Man hitchhikes 25,000km from Poland to Singapore
Polish man travels 25,000km from Poland to Singapore
Most people in Poland who want to holiday in Singapore would take either a flight or, if they are more traditional, a combination of trains and buses.
Mr Artur Nitribitt is not like most people.
The architect chose to travel to the Lion City in an unusual way: he hitchhiked here.
No public transport, taxis, ships or planes were involved in his 25,000km, four-month journey from Wroclaw, Poland, to Singapore.
"For the past few years, I have been travelling around Europe by hitchhiking. I started to travel that way six years ago as it was the cheapest way to get from A to B.
"After my first few experiences, I started to realise that what I like about hitchhiking is not only money saved on transport, but rather the unique opportunity to meet random local strangers and talk with them during the journey," said Mr Nitribitt, 28, who arrived here last Friday.
Mr Nitribitt then dreamed about taking a trip to Asia, as he has always found the continent interesting.
He knew that the only way he could explore all aspects of it was not to hop onto a plane, but to go by land to see the gradual change from country to country.
In November last year, he decided on Singapore as his final destination as it was the furthest Asian country he could travel to from Poland.
Preparations then began as he started to buy insurance, fill out visa application forms and find well-made sleeping bags and tents as he would camp outdoors while travelling between cities.
He calculated how much money he needed for the trip, deciding on a budget of $10 to $15 a day for food and basic necessities.
He then worked extra hours and even took on freelance architectural jobs to earn more money, after which he quit his full-time job to start his adventure.
Although his parents and friends are supportive, they feared for his safety during his four-month trip.
So along with his 20kg backpack, he had a knife and pepper spray as well.
His journey began on July 12. when he took a public bus from his home to the outskirts of the city, where he thumbed a ride from two men driving home from work in their car.
"I told them I was making this trip to Asia and I would not be paying for public transport. They looked at me like I was crazy and told me, 'God bless you'," he said.
From there, he has hitchhiked on a variety of vehicles - trucks, scooters, and even a police car - through 11 countries including Latvia, Russia, Mongolia, China and Laos. (See other report.)
"With my hitchhiking background, I couldn't imagine coming to Asia any other way than hitchhiking. I wanted to meet local people on the way and share their stories, rather than just being a tourist. This is the best way to do it," he said.
As he went from city to city, he would stay with locals in their homes, using the Couchsurfing service. It is a hospitality exchange and social networking website where travellers can stay as a guest at a host's home for free.
In Mongolia, he even offered to pay some locals a small sum of money to stay in a Mongolian tent home for two nights to experience what it was like.
He would get his Couchsurfing hosts to write him signs in their native language to hold out for drivers to stop for him, but the traditional thumb out worked, too.
"All of the Couchsurfing stays were pleasant experiences. Some of the hosts I clicked with instantly and we spent our time together as they showed me around," he said.
"In the house I'm living in here, which is near the airport, my host practises nudism. So he walks around his room naked and since that's his practice, I have been doing it, too. At first, it was a little awkward, but after a few minutes, you feel all right... you feel free."
His host told The New Paper: "He is very well travelled and enjoys meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, food and the city."
Mr Nitribitt said he has spent quite a bit on food and lodging in his four months of travelling. He had to pay for a new camera in China when his old one broke and on hospital fees when he burned his leg on a motorcycle engine in Thailand.
When he returns home, Mr Nitribitt has a list of things he would like to do, starting with buying new clothes and shoes he saw during his travels.
He will not be hitchhiking through the return journey, though. He has booked a flight back to Poland.
"I'm looking forward to spending a few days back in my bed when I reach home. I'm so tired. But when I was looking at the map when I reached Singapore, I'm thinking if I should go to Indonesia since it's so close by.
"That's the thing about me, I just love to explore."
I wanted to meet local people on the way and share their stories.
- Mr Artur Nitribitt on why he chose to hitchhike from Poland to Singapore
THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE: RUSSIA
What happened: Mr Nitribitt travelled at night for almost 12 hours on a busy road in Russia, with drivers driving on both sides of the road. They drove past the Ural Mountains, the border between Asia and Europe.
In Russia, they drive on the righthand side of the road, but in recent years, people have been buying Japanese cars suited for the left side.
“The car I was in... the driver was driving pretty fast and it was crazy. In my opinion, we almost crashed about seven times.
“He stayed calm, but for me, it was stressful. He kept overtaking and other cars couldn’t see him coming. Another thing I was so afraid of was that his car had no seatbelts. All I could do was pray.”
THE STRANGEST VEHICLE I HITCHHIKED IN: MONGOLIA
What happened: A car stopped and the driver told Mr Nitribitt to wait for the public bus that would come in half an hour’s time and not to worry about the bus fees as it was his bus company. The driver made a call to make the necessary arrangements.
About 40 minutes later, a colourful rickety public bus arrived and Mr Nitribitt hopped on, feeling a bit embarrassed that everyone else paid for their fare except for him.
Soon after, the bus broke down and the passengers were stranded for two hours. To pass time, they played cards.
THE LONGEST STRETCH IN ONE VEHICLE: CHINA
What happened: “There was one guy who gave me a lift from Donghuang to Xi’an. We spent about 27 hours together. He picked me at about 7pm and we stopped at midnight to rest. He slept in the car and I rested beside it. Then, in the morning, we continued our journey for the whole day and he finally dropped me in Xi’an.”
WHERE THE FRIENDLIEST MOTORISTS ARE: THAILAND
What happened: Living up to its nickname as the Land of Smiles, Mr Nitribitt recalls every driver smiling and waving at him as they spotted him waiting along the roads.
“Very often, they stopped for me. I think the average waiting time was 15 minutes.
“I remember two drivers even took a double U-turn to come and get me as when they first saw me, they didn’t have enough time to turn.”
One driver even insisted on bringing him to the pineapple farm he worked at to let him see what it was like and enjoy some fresh pineapple before bringing him to his destination.
THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE I HITCHHIKED IN: LAOS
What happened: “It was very hard to hitchhike. Every time, I would have to wait for a few hours. Once I was a bit frustrated so I decided to walk a bit hoping to come to a junction where there would be more cars.”
So he walked for long time and at one point, noticed two bikes with four soldiers had stopped behind him. “I think it was one of the few times I traveled when I thought, ‘Where’s my knife?’ but when you see four soldiers with machine guns, what can you do with a knife?,” he said.
He then pretended not to have noticed them and continued walking. When he turned after a few hundred metres, they were still there but he realised they were probably not following him but just patrolling the area.
“I was really scared at that moment. It was the first and the last time I felt that way.”