He was travelling with his girlfriend for 35 consecutive hours by train through central India when I asked him if I could interview him. Lando van Hornsveld is a passionate and visionary traveller, who happened to have grown up in the same town as me. Ever since we found out we share the same passion, we started talking more and more about it and became instant friends. These days, we continue to inspire each other as at any given moment in time, at least one of us is on the road. Lando is great fan of hiking through untouched landscapes and knows what it is like to plan and prepare for long trips.
Can you tell me some more about your current trip?
A little over a year ago, I finished my bachelors degree in nursing. Right after, me and my girlfriend, who had the same dream of going on a world trip, said goodbye to our families and so in September 2013 we started our trip in Cuba. After, our journey took us through Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. We have crossed through 24 countries, which brings my life total to 47. We have now been on the road for 363 days, with a two-month break in between to reset our travel needs and to refill our bankaccounts. All in all we have spent just €15.711 with the two of us (less than €25 per day per person), spent over 900 hours in buses, trains, boats and planes and climbed several mountains over 5000 meters tall. We lived it rich, but we have also been on super tight budgets. Couchsurfing and hitchhiking a total of 4000 kilometers just for the fun of it!
I am so jealous! When was the first time you started travelling?
Right after my high school I went for 5 months to Australia. Since I was only 18 years old, and I was the first ever in my family and group of friends to do such a thing, me and my parents decided for Australia as a ‘safe’ destination. It was an amazing time, I met wonderful people, I saw a different way of life and for the first time I felt that I was completely free. Free to do anything I wanted.
A cold breeze hit my face and then it hit me.
I had a dream, a dream to explore.
I realised I was free, I felt whole.
It was the happiest and most satisfying moment in my life
– Lando van Hornsveld
I will always remember the moment when this feeling climaxed. I was at some rock close to the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, just before sunrise. It was dark, cold and I was alone. I thought about the previous months, I thought about home, I thought about my needs, I asked myself if I was doing the right thing and if this was really what I wanted. I looked up, the sky slowly began to color up. In the distance some whales and dolphins showed themselves. A cold breeze hit my face and then it hit me. I had a dream, a dream to explore. And here I was, alone on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, the other side of the world that I knew. I realised I was free, I felt whole. It was the happiest and most satisfying moment in my life. For me, travelling is and will always be about freedom.
What made you decide to choose for another big trip?
After the trip in Australia I knew that there was more to come, much more. When I got back home, I started up saving money right away. And even now, while being on the road, we are already making future travel plans. I am sure that the need to travel will never fade, it has become a part of me.
I know that feeling! What is the weirdest place were you slept while being on the road?
That is a difficult question. So much has happened, it is hard to pick one specific moment. A memorable night was our hotel experience in Chinandega, northern Nicaragua. We arrived in this dull looking city after a long day of overcrowded buses. We did not know anything about Chinandega but our guidebook said there was one hotel in town. Fine, we thought, doesn’t seem like a tourist place so there will be a room, no stress. We got some food, practised some Spanish and took our time even though it was getting dark and we became somewhat of an attraction on the street. When it was time we walked to the hotel, only to find out that it was closed down. We took a cycling rickshaw to a place our driver knew. What it was, we had no idea, but it must have been one of the most terrible hotels in Latin America. First of all, the owner was a gigantic grumpy hippopotamus of a woman who looked like she hadn’t moved for the last 6 years. She raised her endemic hairy claw, gave us a key and shouted where we could find her lovely room. Through some backdoors we found a courtyard with some drunk and drugged up Nicaraguans joined by two massive, very aggressive dogs. After miraculously passing the barking monsters and filthy old drunks we arrived in our room, only to find out that the inside was even worse. Cockroaches, mice, rats, spiders, flies, mozzies, tons of dust and rubbish, nasty sheets and an incredible stench. The room did not lock and the drunk men outside decided to chill out about a meter or so in front of our door. How we managed to sleep that night is still a miracle. Maybe our barricaded door and locked up pile of bags helped, maybe we were just really tired. However, it was the weirdest place to sleep and we probably made the world record for fastest checkout ever.
Wow, crazy experience. Anyway, let me ask you how do you prepare for such a trip around the world?
The single most important thing, is that there has to be a dream or a desire. Then, all the rest is just easy. Especially if you happen to live in a country like The Netherlands, saving up money is not such a hard thing. Not that you need a lot of money, but it will make things easier for sure. So first try to save up money, and start drafting a rough plan. Decide what your focus will be: diving, hiking, volunteering, partying, perhaps a bit of all? Try to make it clear for yourself. Then look up which places facilitate your needs best, use the internet, select some countries and start looking for cheap flight tickets. Once you found your ticket, bring as few as possible with you and just go.
Anything is possible. If things are difficult,
it only means you have to prepare harder.
The results will be worth it
– Lando van Hornsveld
If your plans are more controversial, like visiting Iran, the “Stans” or Russia, you need to be better prepared since visas are a pain to manage on the road. One mistake can lead you to an enormous amount of extra waiting time and in some cases even massive fines. So plan carefully!
Anyone who has a dream, no matter how small or big, start to realise it step by step. Take your time, visualise your route, be well prepared and make it happen. And don’t forget, anything is possible. If things are difficult, it only means you have to prepare harder. The results will be worth it.
What will the rest of your current trip look like?
At the moment we really want to meet our family for Christmas in Thailand, so we looked for the cheapest flight from India to Bangkok somewhere halfway December. The cheapest flight, 42 euros, flew from Chennai. This place is a mere 3000km away from where we planning to go to but that is fine. This way there is a reason to visit some places where we have never heard, we got heaps of time anyway.
“We are flexible, and that is very important when you are on a big trip”
– Lando van Hornsveld
After Thailand we want to visit Myanmar, so we looked for flight tickets and happened to find some for less than the price of a busticket. Later on we would like to visit China. In order to get a relatively cheap and easy visa for China, you need to be in Hong Kong. So, we searched for tickets again. Bangkok to Hong Kong would be easy, but Ho Chi Minh to Manila, Manila to Taipei and Taipei to Hong Kong is cheaper (doesn’t make sense, but it’s true). This way we get to see Cambodia, the south of Vietnam, The Philippines and Taiwan. All in, total cost would of course be more, but now we see a lot more of the world and that is still our main goal. Further future goals are visiting the Caucasus and Iran. How and when, we do not know yet, maybe over land, maybe by cheap flights. We will see, we are flexible, and that is very important when you are on a big trip.
What has been your favourite place so far?
I have visited several places that took little time to fall in love with, but Kyrgyzstan probably took the least. I love mountains, I love being in a place that really feels like far from home, that is cheap and where people are honest and reliable. Kyrgyzstan seems to facilitate these needs to perfection and I am certain that I will be returning to that country over and over again. One unique place is Karakol, a small dusty and far-from-beautiful Soviet city, but an alpine wonderland. Steep peaks, thundering rivers, waterfalls, massive glaciers, gorgeous small lakes, an abundance of wildlife and picturesque nomadic settlements. Add to this the freedom to camp anywhere you want and an absence of trekking- or peak permits and you have the perfect playground for any outdoor freak!
Another place that will always be dear to me is San Pedro de la Laguna in Guatemala. Even though this is a very touristy place, I loved everything about it: the Spanish school, the volcanos, the beautiful lake, the chilled out vibe, the village and its wonderful people. I never stayed in a place longer than that one, almost a month.
If you want to follow Lando and his girlfriend on his current adventure, then have a look at his own modest travel blog.