Traveling With a Heart – The Story of an 80-Day Challenge

There are good people everywhere. People who help you to travel, and teach you even more about the goodness of humanity.

By the time the Travelogue by Travitas team met up with Optimistic Travelers Milan Bihlmann and Muammer Yilmaz in Singapore, they were on Day 54 of an 80-day challenge to travel the world without any money. Apart from their dream of helping people through traveling (such as their latest support for Haiti Care), their key message is showing that there are good people everywhere. As they say, it is possible to find people with good spirit and treat you as amazingly as your own mother does.

Milan and Muammer have come a long way since Muammer first couchsurfed at Milan’s place in Berlin four years ago. The duo shares similar interests, outgoing personalities and an incredible amount of energy. In Milan’s words, Muammer has more experience and spirit in life but “more energy than any other person in our social circles”. Fast forward four years, and they are turning their dreams into reality, after organizing the trip over a few months.

travelingwithheart1 Optimistic Traveler’s current progress – the duo have travelled across Europe and Asia in the past 53 days

Every experience is different.

When asked about their encounters thus far, both Milan and Muammer agreed that every experience is different and cannot be compared. For instance, it is definitely not the same communicating with different people across different generations in different countries. Simply put, it is impossible to pinpoint one most interesting instance. Their amazing encounters range from a stay at Singapore’s Pan Pacific hotel (courtesy of an Iranian family they got to know on the streets) to being interrogated for hours by the police.

travelingwithheart2Enjoying a one-night stay at the Pan Pacific in Singapore – lying on the bed is Victor, whom the Optimistic Travelers met at the top of Malaysia’s Petronas Towers and joined their travels for a day

One of the most amazing encounters they had was being picked up by a mayor while hitchhiking in eastern Turkey. They were invited to a Kurdish wedding and got handsomely dressed up for the occasion. Two hours later, the pair was back on the roads and no one around them had a clue of the festivities they had just been a part of.

travelingwithheart3Handsomely dressed up for the wedding

Of course, not all has been amazing in the past 53 days – the trip is definitely not a bed of roses. There have been bad times – losing cameras and settling for less than satisfactory food and accommodation which we are usually pampered by. In fact, the duo is not in a particular good moment as they are still sourcing for free flight tickets from Singapore to the USA and will have to remain here until then. As Muammer says though, they are “ready for difficult moments” and remain optimistic about their ongoing trip.

On faith in humanity.

Throughout their travels, Milan and Muammer have also observed people through the different layers of their personalities. As explained, in the case of their encounter with a Pakistani policeman, they saw beyond his job as a policeman to other common experiences they had with him – growing up, having parents, and even love. Therefore, it is essential to first connect with others as individuals by separating role descriptions from the human personality.

The younger generation also inspires hope in the Optimistic Travelers – the next generation can use education and technology as mediums for change and make the world a better place. When Milan and Muammer chanced upon a classroom of Pakistani 15-year-olds and asked why they were learning English, they received mature responses about how English is important for their future and traveling the world. Not too far away, the pair also encountered a 10-year-old boy dressed in traditional Pakistani attire – he spoke Turkish and English, amongst other languages, and aspires to be a research engineer when he grows up.

The essence of traveling.

Since the Optimistic Traveler website states that they are searching for “the essence of traveling”, Travelogue writer Gwenda asked how they define the phrase after 53 days on the trip.

To them, the essence of traveling lies in being spontaneous and treating everyone with respect. Especially when traveling alone, it is important to be open to people and connect with the locals as much as possible. In Optimistic Travelers’ words, “treat everyone with respect and any single person we meet can change our lives.”

travelingwithheart4Enjoying a meal with the locals while traveling through Iran

To aspiring travelers.

With particular reference to Singapore, Milan thinks that people here are “very hardworking and busy”. As soon as we take the first step to venture on a trip, he says, things will change forever.

To all budding travelers out here, Optimistic Traveler has a piece of simple advice – start small and dream big. While there will definitely be people out there telling you that it is impossible, we can start small by meeting other travelers and starting with a nearby destination. These baby steps will eventually lead to something bigger.

travelingwithheart5From left to right: Muammer, Livia, Janel, Gwenda and Milan

All in all, the Travelogue team had an amazing time speaking to Optimistic Traveler, and walked away from the conversation with plenty of food for thought.

Milan and Muammer are currently still searching for their passage to the USA – in the spirit of pursuing traveling as a lifestyle, we would encourage any Travelogue readers with relevant contacts to help them continue fulfilling their dream! Do contact Optimistic Traveler at optimistictraveler@gmail.com and find out more about their project on their website.

Please also feel free to email the Travelogue team at travitas@sa.smu.edu.sg should you have any other questions!

*All photos in the above article are credited to Optimistic Traveler unless otherwise mentioned.

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