The people you meet on the road

Today is a very special day. One of my closest friends from Hong Kong is celebrating his birthday. I would give everything to be there and take him for a steak dinner and drinks. Unfortunately, that is not possible this year. However, Bro, you know I think of you and send you warm hugs from the other side of the world! Therefore, today some stories about people I’ve met on my travels.

Random encounters

Even when traveling solo I’m rarely alone all the time. Well, that’s one of the advantages of being a total extrovert. There are for example random encounters, like fabulous tour guides, cool dive masters or the nice ladies at the local food market that cross my way and end up in cool adventures.

1.       Kota Kinabalu smoothie stand

After arriving in Kota Kinabalu on Borneo, the first thing I did was to go to the ferry terminal to check out tickets to Brunei. As it turned out there were plenty of seats available so I didn’t buy the ticket in advance. Spotted a cool looking smoothie stand close to the exit of the ferry terminal so not thinking much I decided to get one. That was my breakfast btw. It was extremely difficult to choose from all the range of flavours but I went for a raspberry and white tea smoothie, yummy! Two days later I went to the ferry terminal again, this time to take the ferry to Brunei. As I had some time before the departure, stopped at smoothie stand again to get my liquid breakfast 😛 Ordered a different flavour and the guy that was handing me the drink says: oh you were here two days ago. That was one of the weirdest things I heard during travel. Asked him, how can you remember me? There are so many tourists around here. He said, oh there is something warm in your smile and I remembered that. Well, that definitely made my day. One of the advantages of being a complete extrovert.

2.       Zhangjiajie National Forest Park tour guide

The amazing Zhangjiajie National Forest Park tour guide. Would you believe we are the same age 😛

After spending New Year’s eve in a cabin deep in the woods of Zhangjiajie on the New Year’s day I went for a sightseeing tour of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. I read that it’s better to hire a private tour guide and a car to see most of the park in one day. The nice lady from the hotel organised everything and at 9 am on 1st Jan mu tour guide was waiting for me. He was nice, friendly and very knowledgeable.

Despite the foggy weather which made it a bit difficult to see the mountains in their full glory I was very lucky as there were nearly no tourists in the park. It was an amazing day as the tour guide turned out to be very chatty and didn’t shy away from walking a lot. But the best is yet to come, at least for me as a smoker. After we left the park I got really sleepy and asked where I could get a big coffee. So we went to KCF as it was the only place that was open that day. Guess how big my surprise was when my guide lit a cigarette as it was OK to smoke inside 😀  Great sightseeing + coffee + ciggie = absolute joy.

3.       Kwiatek (Flower), the ski instructor in Wisla, Poland

This year I set out a goal for myself, to learn how to ski… and so I did. I booked lessons for three weekends straight in February. The instructor I got was absolutely amazing!!! Not only was his teaching method effective, he was also very nice to talk to. No wonder, he was a Star Wars and a Game of Thrones fan, instructor jackpot! After the first weekend I got the basics and was able to ski down the big slope with no fear. During the second weekend I became better and at the end of Sunday’s lesson I said to Kwiatek, hey can you teach me something cool out of the textbook? He said, OK , let me think while we take the ski-lift up the hill. On top he told me that I have two choices: skiing backwards or a 360 degree turn. I went for skiing backwards. First attempt wasn’t very elegant, let’s say but it got better. After that Kwiatek challenged me for the 360 degree turn. Oh man yes! Half way through the slope I was doing 360 turns and Kwiatek was giving me style marks just like the ones ski jumpers get. The highest I got was 17.5… max could be 20.0.

Great fun, absolutely great fun. Let me tell you that Kwiatek did an amazing job. For the following weekend I went skiing to bigger slopes in Tatra Mountains in the south of Poland… yeah speeding down a steeper slope wasn’t an issue anymore. THANKS KWIATEK!

Solo skiing in Tatra Mountains after lessons with Kwiatek

People stay in touch with

Again, extrovert 😛 There are many people I met on the road and I still stay in touch with. Like Kim and Serge from the Netherlands, Hans from Austria, Magnus from Germany, Nick from China, Lisa from HK or Alice and Francesco from Italy who visited me a month ago. However, there is one story I would like to share with you in particular. Last year when I went to Tenerife on the second day when I was getting coffee from the pool restaurant a guy approached me saying what a shit weather we have today. His name was Konni and he and his friend Gerald were there for holidays. Surprise, surprise they were from Bavaria!!! Obviously we found common topics to talk about. From that day on The Three Musketeers – Konni, Gerald and I were spending time sightseeing, having breakfast, dinner and drinks together. Konni’s sense of humour was one of a kind. He could turn every sentence into a joke. My favourite one is about being caught by the police. In December’20 covid cases rose and the local government of Bavaria introduced a law which forbade people to leave the house after 9 pm or so unless it was absolutely necessary. Konni said – ahhh bullshit if the police stops me and asks where I am going, I’ll say that I’m going for a fuck night out – that actually sounds funnier in German.

