Dreams are there to fulfill them, not collect them! - Interview with Magdalena Jakubowska and Natalia Litwinionek, i.e. Voyagers for tenner.
You often think that one day you will drop everything, pack your backpack and leave, but you don't always have the courage to do it. Magda and Natalia, travelers from the blog www.podrozniczkizadyche.pl took a chance - quit their job and bought a one-way ticket to make their dreams come true. They chose Southeast Asia as their destination. They traverse the route by any available means of transport - by hitchhiking, bicycles, on foot, by boats, and now on scooters. Their backpacking adventure is still going on.
Within 5 months they have traveled thousands of kilometers, meeting unique people, discovering local flavors and wonderful places. As volunteers, they taught children English. In exchange for accommodation, they helped in hostels or on the farm. Each new place gives them infinite energy and, as they say, changes their point of view and lets them see what they have never seen before.
They started their journey from a flight from Warsaw to Thailand, then they went to Burma. After a few weeks stay, they returned again to Thailand. On their travel map they can also uncheck Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. When I talked with Magda and Natalia, they were resting on the island of Koh Phangan (Thailand). Where will they go next? How did it all start? And what does their present life look like? See for yourself!
Joanna Rassmus: In November of the last year you decided to travel to Southeast Asia, where did the idea for this direction come from?
Podróżniczki za dychę (Voyagers for tenner): The idea for the trip came from the fact that we felt the need for change, and travel is always a good answer to all doubts. South-East Asia has fascinated me for a long time - says Magda. - Tropical climate, nature, food and way of life of the local inhabitants and their culture so different from the Polish or European known to us. And so, from word to word, we decided to go together. At the beginning it was supposed to be a short trip to volunteer, and as you can see, it turned into one of the biggest adventures of our lives. :)
JR: You knew each other before you left?
PZD: Yes, we met 3 years ago while studying in France, where each of us studied a different faculty.
JR: It took you a few weeks to prepare for the trip for such a long time, and how did it go with packing your backpack, was it easier?
PZD: A few weeks? Rather, a few months;) We read a lot of travel books and blogs, various guides, including how to pack, which was a challenge, considering that we like to have a large selection of clothes and cosmetics. Ultimately, we put in a large backpack 13 kilograms, which is quite a good result; at least we think so. However, we also have smaller hand-held ones, but it's a matter of a few kilos.
JR: Many people had similar thoughts to yours, i.e. go on a long journey, see something more. However, their dreams ultimately ended only on plans. What made you decide to turn words into deeds?
PZD: We think it is a matter of courage and personality. We are people who not only talk about their plans and dreams, but also strive to achieve them.
JR: How did your families, friends and partners react? They tried to stop you?
PZD: Absolutely not. Career is very important to us and we think that a journey like ours teaches us a lot. We educate here the features that will be useful in future jobs. That is why we are not afraid of our professional future.
JR: Did you have moments of doubt in the sense of your journey?
PZD: Doubts about the sense of the path we are now following, even if they only appeared at the beginning. After all, it's not easy to leave everything behind and leave. Now, however, we don't have them anymore. We know that we have done well and we love our lives. Everything that happens to us during this journey teaches us a lot about the world, as well as about ourselves and I would not exchange it for anything else;) - says Magda.
JR: On your blog podrozniczkizadyche.pl you prove that money during travel is not everything. However, many people say that you can't go anywhere without them. Tell me the secret, how do you manage to travel without excessive costs?
PZD: First of all, we use various forms of volunteering along the way. For example, we work in a hostel and in return we can stay in it for free. In addition, we choose hitchhiking as a method of moving between cities. We also use couchsurfing, thanks to which we can meet interesting people and spend the night with them for free. ;)
These are just a few of the most popular forms that anyone can use while traveling to reduce its cost.
PZD: This is a portal where you can contact the locals and find out something about the place where we are going in the near future. Some of them also offer accommodation - says Natalia. - And the name came from the English couch, or sofa. ;)
JR: You mentioned volunteering; were you afraid of becoming a teacher / mentor for other people, especially for the youngest?
PZD: The vision of becoming a teacher in Thailand accompanied us from the beginning of coming here, and if we were to do something good for others, we didn't even think about it! Of course, we had to prepare for this role, and the first contact with kids who do not understand what we are talking at all, was not the easiest. Nevertheless, we tried to give them as much as possible. ;) On the other hand, we have learned patience and humility from them. It was not easy to find each other, especially since we were in different schools, but after a few days we became part of their everyday life and it was a wonderful feeling. In the morning we all greeted each other, we prayed for success in learning, then lessons were held, and in the evening we had dinner with the parents of the students. We miss those moments.
JR: Did you pray? If I associate it correctly, Asia is a continent with many religions, mainly Hinduism. If I speak wrong, correct me. ;) Did you feel that you were also breaking your own faith? Or did you derive from the fact that you can experience something different? Prayers look similar to Poland?
PZD: When it comes to religion, Buddhism dominates in Southeast Asia, which sometimes mixes with local beliefs from the old days. We are very happy to be able to experience a different perspective on religious issues than we know from Poland. There are many Catholics in Vietnam. A few times we were in the Catholic church, it was at the beginning of our arrival, but at that time we did not come across any mass, it is hard for us to describe if there are any ritual differences here.
JR: You've probably heard this question more than once - were you afraid of what awaits you after arriving in Asia?
PZD: Yes, but I think our excitement has won. ;) A positive attitude changes a lot, especially in the face of the unknown. Of course, at the beginning we experienced a shock, which is not difficult in Bangkok, after all it is such a huge city! Terrible noise, crazy drivers, and there are a lot of people and smells everywhere (not always pleasant) is a real cultural clash, which after a few days turned into the fascination we previously knew from books. We stood shoulder to shoulder with the reality we read about earlier, and after a while it became our everyday life.
