Opinia proudly presents an interview with Wojtek Wójcik, globetrotter and talented photographer. He has recently returned from an 18-month-crossing of Asia and will soon be joining us to moderate the forthcoming travelling section on website sharing unique impressions and stories.

You have been travelling for almost 2 years starting with the Internship in India. Did you plan to go away for that long or was it a spontaneous decision at one point?

I have always dreamt of crossing Asia, especially south east parts of the country. Not further than 2 years ago, names like Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam gave me a thrill of excitement but most of the time I thought about those place like about parts of a completely planet. I have heard about those countries from other globetrotters or Internet blogs. I started with an Internship at the Polish embassy in New Delhi, India. Packing my suitcase I was sure that I would come back in 3 months. I considered coming back to Poland and starting a law career. The plan has apparently changed. After 2 months of an office work, I decided that it was time to see bits and pieces of the world.

So journeys get you in there once you start? Is it hard to give up with this passion, because you have to be definitely passionate about travelling if you decide to take this kind of trips.

Oh, believe me it is true. It is just a fourth month of my stay in Poland after comeback and I have already begun to think where to go and for how long. One of the famous globetrotters said that a journey is either a chase or an escape. You are chasing something which you don’t know, chasing your adventure, seeking new friends and life in which everyday is different. Very often it is an escape from ordinary days and a cover to hide difficulties in leading a stable life. A lot of people have problems staying in one place for a long time. I have just thought about one film character starred by Juliette Binoche in Chocolat (2000). She moved from a place to place ever time she felt the south wind blowing.

Marvellous landscapes preserved from cruel civilization, escapades with native inhabitants, but travelling is not just an easy way as such. Tell us about hardships. Did you land up in any difficult circumstances which have frozen blood in your veins?

With no doubt Asia is one of the safest exotic continents apart from Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been travelling on my own for 18 months. I have joined small ad hoc groups from time to time, but for no longer than 2 weeks. I had a feeling of security, though. Nobody attacked me nor robbed or punched. Asia is not Africa or South America. Asians have a lot of respect for White people. The worst experience was using public transport – buses or other quite unique vehicles.

I was almost scared to death one morning in Burma when we had to travel of a roof of a pick-up on muddy road after a torrential rain that poured throughout the night. The road was in high mountains and the rocky precipices were enormously steep. Myself and my friend form France were on the way back form a wilderness which we visited probably as first tourists ever. The only roads in that area were muddy and they turned into marsh after that pour-down over night. The only way we could make it was travelling on the roof of that pick-up. The vehicle was swinging form side to side and the rocky precipices were so steep that I was ready to jump at any time. Once I had enough of that pressure I took out a Burman cigar and my French comrade started to sing Clandestino Manu Chao and all that stress was gone immediately.

Nevertheless, people can survive hardship when they stay cool minded, maintain their strong will and make sure their make the best use of their social skills. Skills, that you acquired with excellent results. How did you manage to visit so many countries bending the culture and language boundaries?

My trip was a photography journey. Throughout that time I managed to take almost 20 thousand pictures. The shots weren’t repeated nor prepared, they were rather caught spontaneously. My main focus was a human life. One of the masters of the art of photography, Robert Capa said: ‘if your pictures are not good enough, you are not close enough’. I tried to stay close to people. I don’t have any distance lenses or telescopes and I don’t hide in a bush lurking for my ‘victim’. Most of the people were aware they were being photographed. My pictures are natural, spontaneous and dynamic. I have visited 10 Asian countries. After a couple of days of each visit, I could say hello, thank you, and ask if I could take a picture. Obviously it was also very helpful to know the numbers. Asians are very open and friendly people and knowledge of at least a few words in their native languages helps to break the ice in a fastest way.

You have also acquired brilliant communication skills that make people become very friendly to you. On the other hand, these kinds of trips equals with lonely travelling. Not many people are brave enough to visit such nooks of the world. Do you more tend to be a reclusive person who always plays on his own or do you miss people and seek their company?

Frankly speaking, sometimes I have problems trying to find the right place for myself. I always walk my own ways, mostly sideways. For a long time my heroes were characters from Herman Hesse`s books – Steppenwolf or Siddhartha. These characters are lonely heroes who subconsciously follow their goals.

Did you manage to meet Polish people crossing the sideways of Asia?

Unfortunately, young Poles don’t travel a lot, I think about the number of back-packers. I had worked for 6 months in England to cover the costs of my journey around Asian sideways. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going on the adventure. It is relatively cheap to travel in Asia, but for such a long stay I spent all of my savings. Although, it was definitely worth it… In the south east part of the continent, after 3 months of visiting different places, I have heard Polish language in the hotel corridor in Vietnam. I have just busted with joy. That was then when I met wonderful people and new friends.

Such circumstances build strong relationships. People that you have met will remain your friends for a long time.

Obviously, I stay in touch with some of them. Back-packers are connected by the same passion – journey, so it is easy to get on well with them if you feel the same. The advantage of such lifestyle is extraordinary friendships around the world and ties with people who shared the same unique experience.

How about your attitude to photography? It is an adventure to you, like travelling or are you planning to make a living out of that?

Photography is my life. I hope that soon I will be able to turn it into the source of my income. After Charles B. Kovess, Ibelieve that‘Passionate People produce Profit’.

What are we going to present to Leicesterview readers? Are you able to give them a taste of adrenaline and adventure although they will usually become familiar with your stories in house like conditions?

There were a couple of amazing things that happen to me. I was looking for something unique on my way. Very soon I will present my stories in Opinia and Leicesterview covering Indian Weddings, cock fights in Cambodia, Burman experience and many others. I will try to bring the readers closer to Asian atmosphere and do my best to picture the journeys as natural and fabulous as they really were.

Thank your very much for the chat and wish you good luck, many successes and those journeys, slightly shorter ones because otherwise we might miss you too much…

 Joanna Gulbińska

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