Meet the Singaporean man who hitchhiked across 21 countries in 8 months on S$100 a week

Meet the Singaporean man who hitchhiked across 21 countries in 8 months on S$100 a week

Gumption, guts and a gung-ho ‘tude – these are just some of the traits Mohd Sufian took with him on his epic journey.

Sometimes, the best trips are the spontaneous ones. This can’t ring any truer for Singaporean Mohd Sufian, a former fashion designer.

How to spot a Singaporean from a mile away (no, not from the woolly hat)

In December last year, the 34-year-old — who quit his job three years ago to travel — purchased a one-way ticket to London on a whim because “it was really cheap”. Since then, he has been on a whirlwind tour of Europe and Asia, traversing UK, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia, to be chronologically correct.

Urban myth confirmed: Graffiti magically sprouts on all flat surfaces

With just one outstretched thumb (the universally-understood hand sign for “I need a ride, please”) and the help of kind souls enabling his sojourn from country to country, he’s finally making his way back home. Last we heard, he was setting up camp at “a beach near Kuala Lumpur”.

Only an ex fashion designer can make hitchhiking look fabulous

Survival mode ON

Sufian’s eight-month hitchhiking adventure wasn’t his first though; he had his first taste of it in Myanmar in 2016. Hungry for more, Sufian headed to Borneo the following year and set off on an epic journey spanning more than 1,000km across Sabah, Brunei, and Sarawak. His addiction to travel gained traction and he found himself abroad again in 2017 — this time in London, on an exceptionally cold day in December that year.

Affirming the aforementioned graffiti myth again

As envy-inducing and exciting as his travels sounds, it wasn’t without its kinks. Apart from getting his tent stolen in Belgium, Sufian’s bank card was tampered with in Vietnam, which left him S$800 out of pocket — a big dent in his already meagre budget.

Is that a LIFE-SIZED chocolate bar?

No, S.V.P doesn’t stand for Super Valuable Player

When adversity happens, one has to trudge on. Though Sufian’s budget of S$3,500 may seem a lot, it works out to be a not-so-princely sum of S$100 a week; spare change in expensive countries like Germany. To stretch his dollar, he embarked on a rather extreme sustenance “programme” — dumpster diving. Sufian didn’t go as far as eating literal trash, but looked for discarded produce that were otherwise still good for consumption; and so there were times he found himself sifting through the bins of supermarkets. To make a little go a long way, Sufian also ate a lot of bread when he was in Europe.

The Singaporean privilege

In Europe, the average time taken to hitch a ride was 20 minutes. Which wasn’t surprising, considering the Europeans’ acceptance of hitchhiking. In Asia however, it was the complete opposite, which perturbed Sufian, as it was contrary to his positive experiences in Myanmar and Borneo.

Channeling the glamourous recruit life in Luzerne

In China, he was stranded in Lanzhou for a whole two days; all the drivers he encountered drove past him. With the help of locals, he finally found out why. Due to his darker skin tone, the locals thought that he was Tibetan (the frosty relations between Tibet and China are well documented), and thus were unwilling to give him a ride. In a Eureka moment, he sprawled a large “From Singapore” sign in Chinese, headed back to the road and lo! — he was on his way again.

In Thailand, Sufian found himself in a similar sticky situation. According to a Thai friend, locals are generally wary of picking up their fellow citizens, though he did not elaborate why. To get around it, he used the sign trick again, but this time with his destination written in English to let drivers know that he hails from a foreign land.

The Human Connection #1: Home is where the heart literally is

In Nizhny Novgorod, a city in Western Russia, Sufian was eating a kebab at a train station when he noticed a homeless man trying to get his attention. Conversing in broken English, Sufian realised that he needed help with his luggage, and proceeded to assist him. Out of nowhere, the homeless man shouted “I MISS YOU!” into Sufian’s face. Baffled by this random declaration of longing despite still being at the scene, the duo struck up a conversation, which was aided by Google. Through their chat, Sufian came to find out that his new-found friend, Sergey, previously led a privileged life, only to lose it all.

When it was time to part, Sufian asked Sergey where his home was that night. Like a sagely wise man (or a homeless one), Sergey placed his hand on his chest and said that “my home is inside.” Considering that it was a freezing minus ten degrees Celsius, Sergey must have a strong conviction about where his home is!

One of Sufian’s couchsurfing hosts in Lithuania is a history teacher who invited him to meet his students and share insights about life in Singapore. Yes, durians are real, kids

The Human Connection #2: Leave your common sense at the car door. But only sometimes

In Kyrgyzstan, Sufian hitched a ride in a car filled with drunks. Despite his reservations, he decided to disregard his common sense and took a leap of faith (don’t try this at home, kids!).

Luckily for him, they didn’t turn out to be a gang of inebriated psychopaths, but a group of folks who enjoyed fishing and barbeque, activities which Sufian participated in with them after they deviated from his intended destination. Consider this hitchhike attempt a failure if you must, but he made lifelong friends in a situation that could have easily ended up awry.

Words of wisdom

Where is Sufian now? Follow him on Instagram at @ahgirltravels

Also read: Meet the Singaporean Duo Who Cycled & Hitchhiked from Iran to Turkey

About Author

Fiona Chen
Fiona Chen

Fiona is a beach person who can't swim and a mountain lover afraid of heights.