Two backpacks – one 50 litres, the other 65 – with clothes, sleeping bag, medicine, repellent and first aid kit. These were the most valuable possessions for Beatriz and Filipe in the past three months, and they were what they thought had been stolen in Iran. The story is long.
The two people from Lisbon were in Indonesia when they met the couple that would be decisive for Beatriz Gonçalves and Filipe Diogo to make the decision they had been putting off: to give up everything and go on a big trip to Asia. The final destination would be Australia and everything might seem simple if it wasn’t for the intention to do it only by land. Yes, you read that right. Forget the idea of taking a plane and crossing continents and oceans above the clouds.
In September 2022, after postponements, unforeseen events, pandemics and wars, the 29-year-olds began their journey there. From Lisbon they arrived in Porto and from there it took four buses to cross the Swiss border.
Later, in Slovenia, the trip began to take on the patterns they intend to continue with: more hitchhiking and taking advantage of staying in strangers’ homes. The perfect equation, it seems, for such adventures and endless stories. And that’s exactly what the two of them confirmed at NiT – and not even a year spent 100 percent planning the adventure prepared them for what they might find.
20 hosts later (at least), three weeks in Slovenia, one month in Serbia, the first route was made with the help of a fisherman with whom they could only communicate with gestures, the stories are already piling up. Along the way they waited for the train at an abandoned station (which wasn’t even in the right city or country) and were pressured to convert to Islam by a young 23-year-old physicist with whom they stayed for a few days. .
The saga planned to last three years has only just begun and already has as many adventures as cities discovered. Right in the middle of the political and social situation in Iran they came across the scariest situation yet — which has nothing to do with the protests and riots taking place there.
“We had agreed to stay at someone’s house and as we arrived early, around 12 o’clock, we ended up agreeing with you to leave things in his car. At the time, he was at work, we went to meet him in a kind of garage and left everything there.” With Beatriz and Filipe, only the smallest backpacks were left with money, cameras and some of the most valuable items they always carry with them.
Hours later, they were surprised to hear back and tried to call – to no avail. So they decided to go to the garage and then realized that the car was no longer there. “We only had the number of the person, who must have been about 38 years old. We knew it was a white Peugeot, but we didn’t even have the license plate,” they tell us. It took several calls for him to answer.
The private man then gave them the address to which they proceeded, not without first calling a person he knew in town, fearing it was a trap. In the end, it was all nothing more than a good story that they can now tell in a funny way — plus a sign that all the details they thought up weren’t random.
Yes, because Beatriz and Filipe had a year to prepare for the trip and everything was considered in detail. Visas, weather, ways to cross borders, transport, places to visit: everything was really planned. “We prepared for the possibility of death,” confesses the nurse. Deep down, they wanted to be as detailed as possible and eliminate any risks. For NiT, the two vouched that they had plenty of time for it. It’s just that this trip was supposed to start in 2021, but life changed their order.
The young people met in 2012 while attending nursing courses. In 2015 they decided to immigrate to England in search of better working conditions and that’s where the travel bug started to appear. “We did a few in Europe and one in Asia, but all in a very controlled environment, very much based on all inclusive.”
It was, however, in June 2019, on a second visit to the Asian continent – Indonesia, to be more specific – that they learned that this would be the destination of a long-term trip. “We had already thought about it, but there was always the fear because we had a stable life in England. We didn’t even know if we were capable. Not only because of the financial part, but because it’s a very long and somewhat complicated journey.”
A little nudge from a couple on a similar trip made everything decide. The goal was one: to get to Australia without ever using planes. A backpacking adventure. “We realized that what we really enjoyed was getting to know the people, their culture, hitchhiking, doing what people say not to do because it’s dangerous.”
And since “one of the big expenses of these kinds of plans is the flights,” the idea would be to plan everything to take as much time as possible, taking them out of the equation. What started as just a dream became flesh and, in a pandemic scenario where they were working longer hours, what little time they had left was spent thinking about their days as adventurers.
After selling everything they owned in the country that had hosted them for seven years, they returned to Portugal, but not for good – leaving their family members in shock. “We basically came back to say that it still wouldn’t be now.” The idea was to start in September of that year, but the global scenario meant that they had to change the departure date to a year later. “We took the opportunity to walk around the country, mainly through Beira Alta, and prepare everything very well.”
In the meantime, they had time to get married – a farewell ceremony scheduled in just two months – and invest more in their Instagram account, through which they continue to post some of their stories, advice and travels. It is in her that the two want to show the reality of the world and not the perfect things.
“Social media perpetuates perfection and we want to move away from that. That is, to share this outside-the-box perspective and show that countries like Iran or India don’t just have pretty things. It’s true that they have them, but it’s also true that they’re complicated destinations,” Filipe assures us. For this reason, but also because it was their favorite stop – and where they spent 43 days – they write so much about Iran.
“We have shared a lot about the country. We followed other travelers and saw that there was a great lack of detail and understanding of the Iranian perspective. That’s what we’re trying to add — not in real time, because we were afraid to do it because of the political and social situation — but now that we’re in Pakistan,” they explain.
After three months the budget remains the same: 20,000 euros each. The intention will be to stay for some time in Pakistan and then leave for India, where they already have a one-year visa. In Nepal they hope to spend three months, so that in November they can finally reach Thailand. “A year from now, we expect to arrive in Australia, where we will have to stay for a year.” At the end of this time, they return, this time by another route.
Even so, this is a plan that hasn’t been closed and, not really knowing what life will be like after those three years, they’re keeping all doors open. In the meantime, he’s sure they’ll continue to accept invitations from strangers in the middle of the road to go home and hitchhike — all always with plenty of peace and time. “It is this path, almost blindfolded, that leads us to see the world in a different way,” they emphasize. “Hopefully we won’t have to break the no-planes rule.”
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They are couchsurfing.