Meet the Backpacker Kayaking Around Europe

One man, his rescue dog, and a half-packed kayak going thousands of miles.

Photo by Mikail McVerry on Unsplash

Sergi Basoli, a man from Barcelona, Spain whose thirty-three years of age has taken him to many places, has a story to tell like none-other.

It all started after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was immediately presented with the opportunity to start a very nice job while he worked on his Ph.D.

But that was the part that scared him.

Another three years of working and studying. Another three years of getting used to his comfortable environment. Another three years that he would miss out on something he could never get back; and that thing was time.

Sergi enjoyed his life before his travels, but he wanted something more. Something that he could do on his own. For himself.

“You hear so many solo travelers talking about these kinds of trips so nicely and beautifully — so much enlightenment. I wanted to try it.”

So, Sergi did just that. He chose an alternative life path.

Where he started

His story started in 2011 when he decided to take a long-term trip around the Iberian Peninsula. During which, he traveled over 3,600 kilometers.

But here’s the unique thing about Sergi’s travels; he does it all by sea — by means of a single paddle.

That’s right, 3,600 kilometers along the entire coast of Spain and Portugal in a kayak! What’s even more amazing? The 2011 trip was only the beginning for Sergi.

Following that trip, he thought to himself, ‘O.K., you have to do another big trip with this kayak.’

Now, he’s amidst a new trip in which he started back in 2013 from Barcelona.

Over the past four years, he’s taken the slow ride. Racking well-over 5,000 kilometers and totaling near 10,000 kilometers paddled altogether.

Where is he now?

During this trip, he opted to go in the opposite direction of his first route.

His journey has taken him along France to Monte Carlo; crossing into Italy and making it down to Tuscany. Then, from Tuscany, he made a nine-hour crossing to the Tuscan Archipelago where he explored Corsica and Sardinia.

Finding a travel companion

He even found a travel companion along the way! In Alghero of Sardinia, he picked up a rescue dog.

“She was in the street, abandoned, and I took her to the vet. She was having some skin problems and very traumatized and confused. [The doctor] told me [the dog] was not going to weigh more than seven kilos — and that was acceptable for a kayak trip.”

He named her Nirvana and she’s picked up the title of “SailorDog” along the way.

“I brought her to the kayak and started trying to kayak with her. In the beginning, it was a bit confusing and difficult, but then it worked out. Since then, she’s been my loyal companion.”

It is obvious Nirvana has found a loving owner in Sergi. And people Sergi meets along the way seem to love her, too!

“Nirvana has been a pioneer dog in many cases.”

While the two were in Naples, they had become a big enough story in the city to be awarded a medal.

“[City officials] said she was the first dog ever to come into the Mayor’s house and receive such a medal, so that was kind of funny. I will always remember that.”

She’s had a lot more experiences with Sergi, as well.

“For a short time she was one of the first dogs to get into the military boat of the Spanish Navy. . . We’ve also been on TV in Rome on quite an important program. . . She has definitely learned a lot on this trip.”

This kind of companionship is rare. It requires the right dog; that’s for sure! And Sergi has found the perfectly-behaved dog.

“She always stays with me and behaves well during navigation. People are usually amazed when they see a dog behaving so well at sea.”

They’ve had many more cool experiences with each other, but Sergi’s favorite time to have her around is in the tent and on the beaches. He says her being there with him is a ‘very nice sensation and she’s great company’.

Continuing the journey

To get back to the mainland, he had to backtrack to Corsica, then, back to Tuscany. Afterward, traveling all the way down the Italian Peninsula to Sicily. Around Sicily and all its little islands before taking a ferry to the island of Malta.

While he was in Malta, a friend of mine had met Sergi, told me his story, and I knew I had to hear it myself.

After touring Malta and its sister island, Gozo, for a while — experiencing culture I haven’t even experienced after two years of living on this island — he headed back to Sicily via ferry which is where he is today.

A typical day

A typical day for Sergi and Nirvana goes like this:

“I will wake up in the morning in my tent, pack my stuff, get some exercise before starting, then hop on the kayak and start reading the coast — little by little, meter by meter. Take the coast as it comes. If there is a nice town which is worth visiting, I’m going to stop and visit it.”

There are no schedules or itineraries onboard their kayak.

“It could happen that I stay for one, two, three days in the same place because maybe it’s interesting, I met new people, or because of weather conditions.”

Occasionally, they get opportunities that they can’t pass down.

“Sometimes there are people shouting from the shore saying, ‘Hey! Come! Do you want to have a coffee?’, then I will do it.”

Sergi doesn’t limit the number of times he beaches the kayak. After all, there’s a new culture to be found at every beach.

“I stop a lot — maybe five times a day. I’ll kayak for a half an hour or an hour, then stop, then start again, and stop. . . I try not to kayak the whole day.”

Sergi says the two sea companions will travel anywhere from ten to thirty kilometers per day.

It has been an insane adventure for Sergi full of so many stories it’d take ages to tell them all. I was so interested in hearing more about his story that I had to ask him some questions that were on my mind.

Budget and funding for Sergi

Now on his fifth season at sea (typically lasting from May to December), I wondered how he managed to budget for and fund his travels.

Sergi said he used all his money he had saved up on his first big trip. He had to start watching the way he travels to sustain the lifestyle he had chosen.

“I started being essential in what I was consuming. Accommodation was in my tent and I wasn’t paying for gasoline or any big payments.”

He believes if he kept a list of his expenses, it’d total around two-hundred Euros per month.

