Ideas outside the office
There is common practice in Australia, America and other Western countries universities: when young people graduate from high school they travel for a year or two to define what to do in their life next.
We studied in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy together with Nazar. The idea of travelling was born during the winter revolution. The country actually was ruined, and starting our own business was equal to suicide. I used to work as investment banker in a big bank, Nazar did PR and advertisement in digital agencies, but we both wanted to see the world.
Working out the plan of our trip, we studied the experience of Anna Morozova and Marusia Handus who travelled half the world with 1500 dollars. We have decided that we didn’t want to live in harsh conditions and travelling itself wasn’t our main goal, but we wanted to start a project. The task was to find new interesting business ideas in every country and promote them in other regions, we lay special emphasis on the countries in Asia, Iran, Iraq, Middle East. It’s not so easy for a European to get to know about these ideas only searching the net.
We set aside six months to prepare everything for the journey. We planned our departure for September 1. As a result, we hadn’t done anything for four months, and organized everything within two months left.
First, we wanted to hitchhike. It’s more adventurous, but the journey can take a lot of time: we have no idea how much it would take to reach a certain city – two hours or a day. We have laid our route through Russia to get to Asia, then to America. However, because of war and the further events we abandoned the idea to go to this country.
The route is laid in this way: you just follow the route on the map with your finger. We have decided, which corners on the earth we want to visit, and then we just marked these cities in GoogleMaps. However, when we were working out the journey in details we realized that was no easy thing. The distance between some cities is 100 km, but 1500 km between the other two. One cannot enter a number of countries from the neighboring state. Our route needed better elaboration.
One hrivna per kilometer
We hadn’t bought tickets in advance as we didn’t know the exact date of departure. One hundred countries and four years – this is an approximate value. I have just counted how much time we would need to cover the route if we stay a day or two in every city – I got three years and four months – and I have rounded up to four years. We have planned four phases of our journey; we are going to return to Ukraine in between these stages.
It’s impossible to calculate accurately the budget. Every country has its prices and currencies.
Somewhere we can have a good meal for 5 dollars, but in Australia, it is possible to survive at least for 100 dollars per day. We have calculated the average sum we need per day and added the cost of travel itself – approximately 1 hrivna per kilometer, and got our budget.
When we finished working out of our itinerary and prepared the presentation, we started to search for investor or media that could support us. Primary reaction was like this: “Well, good luck to you guys, nice idea.” No one believed that two boys who are used to work in office and hang out on Fridays could take backpacks and go on the road.
The last two days before the departure were the most horrible ones. At that moment, we realized all of a sudden that we really depart. We were invited to interviews, on TV, those people, who ironically wished us good luck before, called us.
We had an idea to travel wearing clothes from Ukrainian designers. We wrote them but they tuned out. As a result, at the last second, all the brands provided us with clothes and we had to spend the whole day going all over and picking up the clothes.
Everything seemed to be well planned: countries, cities, days. But when we started we understood that our initial itinerary was incompatible with the reality. 100 kilometers in Ukraine can be covered in 50 minutes, and 100 kilometers in Georgia will take three or four hours. It is all because of mountains and roads.
When we arrive to the next town we immediately find contacts of start-up hubs, funds and organizations, which invest different projects, we make appointments with them. If they don’t reply we impudently go to their offices. It happened once that a man put out a list of 80 projects so that we sorted out ourselves. It also happened that we were offered tea and coffee, and got the contact of the best five start-ups.
A half of interesting meetings is accidental. We started in Moldova, we planned to cross it in two hours. But when we came to the country some cool guys wrote us and we decided to meet them. The Moldavian boys have been the best in our journey.
Plans and surprises
After we had arrived to Kutaisi in Georgia, we came to a hostel very tired after the trip. We met two Georgians, one of them asked us: “Dear friends, where are you from?” I replied that we were travelers from Ukraine. “Dear friend, how can I help you? Are you hungry? Do you know how to drive? Here, take my jeep keys, the car is outside. Let’s go for a ride.” We went for a ride around night Kutaisi, we ate shish kebab, and then at three in the morning we went to an ancient church on the highest point of the city.
I cannot remember any case after our departure from Kiev when we managed to follow our schedule. Internet is a big problem. For example, we came to some town and had only one day in reserve to work and appoint meetings. Then it turned out that Internet in a hotel didn’t work. We had to spend at least an hour to find a bar, but there was no Wi-Fi, then another one. When we finally found a caf? with Internet and ordered many dishes, we found that the signal was very weak and we couldn’t connect two devices. At the end of the day, we drew blank and all our plans collapsed.
There were a lot of nuances with lodging. In Yerevan, we found a hostel in city center. We came to the address: there were houses 14 and 18, but no 16. It was late at night, nowhere to call. Six hours later, we could finally check-in.
