Everything You Never Wanted to Know About My Soviet Sojourn

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

From how many miles I traveled to how many Snickers I ate and how many times I bawled my eyes out, here are the answers to all the questions you never thought to ask me about my so-called Soviet Sojourn – the 13 months I spent traveling around the former Soviet Union:

Days on the road: 390

Miles traveled: 36, 203 (give or take a few)

Longest train ride: 62 hours from Vladivostok to Ulan Ude

Longest bus ride: 12 hours from Amasya to Trabzon, Turkey

International flights: 7 – Chicago-Helsinki, Tbilisi-Rome, Rome-Istanbul, Tbilisi-Dushanbe, Bishkek-Riga, Riga-Barcelona, Barcelona-Chicago

Domestic flights: 4 – Moscow-Vladivostok, Ashgabat-Turkmenbashi, Bishkek-Osh, Osh-Bishkek

Countries visited: 20 – Finland, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Italy, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain

Countries visited for the first time: 18

Visas obtained in advance: 6 – Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan.

Visas on arrival: 4 – Turkey, Armenia (2) & Turkmenistan

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Cities visited: 70 – Helsinki, Tallinn, Kuressaare, St Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Moscow, Vladivostok, Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Minsk, Grodno, Brest, Kiev, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kolomyya, Kamyanets-Podilsky, Chernivtsi, Chisinau, Batumi, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Tandzatap, Rome, Assisi, Todi, Istanbul, Amasya, Trabzon, Erzurum, Kars, Mestia, Telavi, Lekit, Sheki, Baku, Lahic, Gyumri, Dushanbe, Penjikent, Shing, Padrud, Khujand, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Mary, Ashgabat, Misrian, Nokhur, Khiva, Nukus, Aktau, Aralskoe More, Shymkent, Zhabagly, Taraz, Almaty, Bishkek, Osh, Karakol, Bokonbaevo, Barcelona, Girona

Coldest temperature experienced: -18F (Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine)

Hottest temperature experienced: 110F (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)

Travel blogging conferences attended: 2

Total spent on phone and internet: $156.03

Places where I could not find free wi-fi: 6 – Olkhon Island, Minsk, Brest, Ashgabat. Mary, Bokonbaevo

Days spent with absolutely no internet access: 22

Galata Tower, Istanbul

Pictures saved & edited: 7,890

Packages sent home: 5

New pairs of Gap jeans purchased: 4

ATM cards eaten by machines: 2

ATM cards retrieved: 2

Major crying spells: 8

Boys kissed: 4

Boys I wanted to kiss but didn’t: 3

Shots of vodka consumed in Russia: 0

Shots of vodka consumed in Georgia, Armenia & Kyrgyzstan: Dozens. Or more.

Snickers consumed: probably around 390

 Anything else you’re dying to know? Ask below!

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9 thoughts on “Everything You Never Wanted to Know About My Soviet Sojourn”

  1. Boys kissed!

    So, Snickers were your RTW weakness? Mine was Oreos. I don’t eat the things in the US but they were a lifesaver when I didn’t want to eat any more gross meat or whatever.

    1. Well, I didn’t have much choice with the Snickers – on almost every travel day, they were the only thing I could find that was gluten-free. I haven’t had one since coming back. 🙂

  2. What?! I was waiting for the total cost (Visa, Flight, Food, Gap Jeans, ETC) and then I was expecting to see… Trip of a lifetime…Priceless.

    Seriously, what was the total cost, I remember vaguely reading an amount once, not sure.

    If someone wanted to do the same exact trip, where should they begin?

    What would you do differently now that you have hindsight?

    What did you want to do that you didn’t?

    I liked that you did language immersion, that was excellent.

    Would you have preferred to have had a travel partner?

    Did you feel unsafe at anytime?

    1. Sorry – I did a cost wrap up post earlier that covered all of that, so I skipped it in this post. But the total cost was around $28,000.

      Hard to say where to start – I started in Russia because you have to get the visa for Russia in your home country and Russia was the main place I wanted to go that inspired the trip in the first place. But otherwise I think it really just depends on your interests. It will be different for everyone.

      In hindsight, I wish I had been more open to meeting people early on and I wish I didn’t stress over things as much as I did. I wasted a lot of energy worrying about things that all just had a way of working out in the end.

      There were definitely times I would’ve preferred to have someone with me – not for safety reasons at all but because some times I was seeing things so amazing that I just wanted someone to be there to share it with me.

      I never really felt unsafe. I took normal precautions but wasn’t paranoid. Living in Chicago, I have felt far less safe at home than I ever did on the road.

    1. It honestly was a bit of luck. When it happened the first time, I was in Russia and using an ATM in a building where there was a security guard. I explained in broken Russian what happened and she helped me call a number on the ATM where I managed to find out that the ATM would be emptied in 2 days. They gave me a number to call back then. Then, the owner of my hostel made the calls for me and they retrieved the card and I just had to go to the bank headquarters and show my passport to pick it up.

      The second time was in Russia again and was using an ATM in a bank lobby. When it ate my card, I went inside and told one of the workers and they got the ATM opened and retrieved it for me.

      My biggest lesson? If at all possible, always try to use ATMs attached to the banks themselves.

  3. Yes, I do remember reading the breakdown of the total cost.

    Thank you for being so candid about your experience, I truly enjoyed reading your Blog.

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