Interview with Finah Yusuf

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When I began writing this article, Finah Yusuf was heading for a seven day sailing trip on the Adriatic Sea with some new people whom she’d met and become friends with. At the end of this trip she planned to hitchhike all the way to Turkey from Croatia and explained that at her “home base” in Turkey she would be given accommodation in exchange for teaching English to her host’s children. At that point in her journey Finah had spent the past twelve months hitch hiking through twenty different countries. The story of her travels is a fascinating one which is sure to capture your imagination and ignite your sense of adventure. We communicated with Ms. Finah Yusof via Facebook, below is a condensed version of our conversation:

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So far, which country has been your favourite?
New Zealand is my most favourite country… there is everything in that country! White and black sandy beaches, mountains, beautiful landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, glaciers and the people are like no other people I have ever met. They are so curious, helpful and hospitable.

I was there for 2 months hitch hiking from one end to the other end and I received so many invitations from the locals. I was invited for coffee, for lunch, or to bunk at their place and some people even tried to give me money. Most of the Kiwis I met appreciate the simple life style, which is something that I also value most in my life right now.

When you first began your journey did you think it would last this long?
I didn’t anticipate it going beyond three months. One thing led to another and here I am 12 months later. Just a week before I flew into Germany, I decided I wanted to spend summer in Europe so I bought a ticket.

And believe it or not to date, I have only spent BND 6,000 on my trip inclusive of air tickets. I don’t believe in the commercial side of traveling like paying for accommodation or paying for tour buses. Wherever I’ve gone I have been able to do everything for next to nothing, with a lot of help from the locals.

BND 6,000 for 12 months!!! Did you ever go hungry?
Yes, that’s right! I can’t believe it either! I stayed three months in Europe and only spent BND 200. Australia was the most expensive country for me.

I have lost a bit of weight since I left Brunei, but I never went hungry throughout my trip. I always carry a loaf of bread and some apples with me wherever I go.

What has travel taught you about humanity?
Where do I start? I was taught as a kid, never talk to strangers and that there are so many bad people in the world. But during my trip, I never met any of these bad people. It changed my whole perspective about humanity and this is why I’m still traveling and why I will continue to travel.

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Tell us about hitchhiking. Does being a woman make it more challenging?
I am a hitchhiking maniac now. To me, it is the best way to meet locals and people with unique characters. I learnt so much about the people and the culture of a country just from hitch hiking.

However, sometimes it could get stressful standing on the side of the road, with a smile and with my thumbs out, so I did need to know other strategies which could help me.

Can you share some of those strategies with us?
I have learnt that it’s better to ask people at gas stations because they have a connection with you and can sense that you’re not a psycho. In every country I usually learn some phrases of the language so locals appreciate that I try to speak their language even though I do it in bad accents. I now know how to ask for rides in 14 languages!

Tell us a story about the good people you have met.
Just recently, I crossed the Hungarian and Croatian border by foot and was stuck in a small town in the countryside. It was not a tourist place at all, there was no hotel or hostel. So when I was there, everyone looked at me with much curiosity; was curious about this small Asian girl with a big backpack, it must have been a funny image. It wasn’t a good hitching day. I didn’t get any rides more than 5kms and I was very sick from the cold weather and was naturally stressed out.

Out of no where, a lady approached me outside a bar and asked if me and my traveling partner were okay? So we told her that we’re stuck in the village and I asked her if she knew of any good free spots for putting up a tent. She looked at us like we’re crazy.

Next thing we knew, she invited us to meet her friends. And then, they started calling their relatives and friends to see if anyone have a bed for us. In the end, we got a big comfy bed and more food. It was raining that night too; you could imagine how thankful we were for their act of kindness.

The next day our host took us to a bakery and bought us a traditonal pie and then to the supermarket to get us some snacks for the road. I will never forget that incident.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!