Known for its particular and sincere hospitality, nomadic lifestyle and truly stunning nature, Mongolia has become a dream destination for many travelers. Mostly those are backpackers who are too tired from all the regular sightseeing in the cities and going around popular destinations. Mongolia is a perfect country where to be as close to the nature as possible yet where there is also a great cultural and historical legacy being well preserved by the proud Mongolians themselves. The following story is just a small bit of a one month trip me and my twin sister did in Mongolia and it is also just one of many examples of how one should always be ready for plenty of unexpected occurrences that one might stumble upon in this vast yet warm country. Especially if you happen to be two blue-eyed European twins, hitch-hiking and hiking around the country with light backpacks and a tent as your only possessions.


The beginning of the particular story can be traced back to our adventures in Ulaanbaatar where we were introduced with some seemingly important government officials and got to enjoy their hospitality (and some misunderstandings, too, of course) for several days. Long story short (as this is worth writing separate story about), we decided to hop in a train going any first random location heading from Ulaanbaatar train station. This took us to Zunharaa – completely regular Mongolian village with nothing too significant t offer if you think in more touristy terms of what one might see and do there. Yet we were not complaining. After finding ourselves in the most gorgeous Mongolian countryside with paradise-like sceneries (horses wildly roaming and swimming in the rivers, rough looking yet always smiling nomads riding their motorcycles on the deserted land, children curiously waving at us and giving warm greetings), we spent 2 days walking around 30km to the nearest town which sometimes turned out to be physically exhausting because of the heat but also provided some spectacular sceneries and gave us overall piece about getting out of the pollution, rush and crowdedness of UB city.

As we got out of the more or less wilderness, we ended up trying to catch a ride to Darkhan from where we would head to Amarbayasgalant Khiid – one of the three largest Buddhist monastic centers in Mongolia. Actually, we did not even have to try much. As soon as we made our first steps on the asphalted road, a car stopped. Without understanding much in English, the two guys in the car seemed friendly enough and we understood that we are heading the same direction. After a stop where it was simply impossible refuse all the food that was given to us, with lots of gestures and attempts, we came to a conclusion that the two friends are, in fact, about to spend 2 nights camping by the river which is exactly on the way to Amarbayasgalant Khiid.

Our Mongolian language knowledge could not have been closer to zero yet our new friends new exactly three words in English which turned out to be enough for us to understand that the smiling company offers us to camp with them and afterwards when they have to hit the road home to Ulanbataar, we would be dropped off at the monastery. The plan sounded good enough and as our time in Mongolia had just begun, there were no plans such turn of events could have ruined.


What started as a calm trip to the riverside with two unknown drivers turned out in 2 nights under starred sky singing national songs, sharing a bowl of traditional Mongolian vodka and some local beer (only afterwards we found out that the impact in from of hangover will be quite impressive), pulling fishes out of the river and later on cooking them on fire. It did not take much when what began as a company of 4 was extended with some friends and even one adorable Mongolian kid who to our surprise was allowed to sip beer. Lack of language skills from both sides where still enough for us to discuss politics, explain bits and pieces from our cultures and tell some stories from our lives back in Latvia – a country they had very little clue about.

So, the two nights passed. The hangover vanished and we were ready to hit the road. Upon saying goodbye to us, we realized we have established very strange sort of a friendship here. One that probably won’t last longer but will surely be encapsulated in our stories. One of the fishes we had recently pulled out of river was being put in our hands with some 3-step instructions on how we are supposed to prepare it. „UB city, phone, my two friends, yes-okay?” are the last words we get to hear from our friend and, in fact, it is more than enough for us to understand that we will receive a warm welcome back in the capital. But to be honest, we liked it the way it was. Out of the rush, under the starry Mongolian sky.

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“You have to turn back, there’s nothing this way”. What is he talking about? That can’t be true, have we walked 5 hours in blazing sun with just a small water bottle and a candy bar to hear that we’re not only lost, we’re so lost we have to turn back? “Are you sure there are no villages this way?” He looked at us with mistrust and looked out over the valley. My friend and I were hiking the Colca canyon in Peru without a map and without any sense of direction. In hindsight maybe not the best idea, but it seemed exciting at the time. After walking for 5 hours without seeing one single soul, this one farmer with his 4 cows was like seeing Santa on Christmas Eve. “Well, there is a village about 2-3 hours that way…” he said and pointed towards the middle of the valley “…but you have to walk on another farmer’s private land and it’s easy to get lost”. Well, being us turning back was not an option so hearing that another route existed was like music to our ears. The farmer then pointed towards somewhere in the valley saying that we had to follow that exact path, by the trees and the little red house, and be sure to follow that path or else we’d be completely lost. Great, muchas gracias, and off we go. Not only five minutes in we disagree about which trees and what red little house (there were 2) he had been talking about. 30 minutes of intense downhill later a woman starts running and jelling for our attention. Oh no, we’re getting kicked out of the property was my first thought.

