Navigating The Med On A Smile And A Shoestring: Part One (The Mission)

Friday, October 12, 2012

During this past summer Contributing Editor Hannah Bowman found herself on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. She liked it there, but didn’t want to stay forever. So, with a tent on her back, one month to play with and a handsome Flem by the name of P.J. in tow, she headed north. “Navigating the Med on a Smile and a Shoestring” is a travel series documenting their journey of camping, ferry boating and hitchhiking from Gozo to Ghent.

As the crow flies, the distance from the island of Gozo in the Mediterranean Sea to the city of Ghent, Belgium, in northern Europe, is approximately 1,162 miles (1,870 km).*

It may not sound all too far. But, actually, when your budget consists of two buttons and a scoopful of luck, and you have to complete the journey in less than one month, and there is a whole lot of water in between, it turns out to be pretty far after all.


To keep costs low, we would be relying on a combination of hitchhiking and wild camping, while surviving on a diet of bread, cheese and cheap rum. There would also be a high investment of faith in our general waif-like demeanor and the kindness of others to carry us though.

THE ROUTE (Which Materialized As We Went Along)

From the port of Mgarr in Gozo across to Malta; from Valletta in Malta to Pozzallo in southern Sicily; through the historical towns of Modica and Ragusa; up the eastern coast of Sicily to the Aoelian Islands of Vulcano, Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi; along the mountainous Sicilian north coast; through the capital city of Palermo; taking the overnight boat from Trapani to Calgari in Sardinia; to the cliffs and crystal seas of Golfo de Oresei; to the most northern westerly point of Stintino and Capo del Falcone; ferrying from Porto Torres to Marseilles in France; and, finally, hightailing it up through the continent, homewards.


According to outlandish predictions by our copy of Lonely Planet, we could expect to pay in the region of 70 euros per day. 70 euros per day! I mean, what is low-budget to these people? Sipping Claret from Gucci footwear, traveling via golden tuk tuk and using their backpacks as statements of postmodern art? Clearly, this was out of the question.

Thankfully, their forecast proved to be largely inaccurate and out of the entire trip — we paid for accommodation only six of the nights. Even then, the average for a night was between 7 – 10 euros ($9 – 12) to camp, and about 20 euros per person to sleep in a hostel ($25). (As a side note, these costs will be lower out of season.)

Traveling on a very tight budget is an intense way of doing things. Yet, there are huge advantages to doing so. The highs would be high and lows would be low, but this trip was to prove to be a lesson in the advantages of risk-taking, to be a reminder of the preciousness of a welcome and to afford us the opportunity of rowing alongside one of the must highly cultivated handle-bar mustaches the world has ever known . . .

*Not being crows, and therefore having to go around things and under things, the actual distance covered was  1,771.57 miles (2851.07 km). 

Read the Entire “Navigating The Med On A Smile And A Shoestring” Series Here

By Hannah Bowman


About the Author

HannahBowmanBioPicA restless Brit with big dreams and limited cash flow, Hannah is a freelance journalist and student. She is currently being sponsored by the European Union to take a Masters in Journalism and International Politics at the University of Amsterdam/University of Santiago, Chile, and the Danish School of Journalism. You can keep track of her wanderings with or follow her on Twitter: @Hannah__Bowman.

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