I have wanted to go to Russia for years! I am so ready! I am drawn to all things Russian.
But, from the moment I announced my intentions people have given me reasons not to go.
When I told a Vladivostokian bartender in NZ that I was heading to her hometown, and yes, alone, she said “you’ll be raped!” Not the response I was expecting.
Almost everyone seems to think Russia is dangerous, from theft and scams to police harrassment and sex trafficking and everything in between. Don’t drink the vodka, don’t talk to police, … some of which is valid advice!
When I mentioned to a traveller from a country near Russia how I like to think that 95% of people are nice and want to help you and you just have to watch out for the rest, she agreed but said in Russia its more like 75%!
I knew deep down that Russia was going to be amazing. In some ways, the fact that the West does not always ‘get’ Russia is why I wanted to go. To understand.
I’m sure it slices both ways. Both Russia and the West have been cut off from each other for a long time.
But I was also starting to feel truly terrified… I still had my rusty traveller training wheels on after years off the road… what was I in for and would I cope?!
Even the occasional traveller coming through from Russia, all of whom loved it and raved about Russian hospitality and generosity, could not wholly set me at ease….
It was in this mix of terror and excitement that I boarded my bus from Harbin to Vladivistok…