Travel Experience Makes Life Worthwhile – Story of the Ambassador of Couchsurfing

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Maja Vasić has been hitchhiking for over 27 years. In Maja’s adventures there are no rules – sometimes she is traveling with her family by bus, plane or train and then she goes part of the way hitchhiking, and sometimes she hitchhikes all the way.

“I am prepared to be a Nomad, and if I did not have a family I think I would never stay at home. I have met some great people who when asked where they were from answered: Why is that important?” – said Maja. She indicated that she has met many people who own nothing but are entirely happy.

“Here we are, living by norms, rules, and all the time society is telling us what we have to do, what we need to do – for example; you must finish college, then you must find a job, get married, then questions about whether you married, why you don’t have children etc. Simply, people must summon enough courage to live the lives they want. If someone tries to convince you to do something you don’t like you must remember that you don’t have to take advice from anyone. You can choose everything – where you will be tomorrow and with whom you will be because you are not under any obligation to anybody – explained Maja.

Maja travels as much as she can. Once she stayed home for 7 straight years, but usually she travels whenever she has time. She adores America, and she has traveled through Latin America, from Mexico to Patagonia. There are only a couple of countries where she hasn’t been in Central and South America. In Africa she has only been to Egypt.

Maja made a movie about her trips, and keeps a diary: “I have some diaries that probably will be useful one day. But if I am not publishing them now, I doubt that I ever will.”

Life experience with traveling and hitchhiking

Maja says that traveling is her real true love. She has been hitchhiking for over 27 years and during all these years she has never had any disappointments . . . well, almost never.
“Twice I was in indecent proposals while hitchhiking. But it was almost nothing. Risk exists, but I am not afraid. People who pick up hitchhikers are not demons, pedophiles and former prisoners; they are people like me, or you” – says Maja. She also advises everyone who is interested in hitchhiking to check out appropriate materials on the Internet, where there is a lot of information about how to prepare for hitchhiking in specific countries and places.

Mexico is Maja’s first love. She has been to Mexico 4 times and, as she says, she would go there again. When she was 9-years-old she came across a myth about the Maya and became so excited that she decided to visit that magical land one day. So as soon as she had earned enough money, her first destination had already been chosen.

“I met the Maya people, I realized they exist, I met their culture and religion and started to break free of my prejudices and realized that I would never be able to discover something through books or media the way I can in personal contact with real people. The Maya country is maybe not the most beautiful I have seen but I like it the most because it was my first trip abroad and it remained a great experience” – said Maja. She doesn’t have a clue where she will go next. She has too many ideas, too many friends from all over the world whom she would like to visit.

All my trips have made me realize that humanity exists everywhere, and that you can find good and bad people everywhere. The beauty of traveling is when you are all by yourself and everything depends on you and maybe on your wallet, but in my case my trips have always been so cheap. I always have the opportunity to change my mind about my destination, to change the whole route if someone suggests other places worth visiting” – explained Maja. When she travels she finds local people on Couchsurfing. In Maja’s opinion Couchsurfing isn’t just an opportunity to save money, but the best way to meet the culture and way of life in a country.

“Sometimes we have shared really great moments with our hosts, and sometimes sadness. You become a part of someone’s life while Couchsurfing, you rejoice with them when they are happy or help them when they need a boost”, – said Maja.
 

Specifically, in Argentina she met a man who had experienced a family tragedy which made him move to an isolated farm. She went with her family to visit him – he had a big house on his farm which he put on Couchsurfing. He posted an open invitation to anyone who wanted to come and live there – like a hippie community, perhaps – but the only condition was that all visitors must work with him to grow food on the farm to feed themselves, just as people have done throughout history. When they were there, 13 people from 4 continents were staying in the house.

“We had almost the whole world in one house! Everyone learned from everyone else; I taught them to make cheese from sour milk, also baked bread for everyone in my own way. Everyone made a joke while I was preparing that and when I finished and they tried it they ate it all immediately”. The next day Maja had to baker her bread over and over again to teach her roommates how to make it.

 

Stories from traveling: Near East, Ecuador and Spain

Maja took a trip to the Caucasus last summer, visiting Nagorny-Karabakh.
“When you say Nagorny-Karabakh most people think you are traveling to a war zone and that the local people will be “eating young children”, but this is nonsense. Those people are living in peace, and that you can see at the border. Traveling is not as dangerous as people think.”– noted Maja.

In Ecuador she learned how people can change and that humanity really exists – you just need to find it. An American guy who has a clown act owns an eco farm in Ecuador, in the village of Vilka Bamba, where the longest-lived people in Ecuador live. There you can sample every kind of foodstuff year round. The American has decided never to work for money again; he works only for his personal satisfaction. He has a modest retirement income which helps him, but he has said that if he wants to perform with the clowns in the central market he doesn’t want money from the spectators, he wants to perform to share his creativity with others. He also organized a market for free where you can bring the things you don’t use and donate them to someone without any obligation on the part of those who receive to give to someone else.

“It was a lovely scene when a grandmother came and asked for some sandals in the market. I told her to try them and she said she didn’t want to because she didn’t have any money – she had only enough for a candle in the church. I told her that this is for free and convinced her to try them. She was delighted, the sandals fit her and she didn’t believe that they were for free; she asked a couple of times is that true and what she can do for us. She went home so happy that you can’t imagine!” – said Maja.

Maja has a lovely story from Spain also. She wanted to see the Rio Tinto, a river close to Seville which is yellow, orange and dark red in color, a wonder of nature. You must have car to see this river and because she doesn’t have an international driving license she asked in forum who would like to drive her and her companion there, and she wanted to pay for the trip.

In the end, one man called me and told me that he had never been to the Rio Tinto but he wanted to see it. The night before the trip I realized that he could barely speak – he had the flu. I suggested postponing the trip, but he didn’t want to, he told me: You know, I will be 76 years old in two months. I was waiting for you and your companion to come from Serbia to see the Rio Tinto, which is 50km away from my city. If I don’t go now, when I will go?- remembered Maja.

So, they went there and saw the whole river with her colors, went swimming in the creek and had an amazing time. He didn’t want to take Maja’s money although she insisted.

We were speaking about our ways of life, and our stories were completely different – I finished college but never had a real job, I have lived out of the mainstream almost all my life and he had lived a “normal” life – working 12 hours a day, got married, educated two children, provided them everything and after our trip he told me: You know, you gave me an incredible experience and also led me to think seriously about my life. If I could be born again tomorrow I would live a life like yours; I would not have my job, and my children would be provided just what they need. And I would have a more fulfilled life. – His words only proved to me that people really need to do what they want, not what other people expect from them, said Maja.

Maja knows that her traveling experience has made her life worthwhile, and she is teaching her companion to be independent, brave and ambitious in every situation. Traveling is never hard for her, she enjoys every second of it, but her family sometimes gets tired of it. Maja’s opinion is that it is necessary to be open-minded and to give a chance to everyone in your life who deserves it, and the best way to really meet the world and other cultures is by traveling. Maja’s main advice is that it’s important to follow your dreams and be whatever you want to be in your life. She is sure that everyone who dares to make dreams come true will succeed. She is not sure where she will travel next or when it will be, but she is saving money for her new experience, and she is already looking forward to it.

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