- Tell us about yourself and where we can find more about your travelling.
My name is Sebastian, 26 years old from Germany. On my blog you can read about my big cycling adventure: 15.000 km from my hometown to the Pacific Coast near Hanoi, Vietnam. On my way I crossed the entire length of Asia with its amazing cultures, hospitable people and extreme landscapes. I’ve also been traveling in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, South America and several European countries as a backpacker, hitchhiker and hiker.
- How many countries have you visited and where would like to settle down at some point (I know you fall in love in so many places, but choose one and tell us why)?
I think there can be a big difference between a country that is great to visit and a country that is great to live in. For example traveling through Iran was one of the greatest experiences of my life, but I would never want to live there despite the great people and rich culture. To answer the question: Norway has been one of my favourite countries for traveling and I could also imagine to settle down there. I fell in love with its natural beauty, the peace and the quiet but friendly people. You can see my travel map here.
- What do you miss most, aside from your family, from home?
Breakfast. I really enjoy a good breakfast with nice bread and coffee and in many countries at least one of the two is hard to come by. In China, I often went to great lengths, to find something at least remotely bread-like to eat with my remotely coffee-like Nescafé.
- What is the most common misconception that people have about you during your traveling?
People usually tend to overestimate the dangers of traveling especially in non-western countries. Many would be surprised to hear that you can ride a bicycle across Asia without getting robbed at least once. In fact, many countries the media have us perceive as dangerous are in reality perfectly save for traveling – the best example is Iran.
- Is there any place which you wouldn’t visit again and why?
There are a few countries I didn’t enjoy. Hungary and Uzbekistan come to mind. But that’s often very subjective: cycling through the monotonous landscapes of Hungary in late winter was very dreary. In Uzbekistan I had the worst time, because I cycled there in extreme heat and weak from water poisoning. So I’m not keen on going back, but if the occasion arises I probably would – maybe my attitude will change.
- Where did you meet the friendliest people and how did you feel about being around them?
Hospitality in Turkey and Iran was unbelievable. People there are incredibly curious, welcoming and open-minded towards foreigners. With some you just have a cup of tea, trying to communicate the most basic things within 15 minutes and without a common language. Others invite you to their home to stay for a night or more. At least in Iran, at least one family member would usually speak English, which means you can have actual conversations and immensely widen your horizon. Sitting on the carpet in the center of an Iranian living room having dinner with the entire family sometimes felt surreal in its exoticity.
- Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
I was sitting in the Iran-Turkmen border building waiting to get my passport stamped by the border officials. A middle-aged Turkmen woman with the traditional, very ornamental headscarf came over and – I think wordlessly with a somewhat pitying smile – presented me with a pair of newly bought socks with the shop-label still on. That’s when I realized that the hole in the heel of my right sock had become so big, it could actually be seen despite my shoes on… I was too confused to refuse the gift.
- What has been the most under-rated country/place you have been to and why? Most overrated country/place?
Most underrated: Maybe Kyrgyzstan. Many people may have never even heard the name of this remote country in the heart of Asia. It is full of green yurt-dotted high plains, friendly kids on horse- or donkey-back and hospitable people.
Most overrated: Shangri-La comes to mind. It’s a major town at the eastern boundary of the area, where Tibetans are the majority of the population. To the east lies the actual China – with pagodas and mega-cities and Han-Chinese people doing their morning Tai-Chi in the public park. To the west are the highest mountains on Earth, breath-taking Buddhist monasteries and gorgeous Tibetan towns with friendly, traditionally closed locals. Unfortunately, Shangri-La (whose real name Deqen doesn’t sell quite that well in tourist brochures) is not one of these towns, but a kind of Tibet Disneyland designed to be mistaken for the real Tibet by the many tourists who don’t venture further west.
- Tell us about a favourite dish from the world and one from your country that everybody should try (If you have a picture, share it with us).
Turkish food is my favourite, with its focus on well-spiced veggies and garlic. I visited a friend’s home in Western Turkey, where his mother cooked the most amazing food I had on all my travels.
A dish from my country, everybody should try is Apfelstrudel. In Bavaria it can even be eaten as the main dish.
- What is your favourite author and what did you like about his style?
I’m a big fan of Hermann Hesse. He writes in very inspiring way that makes you see the beauty of life and urges you to follow your dreams.
- What is your favourite music?
I’m into Indie-Rock and the like: The Strokes, The Bronx, Calexico (great for desert traveling), Eddie Vedder, Gaslight Anthem, The Hives, Muse, Radiohead, The Tallest Man on Earth,… All great for traveling, as well.
- What song from your country everybody should know?
On my cycling trip, my favorite music was the newcomer album “Sadnecessary” from the German band Milky Chance (English lyrics). Very beautiful, quite unique, somewhat melancholic sound.
- Best foreign curse you know?
It’s not a particular curse, but Kiwis from rural areas are among the best in using swearwords in just about any sentence – even positive ones. A Kiwi farm worker once recommended to me a particular part of his country: “You gotta go down to bloody Te Anau, it’s fucking beautiful down there.”
- You have a chance to ask one question to anyone in history and get an honest reply – what is your question and to whom?
Jesus of Nazareth: do you actually believe you’re the son of god, or is that something other people imputed to you without your consent?
- What is your favourite website (apart from social media platforms)?
At the moment, my favourite travel-related website is pushbikegirl.com. It’s the blog of a German woman, Heike, I met on my trip, who is on an incredible cycling trip from Germany to Australia. She’s taking it slowly with a lot of detours and is on the road since more than two years. She also takes great photos and has a very honest and captivating writing style.
- One thing you don’t like about other travelers or traveling?
I dislike the type of Western backpackers who seem to travel only for drinking and partying without any respect for the host culture. Vang Vieng in Laos is the worst place like that I have seen: a small town full of young, drunk Westerners who walk around with far too few clothes than is acceptable in Laotian culture.
- What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
There are many. One of them is that people even in the most foreign or poorest countries (especially those) are much more likely to help you, then to harm you. Once you move away from the tourist areas, they even stop to see you as a walking money bag. The hospitality I came across throughout Asia and elsewhere I have been moving.
P.S. I challenge you to visit Uzbekistan again!
P.S.2 Wow, Heike is amazing!