During my exchange, I had the privilege of travelling solo to many different states across Europe and even to a small segment of Africa and Asia. While engaging in all these travels, I had the chance to talk to people who left me with a deep impression. Here are the 10 most interesting people that I came across during my solo travels.
1. “I can’t speak. I travel by sign-language and I have done it for 72 countries myself.”
– Gokmen. Nationality: Swedish, currently residing in Stockholm, Sweden. (Location: Podgorica, Montenegro)
I chanced upon Gokmen at Podgorica airport, Montenegro. He used sign language to ask me to take a photo for him in the airport. I took a photo of him, realized he was alone, and soon realized he was mute after a while. Hence, I decided to use “Notes” on my iPhone to strike up a conversation with him. I found out about his nationality, age, and the fact that he has travelled solo to 72 countries, despite being mute. He told me that he did not find it difficult to travel alone, and I’m sure he will inspirational to all travellers out there.
2. “If a motorbike could bring me around the world, why not?”
– Nakajima Junji. Nationality: Japanese, currently residing in Osaka, Japan. (Location: Nice, France)
I chanced upon Junji while he was busking with an acoustic guitar with his motorcycle and a cardboard indicating that he plans to travel the world with his motorcycle beside him. Junji is a “crazy” motorcyclist. He is probably the only vehicle with Japanese car plate in France. Junji plans to travel the whole world using a motorcycle in 3 years. He drove all the way from Osaka, Japan to Nice, France by going past Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia and more to hit France. Plis, he gets his petrol, hostel and food cash by busking on the street with his acoustic guitar. Junji currently has around 7500 followers on his Instagram platform!
3. “I’ve travelled to Antarctica, 75 countries and my job is a photographer.”
– Zhou Hang. 34, Nationality: Chinese, currently residing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Location: Chernobyl, Ukraine)
We are both adrenaline junkies, and opted to explore Chernobyl together in a group – that’s where I got in touch with Zhou. We spoke about his job, his life and his travels. His job is a full-time photographer. Tourists would engage him to be their personal photographer when they travel, on top of that, they will pay for his travels (i.e. Air ticket and accommodation). Till date, his job has taken him to 75 different countries, including Antarctica. In addition, he had 2 passports with him, because one was fully stamped. This includes a stamp from Antarctica. I managed to gather that Zhou currently resides in Dubai.
4. “I’m 46, working in United Nations, and am in an LGBTQ relationship.”
– Gerhard Tripp, 46. Nationality: Austrian, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. (Location: Hallstatt, Austria)
I don’t want to brand this encounter as something abnormal, but what I applaud was his courage to be so open about his life to me. I bumped into Gerhard when I needed to borrow a Wi-fi on the train and since he had a router, I sat near him and asked for his Wi-fi password. We started talking, and the conversation gradually meandered into relationships and partners. He was open about his relationship with his 36-year-old boyfriend to me and told me that they often travel together (at that point in time, his boyfriend wasn’t there.) He also shared with me about the dynamics of being in a same-sex male relationship and highlighted how the dynamics between same-sex relationship is like a normal relationship – It’s about give and take. Yet, he emphasized that there is no specific male or female role in a same-sex relationship.
He rejoiced the fact that Austria has legalized same-sex marriage with effect from Jan 1 2018. He also takes part in pride movement in various countries. Other than that, he works in the United Nation, educating people about HIV/AIDS, and counters the stereotypes people have towards HIV/AIDS. His job requires him to work in different regions like Vienna, Austria, Nairobi, Kenya, New York, USA and Manila, Philippines. That 1-hour conversation with Gerhard on the train was really fruitful and therapeutic.
5. “I do aspire to shift to a third-world country next time.”
– Liucjia Padolskytė, 22. Nationality: Lithuanian, currently residing in Vilnius, Lithuania and studying in Lancaster, England. (Location: Vilnius, Lithuania)
I met Liucija during my internship in Western Union; we met up to have a few sips of coffee together and talk about life. Liucija is currently studying in Lancaster, England but she is back at home for a summer internship. Liucija had gone to Kenya for a couple of months to do volunteer work with a group of students from England and attempted to raise funds during her volunteer endeavors to help the people. She then aspires to travel to a 3rd world country and live there, acknowledging the fact that life and people are simpler there, and she has the heart to help families who are in need. This is pretty interesting coming from the millennial generation.
6. “We hitchhiked all the way from Poland.”
