On his first solo trip to Central Europe, Aleksandr Rikhterman realized “that life needs to be lived.” And after 22 weeks traveling solo to 14 countries and six major regions outside of the United States, it’s clear that he’s living it.
Rikhterman, a senior majoring in cinema, founded greenmantravels.com in December 2013 to provide his followers with a detailed source of information that can be referenced to guarantee an edifying solo-traveling experience. He first shared his experience with “A Solo-Traveler’s Guide To: The World,” a video travel series that presents the solo-traveling experience through the eyes of someone more seasoned, giving that extra push to anyone who might be on the fence about traveling alone. In each episode, Rikhterman shows what it’s like to backpack through a foreign land, from hitching a ride with a random truck driver in Central America to bribing cops for access to Sathorn Unique — an abandoned ghost tower in Bangkok — in the name of urban exploration.
“I want people to feel like they’ve actually gone on the trip themselves,” Rikhterman said. “There is only one thing missing: their physical selves in a strange place.”
On the website, Rikhterman writes comprehensive narratives on the history, lodgings, transportation systems and essential sites of each region that he visited along his journey. Rikhterman also posts every episode of “A Solo-Traveler’s Guide To: The World” as well as the “Greenman Itineraries” — a specific list of the accommodations and activity that he enjoyed in each city he visited — and the amount of money he spent on that city’s food, shelter, transportation and activities.
The Greenman logo quickly became a familiar icon itself. When Rikhterman visits a hostel, tour or specific points of interest where he finds something exceptional, he gives a “GreenmanApproved” sticker to display on their front door — also evaluating price, friendliness and adventure. In return, the Greenman himself recommends those establishments on his website for his followers to check out themselves.
For Rikhterman, helping travelers succeed with trips brings him the most satisfaction.
“Whenever I look at the comments to my videos on YouTube and someone says something like, ‘You’ve inspired me to travel,’ it makes me feel proud,” Rikhterman said. “It makes everything worthwhile.”
Rikhterman’s travel series is already making waves. After submitting the Laos and Cambodia episodes of “A Solo-Traveler’s Guide To: The World” to the College Television Awards, a nationwide competition that helps expose cinema students to industry professionals, Rikhterman received a nomination and will be flown out to Hollywood for two days of networking, development workshops and an award show.
And he isn’t slowing down. The solo traveler has decided to transform his six-week journey across Vietnam on a Minsk 125cc motorbike into a feature-length film, titled “Minsk, Vietnam.” With this film, Rikhterman will explore the ideas of “wanderlust, itchy feet and the human condition” while hoping to put the openness and generosity inherent in human nature on display through the accepting attitudes of the Vietnamese people toward Rikhterman as a foreigner.
“My biggest dream would be to do this professionally,” Rikhterman said. “If I can, I would keep the website up for the next 20 years.”
One outstanding tale of kindness that Rikhterman shared occurred during his first trip, specifically as a consequence of a friendly two-minute conversation with a local on a train ride from Prague to Berlin. According to Rikhterman, just two days after exchanging emails and parting ways with the stranger, the man was comfortable enough to open up his home for Rikhterman to stay for a few days when asked over email. The pair can be seen discussing their travels in “A Solo-Traveler’s Guide To: Central Europe.”
“Americans think that everyone is out to get them,” Rikhterman said. “They don’t realize that people are good.”
Rikhterman’s blog is a motivating force for those who desire something deeper out of life, prompting them to take that initial step out their front door.
“I believe that people crave novelty,” Rikhterman said. “The most novel experiences you can only get by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, by solo traveling to places that you don’t know, where you don’t know anybody, and for the most part, you don’t know yourself in that place.”