My latest travels took me to the rocking city of Bishkek, where I met a fellow intrepid traveller called Nate Jacobs in the Apple Hostel. Nate and I toured some of the city together, had a couple of nights out and also headed to Ruh Ordo and the Petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. Check out Nate’s travel blog!
1. Who are you?
A really, really crazy American dude who loves extremes.
2. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Door County, Wisconsin, which is an absolutely beautiful peninsula, surrounded by Lake Michigan, but for the past 5 or so years I’ve been living in Russia. I really can’t imagine my life without Russia…it’s really like a second home to me!
3. Where have you travelled to before?
Well, I’ve done most of Western Europe, both Koreas, China, Mexico, Brazil, and all of the former Soviet Union. About 30 countries in all, but I’m only getting started…
4. Where are you now?
Sitting in snowy and foggy Saint Petersburg, where I live and work.
5. Where are you going/hoping to go next?
I think I’ve really gotten my fill of paranoid police states with all their suspicions, so I’d like to go somewhere “nice” like Greenland or Antarctica. I like cold places, so those are the two that pop into my mind. But I’d love to go back to Brazil. Out of all the counties I’ve visited, I’d say that Brazil is the best–great people, great food, and great weather.
6. What is the weirdest job you have ever had?
I taught French and Russian in a Catholic school for about 6 months! The students and staff were great, but when the head nun told me how to sign my name on a piece of paper (she thought my signature was “illegible”) and chewed out the seniors for picking the “dark” and “pessimistic” song “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey, as their graduation music, I knew I should probably seek greener pastures. So I chose to go to places like Russia and North Korea, where I would have more freedom.
7. What is the craziest place you have been to?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I’d like to say North Korea or Afghanistan, but since I had cool local guides, everything there went really smoothly. Abkhazia was a bit strange, though. It’s this half-deserted place with beautiful nature, and it’s what I imagine David Lynch’s vision of a tropical paradise would be. Also, I got interrogated by the secret service because I spoke pretty good Russian, which was, I guess, a compliment. This agent and I ended up talking about the glories of Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career. Quite a pretty dramatic turn of events! But for all out craziness, I’d say a favela in Rio De Janeiro–I certainly didn’t look like I belonged there, and the place was just rough. My female guide and I were freaked out the moment our taxi dropped us off, so we sat down at a little food stand and started pounding beers straight away. Luckily, though, it was during Carnaval, so they don’t want anything bad to happen to tourists at those times, but I thought I was in for much, much worse than samba and street food!
8. Where did you meet Jonny of Don’t Stop Living?
I met Jonny in Bishkek, at the mighty and great Apple Hostel. We headed out for a night of football and bar food at a local pub, and that was that! He’s the only other traveler I’ve met who’s been to North Korea!
9. What is your inspiration for life?
My nature has blessed (or cursed) me with a tendency to look for the strangest things this universe can offer. Because of that, I’m this crazed loner, always seeking out new experiences in bizarre lands. Another thing is that if someone tells me that something, or some type of people, are bad, I want to personally know why. Usually it proves to be exactly the opposite!
I’d like to say “Because of that, I’m this rogue tourist,…”
10. What would I tell people who want to travel?
The main thing I would tell anyone is that the world is a far less scary place than you imagine it to be. Most folks you’ll meet are just amazingly good people, and will help you if you really need a hand. And also that in traveling, you will face challenges that will in turn make you into a stronger, and far more confident person than you ever imagined you could be.
I met Nate at the reception in the Apple Hostel in Bishkek. We both headed out for drinks in the local Pinta Pub that night, and we later toured Ruh Ordo and Cholpon Ata together. Nate is a great travel buddy as we talked at length about places like North Korea, Abkhazia and Transnistria, he goes to some off the wall places and if I had my visa in time, we would also have backpacked in Afghanistan together. I loved seeing Nate’s photos from Afghanistan and hanging out with him in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We will meet again someday for a beer/tea around the world!
Backpacking Buddies is a regular feature on Don’t Stop Living on real life people I have met on my journeys around the globe since leaving Northern Ireland in 2003. If you have met me on my journey (shared a bed, got a night bus, worked in a bar, cut broccoli, backpacked in Antarctica, studied in Uruguay, fed hyenas, drank in Brunei etc..) and would like to feature in this series, please contact me by e-mail only to:
jonny (at) dontstopliving (dot) net and will try and get you featured in an upcoming edition!
It’s all about you!