Backpacking in 19 destinations in 19 months, the Omani youngster shares his life-defining tales with Hasan al Lawati to bring home the point: there is more to it than good food, star hotels and exotic places
To many tourists, travelling is all about staying in luxurious hotels, visiting iconic destinations and enjoying exotic cuisines. But this youngster took the road less travelled by most Omani tourists.
Fuelled by a strong passion to leave his footprint on the world, Saleh Al Khanjari embarked on a journey of hope, faith and love.
Backpacking in 19 overlooked destinations over a period of 19 months, the 26-year-old Omani lived in a remote village in Malawi, gardened at a Turkish family, volunteered at a refugee camp in Athens and slept in a crowded hostel in Mexico.
“Unfortunately, many so-called travellers care about covering a large number of countries in a short period of time rather than actually exploring the beauty of it or spending time with the locals,” he explained.
Inspired by a fellow traveller, Al Khanjari decided to get out of his comfort zone and quit his job as a well engineer to explore the world’s hidden gems.
“I wanted to prove to the world that travelling can not only be cheap, but very safe too. Here in the Arab world, we have totally wrong ideas about some countries. I challenged myself by travelling to places that others warned me against visiting,”
The free-spirited backpacker hitchhiked his way from Iran to Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and, finally, Muscat.
“It is important to learn a few words of every language to start a conversation. Solo travelling improves communication and leadership skills,” he said.
Al Khanjari had zero cooking skills before he started his daring lifestyle, but complete independency taught him how to cook basic meals with simple tools.
In Greece, on the second leg of his tour, he did volunteering work before heading for Germany and then to Mexico, his favourite destination.
“I fell in love with Mexico. The people there are similar to Omanis, very social and have family values families. Despite trying hard to spend as little as I could, the airfares, insurance covers and visas cost a lot,” he explained.
Humbled by the generosity of the people he met on the tour, and happy with the rich experience the tour had provided him, Al Khanjari has no plans to quit his travel quest at any time soon. And so are his 16,000 Instagram followers.