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Interview 02 Feb 16

Briton’s Long Walk into Serbia’s Heart

British author and adventurer Kevin Shannon is raising money to publish a book about his 900km walk through Serbia.

Drew Adamek
British adventurer Kevin Shannon with the first Serbian family he encountered while travelling through Serbia in 2010. Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Shannon

It took Kevin Shannon only one kilometre before he found his first Serbian friend. The young British adventurer was bicycling across Europe in 2010 and had just crossed the Serbian border for the first time when a running man flagged him down.

Unsure of what to expect from a yelling stranger in Serbia, a country he only knew from war reporting and stereotypes, Shannon was pleasantly surprised when the man invited him for a beer.  

“I ended up staying with that man and his family for three days, as long as I had planned on being in Serbia,” Shannon recalls.  

Frequent encounters with people who invited him into their homes for long stays turned his initial plan of simply biking through Serbia over three days into a month-long stay. That first encounter ignited a deep love for Serbia and its people.

“I fell in love with the country right away. Every person, every family I met was exactly the same: completely generous in a way I’ve never experienced anywhere else,” Shannon says.

In 2013, Shannon expanded his exploration and embarked on an ambitious plan to walk across Serbia twice. In February that year, he walked north to south and in July he returned to walk the length of the country from south to north. In all, he walked 900km through Serbia over ten weeks, staying with strangers, taking photos and discovering a side of the country seldom covered in the media. The trek also gave him an idea.

“It dawned on me that not many people knew about Serbia outside of the wars and I wanted to show how great Serbia is to the rest of the world,” Shannon says.

Now, he is launching an online fundraising campaign to publish a book chronicling his travels and experiences, called “Walk Serbia: On Foot to Discover the Heart of a Nation” along with a companion photo book. If the campaign succeeds, it will allow him to publish a full run of “Walk Serbia” in both English and Serbian.  

The goal of the book is “to give the reader a better, more truthful insight into Serbia, to tell a good old-fashioned adventure story and perhaps even inspire you to visit Serbia or go on an adventure yourself,” the fundraising campaign website explains.  

Shannon resolved to be an adventurer early on in life. His father was in Britain’s Royal Navy and often regaled the young Kevin with tales of exotic lands and mysterious peoples.
Most of the world had already been discovered by the time he was able to venture off on his own. But, he adopted a unique perspective on adventuring to motivate himself.

“Adventuring is about exploring the unknown and stepping out of your comfort zone. Everywhere has already been explored but there are still countless human stories to encounter,” Shannon says.

He tries to have an adventure every year or so. He owns a web design business that allows him the freedom to venture out into the greater world.  But not every adventure is successful.

He started his adventuring with a failed “circumnavigation of the globe using only human and power” to highlight global environmental and conservation issues. His plan was disrupted by political upheaval and violence in the Middle East and he was forced to turn around after a year. But it was on this trip that he first encountered Serbia, an experience that has shaped his work since.  

During that trip and the two subsequent walks in 2013, Shannon began collecting the material for “Walk Serbia” and the companion photo book. They are a collection of his experiences, profiles of people he met in Serbia and challenges he faced, interspersed with short segments on Serbian history, cuisine and culture.   

Shannon has finished writing the book and has designed the accompanying photobook and launched the Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to publish a full run. As of this article’s publication, he is over halfway towards his goal of raising 6,500 pounds. The fundraising campaign ends on February 8.

This is not the only Serbia-related project that Shannon has in mind. While not wanting to give away any secrets about his future plans, once the books are published there will be more adventures in Serbia.

“This country has become a big part of my life and I want to do as much as possible to push Serbia in a good light,” he says.  

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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