Pawel Krzyk is one of NomadMania’s highest ranked travellers and one of 3 Poles to have been to every country in the world. Also a travel author and an avid blogger with his site ‘Travels with Pawel (in Polish only)’, he shares some of his notable adventures with us today.
Paweł, tell us something about your early life and how your love for travel emerged.
Usually I refer to myself as: an entrepreneur who has been a “compulsive traveler” for many years. For over 45 years I have been traveling the world out of passion and inner need. I am not a professional who makes a living earning money by traveling. There are no television cameras and publicity. I only use “my own funding”.
The first time I went abroad was to the border zone in the GDR. My first trip to the West was by bus to Italy after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am a mechanic by profession, and a textile worker for thirty years. Currently, I love to be… retired.
As far as my travel motto is concerned, I consider it to be “what you saw, no one will take away from you”.
It’s not very revealing, but it’s true for me and that’s why I went from a busy entrepreneur to a traveler. In 1994. as a result of unfortunate decisions of state administration officials, my company was stopped in development for over two years, until the decision was withdrawn by the Ministry …
It was then that I really started traveling and I realized that there is time for work, but also time for relaxation.
The Komodo dragon…
What kind of traveller do you see yourself as?
You can travel in different ways. It’s nice to buy a plane ticket, guidebooks and go, but it’s not quite for me. I prefer to refine the trip more, it is worth being prepared. Big hassles can be avoided and you can see much more. I have wandered the world often, either far or close. Now I prefer to go far. I believe that I will be able to go to those closer regions when I am in a worse physical condition. Unfortunately, I am closer than farther “to the eighth continent”, as I read somewhere.
I rather prefer not to go back to the same places, although it is difficult, because some of them are “interchange stations”. If I visit the same place, I try to find something new …
I often travel in a group, usually from two to several people, but recently by necessity alone. In my opinion, it is best to do it with a “soul mate” or in a group of friends, because it is safer, happier, less work in preparation (division of responsibilities), and much cheaper. For many years, my beloved spouse Basia was my best travel companion, but since she caught malaria in Papua New Guinea, she doesn’t want to hear about long trips, unfortunately.
At the beginning, probably as did everyone, I travelled with travel agencies. Later, by myself with a backpack: because it’s cheaper, more interesting and you go wherever you want. I picked up speed when the kids started “flying out” and they didn’t want to go with their parents anymore. So it started intensively … probably somewhere in my forties, and later … when I retired.
Papua New Guinea
Give us some travel stories, either positive or negative, that you remember the best.
Positive, for example, spontaneous meetings on the trail, invitations such as:
-Come and sit with me / us, I invite you to my place …Funny situations occur many times, such as in one of the cities of Uzbekistan. I was there on the day of the end of Ramadan and there were home-made feasts like “big grub”. Speaking Russian but not realizing it was a holiday, I walked in somewhere and just asked. The answers amazed me, after asking:
-who are you? Where are you from? What are you doing here? … they told me:
– we will be very pleased to host you, you will be our guest of honor, and then, if you wish, you will tell us about your trip … Stay a few days.
I was surprised with regret in my eye when I refused, explaining that I was with a group of friends.
Another example, especially in Africa, was very cordial meetings with missionaries and nuns. They are real mines of information about the region and the way it unfolds, thus I avoided any threats …:It happened during the trip that I called “Mundziu in Central Africa” … This country is a reflection of the image of the
African state that exists in the imagination of a television viewer, who draws information about Africa from short news, between the hundredth episode of the series and an ad… Pictures with rebels – their next bestialities, cannibals, all blended into beautiful landscapes and unspoiled nature. Unfortunately, this picture in Central Africa may be true.
– “Who did not manage to escape was ruthlessly killed …” – one of the missionaries told me.
Especially during breakfast, sister Mirka told me about the habits of Negro families: about superstitions, charms, eating souls, and about sorcerers’ judgments. The sorcerer decides whether something specific in a given family is the result of witchcraft. Only a family member may submit to a family member under the judgment of a sorcerer. It is difficult for a European in the twenty-first century to believe in what he seems to be tales and superstitions.
