In Focus

In focus: Rodrigo A. Santoveña

A Spanish traveler, whose backpack weighs only 15 kilos has been on the road for 9 months. Rodrigo does not use air transport.  I met him in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and he shared his story and hints with me. He is a founder of theRodTrip and a wandered. 


RS: My trip started 9 months ago and the idea of making a blog wasn’t about making money, but to tell a story. Thinking about the people who I know, not everyone I don’t know. That is how I started my blog [theRodTrip] using social media network.

LC: What pushed you to travel the world and is it the first attempt?  

RS: I love to travel and I traveled before outside of Spain. But, it is my first attempt to travel worldwide. I never thought of doing that, the world is too big and I decided to quit my job and meet people, travel the world. I spent half of the year working and every time I tried to add more time to meet people, to discover the culture. I am only 30 and I have everything I wanted to have, job, house and I am happy. But what’s next? What can I do now? Let’s meet the world, find out if this is what I want to do. Either stay in Malaga or travel the world and see what other options the world gives me. Not to be stuck in the same place for a long time, I could have stayed there and taken field trips somewhere, but I was feeling that I need to try more things, have a full experience. I like Malaga but I didn’t want to be stuck.

LC: What was your first destination?

RS: As I travel without flights, to travel outside of Spain you have only two options: Morocco or France. I went to Europe. I don’t take record of countries. My point is not just to touch the ground and say I have been to that country. My goal is to meet people, travel around the world and take no flights. So far, I have managed. The point is that you can take a plane from Spain to Australia across the whole world, but you will experience only two cultures. You would miss everything else in between. I wanted to see the gradation of cultures and how cultures change.

If you travel directly from Spain to China, you won’t be able to see the influence China has on this region [Central Asia]. There is a strong Russian influence, especially in Almaty and Bishkek. Or take for example a teacup, depending on the shape of the teacup you can see what influence the region has: Turkish, Chinese or European. I am trying to travel the world without airplane flights, but political world is not making it any easier. Out of all Central Asian countries I didn’t manage to visit Turkmenistan, as I didn’t have visa. Therefore, I had to change my plan of travels. It is hard.

My next step is to get to Korea. How the hell I am going to go from Korea to South East Asia without Chinese visa?! Nowadays, to get visas you need to apply from your home country. Another obstacle.

LC: How do you get to the point of a famous blogger and get perks?

RS: I don’t know, as I have never been offered anything free. But then again, I wouldn’t write a good review for a place which is bad for the money. I prefer to be fair and true. Moreover, those people who write these reviews travel by air to various hotels, they have free accommodation, etc. I am free, I manage my own accommodation and don’t use flights. So, I don’t fall in that category.

LC: In a couple of words what is Central Asia to you?

RS: It has everything. The best thing is cultural melting pot. North of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, and South of Kazakhstan, Almaty are big cosmopolitan cities that are interesting. You have to get used to cultural changes, there is nothing that disappoints you, it is just different. Like, having a shower with a bucket of cold water is not shocking, it is an experience. You are not experiencing that in Europe.

LC: Were you the same person before you embarked on this journey?

RS: Yeah, I always wanted to try more and more new things. I think I became more open. I feel more confident that I can find a solution in any difficult situation.

LC: What’s the next destination?

RS: I am going to Russia on transit visa and plan to take Trans-Siberian train to Vladivostok and then get to Korea. Sometimes you cannot always go along your plan. I was stuck in Iran, as I was denied Turkmen visa. So I couldn’t cross other countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan, then I found a way to get to Central Asia through the Caspian Sea. I believe that I will be stuck in Korea for sure, as I don’t have Chinese visa.

LC: Don’t you think it is better to plan everything out beforehand and at least have necessary visas?

RS: For sure being prepared in advance makes it a lot easier and it is a hard work. My idea of the travel plan has already changed ten times. On the other hand you cannot be very prepared all the time. There are rules like Chinese visa which has time limit of 30 days for obtaining visa. At the same time, there are good things that happen, like Kazakhstan has recently canceled visas for Europeans for 30 days. That makes planning a trip easier. These things sometimes work in your favor, sometimes against you. Even if you are super prepared, things can go wrong.


LC: Have you ever run out of the money on your trip?

RS: No. You can always work. I’ve been working on the way to save money and make it cheaper. I have a budget, so the more you save the more you travel. You do basic jobs. I worked in Iran without speaking Farsi. You need to have an idea that you won’t be the only perfect worker and have the perfect job. The basic things as a foreigner who speaks several languages are to work in hostels, hotels or tourist bars. Moreover, also websites like where you work in exchange for accommodation and food. It is like woofing ( you don’t earn money. Apart from that you can get more money. At least you don’t spend your money. I stayed in Iran and spent only 50$.

LC: Have you ever felt that you want to stay in certain country?

RS: Yeah, I felt that I wanted to stay in Iran. I was happy to stay there. I stayed in Istanbul for a month, I was happy there too. When you stay in the country for a longer time you get to meet people, expats, locals. Group of expats is interesting in particular, because they for some reason may not come here on purpose, they are stuck here due to work and other circumstances, but they stay together to preserve their European habits and not interact with local as much.

LC: Besides your blog where else do you have the presence?

RS: I like photography, the most difficult part is to keep a blog. You spend more time living your experiences and not writing about them. You need time, network, the Internet connection when you are in the middle of nowhere. When I was sailing in the Black Sea in the middle of it, I didn’t have the Internet. You have to wait and then sit down and write. Apart from my blog, I am present on all social media networks.

LC: Have you thought of giving up your idea of no flights?

RS: Sometimes I want to when I get stuck. That would make my life way easier. When I was stuck in Iran, I thought I could just get a flight and travel to Aktau in Kazakhstan. But I am quite stubborn and I need to try all options.

LC: What other qualities does a traveler need to have?

RS: Depends on the character, who you are. Your will is the best quality. The strongest force of energy in the world is the will. If you want to travel and you have no money, you will find a way. Actually, travelers who created a Lonely Planet is a good example of traveling without money. Sometimes you need to adjust to various conditions, like sleeping on the streets, in abandoned houses, at the top entrance of the building etc.

Another quality is to stay organized. I became manic about my things to be in the proper place. I wasn’t like that before. Now it is very comfortable, I don’t have to double-check if I am missing something on the way. Anyway, every time I do laundry, I lose one sock :D.

LC: Any philosophy in your life?

RS: Humans are humans. Erasing all labels. When travelling I see that it is more ridiculous. People are having same problems. In Iran, people think that life in Europe is way better and Europeans think that Iran is dangerous. Neither of that is true. Iran is much safer that Europe today and Iranians think that you can be rich in Europe. But there are many unemployed people, crisis and etc.

Before traveling I was thinking a lot about my future, what would happen etc. But then I thought instead of circumstances change my future, why don’t I create circumstances myself. I am a couchsurfer and I believe I was influenced by travelers who stayed in my place in Malaga.

LC: How to travel using technology?

RS: I use all types of social network websites. I recently opened Telegram and VK. Woofing, where you pay per country, workaway – you pay for a year and it helps to find a job. Couchsurfing is a great tool etc. The range of the networks varies from country to country.

LC: What do you miss from your regular life?

RS: Sometimes I miss my job, rituals, friends that I have. But the only thing I miss is doing sports. I was the same weight but didn’t have a baby belly I have today. I wasn’t a Troy hero, and I hope I am quite far from Homer in the Simpsons :D.

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