Laine Perse and Arturs Drinins are two prolific travellers who are perhaps the biggest travellers in their home country of Latvia. We have the pleasure of hearing their story today…
Well folks, tell us something about yourselves and your backgrounds.
We are two Latvian travellers.. Let`s say even adventurers that cannot imagine living the “same old life” anymore.
We met each other in 2009 when we both moved to study in the capital city of our small Latvia as almost all the universities are located there. Yeah, the country is very small, let`s be honest. We both liked to travel around the country of ours, so we hitchhiked around with our tent, tried to do that in Lithuania and Estonia as well. We were always happy to be on the road, meet new people, enjoy the difficulties that rain, language barriers and spontaneous decisions make, so we thought – ok, we are ready for the World.
Actually, we were saving money for our wedding in 2015 when Laine was finishing her Master`s degree and Arturs was working as a cook in the heart of Old Riga (the old part of our capital). But at that time we were also joking around that we could actually go on the world-trip. Word by word, and then came the day when Laine called Arturs saying she has bought two tickets to USA. And then there was no way back. The next two months we spent planning the trip. We knew we don`t have a lot, so we just took the cheapest tent from Aliexpress, some basic stuff like a lighter, thread and needle, some clothes. And, yeah, told our loved ones that we will be back.. one day. It was really that random.
But we did not even know what we are signing up to. We did not think that there are such huge cities that cannot be walked through and that hitchhiking could also be misunderstood. We did not think that instant noodles won`t save us in all parts of the World and that it isn`t always possible to sleep in the tent. But we succeeded. We travelled the World! The environment changed. Languages changed. We had to learn and finally it was so interesting! And now we wish to know more and more. We have questions that hadn`t popped up in our minds ever before!
We have travelled around 64 countries in 5 continents, mainly by hitchhiking and sleeping in the tent. USA was our starting point – we went from New York City till Los Angeles and then through all of Mexico and every one of Central America`s countries. Yes, hitchhiking. We learnt Spanish that way, by the way. We went through 9 South America`s countries and flew to Europe. Our flight was delayed by two days and our compensation because of that was higher than the fee of our tickets. So we could travel even more! Europe, a bit of Africa and Asia. We finished our journey in India in 2017 as there was no more free space in our passports for stamps and the money was finished as well. On that World-trip we spend less than 14 thousand euros. That was the total for 17-month-long trip with all the flight tickets, everything.
Some things had changed in Latvia – people knew us – as not many Latvians do such a crazy thing. So we started to publish books. Laine was writing the books, Arturs was back as a cook, but it continued for 4 months only till we decided – this is not the life we can continue. So we went to England to work as the salaries are three times higher there than in our small nation. And we worked. That was the only thing we did besides having our favourite drink – beer. And in half a year it was enough to return home, to organize a big, beautiful wedding and to start the next trip again! Yeah, we have been married for 10 months now and travelling to Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand. And who knows what`s next. Who knows what kind of gems the World has hidden for us in its huge treasure chest! So we are just spinning the World! And that`s the best life we could ever imagine!
We know very little about Latvia. What does it mean to be Latvian? And what are some highlights of your own country?
Yeah, Latvia.. A small, green country that nobody knows about. It has always been interesting to be from here. Let`s start with the funny question-answer game: “Where are you from?” If the person is not very into the geography like e.g. tuk-tuk driver in India, we just say we are from Russia, from Ukraine, from Poland.. It`s fun to choose the country to be from every time. And naa`h we don`t mention the richest European countries just not to leave that impression that we have loads to spend. But if we say that we are from Europe and someone asks from which country exactly, not saying that” Europe is a beautiful county”, that becomes already interesting. It is the next level. If we say “Latvia” and that someone can say that it`s located in North of Europe – wow! But there can be even bigger surprises – a guy who gave us a ride in Brazil even named a band from Latvia we found out only at that time! We were shocked. But the sad surprise is that even the Southern Europeans don`t know their own continent. Though this has made us learn our country`s name in many languages. Good for us.
