They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step, but that's not true - a journey starts long before a shoe is tied, before a bag is packed or a ticket booked. Travel starts in your head. When an idea grabs you and you know that you must go. When your everyday routine screams boredom at you and a cold, wet morning feels like a commute though a graveyard of dreams.

When a map like that turns up, you know that a journey has started, right there, at that point in time. My oldest friend and perpetual beach-bum, world nomad and snow-searching junkie, Oli had ended up in Bulgaria with a Kiwi friend and fellow snow-junkie, John. They had gone there to spend a season in the cheapest country in Europe with ski resorts. They intended being a month - they had stayed for three. Oli had written me a scribbled letter - this was before we all had emails, mobile phones or blogs - it was the letter of a mad man. garbled talk of a secret snow paradise, the best spot in Europe, army tanks, strong alcohol and crazy fire jumping ceremonies.

At the bottom of the note was the map - thin, wiry lines made a diamond-shaped country which was apparently Bulgaria, and halfway along the southern border was a dot marked 'Smolyan'. This was where they were, and where we had to get to.

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  • The Crashpacker

    I never meant to go travelling, I just went. You start moving and can't stop, and when you do come to rest the inertia swells i…

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