Representing the next generation of Broke Backpackers that are still making it work on LESS than $10/day are Berni and Alex, an Austrian couple who have been hitchhiking around the world for more than two years.

Get ready for a hefty dose of travel inspiration from these two legends that have hitched tens of thousands of kilometers – including across the Atlantic Ocean.

Without further ado… let’s see what they’re all about.

 

First up, tell us a bit about you guys – who are you, and how/why do you travel?

We are a 24-year-old Austrian couple from Vienna, the capital city, and we have been hitchhiking around the world for more than two years now.

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What moves us is a curiosity about the big unknown, and challenging our own and others’ prejudices.

We hear every day why we shouldn’t go here or there. But we’ve learned that in the end, all people are the same. Everyone wants love, safety, family, all these kinds of things. Getting this taste and feel of freedom while travelling and meeting people just got addicting, I guess.

What inspired you guys to start hitchhiking?

We started hitchhiking quite early on because we’ve done some big hikes in the past. Oftentimes we had a car parked at one end of the mountain valley, and it was much cooler to go down another side, instead of going the same way back to see more. So we started at age 14 to hitchhike back to our cars with some other friends we were hiking with. 

There were also some books in the mix – “5 years at the University of Life” was a big inspiration for sure. It’s about a French guy who hitchhiked around the world. It got me like, “Oh, damn, you can actually do that in every country, it doesn’t only work in Austria.” 

So after reading that book, we hitchhiked to neighbouring countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, and Germany, those were the first trips, and then we just kept expanding. Once we finished high school I (Berni) went on a one-year solo hitchhiking trip to Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.

When I came back, I told Alex, my longtime girlfriend for the past seven or eight years by now, that I found this thing. It is absolutely incredible. And I know you’ll love it and I think we can have the craziest adventures together. So we did.

We first went from Austria to Sicily. Austria to Spain, Austria to Poland, Austria to Albania, just to get used to the hitchhiking life. And then when we knew like, Oh my God. That’s gonna be crazy. We can do that in every country and meet so many people and have those amazing stories to tell our kids.

So we decided that we have to go on a big trip and and try to hitchhike around the world.

How many countries have you hitchhiked in? Which has been the hardest/easiest?

I think so far, it must have been around 60 countries.

On this trip only, I think we are now in country 47 or 48. The hardest by far was mainland Spain, I would say Portugal, Italy, and Greece, are still not too easy. You have some longer waiting times in the US sometimes, but nothing too bad.

Everything else is like usually less than half an hour. But you have to keep in mind, we are travelling as a couple. That makes it probably way easier than for solo guys. For example, when I hitchhiked alone, in Australia, I had quite some long waiting times. 

Caribbean islands and Pacific islands were amongst some of the easiest. That and Muslim countries – we’re talking Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Indonesia.

I don’t know what’s going on there. But the hospitality is just crazy. And the hitchhiking waiting times are almost non-existent. But with a with a few tricks. I think you should be able to get around most countries in the world with like, between 15 and 30 minute wait if there’s enough traffic.

A lot of people want to hitchhike but are afraid or unsure where to start. What would you tell them?

I think at first it’s a good idea to stick to places that you already know. For example, we grew up in Austria and had the same route that we always went into the mountains. So the first thing we did was get ourselves a friend, for example, a brother or sister, and go during the day.

If there’s good weather, go from A to B, where you know the road and where if something happens, you’ll know right away where you are and how to get home. Also, choose a place where there’s a bus connection so in the worst case, you can just take a bus.

There’s a website called Hitchwiki, which is like the Wikipedia of hitchhiking, with tons of tips. What we are trying to do with our videos is encourage people to hitchhike and give them lots of tips on our Instagram. There are also lots of Facebook groups with hitchhikers who want to try it but don’t know how to start or who to start with.

Maybe don’t start all by yourself at the beginning because it can be quite intimidating with so many unknown factors.

Waiting for two hours on your own is not as fun as doing it with a friend. If you’re not in a good mood, the drivers will see it and not stop. But if you’re joking around with your friend and the drivers can see you’re having a good time, they’ll also want to have that atmosphere in their car.

What is your average daily budget on the road?

We started with a very low budget on the trip, it was like two euros per person per day when we were only camping and using Couchsurfing. In Europe, we were also dumpster diving.