The good part is that we haven’t had very bad history with any other country except for our huge neighbors, so we never feel that hate – in Mexico it was good not to be American, in some parts of India it was good not to be Russian. But nobody has anything against our small nation. And yeah – when we travel we can talk freely in public about anything. Nobody will understand that! There is not even million people who speak Latvian as a vast number of inhabitants in our country still speak only Russian. And that also has made us learn other languages – at least English and Russian. These are the ones that every Latvian knows at least at a basic level.
And it`s a super-huge surprise if we meet another Latvian outside our country. We even remember those special moments which were in Colombia, and now in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. It is always pleasant to talk to a Latvian and it is totally different than in other nations – we have seen Germans avoiding each other and repeating that they do not enjoy having their own nation around. But it is the opposite for us – we usually run to each other and tell our stories! There is actually a funny story of meeting Latvians in Kyrgyzstan. We were traveling in the low season there, walking in the central market of Bishkek. We saw two guys pointing at us and laughing – “Another two tourists that have chosen the worst time to come!” And they were speaking Latvian! They probably couldn`t imagine meeting other Latvians here! What we did – we ran to them and asked for their contacts. And since then we have become the best of friends – always visiting each other whenever we two are in Latvia. This is how special it is to be from a small country!
In addition, we know that we are bringing our country`s word in the World. And we also have that honour to introduce the World to Latvia – even a guy from Brazil, one from Pakistan and others from different parts of the World arrived to greet us on our Wedding day. We showed them the best part of our country and we still do so by using Couchsurfing. So, friends, whoever comes to Latvia – we are there to host you and show you around!
Do you travel together all the time? What are the good and bad points of travelling as a couple?
Before we met, we travelled mainly with our families. Laine had traveled to Egypt and some European countries to celebrate New Year, Arturs usually went to visit his relatives in Estonia, the furthest point for him was a journey to Istanbul. When we met, we started to travel by hitchhiking around Latvia, we participated in ERASMUS youth projects in Europe. While Laine was studying for her Bachelor`s degree in Hungary and after for her Master`s degree in Romania, Arturs was working in Denmark and afterwards in Finland. At those times we were together but in separate countries. Though that wasn`t much of travelling, our real adventures started with our first World-trip. And at that time we didn’t have any idea what the World is. And what adventures it can bring.
We started our journey when we had been together for six years. And yeah, we thought we knew everything about each other. But that wasn’t the thing at all! Before the journey we had our own private life, you know – studies, friends, hobbies. But then we were on a budget trip, moving around by hitchhiking, sleeping in a tent. Side by side 24 hours for 527 days.. Oh, those were hard times to really start adapting to each other, to start accepting the other`s real “self”. A lot of times we heard that there are only two options – either we will break up or stay together forever. Yeah, you probably can guess the result.
But, of course, we fought and there were huge disagreements between us. At the very beginning, we had to find that real harmony in our daily rhythm. Just imagine – we were by each other’s side for seventeen months and did not separate for a moment. It`s like being together for countless years, where each one has a tiny bit of privacy. Laine was sending Arturs home for several times, but as Arturs had promised her dad to bring her back safe, he never step away. There were times we just walked on different sides of the road. Or we tried to sleep as far as possible from each other in that same tent. We didn’t talk for some hours. But as we were constantly moving, this was nothing that could last long.
We bickered like everything would be over, if only we were not stuck in a tent in faraway country`s woods. And exactly this unavoidable being together eventually led us to solving all the problems. It made us adapt and meet each other halfway. As there were no other options. So, while being on this journey, we understood what a great team we are. We got to know ourselves and one another. We became aware of what the other teammate can eat, when it`s time to sleep and what needs to be said. It all became apparent from a single glance. Now we communicate without words, we know each other’s gestures and their meaning very well. During the trip we understood our tasks on the journey and what is expected of us without any conversation.
We have met a lot of people, who would like to travel endlessly, yet not alone. But it is incredibly complicated to find a soul mate! It requires quite an effort to set foot on the same path. Not only money, planning and surviving, but also mutual relations play an important role in traveling together. We learned to acknowledge ourselves and recognize the other person`s feelings. We adapted. We agreed. Nothing was as easy as it could seem. And that`s why sometimes it`s even difficult to believe what has been accomplished.
