The cozy Youthink hostel in Cluj. A big mug of hot tea. -15 outside. The perfect conditions to write a post about traveling in winter.
We supposed to be in India, that was the plan. But we managed to establish a cooperation with Sfera Macedonia, interested in our Changemaker Course. So we changed our plans and as we try to travel by land, for economical, ecological and adventurous reasons, we decided to stay in the Balkans. We knew it would be difficult, true winter, not like the 30 degrees in Thailand last year. But knowing and experiencing it’s definitely not the same. Every day I am counting down the days until spring, and I wonder how it actually happened, that we aren’t now somewhere in the middle of India?
Let's get to the point, rather obvious thoughts, but I’ll write them down in one place, just in case someone is thinking about taking on a winter-traveler's challenges (or wondering how it is). Of course, our luggage is different than for the tropical expedition. We left the tent behind, instead we took more sweaters and warm socks. We don’t have a really adequate winter clothing As we travel long term the backpack is always the result of some compromise. So we have T-shirts, which today are not really useful, but when the weather starts to change we will need them. Instead of proper winter jackets - a rainwear with additional polar. Instead of winter scarf – light one, which can be used in various ways. We don’t have sandals, beside trekking shoes we took running shoes (a bit also because we had hoped to get back into running) and a kind of slippers, useful in rooms that are not very well heated (most of them are not). Probably quite a wise decision would be a thermos, instead of that, most of the time, we carry with us rakija, that we regularly get from different people we are meeting on the way. It’s not hot in temperature, but the alcohol helps in critical situations.
Of course, our way of travelling also changed. With no tent and temperatures below zero make spontaneity way more difficult. We need to have a plan where to stay every night, which was not the case in Asia. Also hitchhiking has become challenging. We crossed by hitchhiking Macedonia and Serbia, when the thermometer showed still some notch above 0, but on the way to Romania, after 45 minutes in the cold, we gave in and holed up into a comfy train. This of course increases the cost of travel and diminish the amount of fun. Eating outside also becomes near to impossible. We often worked out a lunch by buying, for example, bread, cheese, some vegetables and making a mini-picnic in a park or square. Now we cannot even consider it an option. Moreover, even if we think of visiting the city (because of the freezing cold we don’t really think about that too often), every now and then we have to stop for a cup of coffee or tea to warm up. Winter doesn’t really prevent us from meeting and interviewing changemakers, but enjoying the places we visit, often beautiful, like for example Timisoara, is nearly impossible.
What would be the good side of winter... sometimes it’s beautiful, as you can see in the picture above, which despite appearances is not a drawing, but real photo shot at IVA farm in Serbia. What else ... You start to appreciate very small things. A cup of hot tea. A few minutes of sun. Heating in the cafe. Certainly you will appreciate spring more than ever before. And there is always something to talk about, as weather becomes topic number one.
Other good sides… I don’t see them now. And the New Year's resolutions list started with a big decision of spending next winter in the tropics ;)