Slovak globe-trotting maverick grounded by coronavirus: I’m just happy to be alive

Extreme traveller Amin Nakhlé has stood at the edge of the world – and his life. Still, he considers himself lucky to be stuck at home.

Amin Nakhlé at the end of his journey hitchhiking the longest road in the world - the 30,000-kilometre long Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska to the Argentinian Tierra del Fuego. Amin Nakhlé at the end of his journey hitchhiking the longest road in the world - the 30,000-kilometre long Pan-American Highway that stretches from Alaska to the Argentinian Tierra del Fuego. (Source: Courtesy by Amin Nakhlé)

As the pandemic-induced lockdowns, travel restrictions and border closures became the reality of a globalised society, members of an eccentric subculture largely overlooked by the panicking public were left behind.

Expediently described as “full-time hitchhikers” or “professional wanderers”, these passengers of life cross continents by jumping on steaming freight trains, a precarious activity also known as “train-hopping”. They explore the wonders of the world nestled in the front seat of a stranger’s car, while relying on the grace of tender-hearted people and sometimes even the goodwill of authorities.

“But we are not bums,” Slovak train hopper Amin Nakhlé (26) is quick to point out in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

Like billions across the globe, Nakhlé was unexpectedly stranded in his Bratislava home, gearing up for yet another adrenaline-infused trip, when the spread of the new coronavirus closed the country’s borders.

Farms, festivals, kidnappings

Yet home feels like a strange place to him. The son of a Syrian father and a Slovak mother, Nakhlé is a maverick figure and one of the few, if not the only full-time Slovak drifters.

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