And what about now? It is so much more easy to travel together, but, of course, we still face some disagreements, and it is totally normal. And we feel that we are becoming one. We are the biggest support to each other, and we could never do something like this with another person. Now it is more than love. It is 100% trust, it is 100% support. We are treating the other as we would like to be treated. And these are not just romantic words.. This is reality now.
What else have you learned on your travels so far?
Oh, our first journey opened up so many things we had never thought about before. By travelling we came to understand that good attracts good. And by doing good one only can receive good. On our way, we met only kind people who helped us along the way wearing their heart on their sleeves. That was truly amazing! Oh we have changed so much during our travels! Not only knowledge, experience, overcoming difficulties. We would never ever throw anything on the ground as we know that the Mother Nature has to be protected, nurtured and respected. We would never waste any food as we have seen so many hungry animals around the World that we always keep some snack in our bag for anyone we could meet on our way. We have learnt that anger will never be a solution and that actually everything happens for a reason. We really could keep like this forever. But hey, let`s share a story!
We have driven with drug dealers that were caught and we had been robbed in the jungle of Laos by small indigenous people who we were chasing the next two days. We have lived in a monastery on the mountains of Greece with a monk with whom we emptied all the centuries’ old wines and we have flown in a murder investigator helicopter in Colombia by pretending to be journalists. We have those four books published and can you imagine how many stories like this we can tell you? But here is the first that popped up in our mind.
Halloween party on US-Mexican border
Mexico.. That far and unknown land.. One step and we’ll be in this new world! But for now we are following Martin, the truck driver who has given us a ride. Martin’s friends have a ranch in this border town, which is still in the USA side, although mostly populated by Mexicans. We have decided to accept Martin`s invitation to stay here for a day or two. Our new friend buys a lot of meat and beer. Why? Because today is Halloween, which actually originated in Mexico – from the Mexican Day of the Dead!
So in a short time we find ourselves in a car workshop. In the middle of nowhere five Mexicans are sitting around broken vehicles. Suddenly Arturs has stomach problems, so he runs to the countryside bathroom. That`s probably because the new dishes and spices are far from the menu our stomachs have experienced. Various car parts and beer cans are scattered around. Happy dogs are playing and hens sitting in the trees. The owner of this car workshop lives in the trailer in the very middle of this place.
The first beer cans are opened, and we’re not standing aside. We say hello to our new friends, who speak only Spanish, and see what we can do to help. And now we have to speak and understand Spanish. At the moment we understand only “si” and “no” (“yes” and “no”), but it doesn’t slow down the communication at all, and the talking is going smoothly. After several beers a tequila bottle is opened – the kind of tequila we’ve never tasted before. We start talking about the Halloween, Martin does some translation, and soon enough the idea of organising a party comes up. This is such a special day and in such a special place after all!
The men decide to visit some other friends, and we finally get to see a real ranch – a country house with a vast area of land. Horses, goats and dogs, family and neighbours. The grill is set and meat cooked, together with Mexican music in the background. The owner of the ranch is a chubby man with a handlebar moustache. His wife gathers all the make-up she has and starts painting our faces as it appropriate in Halloween. We’re being taken on an excursion around the ranch and get to ride with horses. The men are laughing that we don’t understand a word they’re saying. However, the company is great! After a lot of dancing, we continue the party in the city together with Martin and another small Mexican man. Martin has been drinking only water for a while and now he can drive, but the owners of the house are staying, they’ve enough with our small party here.
We continue the Halloween celebration is in a small bar, not far from the ranch, and only Mexicans are there! All of them quiet down for a moment, when we come in, but, after seeing that we’re happy and open to all the new, they are less tense. A quite tipsy Mexican is playing the guitar on the terrace, and the rest of the celebrators are trying to sing along. But what’s happening inside the bar? A dance competition! And we really like dancing, so we join a group of Mexicans on the dance floor. After every dance the contestants receiving the loudest applause participate in the next round. And then there is the competition finale – Arturs against a little Mexican woman, who’s dressed in a traditional Native American costume. Arturs is “warmed up” already and doesn’t feel shy to take off his shirt or lift the little woman on his shoulder and spin her around a few times. And victory! Free beer to our table and the evening continues!
