Trekking Travel Buddy

A few years ago there was a marketing campaign launched by the beer company Dos Equies about the 'Most Interesting Man in the World.' Well, that ad was fiction because in reality, Stefan's like easily takes the prize. My first encounter with Stefan was in the living room of Almaty Dom Hostel on my second day in the country while a couple of other backpackers were discussing a particular mountain climb they just did in the area that had taken them just over eleven hours to complete. This caught both of our attentions. We asked how to get to this location, and once we got the information, we agreed to attempt it the following day, but under one condition. We were going to go fast. Getting riled up, we ultimately challenged ourselves to cut the other group's time in half. That's how it began, and little did I know, it would by no means be our last trek or adventure. It was to continue not only across Kazakhstan, but would continue into it's neighbor, Kyrgyzstan, as well.

You can probably guess by my opening line that Stefan hasn't lived the standard life. Initially, I wasn't aware of this (although I could probably guess, since standard people don't usually go backpacking through Kazakhstan) but once we began sharing stories during our first trek together, my attention was instantly hooked. As it turns out, Stefan decided to up and leave his native Germany in his mid 20s and travel around the world in as many places as he could for as long as he could. He had no money and did the entirety of his traveling either alone or just with his brother. And over the next seven years, he would see more than 100 countries on six continents (not Antarctica) before ultimately settling into a job that required him to go from country to country, working on engineering projects.

While I thought that overall summary was beyond impressive, the stories he then dove into absolutely blew my mind. Such notable ones go as follow:

  • working at a fishery in Australia
  • getting robbed by members of the Nigerian army at gunpoint
  • hitchhiking in the US and getting picked up by a heroine addict
  • staying with a nomadic family in Mongolia
  • illegally train hopping (hoboing) through multiple countries
  • dangerously close encounter with a black bear
  • Riding on top of 18-wheel freight trucks in India

Seemingly everything he had done so vastly differed from the standard human experience. Most of us live our entire lives without doing anything remotely close to just one of the many occurrences he spoke of, yet Stefan did each and more. And to cap it all off, he still had the energy and stamina to keep up with me, a caffeinated former marathoner during mountain trekking. For this, I think only one quote will do: "Impressive. Most impressive."