JR: You landed happily in Thailand - what were your first days and a collision with a completely different everyday life?
PZD: Oh, it wasn't easy, and jet lag did its job. Nevertheless, we were curiously wandering the streets, peeking into their nooks and tried new dishes. As we mentioned earlier, Bangkok is a real cultural and social mix that captivates and frightens at the same time. However, a few days are enough to get used to the view of monks dressed in orange, people lining up in a queue, to get on the bus, food stalls every step. Even quickly we learned to dispose of intrusive tuktuk drivers, which is not at all easy, believe us. :)
JR: Speaking of cuisine! You also spent Christmas and Easter in Asia - how did you do without dumplings, borscht, and above all a family atmosphere?
PZD: We went for a good dinner and spent the evening on Skype with our families - a small substitute for Christmas. In Asia, you can't feel the atmosphere of Christmas as it is in Europe, maybe that's why it was easier for us to endure, and besides, we're two. Certainly it would be harder if we were apart.
JR: Were you able to find any of our Polish products in local stores?
PZD: In a shop on Phuketa in Thailand we found yogurt and granola once, but it was probably also because it was a store with food imported from all over the world. Besides, we don't find Polish products here.
JR: And knowledge of the language - does it affect travel comfort? You think European, well! famous Slavic beauty helps you hitchhiking?
PZD: It seems to us that for sure, the fact that we are two girls and it can be seen immediately that we are not locals, works in our favor. :) But sometimes it's difficult to communicate without knowing local languages, because most people living in Southeast Asia do not know English. Then there is nothing else but a smile and hand gestures.
JR: You've been traveling for 5 months. You are mainly with each other all the time, have there been conflicts between you?
PZD: Conflicts between us, of course, happened. After all, we've been together for 5 months, as you noticed, but it wasn't usually serious. Minor misunderstandings. Then just a few hours spent separately and in the evening everything is fine. ;)
JR: From the photos and videos you publish one can see that the weather was not always favorable. However, you are smiling all the time - where does this positive energy come from?
PZD: Positive energy results from making the dreams that ceme true. I can even say more, we have a lot of good things here that we didn't think were possible before and that is what we call real happiness.
JR: For example?
PZD: These things are, above all, goodness and a selfless desire to help people living in Southeast Asia. In Poland, we have never encountered such generosity and interest. These people really believe that what they do comes back to them and we also begin to believe that karma exists.
JR: You often come back to Thailand on your journey. Is it true that this country is a land of smiles?
PZD: Definitely Thailand is a land of smiles; everybody is trying to help you, but that's how it is in all of Asia, really. Everyone is nice to foreigners, although you know, sometimes they want to cheat you, but just a little insight and everything ends well, and haggling is a national sport here. :)
We return to Thailand from the sentiment for delicious food and its location. In addition, it is a huge and beautiful country that has so much to offer that we still feel unsatisfied! Often, to get to another country, we prefer to hitchhike through Thailand than to fly by plane, but this is often a matter of chance. This time we are in Thailand, because friends from Poland came to us for a picnic, which we spend under palm trees on the paradise Koh Phangan.
JR: And who gave you the most beautiful smile?
PZD: The most beautiful smiles are the ones we got from our students during volunteering. :)
JR: Thailand is not the only place that you have already visited. Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are also on your map. As you know, every point of travel is also meeting new people. Therefore, at this stage of the journey you are in - which person will you remember the warmest?
PZD: Thailand is not the only place that you have already visited. Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are also on your map. As you know, every point of travel is also meeting new people. Therefore, at this stage of the journey you are in - which person will you remember the warmest?
JR: Can you tell us about your biggest disappointment and most pleasant surprise so far?
PZD: The biggest disappointment is definitely the lack of respect for nature that we can sometimes see on city streets. In Vietnam it is normal to smoke rubbish every afternoon, after all from the eyes, from the heart ... but is this a good way to get rid of them? I do not think so - says Magda.
As for the most pleasant surprise, I think I will repeat myself here again, but it is the selfless help we have received many times along the way - adds Natalia.
JR: Do you have any advice for people going to Asia?
PZD: Yes, lots of it! First of all, take a correction for everything that is written on the Internet about the dangers of traveling here, be patient and forget about logic. ;) Well, we invite everyone! It's just wonderful here!
JR: Do you know any basic words or phrases yet?
PZD: We always try to learn some basic phrases in the language of the local community, it is usually not very easy, but it's worth it. When someone hears foreigners speaking, even thanks in the local language, the first ice is already broken. ;)
Mingalaba (pronunciation - editor's note) is a Burmese good morning, and gdziezupa is thank you; these are probably the most fun phrases and therefore easy to remember. :) In turn korpunka is Thai thank you. Sawadi is a Thai greeting, and sabadi Lao– both languages are very similar. And for example in Vietnam xe may is a motorcycle, which was most useful to us, because this phrase can also be used to describe mechanics.
JR: And what are your plans for the next months and the future? Maybe coming back home? Writing a travel guide or book?
PZD: There are many plans, but we would not like to reveal them for now, we are certain to make some changes, but more soon! As for the tourist guide or book, we would happily write it.
JR: At the end of every interview we have a rule that the people I talk to have their "5 minutes" and can say everything; no restrictions - pure freestyle;)
PZD: I think that the main thought we would like to convey will be that if someone is still thinking about traveling, changing his life or following his dreams, because work, credit or something else, then there is nothing to wait for, you need to capture the moment, opportunities that arise and move forward, realize yourself. Life is one and it is worth living it, living in harmony with each other, and not worry and wonder what it is all about. Look at us! Life is Beautiful :)
Photo: Voyagers for tenner
Interviewed by: Joanna Rassmus