The party is over at 3 a.m. and we have to go home. It’s a 15 minute ride till the ranch, but who’s driving? Our driver Martin gets in the back seat besides Laine and says he can’t drive anymore. He’s Mexican after all – if he loses the license, he won’t be driving a truck ever again, but it is the way he makes a living. The other man doesn’t even know how to drive, but we don’t want to spend the night in the car either. Arturs bravely steps in the driver’s seat and has the little man beside him to tell the directions. Then it seems like a very good idea to all of us.
The car has an automatic transmission, which Arturs hasn’t driven yet. It is dark outside, we’re in a foreign country. The car smells like beer and nobody remembers the exact way home. But we’re driving. The little Mexican tells different directions in Spanish and incoherently points with his fingers. It’s not clear where we are going at all, but the car is moving. Then we miss the necessary turn, because the small Mexican sign language is quite unclear, but Martin has no strength or will to translate anything.
And then we hear the police siren behind us!
Arturs stops at the side of the road, and the police officer approaches us. Everybody is wide awake now – especially our non-English-speaking friend in the front seat, who is sitting straight and scared, although he’s not the driver.
Arturs opens the window, and now the police officer can greet a black-painted face with some lighter lines from the drops of sweat. The officer says we’re driving in a restricted area, but Arturs starts explaining that it’s our first time in this foreign country and he didn’t know the roads so well. The officer goes around the car and Laine opens her window as well. After seeing a blond girl, the officer softens a little. Then it`s Martin`s turn. He explains that we’re going home from a Halloween party. All three of us start laughing: “Such a fun party!” The officer continues to speak with us through the window on Laine`s side. He asks if we’ve been drinking. “Yeah, Laine and Martins both have, but the driver not a sip”. How easy it is to convince the policeman! He smiles. Then he knocks at the front window, but our friend keeps staring at one point like hypnotized. Again, we three start joking around just to keep the officer distracted. He doesn’t make us do the breath alcohol test, nor asks for any documents – the man just tells us to get home safely and be careful – the smell of alcohol in the car is quite strong.
We close the windows, Arturs starts the engine, and we breathe a sigh of relief. Pheeeeeew!
Everything is ok. No license lost and nothing bad has happened. But Martin explains our luck – this wasn’t a traffic officer, but a border guard looking for illegal immigrants. We laugh that luckily there’s no one in our car. Then Martin points at our friend in a front seat: “And who do you think he is?” Now we understand the small Mexican behaviour. We almost sent him off to his homeland! Turns out that some men we met in the car workshop and ranch are illegal immigrants. But it’s a happy ending – Arturs keeps his license, and our friend stays in the USA.
And what lesson is learnt? Just go with everything life has to offer. Smile, be happy, be positive! There is no need for frustration or stress – everything happens as it suppose to happen!
It`s necessary to be a little crazy. But very modest. It`s necessary to be reckless. And thankful. Open, but cautious. And all this is taught by the path that hasn`t been taken by countless pedestrians. But the path that is overgrown and leads deep into the jungle. That leads into unknown and unexplored. A path that can only be walked by oneself. And only then those abilities that have been hiding in the deepest consciousness corner appear. Abilities that have never been used. Because they were not needed. But now? Our treasure chest is open. And it`s necessary to share those treasures. We love this opportunity to share with someone. Because there is that someone to share with. So beautiful is the moment when the eyes are truly open. Because it does mean that a new day may start. And new adventures!
What are your ultimate travel goals? Or do you travel without a goal?
Well, we could actually say that there is no goal. But first, we would like to share what travelling means to us. Travelling is opening up. It is a complete and rapid adaptation. Nobody should compare, nor condemn the place or people one meets about the life they are living. Every corner of the World has its own charm. And the more open we are, the more we are able to catch that World’s breeze. Stereotyping and denial completely block the new knowledge. Only by opening up the mind and heart it is possible to see the real World. Travelling for us is opening up to the World and realizing that every way of life is beautiful if the right choices are made. If one door is closed, there is no need to break it – a better surprise is waiting just behind the corner. Everything in this World has its own reason, its own purpose.
