Hitchhiking the Balkans

Hitchhiking the Balkans 

Just an update that I’m over 2/3 of the way there on my trip!! I’m so stoked and it’s surreal how everything has unfolded. Words cannot fully express my gratitude to those who have supported and helped me through this Journey! :)

I woke up in Croatia with a fun little road trip ahead of me. The road trip involved driving through Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania all in one day. This was probably the most beautiful drive I've ever done along the incredible coastline of the Balkans. I had seen some people hitchhiking along the way, but always had the preconceived notion that it was sketchy or potentially dangerous to pick people up; but really, it came down to laziness and inconvenience I suppose. 

Experience/conversation of the Day:

I left Albania around 19:00 or 7:00pm for us Americans, and saw a couple young guys with their thumbs out, hitching a ride just outside the border. I passed by and for a split second I decided, why not. I pulled over and had to back up a block or two, they stuffed their backpacks in the trunk and hopped into the spacious rental car. They were from Poland and come to find out, a fair amount of "Poles" hitchhike their way through Europe every year. 

Miłosz & Mikołaj are from Kraków, Poland and they have been hitchhiking through Eastern Europe to their final destination of Albania to meet up with some friends. I picked them up and they asked if I was going to Dubrovnik, Croatia which I was the following day, but I was staying in Budva, Montenegro that night. I offered to take them as far as Budva and they could find a ride the rest of the way. We were driving through what turned out to be an insane thunderstorm (probably the most beautiful I’d ever seen) and they became even more appreciative of the ride because it started just 20 minutes after I picked them up. 

I told them in exchange for the ride they had to answer a simple question about happiness. They agreed and so I continued asking both of them what brought them happiness every day. The response was incredible as Miłosz explained: having a day off of studies to relax and be present is one of his favorite things, but the fact he actually enjoyed what he studied is what brought him happiness every day. Mikołaj’s response was in relation to music and that it brought him the most happiness each day. Mikołaj- “Even during sad times its ok to experience those feelings and to go through them so they don’t come back at a later time and have a more severe impact on you.” He also spoke of how his own mother had a suicide attempt a few years ago. The view in Poland on depression or suicide is very stigmatized and to seek help gives you a label of crazy or weird. Mikołaj said: “when you break your arm or leg you go to the hospital and they fix it and thats ok. But when you break your head or have mental issues you’re judged and labeled a certain way for seeking help.” His mother sought help and spent three months in a facility that helped her overcome an alcohol addiction and is in a much better place four years later.

This resonated with my soul powerfully because my sister also has struggled with depression and her former husband threatened to have her committed into a mental institution. By doing that, apparently he would have legal custody over their kids if they were to ever get divorced. I had this in the back of my mind and it was part of my own personal fear of getting help; I didn’t want to be “black listed” in the future for having a mental issue. I’m so grateful a dear friend of mine in San Diego who is a nurse, took me in to get help a little over a year ago. That was when I finally dove all in and committed myself 100% to finding peace and happiness in life. I didn’t care what label I would receive or the potential judgement. The life I was living, wasn’t worth living; and I desperately wanted to change that.

Quote of the Day

“Focusing on meaning, we miss the discovery. Focusing on the destination, we miss the Journey.”

Bonus quote ;)

“In understanding oneself, we understand others; in feeling compassion for oneself, we feel compassion for others.”


Miłosz & Mikołaj









Kade Clemensen