The Three Musketeers – from left Gerald, Alice and Konni

Geez even eight months after that joke brings up a huge smile on my face. Gerald on the other hand was very supportive when it comes to shopping and exploring the town. One day we went for a walk and thanks to him I discovered a banana plantation.

We even made it insight to have a closer look at the banana trees. However, the best hint I got from Gerald was to buy those silver leather sneakers I saw in a local shop. I was hesitant in the beginning but Gerald had the crown argument – they look like space shoes! Yup, he was right. Didn’t regret buying those as the silver sneakers not only looked good, they were also very comfortable. One day we went for a trip to the beach. Not sure which beach to choose exactly, we picked the closest one and it was a jackpot. Beautiful turquoise sea, golden sand and all that beach area surrounded by mountains. Konni did what he loved most – sunbathing and Gerald and I what we enjoyed most – swimming and jumping into the sea 😀 The guys did have a good laugh though. As I don’t sunbathe anymore I spent the whole time at the beach under an umbrella. They were teasing me saying, look your right toe is in the sun, you should cover it 😛 Sadly after a week I had to leave Tenerife and leave Konni and Gerald. No worries, we stayed in touch ever since. Now Konni is sending me funny voice messages and Gerald interesting articles. I really do hope that one day The Three Musketeers will meet again… preferably during Oktoberfest 😀 All the best Guys!

Friends for lifetime

Think I was incredibly lucky as during my travels I’ve met two friends for lifetime… surprisingly both of them are called Paula.

1.       Italy, 1999

In the bus that was supposed to bring a small group of teenagers to a hotel someone said – oh I brought four bathing suits. That was Paula. From that moment on I knew we would be partners in crime. Man, all the crazy shit we did over the years we know each other.

Partners in crime since some time now 😉

We shared the adolescence period with each other, that means exchanging experience about our first boyfriends 😛 On the other hand we were an inspiration for each other and learned a lot from one another. Paula is an amazing dancer not sure how she learned to do the moonwalk but that definitely looks impressive. I even got some dancing hints from her. At least now I know how to swing my hips and not stand at the bar moving only my head to the music. On the other hand, one time I invited Paula to join me on one of my Kung Fu championship trips to Germany.  Well, she wasn’t pleased that we had to sleep on mattresses in a sports hall but in the end she liked it. Couple of years later Paula was going to aikido training, so I think some inspiration was there in the end 😉  There was a time when we did have moments of silence after arguments but somehow our roads crossed again. Now our roads melted into a pretty nice and fast highway. Paula btw it’s some time now since we saw each other… need to change that. Love you my friend!

2.       Singapore, 2008

What changed between 2008 and 2018… a lifetime 🙂

It wasn’t love at first sight. When I met Paula for the first time I thought she was wired. The feeling was mutual as she thought I’m a show-off. We ended up living in the same dormitory during the exchange programme in Singapore which means we were hanging out with each other quite often. The sightseeing trips around Singapore we were doing changed our perspective.

Paula appeared adventurous and I was the enthusiastic one. However, our self-organised trip to Thailand changed everything. We became close friends and came to the conclusion that we are a dream travel duo. Paula has a sense of direction, which I don’t have and I have a finance sense which she doesn’t have. Our trip to Bali was even more memorable. I pushed nearly unconscious Paula from high fever to a taxi then on a plane to Bali saying – no way in hell you are missing Bali. Surprisingly she got better after we landed 😀 I remember like it was yesterday when we said goodbye to each other at the bus terminal when leaving Singapore. There were tears, hugs and promises to keep in touch after returning to Kraków. The promise was kept. After the student’s exchange programme we shared not only common travel adventures. We celebrated work achievements, spent Christmases together but also shared ups and downs in personal life. There was even a hospital visit. I twisted my ankle heavily, Paula was my knight in shining armour and drove me to ER. Geez… all the adventures and crazy situations we had could serve as material for at least three books. Even now despite the distance, as we live in different countries the promise is kept. We speak quite often with each other and still share all those things we used to. Love you my friend and remember we still have the diving trip to do 😉

Another good thing that comes out of travel, the variety of people you meet and who have influence on your life. I actually do believe that certain people cross our way for a particular reason. To teach us something, to cheer us up, to understand us or to change our perspective on things. Personally I hope to get in touch with one person again who changed my perspective by 180 degrees. Unfortunately, the universe wants it differently 😉

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