No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time. ~Lewis Carroll
In 2013, travel blogger and adventurer Kevin Shannon walked the length of Serbia twice. Kevin embarked on a solo journey across a country that was mostly new to him; not knowing if he’d be able to find a place to sleep on any given night, or what sort of people he’d encounter in the next town over.
Kevin recently put the finishing touches on his book recounting his little jaunt and I wanted to chat with him about his journey, the nature of his adventure, hardships and distresses.
How did you first become interested in walking across Serbia?
I came across Serbia completely by surprise really. I was on a cycling expedition from the UK to Turkey and back again and just happened to be passing through Serbia. What was supposed to be a 3-4 day stop turned into a 3 month stop. The extended stop was purely down to kind and genuine people that I met along the way. It was because of the amazing times I had that made me want to explore Serbia on foot and really delve into what makes Serbia great.
Many of us have big, audacious goals on our horizon about leaving it all behind to travel. How did you manage to actually make it happen?
I was giving the opportunity to walk across Serbia purely by accident. I had recently finished at a job and that left me with a perfect excuse to go for a long walk across Serbia. I also contacted the Serbian tourism board to ask for their assistance in walking across the country and they helped with providing flights and contacts during the journey. The cost of the journey was minimal. I cooked noodles over my camp stoves, slept in fields or friendly homes and when you live like that it’s very easy to cross a country for very little.
What was it about walking through Serbia that appealed to you?
Journeys by foot or bicycle allow you to travel at a speed that makes you appreciate everything you see, hear and smell. Everything becomes simplified. You notice every contour of the every road and every pothole. It also makes you more aware of distance between places. It was for all these reasons I wanted to walk through Serbia. I wanted to see everything, smell everything and hear everything. I wanted to feel Serbia.
Did you ever doubt your decision to start walking and get tempted to quit early? And if so, how did you deal with those doubts and concerns?
To be honest, no. I’m quite a stubborn person. I did get downhearted but I knew why I was there. I was on a mission of sorts. One of these times i got very downhearted was when I was walking through Vojvodina was very tough to be honest. Because it was my first leg of the journey my body was adjusting to the routine and it was so flat and with very little features, the combination of aches and pains and the feeling of not getting very far was quite depressing and I do remember thinking what the hell am I doing.
What were your expectations of the walk prior to departure and how did that differ from the reality on the road or how you felt about the walk across Serbia after completing it?
To be truthful, it’s hard to pinpoint my expectations of the walk because I didn’t really have time to think about any of that stuff because of all the route planning and equipment prep I had to do. I knew I would meet great people and I knew it would be difficult, but it was a lot harder and I met a hell of a lot more great people than I ever thought possible.
In a world where virtually every “big” adventure has been done before, what is the role of “adventure” in the personal, everyday lives of individuals? What does adventure mean to you and what role does it play in your life?
Adventure is massively important. I think that everyone fixates on things having been done before which is why you see so many weird and bizarre expeditions (“The first clown with no arms to pogo up Everest”) but for me adventure is everywhere, anywhere and for everyone.
Walking home instead of getting the bus is an adventure in itself. When you’re on holiday, getting a bus to a non tourist area is an adventure for some. It’s not about big, costly, arduous journeys. Adventure is about stepping out of your comfort zone just a little bit.
Personally, I enjoy ‘micro adventures’ which are quite simply, grabbing a sleeping bag, a bottle of water and torch and sleeping in some local woodland just to get away from everything. Or sometimes if I’m headed to a meeting (I run my own creative design business) I’ll walk home so I can see different parts of the area I haven’t seen before.
The larger journeys I undertake are about pushing my limits, exploring and meeting amazing people.
So, what’s the next adventure looming ahead for Kevin Shannon?
After the book is fully funded, printed, translated and in people’s hands. I have a couple of things lined up. One is another journey on foot through a country that no one has really heard of and the other is a cycling journey with a friend through a place that has always fascinated me.