collected stories from the road

My name is Nik Milanovic.

I hate travel writing.

For some reason, travel writing has always struck me as difficult to read without some cynicism. At his or her best, it's hard for a travel writer not to tend towards the overly sentimental and clichéd. At their worst, travel blogs read as the humblebraggery of millennial digital nomads, carefully instagramming the roads less traveled that have already been traveled by others like them before.

So, it is with some chagrin that I now find myself writing a travel blog.


The world is big. Even having lived across three countries, I still think about how narrow and provincial my experiences have been compared to those available to me. At the same time, the world is small. There are no paths left untaken, no hidden temples to discover - this trip will be unique, but only in the way that all similar trips on the same route were unique before it.

Leaving my cynicism aside, writing this on my last day in the country I grew up in for 27 years (USA! hollachaboy), I couldn't be more excited for the journey. I hope at the very least that I can relay some of these adventures back to you in a way that is entertaining or at least legible, as far as travel writing goes.


How did I get here?

"Am I wrong or is this not genius." That was the signoff on an email from my friend, Dan, in December, 2014. The email detailed a plan to leave everything behind for "6-12 months of traveling, choosing locations strategically to see the world, setting up some very concrete plans and goals while traveling."

The plan was a pipe dream. But then again, so were personal computers, the Panama Canal, and mobile apps that bring people to your house to wash your laundry. Sometimes the most virulent pipe dreams find a way to manifest themselves. And so, in November 2016, Dan, our friend Sarah, and I found ourselves with 3 one-way flight tickets to southeast Asia and little idea of how we'd get back.

I want to take a second to note how many things had to go right in my life to get here. Thanks to a combination of supportive parents, a good education, 4 1/2 years at an amazing job with a fintech firm in San Francisco, and some merciless, penny-pinching saving habits, I was able to plan a trip through southeast Asia and Africa with two of my best friends. There is a measure of luck, privilege, and hard work (but mostly luck) that combine to make a trip like this possible, and being mindful of that is a good way to make the journey more meaningful. We all have our own reasons for taking such trips, but I want to use it mostly as an opportunity to meet innovative social enterprises in a few emerging economies, in the hopes that I can use my financial technology experience to work in a developing country. Not gonna lie - I'm also excited to trek through jungles and read on beaches.


What will I write here?

"Me me me me me."

People who know me know that I hate talking about myself, more than almost anything. Writing about myself is maybe the one thing I hate more. Outside of this page, this journal seeks to focus more on the travel and less on the traveler.

At its core, this what - and how - I plan to write:

  1. Insightful travel advice. There are already many, many travel blogs that offer advice to novice adventurers. (Some of my favorites in the Misc section.) It's tough to strike a balance when traveling - you want to benefit from others' experience while not spoiling the surprise for yourself. I'll try to leave some tips behind (eg: best café in a city to get free wifi) as I go, in hopes that someone else one day is a more prepared traveler for reading them.
  2. Minimal navel-gazing. This trip is for exploration, and it's also for self-exploration. If I take 8 to 10 months of my life to live in a completely unfamiliar context and learn nothing about myself, this will have been somewhat of a waste. With that said, intense soul-searching can make for pretty unrelatable writing, so I'll keep this to a minimum. But still, fair warning.
  3. A record of novel idiosyncrasies and serendipitous encounters on this adventure.


Nothing for it...

Our itinerary is to make our way across southeast Asia and Oceania for 4 or 5 months, followed by 4 or 5 months in Africa. This trip will (hopefully) be exhilarating and monotonous, crowded and lonely, exhausting and rejuvenating, all at the same time. Here goes nothing.

Nik / 11.4.16


(When I'm not writing for myself, I write for others here.)

someone else's words

"I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one [...]

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land. [...]

Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. [...]

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. [...]

If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man—then you are ready for a walk. [..]

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance—which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones. The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and lovers meet."

- Henry David Thoreau. Walking, 1861