She told me specific examples. About a woman whose daughter has an educated doctor as her husband. Apparently, after bringing her dinner, she was sometimes ill and the doctor-husband could not help her. So he accused his mother-in-law of casting spells! In order to defend herself, she surrendered to the judgment of the sorcerer, who only concluded that the woman did not cause any ailments.
“Nice way to get rid of the mother-in-law, by the way!” A sorcerer’s judgment is socially functional, and its effects can even be death.
Another example: someone lives a very long time and has gray hair. He may face the accusation that he lives longer than others because he eats human souls! For me, pure madness, but showing customs and beliefs
By the way, in Africa I have been called many times: Mundziu, Ferenji, Mzungu, Muzungu, Umuzungu, Abazungu, or Mundele. Most often in local languages, it literally means “white man” – in the sense of European; in some, however, it is a negative term, like “honky” or “nigger”. Admittedly, I have not always been met with this overtone …
And a little more about Mzungu:
In areas where mzungu is unknown and causes concern – especially among children, it is interesting to study the white man by: stroking, smelling or licking the skin, pulling the hair – because black people usually do not have hair on their skin. Especially funny is licking your finger and trying to wash off that “white paint”. Sometimes little children were afraid of me, but they always clung to me
Baka pygmies, Cameroon
Another memorable incident, maybe it’s from Monrovia, Liberia:
I entered Waterside Market, which is not a risky activity, but the same cannot be said for the beach with its fishing harbor by the slums. I know it now, but then I was just walking away, looking at the more and more exotic sights. The market stalls diminished, and finally there were only incredibly winding, narrow paths between the houses built in African style – that is, from what they had at hand. I don’t know how it happened, but I couldn’t figure out where I was.
Normally, when planning a visit, I avoid such places as much as possible. It’s good that I heard the sound of the sea, at least I had an idea of the direction of the walk, because looking at the paths and paths, I wouldn’t get anywhere.
The sound of the sea led me ashore with a few meager fishing boats, with no people interested in the water despite the great weather. I dared to take the camera out, but when I saw, after showing the equipment, strong gestures and a strange interest from a group of young people, I quickly hid everything and turned back.
– But where to go? – Everywhere there is a wall of all kinds of living quarters, between which I saw several small Christian temples. I walked towards them. I noticed a few big youngsters following me, but with a pause and a distance, as if they didn’t want me to notice them.
-They are hunting! – but probably on me and what I have with me, I concluded.
Probably the best method in this case is the buddy trick of the local old man. I do it like this: I do not rush, on the contrary, I slow down and sometimes I greet older men who are usually bored and sit in front of houses or street pubs. I walked over to the pub with a beer and sat down, bowing to the old man. After a while there was a conversation:
– where are you from, and from which country, and where is it, and is Europe very far away ??? I bought him a beer. In the meantime, those who followed me came and wandered around pretending something, and then I noticed the discreet gesture of the old man who shook his finger at them and then raised his voice to leave. I must admit that the invisible “stone” that had grown around my heart disappeared. After half an hour of watching the street, taking pictures with the consent of the old man, I asked:
– which way do you have to go towards the bazaar?
– Take our guest to the bazaar! – my good slum kindred spirit ordered the summoned kid.
Incidentally, it was a month before the ebola outbreak and that area was declared a place of quarantine. The army surrounded the entire area and those leaving it were fired on without warning. I guess I’m lucky …
Stone money, Yap, Micronesia
You are one of the most active travellers during the pandemic, you recently visited many countries in South and Central America. Aren’t you discouraged by travel restrictions, quarantines or test requirements? What are pros and cons of travelling during the pandemic?
The pandemic in March last year turned me back from a trip around the world. I wanted to fly from Brisbane to the islands of Papua New Guinea, and … it turned out that that day all the surrounding countries closed, as if I heard the sound of slamming steel doors … All visas were canceled, prohibitions and quarantines imposed. Almost all my plane tickets were gone.
In January this year, I took advantage of the loosening of covid restrictions and went to South America. Northern Brazil, with the Amazon, Paraguay … etc., to be completed in Mexico – after 72 days of the trip off the popular tourist paths.
