Young Turkish adventurer Yiğit Kurt has thumbed his way across three dozen countries, but faced disapproval from his father for his travel style – until he convinced dad to come along for the ride.
Since discovering hitch-hiking by accident while on a working holiday internship in a remote part of Arizona as a university student, Yiğit Kurt, 27, says he has covered about 20,000 kilometres via free lifts in everything from luxury cars to trucks with no doors. He writes about his adventures in Turkish on a blog called ‘Universal Man’. His motto on Twitter: ‘I can’t discover the universe, but maybe the world!’
By contrast, his father, Adnan Kurt, 55, had never left Turkey until the two travelled together to Thailand in 2016. ‘I was always worried [about Yiğit]; I didn’t want him to hitch-hike. I thought someone who picked him up might not be a good driver, and could get into a crash,’ Adnan Kurt told Lonely Planet News. ‘Yiğit was always talking about hitch-hiking, and then one morning he asked me, “Do you want to try it with me?”
Surprisingly, Adnan Kurt said yes.
Both men say a standout moment of their travels together occurred en route from Phuket to Bangkok, when they were offered a ride by a female truck driver. ‘In our country, women don’t really hitch-hike and here was this woman driving this huge truck, and picking up two men she didn’t know,’ Yiğit Kurt says. The driver insisted on buying them a meal during their travels, and then purchasing bus tickets for the final leg of their trip when she had to turn off 60 kilometres short of Bangkok. They gave her one of their last packs of Turkish coffee in return. ‘My father and I could not get over this shock of goodness for a long time,’ Yiğit Kurt added.
The younger Kurt acknowledges that not all of his hitch-hiking experiences have been positive. One tough night found him left by a surly truck driver alongside a dark road, in the pouring rain, surrounded by the sounds of barking dogs.
But overall, he says, he’s had many more good experiences than bad ones. ‘The people who pick me up generally love their country and you can learn a lot from them that you can’t learn elsewhere,’ Yiğit Kurt says. He hopes someday to hitchhike 6,000 kilometres from Istanbul to Norway to see the northern lights, while Adnan Kurt’s travel bucket list now includes Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Morocco and Australia.
And what would the father say to another parent concerned about a footloose child? ‘Based on my experiences, I would say that they don’t need to worry,’ Adnan Kurt told Lonely Planet News. ‘The road is full of really good people.’
To see more of Yiğit Kurt’s adventures, check out his website and Instagram account.
Words: Jennifer Hattam