Growing up in a harbor town and watching large ships arrive in France, sparked the imagination of Jules Verne, who in response, wrote about man’s need for adventure, and the desire to move and find out what is behind the boundaries of known areas, streets, cities, country.
The first world traveler from Serbia was Milorad Rajcevic. And he, like the heroes of Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, went on his adventure after a dare from Mitic brothers, publishers of the newspaper “Little journal”, to travel around the world in two years. Rajcevic was born in 1890 near Prokuplje, and when he was 15 he went to Vienna for art studies; Based on the info we have, he went there by foot. Instead of painting, he left behind a collection of autographs of celebrities of that time, two books In the Far East and From Africa, and a series of travel reports, which he regularly published in “Little journal”. In 1910, after he had already visited America and traveled Europe and part of Asia, Rajcevic went on a journey around the world and, the press reported then, was exhorted by half of Belgrade. Many people eagerly read about his adventures, and the news was regularly brought to the editorial staff of the aforementioned newspaper. Interests have not changed much to this day – individuals are deciding on the travel around the world, others are eager to follow their adventures on social networks. Who are the modern world travelers?
Anja, Strahinja and dog Snjur in their home on wheels
It was Sunday. The two of them were returning from a wedding in Montenegro via Zabljak. They weren’t happy that the journey was already over and that they will have to return to work and anchor themselves to the same place for the most part of the year. That was the first time Anja and Strahinja seriously discussed how to accomplish what many people fantasized about – how to get the opportunity to travel constantly? Strahinja Tanaskovic recalls that as a boy he wanted to be Betmen and to ride in a batmobile. Today, he is a professional programmer, he creates advertisements and drives a “home on wheels”, an old van, who, with the help of skilled and benevolent people and with little money, was rearranged into a house on wheels. Anja, Strahinja and their dog Snjur moved in their van in April 2018 and by winter traveled 35,000 kilometers. Their route crossed with an especially inspiring country festival in Portugal, surfing in England and a party in a retirement discotheque in Berlin. They were worried if the van was safe enough for them to live in and it turned out it was. True, only two days later, their engine died in Djevdjelija where they had to wait 25 days for it to be fixed. They walked the Macedonian-Greek border on foot in order to somehow reach Sithonia where they camped in the tent and waited for their home to be repaired. Luckily, everything went well. They were afraid that they would have to wait at the borders in lines for trucks, but that was not the case. Their most exciting experience was from Tuscany, where they found a private lake, so they jumped over the fence in spite of the padlock and a warning and were skinny dipping in the emerald waters of the lake.
Anja Vukovic is an economist by profession and ever since she was a child she has shown a tendency towards entrepreneurial adventures. As a little girl, she sold baked walnuts and beer in front of her parents’ house. When she grew up, she was made famous with the story of how they prepared bananas in a homemade chocolate sauce that they sold to tourists during their first trip to Asia, in the Cambodian Kampot. In two hours they earned a hundred dollars, which was enough for them to continue their travel to Bali and Sri Lanka. The fact that particularly surprised the readers of their adventures (the role of “Little journal” was taken over by Blic, NOIZZ, and social networks) is that they went on a long journey, which lasted nine months, with only 500 euros. It is usually those of us who renounce the usual way of thinking about life, bounded by working hours, a system of values and other standards, who are brave and aware of the fact that another path is possible, that embark on an adventure. In Phnom Penh, they made an advertising spot for a luxury bar, and with the money they earned, they bought plane tickets for Bali the following day. In Sri Lanka, they offered hotel owners to photograph their hotels in exchange for accommodation and food. They are currently rearranging another van, and the first one is now being rented to future world travelers.
Ognjen in Syria, Iran, India …
At the beginning of 2012, when we were preparing to visit the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago, Ognjen warned me that, if I intend to travel, either money or time is a necessity. We did not have much money, so we hitched rides in trucks, in the company of well-meaning drivers, and the ferries that commuted between the two islands. We rarely paid for accommodation because we were visiting sites unpopular with tourists and the inhabitants of the islands of Lombok, Sumba, Sumbawa and Flores were more than willing to accommodate us.
That someone will be ready to share with the traveler the only thing he has, which sounds like a general place – really happened to us. In a poor, Muslim village on Flores, the locals took out everything they had so we could eat together. Rice, hot sauce and 7 sardine-sized fish had to be enough for ten of us. Of course, this type of travel requires that the traveler completely gives up comfort at all times, need for personal space, often a time for himself and that he has a lot of patience, respect and understanding for others. Also, one should not forget that Southeast Asia, and especially Indonesia, is one of the rare places on the planet where the risks of this kind of traveling are minimal and that we headed to the east of this beautiful country after spending six months studying at Java, the central Indonesian island. After three weeks, I decided to return at any cost. Ognjen continued on to the Moluccan Islands. He spent the second half of 2012 traveling from the East towards Serbia. He flew from Jakarta through Kuala Lumpur, Kolomba, Dubai and Beirut, from where for the next 20 days he traveled by land to Cacak. On that occasion, he visited Syria for the second time. The war was already raging in some places, and he was fortunate enough to quickly cross over to Turkey.
Ognjen Petkovic is an anthropologist. His interest in other places, landscapes and cultures began before he went to school when he brought a large map of the world into his house, which he studied years later, drawing lines of railways, rivers, and borders. Later he drew maps and practical dictionaries on paper rolls for check registers. In 2008, for the first time, he visited Syria with his friend Maja. They visited a mosque in Aleppo at the time of prayer. They were interested in local customs which prompted the interest of the Syrians towards their young guests. Lunch on the outskirts of the city has been organized for them the next day, and an interpreter was invited to the joint meal. Ognjen says that their hosts could not even begin to imagine that pilaf was a meal from our national menu, so they baked a pizza from a thick dough for guests from the “west”. He also recalls the questions raised by one of the hosts: “How big is Allah?” As well as the exact answer – it takes 400,000 years for a man to cross the distance between Allah’s ear and shoulder. After visiting Palmira and Rakha they saw Damascus, an unusual, international city of wide avenues.
Two years after traveling along the Indian Ocean, in 2015 Ognjen was traveling through Bosnia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India and Cambodia, in order to turn west towards Germany, Austria, France, Spain and Portugal. In the Iranian seaside town of Shibahara, on the border with Pakistan, he met a passenger who left an impression on him, similar to the one he leaves. The man traveled to India, and further, to Somalia on a small, wooden boat. Similar to Rajcevic, a century later, this world traveler is also showing a lot of understanding for the environment and the circumstances in which people move and live.
The world travelers are largely defined by curiosity, but also by the distance they keep with the world. It’s not a question of them being proud or cold, it’s more a consciousness that they always return from a trip as someone different, someone who needs to adapt to the climate, time zone, tastes, habits; precisely because of the abundance of diversity and the novelties encounter, which in the end await them at the same place from which they left off.
By: Ivana Slavkovic