Bros before hoes
There are two girls in our team: Lena Petrosiuk, a girl from London, she works in one of the biggest consulting agencies in the world. We met her a month before our departure, and she might have done the half of preparation work. She joins us not for long from time to time.
A director who filmed a video of us has also joined our team, and she is going to make a video project about us. Now she is arranging with publishers and channels to broadcast the video.
On our site, we post the articles about start-ups we met. At the beginning, we posted only on Facebook. However, as our articles were in English and on business, not everyone was interested in reading them. 90% of the Ukrainian audience peeled apart, so we made up our minds to create a community to describe the journeys – “7 Billion Stories”. Lena who travels with us can make very good photos. She takes pictures of locals, and then they chase her with sticks in their hands, and we learn many amazing stories. For now, there are more travel discoveries than project findings.
We are planning to create a big portal where start-ups will be able to publish information about themselves. Each of them is going to have a personal page like in Facebook. We don’t plan to introduce communication between start-ups, but there is going to be rating. The biggest problem now for an investor is to find a good project, and our platform is to help them find each other.
Division of labor
At the beginning, we tried to do everything together with Igor: wrote articles, searched for hotels, appointed meetings. In the third country we visited, we noticed that this system is not effective, and decided to allocate our duties. I post materials to our site and Facebook, calculate an itinerary for the next day and costs, search for lodging and communicate with media. Igor chooses start-ups and arranges meetings with them, and then he writes articles. In this way, the system functions very well.
Struggle for survival
We don’t aim to see places of interest, but while we run about from one meeting to another in a new town, we manage to visit all touristic places. Sometimes we even give up business and just travel around the country for a couple of days, like in Greece and Georgia.
In Greece, we lost our belongings. We had two 50-liter backpacks with all our clothes, laptops and hard disks. In Athens we closed our bags in a rented car and went to the store, when we returned 15 minutes later, backpacks had disappeared.
It was three in the morning. We, having only our 10% charged phones and low balance, understood that we had a chance to make maximum three calls to Ukraine to resolve our problems. We were lucky – we called three friends of us who cooperated and got us out of this shit. They bought us airplane tickets to Kiev.
After that, we traveled for three days from Athens to Salonika to return the car, slept on the beach, in the car, in the airport. We had neither money nor clothes, only two t-shirts, two dead phones, two pair of shorts and crocs.
In lost baggage we had everything for all life’s emergencies including rainproof packets and flashlights 500 hrivnas each. Having overcome this situation, we’ve decided to become more mobile, our backpacks are much smaller now. There are two laptops, shorts, pants, three t-shirts, two shirts, shoes and crocs. If it is cold we buy clothes, if it is hot we throw it away. Too many things create the illusion of comfort.
Know the way and follow it
Adventures happen to us every day. We came to Yerevan and there was City day. Crowds of people outside, everyone shouted and celebrated. Having left our hostel at 1 a.m., we met a hot and drunk Armenian sketch wearing a front. He turned out to be an influential politician. He was interested in our project and wanted to help us. It is a very useful and interesting acquaintance.
We came to Ankara like kings. We scaped in the capital of Turkey and thought that everyone would be happy to see us. We went to the biggest Turkish organization of innovations and start-ups investments. It was a giant company occupying several huge buildings. Like in Matrix, there were guards who didn’t speak English and didn’t let anyone in. We were asked to write a request for a meeting, we did it. But we were treated like another start-up who asks for money, and we were placed in the end of a long queue.
Now we try to arrange with the companies in advance and make schedules of meetings. If we don’t use our loaf we are to get into trouble and waste money.
We have itinerated Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. Every country has surprised us in its way.
There are many positive moments I have never dreamt of. I met Oriental people and saw how nice they are. Almost every second person turned out to be a super kind one, they invited us to their houses. One girl from Turkey gave us the keys to her apartment for five days, although we had never met before. This simplicity and kindness of easterners has struck us.
Reappraisal of values
Sure, we miss Kiev a lot. Home, friends, working Internet, we know where to sleep. These things of comfort become appreciated on trips. A lot depends on chance, and it overloads. I want stability but I understand I am far from it.
Lassitude has been constant for the last month and a half and we tried to overcome it. Now we try to think over every our step so that we don’t waste energy.
At home, my day began with monotonous and measured work on my project, and on the road, I cannot relax completely. This makes me organize myself and notice many details; I become more self-disciplined and firm. In future, I plan to start my own business, but I am still searching for ideas and inspiration.
I want to come back to Kiev to my friends and girlfriend. For now, it has been the longest period I stayed outside Ukraine. I advise everyone to travel to gain experience and find the answers to the questions.