I met this talented young woman in very special circumstances while I was about to go on a five hours hike in the mountains to join the European Rainbow gathering in Northern Italy. We got stuck in a small village at the bottom called Tramonti di Sopra, since a huge and powerful storm came through the valley discouraging us to start our hike.
There was something very peaceful and grounded about her that striked me right when I met her. I discovered her artistic mind as I went through her personal diary full of stories, drawings and intimate thoughts. At the Rainbow, the group we formed was very special – like a likeminded family. We did this photoshoot as I was about to leave the Rainbow camp on my own to venture new places during my hitchiking trip. Alina had just woken up and her natural beauty invited herself in the reflection of my lenses.
1- When did you start travelling and how often?
I was always curious about this world and all the foreign cultures and countries out there. My parents both used to travel a lot when they were in my age so I grew up with them listening to all their travelling stories and got inspired already when I was little. My first solo trip was to Italy I think when I was around 16. That was when I first hitchhiked and got a taste of the freedom that comes with travelling.
2- So far what is your favorite country?
I would say it’s Italy. I strangely feel very connected to this country. It always feels like coming home when I go there. Also, Thailand has something of a second home for me. Every time I cross Bangkok it reminds me of so many beautiful moments.
3 – Can you recommend a secret café or a special spot you go to?
In Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam there is this massive abandoned building which is full of amazing and inspiring cafés and little shops. People are squatting it and everything looks so raw and artistic. I’ve spent hours in there drawing and writing. It’s called 14 Tan That Dam Street. Go there and have a sip of some Vietnamese coffee! The best I’ve had so far.
4- Do you travel alone or with friends?
I used to always travel with friends when I was younger but since I did my first solo trip I nearly always travel alone. In fact, you’re actually never alone and it gives you so much more freedom and time for yourself to fully absorb everything.
5- How do you pay your way?
I always work for some months and save up a bit until I have enough money to continue moving again. Over the years I also learned how to travel on a really low budget, which helps me a lot to make my money last for a while.
Yes, it’s super easy to do that especially in Asia. I used to do some painting jobs here and there, I also worked in bars but I prefer doing murals and being creative. Also I had in mind to teach English in Vietnam some months ago but I cancelled the job offer and decided to paint for a little hostel on a Vietnamese island called Cat Ba instead.
7- What is the most beautiful / mesmerising thing that ever happened to you why travelling?
Hmm.. I guess it’s the realisation that everything comes to you when you just trust and stay open. So many times, I found myself in unexpected situations where something “went wrong” and I had to change my plans and was a bit upset about that and in the end, it turned out that everything happened for a reason. Once for example I lost my passport at the airport in Dubai on my way to Indonesia when I was changing flight. I had no papers, no phone, no Dubai currency, no appropriate outfit for a Muslim country and nothing to eat and drink for more than a day. I thought I was completely lost and asked myself “why is this happening?”. All my friends got on the plane and I stayed in the airport for two days waiting for someone to find my passport. In the end, I found myself sitting in an airplane going to Jakarta, my seat was upgraded to business class, I had some meal vouchers, a new friend and got so many warm hugs und support. That was the moment where I also realised how rewarding solo travelling is and how important it is to always trust.
8- Have you ever found love or love found you? Do you see yourself being available for a serious relationship with this nomadic life or not?
That’s a difficult one. Of course, I found connections but nothing deep enough. It always needs some time to develop and as I’m moving around a lot it makes it difficult to build up something. Being in a constant relationship with this nomadic life seems hard for me. At the same time, I recon it’s important, also because it gives your constantly changing life some stability. My ideal would be a partner who’s my travel companion. A creative and independent soul that allows me to be a free bird.
9- What is the longest period of time you have stayed in the same country and which one?
I guess it was Vietnam where I worked and lived for three months. I also spent a lot of time in Thailand but always with some excursions to neighbour countries since there is this annoying visa law. Well, and there is of course Austria where I grew up and spent most of my time.
10- Why do you travel? When did you start travelling?
Why do I travel… I guess because it makes me alive. Staying in one place and having a grey odd routine every day without seeing all the beauty out there makes me depressive and sad. Travelling is a big source of inspiration for me and my fuel for life I guess. Even though I just realised that it’s also very important to have periods of settlement in-between where you allow yourself to process.