“Where are you going?” the woman asked in a Spanish accent I had never heard before, and to be honest had some difficulties understanding. Not only had we forgotten the way to this new village, but we had also forgotten its name. After a few minutes trying to explain our situation in broken Spanish her husband came and said “Llahuar” – yes that’s it, that’s the name of the town! The couple looked at each other with the same disbelief the man with the cows had done shortly before. The woman turned to her husband and said that he had to join us, or we’d get lost. He looked us up and down and agreed, and off we went.

1.5 hours later of walking uphill, downhill and moving rocks to be able to pass we finally made it to a point where the farmer felt safe to let us continue on our own. As he wasn’t much of a talker he pointed at the traces from shoes on the ground and said “Tourists. Follow their steps and you’ll get to Llahuar”. Then he turned around to start heading back, expecting nothing in return from these two silly tourists.


Farmer leading the way through his massive land

Sometimes traveling can be difficult. It can be lonely, and sometimes you find yourself sitting in a hostel room filled with people feeling lonelier than ever. But these moments of joy, strangers that makes you overwhelmed with their kindness is what traveling is all about – at least for me. I left Sweden to travel on my own through Central and South America last March, and have during these 9 months met some incredible people I will never forget. Besides this farmer and his wife, I will never forget Cuban Zuka, who after only having met me on the plane from Moscow to Havana invited me to stay at her place for free. Or Peruvian Enrique who picked up my friend and me while hitchhiking from Lima to Paracas – to later invite us to dinner, dune buggy riding and sand boarding for free. I’ll also never forget the volunteers at the hostel that helped me when I got sick, and upgraded me to a private room free of charge. Or the amazing people I’ve had the honor to accompany on parts of their big journeys.

So while it’s true that traveling can be hard, I truly do believe that it teaches you about kindness, friendship and hardship in a way you would never experience in the comfort of your own home. Sometimes you may feel a little lost, but you will always find someone on the way to help you find the way back.

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“Isn’t it dangerous?” I get asked this question on a daily basis. “Aren’t you scared?” For the last two years of my life, I’ve been travelling around the world, using my thumb as my primary means of transportation. Yes, I’m a girl who likes to travel by way of hitchhiking. Many think that I do it due to a lack of funds, and it is true that I travel with little to no money. But this isn’t why I hitchhike. I hitchhike because hitchhiking provides me with just the opposite of what everyone thinks. While many believe that the world is a frightening place, filled with people who are out to get you, my lifestyle proves just the opposite.

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It all began in the Australian Outback, when my boyfriend at the time and I headed to that open stretch of highway. I wasn’t scared for a single moment – rather, I was filled with intense excitement. I have always craved freedom, and I have always known that it is not finances that could grant me this. From that very first ride – an off-putting and slightly racist Australian man – I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before I began hitchhiking by myself, embarking on long distance missions. Last summer, I decided to travel across the second largest country on our great planet, all by way of my thumb. I began in Vancouver with a measly $50 to my name, and made it all the way to Newfoundland – a journey of over 4,500 miles across Canada. I’d like to say it was my own great ingenuity that got me there on such little money, but in truth it was the kindness of strangers that made this trip possible.

As I hopped from car to car, from mountains to prairies, past lakes and streams, people would stop here and there to buy me a coffee and a meal. People were always so interested in my story, as if they thrived off the freedom that they saw within me. They truly wanted to help.

I stood at the side of the road one windy day in Newfoundland with my thumb out. As I waited for a car to pass me by – hopefully pulling over – I watched the salmon fishermen immersed in water up to their hips. Their passion for their craft and extreme patience mesmerized me. But soon dusk began to approach, and I knew it was nearing the time to find a secluded place to pitch my tent. I love living in my tent, but sometimes I crave more than just the hour or two of human interaction that hitchhiking provides. I wanted to spend more time getting to know someone. As such, I had found a lovely girl to stay with through the CouchSurfing website. Unfortunately, she lived another hour or so down the road from where I was. It became clear I would not make it there that night.

Three middle aged women started walking down the highway. “Excuse me?” I called over. “Do any of you have a phone that I could use?” I wanted to let my host know that I would not be arriving that night. The three women came over to me, none of whom had a phone, and we began chatting. “Would you like to come over for a cup of tea?” It was a chilly summer evening, and a hot cup of tea and some conversation sounded like the perfect thing before finding a spot to camp. “I would love to!” I replied enthusiastically.

Not five minutes into our walk back into the small fishing town, and the same woman who had invited me over for tea looked over at me. “Actually, would you like to stay at my place tonight?” I was filled with joy and appreciation, and happily accepted.

The four of us arrived at her home, and she laid out a buffet of different foods, tea, and coffee for us all to enjoy, insisting that I continue eating after I was stuffed. She then offered me a hot shower, and told me if I’d like, I could even do my laundry. I was ecstatic with this generosity. This was to be only one of many such occasions along my travels.

So my answer to those who question me on the safety of my lifestyle is this: No, I am not scared, and though there may be some less than favorable human beings out there, most are good. Hitchhiking has restored my faith in humanity, and shown me a world that I never dreamed of. It has granted me my freedom, but more importantly, it has shown me the beauty of human nature.

If you’d like to follow my random adventures around the world, check out my website at

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