I sailed through the Amazon Delta, visited the Asurini de Tocantins warriors, sailed the “Ark …” on the Paraguay River … and practically Mexico all around.
I had frequent inquiries from the fans of my trips:
– How am I doing it? With a pandemic and in general, with a lonely journey through a number of regions and countries?
I already answered: someone would thinks that it is different here than in our country. is wrong. I think that they take care of the masks, disinfecting, covid tests …, keeping the distances … Nothing new – we all know it from everyday practice …
Personally, I was most pissed off by the practices of airlines that change flights as they see fit, without having the customer’s interest in mind. You have a flight ticket, and they change it a few days earlier and they do not mention any refunds. They will give you a voucher with which you can … go to a secluded place …,
-Would you need this flight later? Will you come here again?
Or they will change your flight the day before !!! And then you are in another country … I advise travelers now to buy tickets at the last minute and not use intermediaries, because they care … only about their own profit – certainly not for the client’s interest … But no more whining.
In terms of tests, in my opinion, it is getting better and better. Test centers are popping up at airports and competition for customers is beginning at more competitive prices.
As one of only three Poles you completed 193 countries and you are actively visiting the remaining NomadMania regions, climbing up to top 10 – what are your main travel goals for now?
I don’t know if you will like what I will say in a moment … I was never interested in competing on the list. I signed on for it to check myself, after the suggestion of my friend Artur Anuszewski. It was only then that I found out … that I was quite high.
Currently, Nomadmania serves as a list of places … to visit, if fitness and health permit. I intend to visit Romania, Bulgaria and central England in the summer of 2021. I am also waiting for the loosening of “bans” in Asia and Oceania, I want to complete the interrupted journey, which I wrote about earlier.
A lively impression from Niger
Do you consider yourself lucky in terms of your travel?
Generally I didn’t have any really dangerous situations. Several times I happened to be in places affected by natural disasters and the elements. Twice there were earthquakes of more than 6 degrees … (USA and Indonesia).
A volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. A devastating hurricane in the Philippines – it’s lucky to be on its edge, because there is not much left in the epicenter. I have some luck in this matter. A friend jokes about the good Guardian Angel. Several times, really serious weather events, etc., missed me by the proverbial hair. I was arriving shortly before or after them.
In the Pacific, while visiting the island of Futuna, tropical storms raged on twin island of Wallis – for me I ended up staying only two days longer in the kingdoms on Futuna, and observing huge waves (airports were closed and all ships hid on the leeward).
It is also worth remembering and strictly using my “dictum” – if you get somewhere and your friendly gestures are answered by the locals with gloomy looks and no smile, then just get out of there as quickly as possible using the first available means of transport.
Anadyr, Chukotka, Siberia
You wrote several books about your trips – why did you do that and was it worth the effort?
I started writing about my adventures relatively recently. First, I wrote down my impressions “hot”, mainly on film. Only later did I notice how many memories are slipping away and… how they fade with time and subsequent journeys. I wasn’t going to write, much less in a book. Within a few years, I had the pleasure of hiking with great Polish travelers: Remi Mielcarek (from Poznań, unfortunately deceased), and Wojtek Dąbrowski (from Gdańsk). From Remi I learned to make notes on a regular basis, mainly for myself, to aid my memory, for my family, simply as a souvenir. And under the influence of Wojtek, I created my website (wedrowkizpawlem.pl), where I share my experiences with others.
And then, I felt sorry for the hundreds of hours spent on writing reports, posts in social media and decided to publish them after slight corrections. By the way, it turned out that unless you are really famous, in publications you have no chance to sell your material for a profit, no matter what quality your texts, photos or videos are. So I have books mainly as souvenirs for friends, relatives and friends .
I think writing is the same as with any business, first you need to create a “brand” and advertise it.
Heading to the ice-cap…
And finally our signature question – if you could invite 4 people from any era to dinner, who would your guests be and why?
I have no special wishes in this regard. I can invite everyone if we can get along and find common ground.