Hop off the plane in a land where they don’t speak your language, don’t look like you, and don’t even have an air terminal. It seems like the whole town has gathered to see who is getting off, you look around, finding a friendly face aboard: This is your new partner for the next week.
Traveling alone can bring stress, excitement and danger to any adventurer. Spanish teacher Brian Asher embraces the unknown with open eyes and an open mind as he travels the world in his year away from Rio.
Not much shocks someone who has seen every corner of the world, but when Asher got off the plane in Papua New Guinea, he had an experience unlike any he had had before.
“I went to a place called Papua New Guinea, it supposedly has cannibals and head hunters and that’s stuff of the past, but it’s more dangerous and tribal,” said Asher. “They have face paint and costumes, so going from a nice house in the suburbs to out in the bush that was definitely a big culture shock.”
Papua New Guinea is a relatively poor island country known for its diverse people and languages, and beautiful but isolated environments.
“I got in and the airport had no terminal, so you get out and there’s like a thousand local, tribal people, just staring at you, so I felt pretty uncomfortable,” said Asher. “I went to the one other white person on the plane and it was a missionary that had been working there for 18 years and he said to come with him and that he would take care of me. He took me to his mission (building) where all his priests live and I stayed there for the next five days. It was safe and they went to the communities and gave masses and they treated me like I was a priest in training, so all the local people loved me.”
It’s surprising how welcoming the people he’s met have been. In each country, someone has been willing to help direct, translate or lend a hand.
“The vast majority of the time, you’re amazed by how much people help you out,” said Asher. “Every day I ask people for help and ask questions about rides and can you take me here or explain that and help me change money.”
Although, he is bilingual, most times, translation can be difficult, but with the help of friendly people, he is able to communicate well enough to get around.
“If someone doesn’t speak English, you get a note written for you in Mandarin or Tegali or Nepali and you take it to the bus station and they give you your ticket,” said Asher. “You do your homework, and you get what you need written down to get to the next place.”
So far, Asher has been to 45 countries during this trip. He posts about his adventures on his blog at theworldhiker.com and posts stunning images from on his Instagram account, @theworldhiker.
This last week, he traveled throughout Egypt visiting museums, historic monuments and rafting up and down the Nile. Last Sunday, he visited the pyramids.
“The pyramids were supposed to open at 8, but I showed up at 7, and in a lot of these countries, rules are not really rules,” said Asher. “I got to the gate and the guy told me to come in, so I walked next to the Sphinx and the pyramids and rode a camel before anyone was there. I was done at 10 when the tours started, so I went into the museum with the mummies. Then I went to the big mosque here in town and by that time it was almost sunset. I got this lamb, pita, salad and shawarma for dinner which cost about $2.”
The guest houses in Cairo are built so tourists can see the main attractions all the time. Asher’s guest house has a view of the pyramids from the roof, about 300-400 yards from the entrance.
“When I got back to my guest house they had a light show at the pyramids which I could see from my roof,” said Asher.
Asher is now in Saudi Arabia, a country many Western tourists avoid. It can be difficult to get a visa to Saudi Arabia, but Asher found that if he purchased a ticket to a car race he could get the visa and a little time explore.
Calling himself the World Hiker on his web site and Instagram account, Asher plans on seeing as many countries as possible. The time Asher spends in each country varies depending on the size, his interest and the amount of activities available to him.
The least visited country on earth, Nauru, is only 8 square miles, so Asher was able to ride a motorcycle around the Pacific island 10 times during his short visit.
“That one, three days was more than enough,” said Asher. “Nepal was one of my favorites and I was there for 20 days, and if I could, I would go back tomorrow.”
Nepal was Asher’s most memorable visit. The scenery and beautiful hikes catered to his passions.
“Nepal is probably the number one country I’ve been to because I love hiking,” said Asher. “I love the outdoors, and going to different monasteries and doing different treks and seeing the prayer flags and mountains was beautiful.”
Asher said he only plans 2-4 weeks ahead and never more than a few countries because he never knows what he’s going to see or find, so he doesn’t want to have to leave before he can fully absorb the beauty of a country.
Now exploring Africa and the Middle East, places sometimes unwelcoming to tourists, Asher anticipates that his traveling will slow quite a bit.
“I’m planning on traveling quite a bit this whole year that I’m taking off,” said Asher. “I had no idea I’d be able to get through 45 countries by now in about six months. I’m going to start getting to countries that are a little bit harder, so it’s going to slow down once I get to African countries.”
These countries are often dangerous, so Asher travels safely. His experience traveling over 100 countries before this can be seen in the precautions and measures he takes.
“I always ask people that live there and get multiple opinions and go with company if I need to,” said Asher. “I meet different people all the time and you can join up with them short-term or long-term, but in general I’d say I’m traveling solo.”
Each country Asher visits has a budget. By flying, staying, eating and commuting as cheaply as possible, he is able to keep each new stop to just a couple hundred dollars.
“The preparing and the logistics for planning 45 countries by yourself is rough,” said Asher. “I never sign up for any tours. I’m spending a lot of time planning my own trips and trying to do it as cheaply as I can. For example, tonight I spent less than $5 on dinner.”
After years of exploration and preaching to his class the importance of experiencing all the world has to offer, Asher is finally living out his dream.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I think postponing your big dreams in life is not something that I want to do and never get around to it, so I don’t want to wait until I’m 70 and assume it’ll happen or something,” said Asher. “I wanted to go for it. That’s what I talk about in class, so that’s how I try to live.”
The experience has been non-stop and action packed. Each place he visits, Asher tries to see what life is truly like there rather than just the tourist attractions.
“I feel like I’m more on an adventure than on a vacation,” said Asher. “I don’t really sit around and go to the beach, whatever you picture as a relaxing vacation, that’s not my style. It’s hiking, it’s going to markets, it’s trying to visit as many places as I can.”
This truly life-changing, incredible experience must come to an end eventually, and Asher does miss life back home, especially Rio. He plans to return to Rio next year and continue teaching Spanish.
“I miss it,” said Asher. “When you’re used to having 160-170 students in your class everyday it’s awfully strange when everyone’s there and you’re gone. I miss a lot of them and I love my former students. It’s a different feeling when you’re on your own traveling.”
To see more of Brian Asher’s pictures or to keep up with his travels, visit his Youtube channel or his Instagram account, @TheWorldHiker.