the picture is great, be good to see you when you get back.

  11. Rob Says:

    ………come to think of it you could have lifted the car up yourself back in the day 🙂

  12. Mitchell Says:

    Haha, Rob, thanks mate! I probably could have, but now we’ll never know! 🙂 Yeh, let’s catch up when I get back.

  13. chester23 Says:

    Haha, next time check the car if it’s in good shape or maybe the best advice will be rent for a car that can stand the bad weather you’ve experienced. Eventhough you’ve struggled because of the weather, I think you’ve enjoyed a lot while taking pictures of the place.

    Australian Wonders

  14. Casa Alpina Says:

    Astonishing “travel” photos.

  15. Dia Says:

    Well, then I’m proud of my fellow citizens 🙂

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