Ivan Mladenović is two and a half meters tall.

You’ll have to take my word for it because photos don’t show it.

Ivan doesn’t want to be seen, and Ivan can do whatever he wants.

Ivan has balls up to his knees. You can’t see that either, but… check this out:

He crossed the Gobi Desert by bicycle. Seven hundred kilometers, without a tent. He had thirty kilograms of equipment in his saddlebags, minus the weight of the tent he had forgotten to bring along. The people living at the end of the Desert thought they were dreaming when they saw the direction he was coming from.

He crossed twelve thousand kilometers to China, by bike.

He crossed the frozen Lake Baikal on foot.

He walked from Šid to Hilandar.

When Ivan travels to Lisbon to watch a handball match, because his son plays for Sporting Clube de Portugal, he packs his bike, flies to Dakar, and then rides a bike to Lisbon.

A person who has no balls up to his knees can’t do that.

His fellow citizens from Šid know all of that. So, when you walk the streets of Šid with Ivan, everyone greets you. Because if Ivan finds you worthy of being seen with him, then the rest of the citizens of Šid have no doubt that you are worth greeting.

A walk around the small town of Šid with Ivan takes as long as a walk from Cvetko’s market to the old Mercator in Belgrade, because you have to stop at least ten times and talk to people you don’t know. Through Belgrade, Zagreb, Barcelona, Paris… you can walk for days without anyone noticing you. You can be alone in a city of five million people.

Ivan doesn’t give any advice unless you ask him for it. His experience exceeds the limits of the experience any average adventurer or cyclist might have. He knows that advice isn’t worth much until you face the problem yourself.

Well-meaning people are constantly trying to make this trip easier for me by selflessly sharing their own experiences. Ivan goes further than that. He entered my head and helped me to grow, to grow at least two meters or as much as my dream manages to reach.

Ivan told me only one thing, without me asking: people are good wherever you go and let that be your starting point in your relationship with them. If you think like that, all problems will be solved and only in this way will you be able to find happiness on your trip.

I could write about Ivan for days, even though we spent only a few hours together, but it is not necessary. One who knows how to read has already understood.