The road Lonely traveled, 108 countries in 10 years
Peleg Cohen's passion for the planet has kept him on the go.
A trip abroad has been a rite of passage for twentysomethings the world over for generations, many of you pushing the limits of your bank accounts, heading home only after becoming completely broke. For Peleg Cohen, it worked out exactly like this – but then it didn't.
Cohen, a 31-year-old Israeli, set off toward Asia from his hometown of Tel Aviv in 2005 for what was meant to be a brief sojourn abroad, but being short on cash didn't dissuade him from continuing his travels.
“I felt like I still wanted to explore and meet new people, so I flew to Australia with literally $80 in my pocket and found a job in landscaping,” he told From The Grapevine.
One hundred eight countries later, Cohen is still globetrotting.
"I made some money and flew from Australia to New Zealand, back to Asia, to Canada, and then it just didn’t stop. I hitchhiked from Mexico to Brazil then went to Africa and you know, two years, three years, four years … it’s very easy to visit friends and hitchhike and pitch a tent and enjoy this beautiful universe," he explained.
With all the traveling, Cohen is hard pressed to pick a highlight. "I’ve been to so many places. South Africa was beautiful. The Trans Siberian train through Mongolia was amazing, as was hitchhiking West Africa, where I met boy soldiers, got arrested, got malaria – I almost died so many times and I was only there for four months. It was crazy," he said, while adding each place he’s traveled to has had a positive impact on him.
Cohen’s carefree disposition has been beneficial to his cause. For one, he’s had little problem persuading locals or friends to shelter him – and when all else fails he’s more than happy to camp out in his trusty tent.
A few years ago he started a blog to document his travels and now uses social media for the same purpose. It’s helped him meet locals in the places he travels to, and it has increased his profile in Israel.
“A lot of people I see in the streets in Israel will point at me and say, 'You’re the Lonely Peleg,'" he said.
Cohen has built enough of a following that he has begun to give lectures about his travels during his return visits to Israel.
Peleg lecturing in Israel (Photo: Peleg Cohen) But still, if he’s home for too long that itch to go abroad returns. Leaving Israel is made easier by the fact that his family is understanding of his passion.
"I have the coolest family ever," said Cohen. "My mother told me, 'Listen, as long as you are happy, do what you want. I trust you. I see that you are happy. I see that you are doing well and focused.’ She is very supportive."
Even though he’s been living a peripatetic lifestyle for a decade now, Cohen’s desire to be on the road is just as strong as it was at the start. Age has by no means tempered or tamed him; it definitely hasn't made him more keen to settle down and live a traditional life with a wife, kids and a home to call his own.
"I might have a house in 10 years but it’s not one of my goals. Perhaps my life will take me there but right now it’s not one of my goals. My goal is to be happy and to inspire people and this is it."
Inspire he certainly does. In recent years Cohen has begun to dabble in humanitarian work, helping fight malnutrition in the Philippines and educate children in a slum in Manila.
On his trips back to Israel he encourages friends and family to join in his efforts.
"In our world we have so much materialism, we consume so much, we buy things just to make ourselves feel better and work in jobs we don’t like. I try to explain this to my friends and family, and instead have them use their money to invest back in the Third World so they can have a proper education or wells in their villages."
But it’s not pity that drives Cohen to help. In fact, if happiness determines one’s riches, then some of the poorest people he’s met are truly the wealthiest.
"The thing that has really touched me the most is that in Third World countries, the people that are considered by us to be very poor are very happy. Even though they don’t have money, cars or an iPhone they are super happy."
Recently Cohen secured a partnership with the Miami-based furniture company Modani, which will fund his humanitarian efforts.
This week, Peleg was in India. Later this month, he'll be in Cameroon to help build a school, and he has several other projects in the works. (We will have more on this partnership and Peleg’s humanitarian efforts in a future story.)
All this is to say, he recognizes his good fortune as a byproduct of following his passions.
"You don’t need money to achieve your dream. You know, I’m not from a rich family. I had a dream of traveling to 100 countries and I did, because I tried. I went and I traveled and I met so many people and learned so much about myself and the universe."
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