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July 8, 2012

Interview with vandorboy, alias Gabor Csonka

I accidentally came across the profile of Gabor on Couchsurfing. His travels and way of travelling caught my attention and earned my awe. Gabor is from Hungary, and in the past 22 years he has been to roughly 126 countries around the World. The following interview is the first one in a series that we plan to roll out about notable fellow travelers. Enjoy!

Gabor, what motivates you to travel?

To know more about different cultures, understanding societies and its people, learning from them about traditional ways of living, teaching them how to deal with the bad effects of the globalization and how to manage their life in peace and harmony. How to deal with problems and how to solve them if they couldn’t do so yet. I open for openness, those people  who can change their future are secured.

Was there a moment in your life when you decided that you will travel in a way you are doing it right now?

Oh, my first hitchhiking journey to Greece in 1989 opened for me a new aspect of traveling. Since I keep going, discovering, making friendships, building communities, participating in voluntary organizations, etc.

You define yourself as a low-budget traveler. What does that mean in reality?

Everywhere I go I go almost exclusively with hitch hiking. In some countries this is really easy, in some countries, especially in Western Europe, this is becoming increasingly difficult. As for sleeping I normally take my sleeping bag, so sleeping outside is no problem. I often meet people on servas, hospitalityclub, couchsurfing who host me, or the people who give me a ride also often invite me to their homes. Basically I only spend money on food, and visa fees. My budget is so low that I often live off from less money than the people I visit in Asia or Africa. To give you an idea, in South East Asia, I was spending an average 3-5 US dollars per day. Of course, sometimes in richer countries, like countries in Europe, I work for a few months, just to rest and prepare for my next trip.

How do you get to places where you cannot go by hitchhiking? Iceland or the Caribbean for example?

I have never been those countries yet. But there are many people who use boat-hitchhiking, which is easy in the Caribbean area, where many private sailing boats are looking for helpers. And now there are so many budget airlines, maybe except Africa and south America, almost everywhere you can get cheap flights, if you plan ahead.

Did you ever get into any trouble?

Of course, when you visit countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somaliland, Pakistan, Colombia, Sudan, Congo you take risk what challenges you. Other countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Peru etc.  you should be vigilant crime wise. Or when I climbed 3-5000 meter high mountains alone, crossing glaciers, get lost in jungles, being kidnapped or robbed, all part of your life, you learn to handle it, and all enriching your experience and wisdom. That makes a backpacker into traveler.
Just a smaller story that happened to me: In Afghanistan, it was impossible to find cheap accommodation, as locals were afraid if the foreigner stays there, the house will be attacked, gunshots, etc. So it is traditionally quite common to visit tea houses, “Chai Khanas”  where guests can sleep over for a night. What the guide books don’t tell you that younger men are also traditionally approached by older men. Sexually. Was no violence in this story but could happened if I don’t react properly. So I had to say an early good bye (4 a.m.), when I was there before the situation getting more serious. :)

I read that you do not take a cellphone with you. How much you rely on the Internet during your travels?

In the last 9 years I didn’t carry cell phone with me. Internet? It depends where I am. I use more and more as getting easier in every corner in this planet (except Africa) collecting and sharing infos for fellow travelers and communities.

I know it is a question you answered a million times, but what are your favorite countries?

Burma definitely is the best experience for me, good combination of people, culture, food, landscape, tribes, adventure and price. Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Bolivia, Georgia, Peru, Mexico, Sudan are as well on my top list. Too long to explain but you can read more on my website.

And which ones you like the least?

South Africa, Tanzania - because of people: crime makes here the life of low budget backpacker difficult and dangerous. Generally in Africa you feel most of the people are just taking away your energy. No cooperation, compassion, improvement in their life. (If you are interested in this topic, just read my blog about Africa). But still Africa is a most interesting continent to discover as an anthropologist.

If you could live somewhere outside Hungary, where would you live?

Probably in Europe, where the cultural activities are abundant: Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Prague or Berlin. Mexico or New Zealand would be an option as well for a shorter period.

What do you miss the most from your home, Hungary?

From Hungary and Europe in general, I mostly miss the cultural activities and good food. When I travel I miss the cultural life, contemporary art, good exhibitions, theatre, and valuable and deep conversations. It is really refreshing to come home, especially after a long trip to Africa, where people are about to lose their culture which is overwritten by the influx of western culture and values. I am vegetarian and like to discover new tastes and share my knowledge of cooking, showing the culinary of Hungary.

Did you ever fall in love not with a country, but with a person during your trip? How difficult was it to continue your trip?

Oh yes I did. The traveling teaches you the basic Buddhist axiom: everything is impermanent. When you travel you find interesting places, people, moments and you get things you will be attached to. Then comes the time when you lose them, you have to separate. That is the low of nature. We could be sad, we could suffer, but if you look forward you will find new moments, places, people, etc. so there is not too much reason to worry if you lived the moment fully.

You said in an interview that you are about to settle down, and only do shorter travels in the future. What are your plans?

Yes I will settle down. Now I’m in India, planning to write my book to share many of my experiences, wisdom I gained during traveling around this planet. Now I started to work for a travel company as a guide, writing new programs for them. Recently Norway, Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, West Papua, Egypt and Israeli desert, Jordan, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru to fascinating Oman, West Africa and South African safari covering S.A.R., Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, etc.
I am also taking individual tourists on individual tours to the countries they wish to go, so I am building the schedule, arranging transport and accommodation, talking about the culture etc. So if you are one of those persons who need travel advice, travel plan, companion and you need an experienced guide who protects you from unknown trouble you would cross during your journey, don’t hesitate to contact me on my website.

You are not motivated to have all the countries of the world on your list?

I visited only the cultures and countries I was interested in. So far this 126 countries I was interested to discover for different reasons (landscape, people, society, tribes,  architecture, history, food. There are still countries on my list, such as Mongolia, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, Vanuatu, Yemen, C.A.R., Gabon, Argentina…

You can find the blog of Gabor at
All photos are from Gabor, you can find an immense selection of his photos over here: