Kayaking Nirvana: How a Man and His Dog Cruise the Mediterranean

How one stray dog became the ultimate travel companion.
By: Kae Lani Kennedy
Sergio Basoli kayaking the Mediterranean with Nirvana

As working remotely becomes more socially acceptable and online collaboration tools become more popular, stories about individuals who have decided to break free from their 9-to-5 jobs for a life of adventure have permeated media outlets.

That plotline is familiar to Sergio Basoli, who quit his job in Barcelona three years ago to pursue his passion of kayaking. He took to the Mediterranean Sea in 2013, but one year into his journey, there was a plot twist. When he arrived to the ports of Sardinia (the Mediterranean’s second-largest island), he met Nirvana, a scruffy pup left abandoned on the streets.

Nirvana in a kayak

Basoli always wanted to travel with a dog, but could never find one up to the task of traveling with him. The nomadic journey around the Mediterranean by kayak is a rigorous one, and he felt that subjecting a pet dog to that type of lifestyle would be unfair. But when Basoli met Nirvana, there was something different about her spirit. She didn’t have a home or anyone to care for her, so Basoli knew he’d be able to give her a better life than one where she was begging for food on the streets. Weighing in at just under 16 pounds, Nirvana also happened to be the perfect size for Basoli’s kayak. After a veterinary examination that revealed no medical problems, Basoli and Nirvana took to the waters of the Mediterranean Sea together—and haven’t looked back.

For the past two years, Basoli and Nirvana have kayaked the warm waters and explored more than 5,000 kilometers. The inseparable duo spends every night camping on beaches—a new beach every night. Depending on the weather conditions, Basoli paddles anywhere between 10-30 km per day. “While there are so many things that you learn on such a trip,” says Basoli, “one of the greatest and most important is that you have to respect the sea.”

Nirvana the dog sitting on a beach

During the colder months, Basoli and Nirvana seek shelter in churches and within bed and breakfasts. On average, Basoli spends a little over $200 per month on food for the two of them, using the money he earns crafting jewelry out of shells he finds along the way.

Basoli has taken plenty of preparations to help outfit Nirvana with her own dog-friendly kayaking gear for a life of adventure on land and sea. There’s Nirvana’s sunshade, a triangular-shaped piece of fabric Basoli made to protect Nirvana from getting too much sun. The pup also has a jacket to protect her from the Mediterranean wind and to prevent her from getting wet when it’s cold.

Though the sea is their playground, it can also be a dangerous place. To keep Nirvana safe on all kayaking trips, Basoli always puts on her lifejacket to help her stay afloat in deeper parts of the Mediterranean.

Sergio and Nirvana enjoying a sunset view

Besides just kayaking for fun, Basoli and Nirvana also volunteer with Oceana, an NGO focused on preserving and protecting the world’s oceans. Not only do they help to keep the Mediterranean clean, Basoli and Nirvana use their presence on Instagram, Facebook, and their personal website Rumbo Mediterraneo, to educate readers and advocate against pollution and overfishing—two major issues the Mediterranean faces.

Even though Basoli is the one paddling the boat, setting up camp, and providing for both himself and Nirvana, there is one thing Basoli admires most about his four-legged kayaking companion.  “Nirvana travels throughout this world with no luggage,” says Basoli. That is a level of freedom that he is trying to achieve.