When you start traveling alone, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone which is a good thing to do. Most men (and I do mean most) will say to themselves at times like these: “Why not grow a beard as well?” Since you’re not at home trying this and you most likely didn’t bring cosmetic products such as cologne, hair gel and your finest threads on your travels, you might as well go all out and look the part of a traveler. Well…this is an account of my experience growing a beard over 5 1/2 months of travel.
On my first trip around the world I thought it might be a good idea to try and grow a beard. I already knew that I could grow a mean mustache so I figured why not try and grow a full beard. So I made the mental decision to do it and not cut it at all, and to make the experience even more authentic I chose to not cut my hair on my head either and to document the look by taking a photo of my face everyday…including times during which I was sick, hungover, still drunk or high. When I started the journey I had no idea how hard this would actually be and I also had no idea that my journey would be 5 1/2 months long. I started in Iceland in the beginning of May and headed south to mainland Europe and two weeks in I had a very thick mustache and a total of 6 long hairs on my cheeks. It was then I realized that my dream of growing a full hipster beard was impossible unless I chose to come it over like Donald Trump.
AAfter the first month I had a full goatee, and it was itchy to say the least but I made a promise to myself that I would go the full trip without cutting or trimming it, so the itch continued. The more borders I crossed the more looks I got from the control officers at those borders to a point that I started wearing the exact same shirt that I was wearing in my Passport photo to make matters easier. At some point when I was walking across Spain on the Camino De Santiago de Compostela I acquired my first nickname, “Salvador Dali,” because I started to curl my mustache. I didn’t mind the nickname because he was one of my favorite artists when I was growing up.
I think the worst part for me was the lack of ladies. In the beginning I was still attractive to the ladies but by month two it became very difficult to talk to the other sex with any confidence and I had lost my baby face and looked 10yrs older. The age people guessed me to be had also increased by a lot as well. I went from appearing to be in my mid 20’s to early 30’s with a 1/2 inch of facial growth.
Three months into my trip after finishing my 915km walk across Spain I headed to my third continent and my 14th country: Morocco, Africa. It was there that I acquired a new nickname from the locals: Ali Baba, a character from a folk tale called “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” I think it was because of my light skin and goatee and after looking at photos of him, it made sense. Everywhere I went, kids would scream “Ali Baba” and it became kind of a joke to me. At that point I gave up on trying to get laid and focused more on traveling and hash, because I was in Morocco after all.
Eventually I left Africa to meet up with one of my best friends from the states in Croatia. I quickly made my way through Spain with a quick stop in Barcelona to refill my hash supplies at a dispensary that I became a member of during my first visit here. Andorra was my next stop and my 15th country. Tucked away in between Spain and France, it’s the sixth smallest nation in the EU and contains Europe’s highest capital city, Andorra la Villa at 1023m above sea level, where I stayed for 2 nights. France and Italy were next. I blew through them at an alarming rate, stopping in each city for only one night hitting Marseilles, Milan, and Venice with only enough time to see the major highlights.
Country 17: Slovenia. I stayed only one night in the capital, Ljubljana, and I only saw one thing, the bars, but do they have a great night life. I headed out with several people from the hostel that I had met just that night and of course the age guessing game came up and everybody guessed my age either spot on or higher. I had to get up early to catch the bus to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia (country #18) and meet up with my friend from the States.
When I arrived in Zagreb I was surprised to find out how cheap slices of pizza and 1 Liter beers were (1 Euro for the pizza, double that for beer). I stayed there for two nights, waiting for my friend Suzie to arrive because her flight was delayed. I spent one night in a hostel and splurged on the other, staying in a posh hotel by the city’s main park. When we did finally meet up at the train/bus station her facial expression was priceless: happiness mixed with a “what the fuck have you done to your face?” look. We spent the next week exploring Croatia including some of its many islands. It was great to catch up with her a friend from home, but all good things must come to an end, so we parted ways. She went back to the states and I went off to explore country #19, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where my third and final nickname was given to me by my mate from Australia: The Colonel, like Colonel Sanders from KFC.
My mustache got so long that when I was eating food I was also consuming part of my mustache so whether I wanted to trim it or not I did so every time I ate. Eating ice cream, which everybody loves unless your lactose intolerant, was no longer an option (see pics below).
So after 5 1/2 months, 4 continents and 32 countries my suggestion is to not grow a beard unless you can actually grow a full beard and for the love of god trim it unlike me. I hope you enjoy the video and blog post.
Justin, who deemed me the Colonel, traveled with me and a couple other people for around a week eventually ending in Sarajevo. Justin has a cool blog called Cafe Condiments which as you can guess is a blog about food. Definitely check it out if you like good food, are from Australia or like great pics of delicious food and coffee. He was a great traveling companion and you should give up some of your time to check out his blog.
**Editor’s Note: Stefan’s beard was gross and made him look 50, not 30 something. Attempt at your own risk!