Travelling is learning. When we are travelling, the desire to know more and more is increasing. Travelling is a continuous learning process. Learning from the places we visit, learning from the locals who share their story. Learning from new tastes, smells and sounds. It is learning from the experiences, misfortunes, and moments of admiration. And travelling is not just seeing, not just checking out the countries to say “I’ve been there”. It is a feeling. Each place has its own energy. And the nature is so alive all around! So beautiful is the silence at the highest peak of the volcano and such a splendid chaos can be felt in the big cities! And the best is that we can learn from all of that! And finally, travelling is sharing. Sharing with everything that has been experienced and understood. It would be foolish to gain so much knowledge of the World and keep it a secret. Travelling is not just learning, but also teaching. It is not just receiving but also giving. Even by spending money on travel, we can only become richer. And why do we save the money, if not for those beautiful moments, experiences and knowledge? And it’s all given by travelling. It provides an experience that nobody can ever take away from us. We save the moments, enrich our world, by being in harmony with nature and all the living!
As you have probably heard – “life is not a destination, it is a journey”, so we can say that travelling is not a tool to gain some goals. It is a lifestyle.
Do you have your own blog? Are you active on social media?
We created a FaceBook page when we started to travel in 2015. It is called “Iegriez Pasauli. Spin the world” and it is still active. After the trip we were quite productive and so far we have published four books about our first journey – each for a continent, we merged Europe and Africa as there was only one country we stepped in in Africa at that time. And we have already re-printed our first book about North America and translated it into English, it can be found in Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077CR4X28 – book`s version with no pictures and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077CRD76V – version with pictures)
And, as people got more interested in what we do and where we travel, we have now created our web page www.spintheworld.lv. Everything there is mostly in English except the section “LV” where we publish a blog of every-day adventures and discoveries in Latvian. Last time we did it in English every day too but it was a time-consuming as English is not our mother tongue. So instead we have a section of “Destinations” where we put articles, YouTube videos and advice for travelers, as well as a section “Useful” where we share the things we have learnt while travelling. In the FaceBook page we publish the summary of every week, as well as articles, radio interviews and storytelling events that we are taking part in. And, let`s not forget about the Instagram account www.instagram.com/lainearturs_travel
So, yeah, overall we are active on social media, but we still do not consider that as the main thing. Firstly we travel for ourselves. For our body and mind. For our spirit and soul. Travelling is in our blood and then comes that important part of sharing. For somebody our adventures are funny story to read at the breakfast, for others the book is a good gift for their loved ones. It is always so nice to receive messages from people saying that they actually do not use the Lonely Planet, but our book to travel around South America or Europe! Yeah, we travel a bit differently. On a budget. We do not consider that values come with comfort, they come with overcoming difficulties, with challenging ourselves and they come with adventures!
Do you feel that travelling involves some sacrifices? Do you miss ‘home’ or not?
This is an interesting question. It depends on what one considers as a sacrifice. We consider that travelling has only advantages. Sounds too positive, but it is just so. We don`t even know where to start. We never grow full with the stuff a human actually doesn`t need as we travel with the only necessary things that fit in our backpack. And the same is with the relationship. We do not struggle with the wrong persons or opinions. Those who have never been interested in having us as friends just disappear with the time. And then we meet so many awesome World-explorers with an open mind and heart that become our motivation, an every-day inspiration to keep doing what we do! Those travellers we meet are a proof that this is a real life! And this is actually so much more useful than settled days!
We learn to adapt to situations every day. We try so many different things we could never do in our part of the World. More precisely we could say that travelling involves some hardships that one cannot come across in a settled daily routine. But, to be honest, we never thought about the worst that could happen. Maybe that was the reason we have not attracted any negative energy. We just go and do what has to be done. We were not afraid to hitchhike – we have always trusted our gut and let our feet carry us further down the path that was meant for us. In the beginning we tried to “break in” some closed doors. However, already in the USA, the World gave us a chance to meet a Polish adventurercalled Grzegorz, who made us think everything over. He revealed that by travelling we would develop a strong inner sense. And we have to let it lead us. With every step forward the newfound inner sense felt stronger and stronger. All we have to do is to listen and trust it completely. Later we understood that there is always a reason why we are not able to get to some places and the road leads us elsewhere. It means we are being led on the right way. The only thing we need to do is to take steps forward ourselves.