– “Maletripvisorzy”. 2 boys who are 20 years old this year. Nationality: Polish, currently residing in Warsaw, Poland. (Location: Kotor, Montenegro TO Dubrovnik, Croatia)
If you wonder why the location is from Montenegro to Croatia, that was because I was hitchhiking these 2 boys while driving from Kotor to Dubrovnik, and they were headed for the same destination that evening. I saw them display a large paper on the road, indicating their interest to go to Croatia and hence, I picked them up. They had 2 large backpacks with them, filled with food supplies and a portable tent.
These 2 boys aim to conquer the Balkan states with free transportation, hitchhiking all the way from their hometown in Warsaw, Poland. At that point of time, they had explored places like Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, and so they were heading to Croatia. During the 2 hours ride, I got to know more about them. They offered me drinks as well because I was a surviving solo traveller.
Other than knowing that their transportation was free, they would also set up a tent anywhere just to spend a night and sleep, (God knows how long they haven’t showered!) and they continue their journey again in the morning. One of them even travelled Norway for only 70 Euros. He did so purely by hitchhiking and bringing food supplies from Poland. In addition, to document their experience, they set up a Facebook page: @Maletripvisorzy, to document their travels using a GoPro for their family and friends. I sincerely hope that they will have a bigger following in time to come because such travellers are hard to come by.
7. “We are musicians that hitchhiked all the way from France to Bosnia and we are going to Albania.”
– “ZFORCHESTRA” (Facebook/Instagram Page), 2 hitchhiking musicians. Nationality: France, currently residing in Paris, France. (Location: Ivanica, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
The first moment I drove past the border from Croatia to Bosnia & Herzegovina, I saw 2 people displaying hitchhike signal, and to my astonishment, they had an amplifier, bass guitar, and a microphone with them. YES, they are musicians from France. They had hitchhiked all the way from France to Bosnia and they were heading to Albania to play a gig. I decided to hitchhike them for a bit of distance, and during the car ride, they sang and played the bass for me!
8. “I work for 7 months, and travel for 5 months in a year.”
– David Montenegro, 30, Nationality: Colombian, currently residing in Alaska, USA. (Location: Marrakech, Morocco)
David has travelled to 40+ countries around the world. I met him in a hostel in Marrakech. David is a friend that will make an effort to talk to almost everyone in the hostel. I remember travelling with him to a leather tannery in Marrakech. Through our conversations, I found out that he is a seasonal worker. He works as a bartender in a bar in Alaska, USA. What was interesting was that his job is seasonal. His bar would only operate from April to October, because it is too cold in Alaska from November to March, and people wouldn’t patronize his bar then. He would thus spend the 5 months of being “unemployed” travelling solo around different parts of the world, and in his own words, he believes that travelling the world is equivalent to “celebrating life.”
9. “As a Chernobyl tour guide, I chose to be unorthodox.”
– Nadia, 26, Chernobyl Tour Guide. Nationality: Ukrainian, currently residing in Kiev, Ukraine. (Location: Chernobyl, Ukraine)
Apart from getting to know lots about Chernobyl explosion that happened in 1986, I met many interesting people too. I met Nadia, who is a young unorthodox tour guide. During my tours in Chernobyl, she will attempt to bring us in into abandoned Kindergartens and abandoned buildings. All these estates and kindergartens were preserved in its original state since 1986. Her open-mindedness may cause her tour guide license to be suspended anytime if she gets caught bringing us into abandoned Kindergartens and abandoned buildings (this was illegal). She, however, believed this is the key to experience Chernobyl. I salute Chernobyl tour guides. Nadia is in Chernobyl almost every day, and one cannot deny that she will be inadvertently affected by the remaining radioactive substances surrounding the place, though the place is now declared safe for tourist visits.
10. “We got mistaken as a couple many times, but we are friends for 20 years who always travel together.”
– John and Janet. Nationality: American (Location: Marrakech, Morocco)
I struck a conversation with John and Janet while queueing at the immigration to have my passport stamped. The queue was about an hour long, so I initiated a conversation with them and asked them where they are from. One would normally assume that they are a couple, but they told me that they are both single. They are both very good friends that travel the world together.
John and Janet have been traveling for quite a while, and I asked them, “so many countries have you been to?” John then replied to me, “A true traveller never counts how many countries they’ve been to, but rather they count how many countries they haven’t been to.” This line totally changed my perspective towards traveling.
Travelling solo, meeting people
Throughout all these travels, I’ve met many different people, and I’m super thankful that they have shaped my experience in any way or the other.
Written by: Louis Wong @kinglouisthelegend
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