It’s a common dream: Realize your full potential. Save money. Quit your job. Do something epic. Our imaginations are captivated by the people who have the cojones escape the rat race in pursuit of the ultimate adventure. Like the guy who quit his corporate job in NYC to build the ultimate tree house in the Oregon forest. Or the dude who is all about living that West Coast #VanLife with his hot girlfriend. Or the Bro who quit his job to travel around 36 countries for a year, giving out as many high fives as possible. They embody what it means to live a dream that many of us are too chickenshit to ever take a stab at.
After a eight months of traveling around the United States and Asia with friends, Jacob Laukaitis decided he wasn’t ready to settle down just yet. So he bought a motorcycle, shaved his head, and embarked on a 8,000-kilometer trip across 15 countries in The Balkans.
I reached out to Jacob to further discuss his four-week motorcycle trek through Eastern Europe. Here’s his story:
Why did you want to do the trip?
I was born and raised in Eastern Europe, but have never been to any of the Balkan States. So when I was deciding where to do a motorbike trip in Europe this Summer, the Balkans seemed like a great choice.
What were you doing before you left?
I’ve been traveling around Asia and the United States for eight months straight, then came back to Europe for two months before this trip. In that time I got my motorbike license, bought a motorbike and left for the Balkans.
How much did the trip cost?
The trip cost me around $2,500. The major expenses were fuel and accommodation. The latter was quite expensive, since I traveled alone and thus most of the time I had to book two person rooms for myself.
On the other hand, most people who live in cities like New York, San Francisco, London, Singapore etc. spend more money every month without doing anything extra ordinary. Given the fact this trip was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in my life, the memories of which will stay with me forever, I consider it to be very cheap.
Why did you want to do it solo?
In the past two years I’ve been to more than 30 countries. I always travel alone, but I never feel lonely, since I have many friends around the world. However, for this trip I thought it was a good idea to travel with a friend, because I won’t be able to make friends on the road. So I asked a friend to go with me and he agreed.
But a week before the trip he said his plans have changed. Then I figured I had already been to many crazy situations and I’d always find my way out of it, so I’ll be fine this time as well. And I was!
How did you decide where you wanted to go?
I didn’t plan anything in advance, I didn’t even have a map. I just knew I wanted to see most of the Balkan states. These are the countries I went through:
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 it’s not that interesting) and Moldova (…because it would have been such a long drive the opposite direction).
What was your favorite destination?
I’m not sure. However, 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; checking out the the UNESCO heritage site Meteora in Greece; and many more!
What’s the craziest party you went to on the trip?
I was so tired of driving almost every day… One day I did 850 kilometers, which took me 14 hours. After all that riding, I was definitely not in the mood to party. So I didn’t go to any apart from a few nice bars.
Tell us about some of the people you met. Who were some of the most interesting people you encountered along the way?
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to meet too many people on the road, because I was moving practically every day. Though I met a guy who has sold all of his stuff and started motorbiking around the world four years ago. He’s already motorbiked in all continents except for Australia. He’s more than 40 years old. I thought his story was quite inspiring.
Any dicey situations?
Absolutely! There were a few, but one that stuck big-time was when I was crossing Poland on my way to the Balkans. It was raining the whole day and I didn’t have a proper rain-coat, so I was completely soaked from head to toes. And when you’re driving at 100 km/h, it doesn’t feel very warm. Just before Warsaw I stopped at a cafe to buy a cup of tea. When the owner saw I was shivering so much I couldn’t even hold my cup still, she turned super emotional and insisted on clothing me big-time. She put a towel and a massive sheet of paper on my chest; wrapped 4 plastic bags around my legs; and wrapped her sweater around my head. Eventually we hugged, I said “Dziekuje Bardzo” (“thank you”) a hundred times and continued my trip.
What advice would you give to others looking to do a similar adventure?
These are my top three tips:
Do not take too many things. Ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen if I didn’t take this item?” if it’s not too bad, don’t take it.
Do not plan everything in advance and leave space for spontaneity. It’ll take you to places you’ve never even imagined.
For a long bike trip like this I’d recommend to travel with a person who you want to spend a lot of time with, because, it turns out, loneliness can be a thing.