Natasha has been traveling all over Russia since 2010, mostly by hitchhiking. She’s discovering her Motherland anew and is sharing her experiences and emotions as a part of her Never Stop project. Today, Natasha has paid a visit to HelloRussia and told us why she’s traveling Russia and whether she’s afraid of hitchhiking or not.

Natasha, you’re traveling all over Russia now, but could you tell us whether your first travel experience was in Russia or other countries?

I’d say my first real travel experience was acquired in Russia. Before my grand trip to Vladivostok, I had visited many European countries and spent half a year on a business trip to China, but that can hardly be considered a true journey. I always had accommodation, money, food, and other attributes of civilized life.

Russian village

When and why did your wanderlust emerge?

In my trips abroad. I had always wanted to go to some terra incognita. I had a desire to wear the shoes of a person from another culture.  Then I chose my Motherland’s expenses and felt incredibly happy sleeping in the wild, eating campfire-made food, or waking up to ringing bells. My first Russian journey took place in 2009 when I went to Suzdal; it was then that I understood I was going to travel far and wide in this country.

I can make an educated guess on why Russia, but I still want an answer from you 🙂

The more I discovered about foreign cultures, the stronger was my desire to find my roots, to talk to the provincial elders. When this desire finally got absolutely irresistible, I packed my backpack and went to Siberia.  I was and still am afraid sometimes I could miss a chance to hear a story from some Siberian grandma. Perhaps it’s weird, but I sense some mystery in the taiga, something beyond my comprehension, something that makes me go there again and again. I really want to live for some time there and to record those great stories Siberians can tell about their lives. I am going to make my wish come true soon!

A lake in Russia

Was there a city you could totally stay forever in?

Krasnoyarsk was my love at first sight. The heart of Siberia, surrounded by hills, this city straddles the great Yenisei River, with the mighty taiga, the Kerzhaki, and graceful cedars… I try to visit that place every year, but I have dared yet to move there. Who knows what lies ahead, however…

If you don’t feel like going to Siberia, I have an article on places worth visiting in Moscow as well.

As far as I got it, you are traveling alone… Are you not afraid of it?

Most of my travel time I’ve been alone. I just find traveling alone more comfortable. Yet I don’t feel alone on my way, as I always meet someone interesting en route.

Mountains in Russia

How do you travel in Russia, by hitchhiking?

For five years, I’ve mostly been traveling by hitchhiking, it’s just more convenient for me. I would go to villages not reachable by public transit, and traveling with a fisherman or a hunter was so much easier than taking a cab. But that’s been left behind; I don’t want to be a negative role model for girls, I’ve had a few bad situations and thank God I managed to get out of them, albeit not easily. That’s why I am considering changing my travel habits; I’ll likely be skiing on my next journey.

What kind of funny situations have you had on the way?

Oh, a lot of them.  What really caught me by surprise was the hospitality of the road cops; I’d often spend a night at a road police station, be it a sofa, or a car, or even a cellar. That happened in Altai. My backpack was torn apart, and I had to drag it, looking handicapped; police officers spotted me from afar and invited me to their station. Oh, how surprised I was then to see them sewing my backpack with an awl!

Talking about backpacks, before heading on a trip, you should know for sure how many kilograms are you allowed to bring to Russia.

It was definitely not that easy for them; but still, they fixed my backpack diligently and offered me to spend the night in the station cellar. There were a sofa and everything you need for sleep; I fell asleep and woke up to some mice squeaking; I immediately left the place and spend the rest of the night in a sleeping bag outdoors. The weather was fine with starlit skies; that was one of the best nights of my journey.

What is in your backpack?

I don’t have any hiking secrets; I just take my favorite stuff, some notebooks for memos, a one-eyed Teddy bear, and birch bark for campfires. My dress is my mojo, I can always make use of it on the way).

Russian village house

Last but not least, give your very own tip to novice travelers:

I just wish you to have a continuous winding road of life rather than a bunch of patches, to meet more nice people and see more various sceneries on your way. Travel inside yourself, capture the best moments, and leave purity behind yourself on the road of life)

Russian traveler girl

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