Traveller of the Week: Helpful Locals, Labouring in Laos and Staying Young

Name: Berkan Öztürk (friends calls me ‘Turkish’)

Age: 28

Nationality: Turkish

Time on the Road (this trip or general outline): 11 years

Funds (saving/working/’freegan’/mixed): Working

Berkan and his favourite reptile
Baby Crocodile

What initially inspired you to travel?

Getting out of my comfort zone. Initially, I was travelling for a self-oriented growing experience, to raise my awareness of different aspects of life. It was a case of self-inspiration.

Before travelling, I used to do the same things, experience the same emotions, the same behaviours. Depending on the day, I might have done things in a slightly different order. I used to get those habits, emotions, movements, and thoughts which were growing into me and making me very comfortable.

The first time I took myself out of my comfort zone (in other words, the first time I travelled) I realized that I was doing new things and creating new connections – which felt to me like it was keeping me young.

They told me that I might be the first Turk in the Vltava River, Czech Republic
They told me that I might be the first Turk in the Vltava River, Czech Republic

How have your inspirations to explore the world changed since you began travelling?

The selfish beginning eventually evolved into a style where now I am constantly looking forward to contribute to the places which I visit (especially in poor and rural areas).

What has been your most memorable experience abroad?  

I will never forget the help I received in South Thailand. Thank you guys. You are awesome! I had to catch my flight which would bring me back to Europe. I arrived to the city where I was supposed to get a bus to the airport but the bus was not there. Local people told me that it would arrive in 2 hours. I asked them if it would be possible to catch my flight with that bus. They said no. The bus company people were very friendly to offer another solution. The lady working for the bus company bought me a minivan ticket, leaving from Surathani to Phuket. I asked if it is possible to get a ticket for the minivan which was leaving in 10 minutes. She said it was full. I thought I could try to ask people on the bus if maybe there would be one person who would be willing to exchange their ticket. Five minutes before the departure of the bus, I went to the minivan. I explained my situation. There was a Thai woman who looked about fifty years old. Spoke perfect English. She explained my situation to people in the minivan. Suddenly, three people wanted to leave the bus to make a space for me. I tried to tell them that only one space is enough. But those three left. I thanked them. Everybody was smiling. Had a very entertaining minivan trip where I was showing pictures from my trips.  Words are not enough to tell how much I appreciated what they did for me.

A capture from my seat in the minivan, Surathani, Thailand
A snapshot from my seat in the minivan, Surathani, Thailand

What would you say has been your most difficult or testing experience whilst travelling?

In Laos, I was labouring in an organic farm during the day and teaching English to the children in the evening. I am a knowledge worker and I realized that being a farmer is very difficult work!

It is incredible to see how many people have to care before they can bring food to our tables. My mother and father used to work in the tobacco fields for living until they were 18-20 years old. They were always telling me stories starting with something like “When I was at your age, I was picking this and that…”. To me, it was always some kind of story. I never actually tried to understand what it meant until my time in Laos. Now I understand how difficult can life be on some people. The good news is: this is the challenge of our generation. To make things better and fair for everybody!

Learning with young Lao people in Vang Vieng, Laos
Learning with young Lao people in Vang Vieng, Laos

Where are you right now?

I am working in Berlin, Germany.

Do you have any survival advice for new travellers in this country?

Germany is probably the most organized country ever. Not much can go wrong.

My favourite city, Berlin, Germany
My favourite city, Berlin, Germany

If you had to recommend one place in the world to visit, where would it be?

Goa, India. All you need there is: Tent, sleeping bag and a scooter to explore remote places…

Where do you plan to visit next?

I am planning to be in South India in December 2013.

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