The fear of travelling has never set in. We are brave and ready to face any hardships that may come in our way. So we can say that there are no sacrifices. There are only things to overcome and learn. We had to get over our own phobias, which are not related to the trip. Fear of heights? We are finding ourselves on a cliff with a gigantic hiking backpack on our shoulders and there is no wish to go downwards the steep slope or continue the heavy path upwards. But the most important is not to give up. Regretting the things that haven`t been done is much more difficult than regretting those that have been done, isn`t it so?
Is this kind of traveling difficult? Yes, it is. Especially the first trip when we were so much on a budget. It is really not easy to travel so long and the way we did. However, this is how it`s possible to learn much more. And that is all that matters. No luxury could ever replace that experience we gained. Never. Whenever we faced difficulties, we imagined that it could always be worse. It wasn`t like we were caught up in war or left without food or water. We are not sick or wounded, but young and ready to take on anything the World has decided to throw at us in order to make out of us make something special.
Did we get sick? Yes – we got sick, although it happened less often than we thought it would. During this long period of time we probably could get sick back home more often than while travelling. Even viral infections always leave us intact, so we could concentrate on our journey. What problems did we face? Food poisoning was quite common at the beginning when we were not acquainted with this kind of food variations. And then came India, which is a completely different world. But after conquering all that, now it feels that we are ready for anything. At first riding through hill roads made us nauseous, but now no turns are too sharp for us. Strains, bruises and muscle contusions are an integral part of travelling. There was a time when in complete darkness we walked down the stairs not knowing a step was missing and learnt a valuable lesson. After a twelve-and-a-half hours hike to Machu Picchu, our feet were covered in bleeding blisters and the nails on our toes turned blue. Sometimes there were bad mornings after parties. But that`s it. Overall we are successfully continuing our journey.
And last, but not least – no doubt that while being away we truly missed home, mostly our parents that are there in Latvia. We love our families, who wait for us back home, but never forget to wish us all the best on our journey. We love our friends. We love the beautiful nature of Latvia and its food, which undoubtedly is the most common for our taste buds and stomachs. But while we are travelling, we always try to be in presence. Here and now. We know that we will definitely return home even just to hug our dearest ones and we know that they would always be there waiting for us. It isn`t right to miss home every day as then it`s impossible to learn anything new! We dive into adventures! Otherwise – while being at home, one dreams about travelling, while travelling, one`s missing home. Such a thing should not happen. That is why we live through every single moment. And it is just great!
Life is too cheerful and beautiful to be sad all the time! We were truly happy when starting our journey and we are happy to return home. And here we are, still spinning the world!
Finally, if you could invite any four people to dinner, from any period in history, who would you invite and why?
This is a simple one. The only idol in our life are our parents and they would be those four persons we would invite for the dinner. The dinner table would be rich from the cuisine all around the World with the best beer for us, hah.
But why our parents? We love them. We cherish them. And they are the most important people in our lives. We do not meet them as often anymore as you can imagine. We call them and let them know that we are safe and remind them that we really live the life we really love. We know that our dear parents would be so happy to see us in a house in Latvia with many cute children running around. Yeah, we always have to answer these questions – when will we finally settle. But the more we travel, the more we understand that that kind of settling just cannot happen. Travelling is our way of life. This is the only way we feel alive, we feel the meaning of the sunrise and sunset!
We know that our parents love us – even if they would like to hug us every day, they still never forget to send us the best way further, all the best of luck. And we feel this positive energy all around us! And this is what gives us our wings. This positive bubble around us has always protected us. We cannot thank them enough for everything they have taught us and everything they had given us, especially this sparkle of adventures. They have taught us to be humble, to be thankful, to be brave, to love life and to love adventures!
Our parents are those four persons we would give all the appreciation of the reason why we are here. And that is so good when one has someone to love. When there is someone who cares. We are so happy that we have our parents and that we have each other. Eh. Life is so wonderful!
The photos in this interview are from Laine and Arturs’ personal collection and we thank them for sharing their images with us here at NomadMania!