Lonely Planet Writer

How this winning team hiked an incredible 2100km across Europe in the most eco-friendly way

Over the summer, three teams took part in Eneloop 2011, an incredible 2100km hike across Europe. The goal was to reach Milan by 20 October from three different locations, travelling in the most sustainable and eco-friendly way possible. Romas Usavicius and Simona Vidunaitė (aka Team Abra Kadabra) were the lucky winners, having successfully hiked through England, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

“Every day was a big surprise – you wake up, pack your things and go.” Image by Abra Kadabra

For the Lithuanian natives, this 17-week expedition was truly a life-changing experience. “It was an amazing adventure and challenge for us both”, they tell Lonely Planet. “It changed our view of life, people and nature. We were drinking the most fresh, clean water in the Alps, swimming in lakes and waterfalls, asking for help from strangers, learning different languages and cultures. We were often lost and sometimes even crying, but if you ask would we do it again, we’d definitely say yes!”

Some of the incredible scenery the pair came across. Image by Abra Kadabra

In order to keep their journey as environmentally-friendly as possible, Romas and Simona often slept outdoors. “As our job was to create stories, movies and pictures about our adventures, we had to charge our power banks and mobile phones every seven-ten days. So we used a couch-surfing program and sometimes stayed at people’s homes. But usually we spent our nights under the open skies, making food on the fire, having showers in the river, and walking about 20-25km every day.”

Romas and Simona were delighted to finish first. Image by Abra Kadabra

Not surprisingly, the pair came up against all kinds of extreme weather. “In the French Vosges Mountains, we had a perfect day of hiking, enjoying the sun with pretty views. When evening came, we made a cozy fire and went to sleep. When we woke up during the night though, the wind was so strong we had to hold the tent from the inside so it wouldn’t break. As you can imagine, we had a sleepless night fighting with nature’s elements!”

Simona gazing out across the countryside. Image by Abra Kadabra

Looking back on the experience, Romas and Simona say they learned plenty of life lessons. “Every day was a big surprise – you wake up, pack your things and go. You don’t know where that road will take you, what people you’ll meet or where you’ll spend the next night. We realised how weak or strong people can be, that they can build, create and also destroy. We learned how little people need to survive, to live and to be happy. Happiness is not material.”