Visa-free world

A story about an incredible round-the-world adventure
09 February
Valery Shanin is a professional traveler from Moscow. By the age of 55 he went on three trips around the world, opened his own “Hitchhiking school,” he made dozens of films and books about countries from all over the globe. Shanin’s know-how is called “Visa-free world” – a round-the-world trip to countries which do not require special permits to cross the border.
Valery Shanin in Nepal. © Personal archive
Shanin began his travels with Kamchatka. In 1982, while studying at the Physics Department of Moscow State University, he saw a notice inviting people to join an expedition as workers. Mountains, oceans and grass of incredible height made a deep impression on the student. 24 years later, recalling his first trip, Shanin admitted that even having been to a hundred countries and having written over 20 travel guides and books, he still couldn’t find a place like Kamchatka.

The first volcano Shanin ever been to was Avachinky. It also could have been the last. The road to the volcano’s summit led through a military training area. As soon as he stepped onto this territory, Shanin was almost deafened by cannon fire. The sound scared bears and the ran in fear to the mountains. Only a miracle spared Shanin from getting in their path. Continuing the journey, Shanin met geologists who came down from the hills. They advised to postpone the ascension – it was going to rain soon. Shanin still decided to continue and immediately got lost in the clouds. Fortunately, the traveler managed to go in the right direction, however, he got caught in a terrible thunderstorm along the way. This loud and wet summer day is Shanin’s favourite memory about Kamchatka.
Shanin in the Himalayas. © Personal archive
Окончив физфак, будущий путешественник заинтересовался нематериальной сферой жизни. Это привело еAfter graduating from the Physics Department, the future traveler got interested in the non-material sphere of life. This led him to his second degree. He graduated from Moscow State University’s Psychology Faculty in 1991, at the same time the “iron curtain” fell. Open borders turned his life around. That same year he went to the United States of America and three years later he published his first book called “Hitch-hiking around the USA.”

In 1995, Shanin made travelling his profession. The Moscow Hitchhiking School appeared in Moscow State University under his supervision. It is a club for travel lovers with more than 1,000 members. The club publishes books and travel guides about everything between Antarctica and Chukotka.
Valery Shanin standing in front of Aphrodite’s Rock, Cyprus. © Personal archive а
In the beginning of XXI century, Shanin went on his first trip around the world. It was one of the most budget-friendly round-the-globe trips in history – the whole journey took 1,080 days and cost only $280. The traveler slept in factories, schools, kindergartens, village houses. These are also the places where he found food. The route of his first round-the-world trip took him to Magnolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and finally Russia.
Shanin in the desert of Wadi Rum. © Personal archive
In 2007, Shanin went on his second round-the-world trip. This time his goal was to travel across the globe in a minimum amount of time. The absence of an artificial limit of his funds allowed to accelerate the pace 10 times. Shanin returned home in 108 days. Both trips were described in detail in the traveler’s book called “Around the World for $280” and film “Around the world on a tour.”
San Ignasio Mini (monastery), a UNESCO World Heritage site, Misiones Province, Argentina. © Personal archive
Upon returning home, Shanin was thinking about ending his traveler career. But the idea of starting the unique “Visa-free World” project changed everything. Shanin saw bureaucrats as one of the main problems in travelling. Visiting embassies and consulates consumes a great deal of time and effort. The solution which came to him is simple and effective – stop traveling to countries with visa regimes. In order to implement this idea, he needed a new challenge, which turned into his third trip around the world. 38 visa-free countries in Europe, Africa. Middle East, Southeast Asia, Oceania, South America and the West Indies.