When we were travelling in Europe, most of the attractions like national parks and museums, were free. But that changed quite quickly, once we got to Central America. So then we said, okay, let’s spend $5 per day, or five Euros per day. 

But it’s not quite as easy here in Latin America to spend that little. And the longer we travelled, the more comfort we needed at times. Now our budget is between $5 to $10 a day per person. Mainly because of hostel or hotel stays, because now with our Instagram, we need a lot of time to edit videos with a good internet connection. 

These days we also have to pay for a SIM card, and sometimes visa costs are also quite pricey. The past month, we’re spending around $7-$8 per day. That’s still pretty good.

You hitchhiked through Venezuela. What was it like compared to all the negative media?

It was pretty much what we expected. It was worse at the beginning because literally every person in Colombia that we hitchhiked with, told us not to travel to Venezuela.

Also, when we said on our Instagram that we were going to go to Venezuela, we had dozens of people texting us not to go and asking if we were stupid, or if we wanted to get killed.

We had our doubts too, but eventually decided to go and it was a perfect decision. It’s a country completely unspoiled by tourism. People are extremely friendly. Everyone tries to help foreigners to, you know, make up for the bad reputation they have. 

And yeah, now we are trying to help these people as well and try to bring a bit of a better light on the country. Try to help them attract tourists through our Instagram a little bit. I mean, that’s, that’s the least we can do. We’ve been invited so many times and have received so much hospitality. It’s only fair to give back what we can.

You posted on Instagram for a bit before seeing some (much-deserved) success! What tips would you have for other travel content creators and what kept you guys motivated before your big break?

We posted on Instagram almost daily for a year and a half. We had about 3000 followers after that, so it took quite a lot of motivation to keep pushing through. I think how we did it was that we just saw it as our diary both for ourselves and for our family and friends. At least in the beginning. 

Once we started seeing a lot of positive feedback, we were thinking, okay, maybe we could make this into a job, which would be the dream – travelling and making money while doing it.  So we were thinking,

“Okay, we’re gonna push through for these two years, really try hard and focus not only on the travelling but also on the content creating part. And if it works out, if we have a reasonable amount of followers afterwards, we’re gonna keep doing it, and we’re going to try to focus on it. And if it doesn’t work out, then it’s just a diary for ourselves.”

But luckily, we got better and better with video editing and knew what videos would get a good response from our followers. And, that’s when we got more and more and more. Once the avalanche starts rolling, it’s hard to stop it. We’ve been lucky with that. 

As for tips, I think it’s really important to have a very specific niche. You can’t just be a travel content creator because there are hundreds of thousands of them. You need your own thing. What are you an expert at? Focus on that. Because even if you think that it’s not that interesting, there’s likely a bunch of people who are super interested in what you have to share.

That’s how we focused on hitchhiking. It’ll take some time, but you’ll be rewarded if you push through. Engage with your community and post, post, post. Ask people what they want to see, check other travel content creators, and see what works well for them. Post different kinds of videos and see what is best and what feels most natural to you, and then go with that.

You want people to see your videos, and be like, oh, that’s the style of this and that content creator. But yeah, that takes time. And if it’s just a project for like, a few months for you, it will most likely not work out. To grow on social media is a big project and it requires time and perseverance.

But if you push through, it might just work out. But it might take a year, it might take two years, it might take more. It’s like a lottery. It could happen one day, and your life could change overnight. And just the thought of that kind of keeps pushing me as well.

Let’s hear about your best and worst moments while hitching…

This is a tough one, because the only thing we’ve been doing for the past two years, is hitchhiking and meeting people. So picking the few best moments is tough. I’ll start with the bad ones. 

We do take a lot of travel safety precautions as well. If there are already some signs that they might be drunk or that they might have radical views on the world and politics, then we usually do not even get into the car. We also do not hitchhike at night. So we have, I think, avoided most of the problematic situations.

But sometimes, for example, we have been in a car where the person has a long way ahead, and just said, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna have a beer or something.” And then the person started to get really drunk. I think the most dangerous situations are drunk drivers, or drivers that are on drugs, and you don’t realize it right away. 

We haven’t had any other bad moments. The worst thing is when we’re waiting on the road, and then there’s some pickup truck or something that pretends to stop, like 3-400 meters away and starts honking.

And we’re like, oh, yeah, someone stopped and we run towards him. And then like 10 metres before we get to the car they drive off. That always makes us super angry for the next five minutes. And then we forget about it. 

Where to even start with the good ones… we were picked up by firefighters in Australia who invited us into their station and gifted us some shirts, that was a great time. Also finding a boat to “hitch” across the Atlantic and finding a captain from Grenada to the US.

The best thing is probably being in the back of a pickup and racing down a jungle road; the wind in our hair and the sun in our faces. That makes us feel the most alive. Nothing can beat that feeling.

You’ve hitchhiked across the Atlantic Ocean and other sea routes too. How can others try this out and what can they expect to pay?

Yeah, well, that has been a big part of our adventure travel journey, and also the most expensive and where you can expect to wait the most.

In the beginning, we had no experience whatsoever, so we tried to go to some marinas in the Mediterranean, befriend some captains, and get used to the shaky feeling of a boat. 

There are lots of marinas, especially during specific times of the year, when there are lots of boats crossing the Atlantic Ocean. So you will have to time that correctly as well.

You can post about yourself and your trip in Facebook groups. There are lots of captains in these groups who may need an extra hand and will contact you. But I wouldn’t only do that. 

If you REALLY want to find a boat, you have to go to the marinas, there’s one big marina in Lagos in Portugal, and there’s one in Gibraltar – these are the main ones to get to the Canary Islands. There, you can either go to Gran Canaria or Tenerife. Gran Canaria is the biggest one, but also the one with the most other boat hitchhikers. 

Sometimes there were like 20-30 other boats hitchhikers in one day, which makes it hard to stand out. So I think being at the smaller marinas in the Canary Islands is better. In our opinion, the best way to stick out is to, behave, have nice clothes, and smell nice.

Basically – don’t look like a hippie or don’t look like the average boat hitchhiker because there are a lot of boats that don’t take these kinds of rather “hippie hitchhikers.” This is especially true for rich people with their own boats. They don’t want anyone who they suspect is smoking or drinking or anything like that. That is what we heard from several captains. 

We found a great guy first on Facebook to go to the Canary Islands, then an Australian couple that took us to Cape Verde, and then a third boat across the Atlantic Ocean. Then three or four more boats while sailing in the Caribbean.

For our final leg, we were in Grenada in the Caribbean. There are often specific radio frequencies for the captains and for the Marina, where once a day at around 7:30 in the morning, they announce what’s going on today, and ask if anyone wants to share something.

That’s when we said that we were two hitchhikers who would like to go towards the US. And there was someone who needed to go to the US and still needed crew, so we could join him for the next three and a half months, from Grenada (one of the southernmost islands in the Caribbean), all the way to Florida. So that was epic. 

If you have a big backpack, they won’t even let you close to the marina. I suggest you befriend a captain and/or marina security. Then you’ll have a contact and you’ll always be able to get in and out of the Marina without any problems. 

And what can you expect to pay? In the beginning, there are lots of boats that will charge you $50 per day, when the maximum reasonable amount is $15 per day. And that’s when you should include food. You should be willing to pay that because if you do not have any experience then you’re not of much use to a captain, to be honest. Just see that as an investment into your sailing skills. 

Do you have any future trips planned or dream hitchhiking routes?

For now, we’re going to go from Venezuela to Brazil, then Guyana, and then down via Brazil again into Argentina. But not deep into Argentina, because every two years, I (Berni) have to go back to Austria for military training. So we’ll be home for at least a month for the training and then a couple of months to be with family since we haven’t seen them in almost two years. 

We’ll probably take a break for a year or something and then fly to Argentina, then go down south to Patagonia, up again on the west coast of South America, try to find a boat across the Pacific to Australia, go around Australia, Southeast Asia and then slowly travel across Asia back to Austria and finish our hitchhiking trip around the world. And that is the plan. 

But otherwise, we have a lot of projects that we already have in mind, like North Cape to South Cape, so Norway to South Africa. We also want to go across Russia in the winter, and we want to organize hitchhiking races.

Hitchhiking is such a cool community, and I feel it’s growing again. You see more and more people doing it and more and more people loving it. We’re super happy that we can be part of promoting this lifestyle for many.