It started in summer of 2006. I walked into an office of some travel company specializing on Asia and asked for a flight ticket to Bangkok with return one year later from Jakarta.
I don’t think my head was completely straight that day. But things were in motion and the more I was entertaining the idea the more excited I was about keeping up with the plan. And so I did.
Technical university in Bandung was the target destination but a little detour through Thailand and Malaysia sounded so cool that my schoolmate Michal and I decided to go the moment after we heard about it from Ivan, our professor of electrotechnics. Ivan is a life-long adventurer and this Bandung scholarship was his own project, independent from any government-backed student exchange program. I think he liked to light up eyes of his students with excitement. And when it was not possible with electrotechnic science, he used his love for South East Asia.
Early in July, about a month after we shaked hands on the big SEA trip, Michal got kicked out of school. He didn’t pass an exam, had to repeat the year and so his Indonesian scholarship got cancelled. By that time I had dreamed about the trip so much and, more importantly, told about it to so many people, that I just had to go. Too proud and, at the same time, too afraid to fail, I walked into the travel office and handed over my money. Now my fate was sealed. I could not go back.
I was facing the inevitable reality of solo travel from Bangkok to Bandung, only by land and sea. I had no idea about distances I will have to cross and had only vague idea of the time this will take – about two weeks.
To better put this into context I should mention that apart from regular trips to Slovakia to visit my father’s family, my only abroad travels were train ride to Denmark in 1990 (with my parents as 8 years old) and 5 days long bus ride to Paris and London (organized by school as 13 years old).
My English was usable but not great. I had never flew with a plane before. My only map were 7x A4 printouts from Microsoft MapPoint. I had no pre-booked hotels or land/sea travels. Yes, I was as green as they go.
All of this dawned on me the moment I stepped out of Bangkok airport terminal and got slapped by unimaginable wave of wet heat. I was wearing jeans and jumper and carried two backpacks with all the stuff I thought I will need for next school year in Indonesia. Including 10m long ethernet cable.
But nothing really bad happened to me and two weeks later I met my Czech schoolmates in Bandung. Along the way I found places to stay and eat, visited temples in Bangkok, took my first selfie, snorkeled near Phi-Phi Islands, survived flooded room of a damp hotel in Penang, swam in Lake Toba and even managed to give away rest of my money for grueling 50 hour long bus trip through jungles of Sumatra.
There were ups when I was almost ecstatic and downs when I cried and wanted to call my Mum. There were moments of total inner peace and moments of hatred towards the whole world. There were feelings of deja vu and awe inspiring experiences. There were nice people, not-so-nice people and scammers who wanted (and managed) to take advantage of my naivety.
All this have made me to love travelling and since then I use every opportunity to see more from this beautiful world. It taught me how to be humble and what to be proud of. It taught me to love my home country and appreciate the place I am coming from.
I will be going back to these stories because even after 12 years I still remember the smells, sounds, views and feelings. I feel the need to write about them one more time. I also continue with travelling so not every story will be a decade old. And I will try to give out tips and tricks that may help you or inspire you.
Come with me on this journey. You never know, it may help you start your own.