11- How many countries have you visited (name them)?
Wow, what a question! Let me think…
I’ve been to Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Lao, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Vatican City, France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Slovenia and Slovakia – 26 countries but it feels like there is still so much more to see!
12- Mention the 3 worst experiences you ever had
1- When I lost my passport in Dubai at the airport. The worst thing about it were my short pants which made me feel very uncomfortable in this Muslim country. The peak was a man masturbating in front of me while I was drawing.
2- When I had to hide in a truck full of 25.000 liters of orange juice while the driver was unloading the whole tank in a juice factory in Italy. It took him five hours.
3-When I got caught without a ticket in a boat in Venice. We were debating with that guy for more than one hour and in the end, we all had to pay 70€ each. Ouch.
13- As a female traveller what would you tell another female traveller that wants to try it out herself (on her own)?
DO IT! Don’t listen to all the scary stories people tell you and just trust your own instincts. You’re never alone out there!
14- What are the challenges / struggles you regularly encounter being a female traveller?
Well… of course I did not always feel super comfortable as a solo woman travelling through Asia for example. I loooove camping and just sleeping under the open sky but staying on a beach and hitchhiking alone sometimes made me feel a bit worried. I always say don’t be afraid and just do it but when it comes to sleeping outside alone it’s sometimes not that easy. I’m always a bit jealous about men when it comes to that.
15- what are the advantages you think there are to be a female single traveller?
Wow, so many. Seriously! You should never be afraid of solo travelling! As a solo female hitchhiker, I never waited longer than 30 minutes to get a ride for example. I got so many things for free and people sometimes seemed to feel a bit worried and took really good care of me. It’s super easy to get around with hitchhiking and also dumpster diving/asking for leftovers in restaurants works really well. It’s also easy to meet people and start conversations.
16- Do you want to keep on travelling or setlle anythime soon (and if so where)?
I actually just decided to settle down in Austria for about a year and work on some art projects and ground myself a bit. I also need to make some money before I head out to South America next winter. That’s the plan so far.
17- where is you next trip going to be?
I just came back from two months in Italy and am really happy to just stay in Austria for a while now and enjoy the cold cosy winter here. I usually go to somewhere warmer in February but I’m kinda done with short trips for now so I rather wanna wait and save up until next fall and then go to South America for a year.
18- Your 3 Top Tips for someone who would like to follow your path and don’t know how
– don’t plan anything and just go with the flow! You would miss so many opportunities if you plan everything in advance. Don’t be afraid of not knowing where you’re going – you’ll figure it out and it gives you so much freedom!
– check out workaway and other volunteering platforms or just go to places you like and ask them in person if you can work for them. This makes your money last way longer and it gives you a great opportunity to dive into the local culture and meet people who inspire you.
– stay open for foreign cultures and traditions. Try to connect with locals, learn a bit of their language and eat with them! Getting to know other cultures is so rewarding and makes you really rethink the whole planet and all our social structures.
19- What type of traveller are you?
I am a very curious and free bird I would say. I never plan anything in advance and always just go where the wind is dragging me to. I like staying longer in places and doing useful things there. I’m always looking for connections with locals and I really enjoy cooking with them and learning from them. Most of the time I try to skip touristy places and find my own way to see the characteristics of the country I’m in.
20- Answer you own question (one you wished i had asked and haven’t)
What was one of the most beautiful moments in your travels?
I just had to close my eyes for a second and pick one. There are so many beautiful memories! Birds singing in tall green trees, moss on the ground, no other sounds beside nature. We were hiking for four hours in a wild untouched jungle in Vietnam, our bags full of nuts and bananas. We ended up in a small fishing village where we asked an old man if he could take us back to the town where we parked our scooters. He agreed and we hopped on the little fisher boat. He took us through all the little coves and ways between incredibly beautiful rocks and lush green jungle. Me, Ali and Alex were lying in front of the wooden boat, holding hands and observing all the little fish beneath us. Slowly it turned night and we arrived back in town where we danced through little alleys, singing songs about life and feeling completely enriched.