Giving everything up to follow your dream is a really big step. You might talk about doing it but actually doing it is a whole different story. A lot of people think you need to be rich to travel the world. But the truth is that it is very achievable for everybody. Armenian traveler Arty Om gave up all of his possessions to follow his big dream of traveling the world without any fixed plans. His first road trip freed him from the expectations of modern society and since then he has been hitchhiking around the world with only his backpack and his guitar. Find out what inspires Arty, how he sees the world and how he manages to keep on traveling with barely any money.
While I have no ideas of who I was in my past lives, in this life I am currently a 28-year-old traveler, journalist and musician whose parents named him Artyom. I am from the planet we call Earth, from the galaxy known on Earth as Milky Way. I was born to a family of Armenians in a country that doesn’t exist anymore on the day the Soviets performed nuclear test at Semipalatinsk, Eastern Kazakhstan. Currently I live in Armenia, arrived here after a year-long trip around Southeast Asia.
Well, it happened in 2007. Back then I was working as a journalist and cameraman at our TV station in the university where I studied in Moscow, Russia. My whole life was nothing but work and study, study and work. So one day a good friend of mine sent me a message asking if I wanted to join him in his hitchhiking trip from Moscow to St.-Petersburg. I have always dreamed about hitchhiking, but never actually did it, so I agreed. The next day we went to get me a backpack, a sleeping bag and other traveling gear. And then, it was on January 24th, the temperature outside was around -25 Celsius, we hit the Road. By the time we arrived to our host’s place, I was already different from who I was in the beginning of the trip. I realized that the Road was the only real thing I needed. I felt like I found something that’s very important to me that I’ve lost a long time ago.
For many years I believed that the main purpose of my life was to get a proper education, then a well-paid job, then create a family and live a settled and stable life. I was locked inside this box by the society and by my parents as well, and that first hitchhiking trip mentioned above removed all the locks and set me free. By the summer of 2008 I had already received my masters degree and was enrolled for the PhD. But one morning I simply woke up and said to myself: “Enough!” I gave away most of my possessions, limiting my belongings to what could fit inside my backpack. And I hit the road.
Oh! Every traveling experience is quite unique, and it’s hard to say which ones are the best. I’d like to thank you for this question though because it sent me back to all my previous trips and beautiful moments I had on the Road. Still I’ll try to name the 3 best experiences.
That was in January 2009. I crossed more than 13,000 kilometers, experienced extreme low temperatures (hitchhiking at -48 Celsius is something I will never forget), faced few near-to-death accidents on the road, met many interesting people, visited several Buddhist monasteries in Russia, walked along the shore of the Lake Baikal, and saw the real life in Russia along the Road.
Well, the initial idea was to hitchhike from Moscow to India, but eventually I ended up spending six and a half months in the Philippines and totally fell in love with the country and its people. The trip lasted for a year, and I never made it to India. I guess it wasn’t the right time for me yet.
I was getting ready to leave the country and travel back to China, when I read a post on Couchsurfing about a 4-month studying program in a Buddhist monastery in the city of Bacolod. I applied for the program and was accepted along with other 14 people. For 4 months we led a more or less monastic life, and studied Buddhist philosophy, history, ethics, music, and also Chinese language. I was then representing the Philippines at an International Buddhist Youth conference in Taiwan, but that’s another story to tell.
This is what many people believe in: you need a lot of money to be able to travel. Well, actually you don’t. Traveling is not a privilege of rich people. There are many alternative ways to make your dream come true if you believe in it (walking, cycling, hitchhiking). For me, the only money I actually need when traveling is for visas and food, since I hitchhike and rarely pay for transportation, and online hospitality exchange communities, such us Couchsurfing, BeWelcome, Hospitality Club, etc., not only offer a free place to spend the night, but also a chance to meet interesting local people all around the world, who will give you the best tips on the area you are traveling to. But whenever I run out of money, I take my guitar and go out to play music on the street. For example, in China 2-3 hours of busking made me around $50 a day. Of course, this way of traveling may not suit others, but I had a dream and found my own way to fulfill it. As for the fixed plans, well, I just let the Road to carry me wherever it goes.
The change took place after the first Rainbow Gathering I attended. This was in 2007 again. That year was an important one and was full of events that define my life now. I met a lot of interesting people at Rainbow who lived a simple life and had nothing to do with the crazy race of the modern society, where the material aspect of life overcomes the spiritual aspect. Then there were a few tragic events, when I lost very close friends, who had a lot of plans, ideas and dreams. But their time was too short. That’s when I realized I don’t want to be part of it. A friend of mine once told me a story about his close friend’s father who had a dream to travel around the world. So this man worked hard all his life saving money for his dream. Just 2 days after he retired and began his preparations, he died of heart attack all of a sudden. It’s a sad story, but explains quite well why I prefer to “Be Here Now”. For what is life if not a journey that comes to an end unexpectedly?
Traveling will definitely be a big part of it, but I don’t like to use the word “plan”. Planning something is not what I am fond of. The philosophy I try to follow in my life is “to be here and now”. So I prefer the word “idea”. I have some traveling ideas, such as visiting Mongolia, Turkey, Iran, perhaps a trip around Europe, but the main one is I want to hitchhike from Armenia via Iran and Central Asian countries to China, and from there to Nepal and India. Another idea is to travel to China and walk around the country. But you never know what waits you behind the next turn, so we’ll see.
In fact, I had several blogs. I started the first one, in Russian, on LiveJournal the next day after my first hitchhiking trip – to tell people how the trip was. Then I moved to Blogger, but this one didn’t last long because I wanted to write in English, but my English was very poor. Then I started the harebeat.com to share my travel experiences with others. As for its future, I don’t know. I don’t run after popularity, or ratings. If someone finds my stories inspiring, I feel happy. The rest doesn’t matter.
If you go to visit my home country I can recommend you to do the following 3 things!
Leave the capital, go out to the regions and meet locals. Armenians are known for their hospitality. As I read in one of the hitchhiking guides to Armenia, be ready to eat and drink a lot, because locals will invite you all the time.
Armenia was the first country to officially adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD. Churches and monasteries of incredible beauty and ages long history are spread all around the country. My favorite ones are the UNESCO World Heritage site Haghpat Monastery in the north of Armenia and the Noravank Monastery in the south.
This route crosses the whole country from the Georgian border in the north to the Iranian border in the south and runs through major historical, cultural and religious places of Armenia.
Let go of all your worries. Relax. And Follow the Road. It will take you to the place where you need to be at a certain moment. Forget about destinations, for it’s not the place where you are traveling to that matters, but the journey itself. Open you heart to the world, and then the whole world will become your home. Be open to learn and share. And Respect local people and their culture, and you will have the greatest experiences on the Road!