This last summer, Jacob Laukaitis rode his motorcycle more than 8,000 kilometers across 15 countries – and he’s still traveling. We caught up with him recently, and asked about his incredible journey.
What made you decide to take off on a road trip through the Balkans?
I was born and raised Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, but had never been to any of the Balkan states. So this last summer, I bought a motorbike, got my driver’s license, shaved my head and left for one of the most amazing adventures of my entire life.
I ended up riding 8,000 kilometers across 15 countries and 19 borders – completely alone. It took me four weeks.
What countries did you visit?
Lithuania > Poland > Czech Republic > Austria > Slovenia > Croatia > Bosnia and Herzegovina > Montenegro > Albania > Greece > Macedonia > Kosovo > Serbia > Romania > Hungary > Slovakia > Poland > Lithuania.
I skipped only two of the Balkan States: Bulgaria (because people told me that it’s not too interesting) and Moldova (because it would have been such a long drive the opposite direction).
I didn’t plan my route in advance and I didn’t even have a map. So I’d literally decide where I was going next every night in my hotel room.
What were some of your favorite experiences?
I really enjoyed driving down the coast of Croatia, doing the best mountain passes in Europe (Transfagarasan and Transalpina in Romania), exploring the ancient town of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina and checking out the UNESCO heritage site Meteora in Greece.
What about difficulties during the trip? Any hard times?
The very first day of driving to Lithuania from Poland was very rough, since it was raining on and off the whole day. I didn’t have a proper water-proof jacket, so I was soaked from head to toe and that is very cold when you’re doing ~100 km/h.
There were also some difficulties in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when my motorbike broke down and I couldn’t fix it for a few hours. But eventually some random people decided to help me out in their house garage even though they didn’t speak a word of English!
What surprised you during the trip? Anything you didn’t expect?
Since I’d never been to the Balkans prior to this trip, I didn’t have any expectations. Since I wasn’t expecting anything, there weren’t any big surprises. There were a few minor ones surprises, though. For example, people in Greece were completely relaxed. It’s as if the crisis never happened.
Also, the Transalpina and Transfagarasan roads in Romania are hands-down some of the most interesting roads in the world. And the Balkans are definitely not as cheap as most people expect!
Traveling alone for so long, did you ever get lonely?
In the past two years, I’ve traveled to 35 countries and I’ve never felt lonely, since I’m always making new friends.
However, this trip made me realize that loneliness is actually a thing. On my fourth week, I started longing for meaningful conversations with people and hanging out with my friends. I recall sitting alone at a restaurant on my last evening of the trip and thinking how nice it would be to be with a friend.
Did you meet any interesting people?
I didn’t meet too many people during this trip, since I was on my motorbike all the time. However, I met one person who had sold all of his stuff four years ago and has motorbiked all continents in the world already – hundreds of thousands of kilometers. I thought his story was very inspiring especially given the fact he’s 45.
What are your plans for the future?
In the past two years, I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries around the world and I’m not stopping anytime soon. I’m able to do this because I’m a digital nomad – meaning as long as I have my computer and a Wi-Fi, I’m able to do my job and thus I never lose my income. I’m currently focusing most of my time on building www.ChameleonJohn.com, an online coupons company I co-founded a bit more than a year ago.