At some point, in 2014, Sergi began to realize he was running low on funds. He had to come up with something creative to make money on-the-go.

He was attracting the interest of so many people every time he landed on a beach — he had to use that to his advantage.

“I realized that people wanted to help, so I started to collect shells and put them as a nice necklace, earrings, or bracelet.”

He’d sell his work to people who stopped and took time to talk with him.

“When people were interested enough… They would help continue the trip and at the same time get a nice Mediterranean present. This has been helping me for the last three summers.”

Sergi also partnered with NGO, Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization in the world.

“They are working very hard for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea.”

Sergi collaborates with them to bring about consciousness of the marine life in the Mediterranean, and how human activities such as overfishing impact us all.

In collaboration with Oceana, Sergi has vowed to clean up each beach that he lands on. If you’d like to donate to Sergi’s mission so that he can continue to clean up the Mediterranean, visit his Facebook page. He said he’ll even send you a personalized postcard featuring his SailorDog, Nirvana!

Learning on the way

From what it seems, however, Sergi prides himself on not a minimalistic lifestyle which is something I strongly resonate with.

“I learned that with not so much money you can actually do quite a long journey. . . I know what I need is not so complicated.”

He said one habit he has when he starts to run out of funds is to fish more.

Upon learning from experiences, he’s become a more knowledgeable person and traveler. He constantly reminds himself:

“Let go. Try not to have so many expectations. Don’t plan so much about what you have or what you need at the next stop; just know things are going to come by themselves. If you just accept that and be patient, naturally, the travel gets more smooth and nicer. I’ve experienced it many times and that’s like a law of physics,” he said as he chuckled a bit.

He has to learn many things on his own. As is often the case while traveling, sometimes you’re forced to handle what you think you can’t.

“Whenever you need something because you need it, you’re going to find a way to solve it. I’ve learned most of what I’ve had to learn on my own.”

Did he get advice from anyone along the way?

“I had some advice at the beginning from friends who are into the kayak world. But I wanted to do [this trip] on my lonely road and try to learn on my own by experiencing it. At this point, I’m quite independent on mostly everything.”

Speaking about kayaking, but also about traveling in general, it’s all about using common sense and being patient.

“If I don’t know the coast, I just need to see the forecast and be patient that the sea will calm.”

He finds it better to go about life a little bit unprepared.

“Not so much preparation; just start and you will learn so much on-the-go by doing, undoing, doing it again; testing, trying, learning, and experiencing. And then you’ll realize that everything’s fine and you’re learning so much and growing so much and getting stronger. . . Things are going to work out.”

Where did Sergi’s inspiration come from?

He’s an inspired man with an adventurous soul, and it’s been that way for as long as he can remember.

“My inspiration came from when I was very young . . . from the beginning when I was maybe four, five, — six years old. I was going to the beach with family, but I would never stay on the beach. I would always explore on the rocks and want to know what’s behind those rocks — and what’s behind those other rocks. There were always new spots to explore. This was keeping me so motivated. . . I would also catch a lot of octopus there which made it more adventurous.”

He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts.

“And then, of course, A LOT of Indiana Jones,” he said with a chuckle.

What are some sides to this lifestyle that aren’t on display?

As rad as his Instagram gallery makes this lifestyle seem, there are definitely some pitfalls and some things from home that he misses. It’s true; sometimes you can’t have the best of both worlds.

“The comfort of a shelter — sometimes you’d like to have. Maybe it’s raining one night and you have to find a bar to go under. Family and friends are always missing. You’d like them to be near you.”

And then he mentioned that reoccurring thought I still get on my own journey.

“And then there are always those days that nothing makes sense and you say ‘What am I doing?’ But I think this happens to everyone in any job — in any lifestyle.

The good thing is this happens very little because, then, you look around and say, ‘Well, look where you are; look what you’re doing; look how beautiful it is.’”

I was relieved not to be the only one living an alternative lifestyle that feels this pressure. He says when you’re feeling this pressure, you need to go out and do it.

“Start, and then start again,” he said with a smile, “and keep learning on the go.”

Any advice?

“Well, I don’t want to convince anyone to do anything that they don’t want. A lot of times, it happens that you have a dream that you want to do such a trip, but you’re not doing it because of fear; ‘what if I leave work or family behind for some months — is this the right choice?’”

I could tell by the tone of his voice that he had heard these worries from other people far too often — maybe had even asked himself the same questions before.

“I think if you really want to do it, then, inside you, you will know that you just have to go for it and leave all these fears behind because you’ll realize as soon as you start, [your fears] will vanish.”

Where’s the end destination?

“For this trip, there isn’t any specific end. I already did this on the first big trip. . . I realized I went too quickly to too many places just to finish on time.”

In 2011, he had to rush to make it home before winter hit. He never contemplated extending his trip into the next kayaking season.

“I kind of missed a lot. A lot of people wanted to spend more time with me and I would have loved to spend more time with them, but there was no time. Winter was coming and I had to rush. Since that trip, I said, ‘O.K., this will not happen again, I will always take it easy’.”

This winter, instead of ending his trip, he will simply pack the kayak up, spend Christmas at home, then return to wherever he was to continue the journey.

“I travel so slowly that it makes no sense to say where I will go next. So, for the moment, the route is open. . .without a specific town for where I want to finish. . . I don’t care what happens next. I’ll just work it out when it comes.”

What a cool dude.

Thanks, again, Sergi, for taking the time to let me share your story. I look forward to following your journey to Greece — or wherever you end up! Stay safe and happy travels!

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