Travelers I met on the way: R

“How long would you love to travel?” I was once asked by R. Ideally the answer should be forever, but that was not the case for both of us.

I met R on day 1 of my trans-Siberian rail trip. We queued up in line, waiting for the train doors to open. He was in cyclist jersey and shorts, and carried a huge black bike transport bag, looking exactly like a cyclist. Slightly before doors opened, it started to rain. As comrade passengers standing in the rain waiting for the doors to open, we exchanged glances and smiles.

Not until we boarded the train and put our luggages down did we start to talk. He approached me with ease and began to introduce himself. It took 3 days and 15hrs from Moscow to Irkutsk, and we started to lose track of time after the first few hours. Our talk just continued for the whole trip, along with the involvement of other passengers.

R was from Switzerland, leaving everything behind for the trip. He literally sold everything he had, and gave up his id, though I was not sure how he did it (if you know there’s a possible way to give up your id in your country, please comment below). He said he was going to cycle from Irkutsk to Beijing once we got off at Irkutsk, and then from Beijing to Thailand. I was already amazed at his grand plan, but it was not even finished there. He planned to stay a bit longer at Thailand to learn Muay Thai, and from there he would find a way to get to Africa.

The reason why he did not travel by flight was that he believed low carbon travel could be beneficial for Earth and all creatures. He also expressed how he distrusted capitalism and monetary system, and that he deeply believed that the problem was the distribution of resources. He said we had produced enough amount of food, products, and resources for all mankind to live comfy; however, some people still lived in poverty and couldn’t afford proper food and medication. He said this was all rooted in the monetary system, and it could be solved with a fairer distribution system hosted by computers. That was the major reason why he started his voyage: to see the unfairness with his own eyes and to try to fix it with the solution he thought of.

R might sound as an idealist, but in my view, he was an adventurer and practitioner. He didn’t just sit there and talk; he actively engaged with different societies, tried to find the roots of the problems, and then made attempts to correct them.

One day we discussed how long one can travel. He said he would love to continue his journey until it bored him. I would love to stay on the road longer, but 3.5 months of travel had already worn me out. One day after we arrived at Irkutsk, we parted our ways. He then headed to Ulan Bator, and half month later I finished my trip and headed home.

Two years later, R’s message popped up on Facebook. He executed almost everything he planned: cycling across China, learned Muay Thai, and hopped onto a cargo ship to Africa. He was on the road for 2 years and gradually got bored and tired of looking for new places to go all the time. The hunger for travel ended suddenly, and the longing for stability subbed in. Perhaps in the end, every traveler still needed to go back to a place called home.