He had been stranded in Mozambique for nearly three months and eventually had his global trip cut short due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
He covered 80,000km across 65 countries and territories.
The 33-year-old traveler from the southern province of Tien Giang is now quarantined in a centralized facility as a COVID-19 precaution in the northern province of Hung Yen, where he sat down for an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on June 17, his first day home after nearly three years on the road.
The interview was conducted in Vietnamese and translated into English and edited by Tuoi Tre News for clarity, consistency, and coherence.
Hi Khoa! What does it feel right now as you have just come back home after nearly three months staying put in Mozambique, where you were not sure if you would be able to continue your trip or return home because of COVID-19?
I first started my trip from Moc Bai Border Gate on June 1, 2017, so I planned to return to Vietnam by road through the same border gate where I had departed. The planned route was Africa - India - Myanmar - Thailand - Cambodia - Moc Bai Border Gate.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 broke out all over the world and Africa had its borders shut down so I had to send my motorbike by sea from Mozambique to Vietnam and stayed there waiting for a flight home.
Last week, I was in Mozambique having no idea when I could return to Vietnam and only hoped to be home before Tet [Vietnam's Lunar New Year due in February 2021]. I’d been away from home for three Tet holidays.
However, only two days later, the Vietnamese Embassy in Mozambique informed Vietnamese citizens who were stranded in the country that there would be a repatriation flight. On June 15, other people and I hopped on a plane and arrived in Vietnam on the morning of June 16.
It’s a pity as I have yet to see my family and friends due to this quarantine. I’m not complaining about it because our people have united in fighting the virus. I’ve heard a lot about compliments given to Vietnam for its fight against COVID-19 from people around the world.
It’s not a big deal if I have to wait for 14 more days, as I’ve already been away from family and friend for over 1,000 days.
Do you regret not completing your global trip?
Not much, because I have been to the places I planned to visit, had an unforgettable trip of my life, saw with my eyes landscapes and people around the world, as well as learning countless meaningful lessons which I would have never been able to if I had not started the trip.
Arriving at the quarantine zone in Hung Yen, my fellow returnees and I were well received and treated to great meals. I had never imagined that my first meal in Vietnam after 1,000 days would be in a quarantine zone, and I was even more surprised because it was stunningly good.
How is it like to be stuck alone in Africa due to COVID-19?
I first heard about COVID-19 on the final days of our lunar year last year when I was in Madagascar. Seeing people coping with COVID-9 in Africa made me better understand the impermanence of life.
On the way, I saw weddings and funerals. The cycle of life is unavoidable, so let us be happy today, love one another, help one another. Life has ups and downs and we never know.
While being helped by people, I also helped many on the road. Kindness is omnipresent and it brings joy. I’ve realized that you do not have to refuse people’s help, just take it when you need it and help others later as a way to spread joy for yourself and others.
During my trip, I had unpleasant experiences with bad people, but good people always showed up to help me. After this memorable journey, I will always keep in mind that basically our world is full of good people.
As a globetrotter, are you looking at Vietnam from a different perspective?
I am positive and adaptable. So even before I started my trip, I opened my mind to what people often complain about Vietnam.
Mozambique is not a rich country but I barely heard honking sounds on its streets. Meanwhile in Vietnam, honking is a big issue. But I tell myself that it’s understandable that a hectic life in the urban regions of Vietnam make it easier for drivers to get frustrated and thus honk their horns. We can gradually change things if we think that way and remind one another to try to alter our habit. We should look at two sides of the same coin, as every cloud has a silver lining.
For example, street peddling may cause concerns over messy sidewalks or unhygienic food, but it makes buying and selling very easy in Vietnam. In the U.S., streets are well organized but there is no way you can take a few steps out and have tons of options on what to buy.
So, it is important that we think positively to change everything altogether. Heaven is not the only place where you can find happines. If heaven is not a suitable place for you, it surely will not bring you happiness.
After visiting all those places around the world, which is the most beautiful?
Now Vietnam is the most beautiful place to me. In Vietnam, I can get good jobs, have new opportunities, do what I want, and help make change. More importantly, I have my family and friends here.
Travel has brought you a lot, from knowledge to fame and money. Do you encourage young people to follow suit?
I don’t encourage anyone to do what I do. I encourage them to do what they are interested in and good at. This is also my perspective on educating my children in the future. I want to encourage them to do what they love to, not to follow in others' footsteps.
Do you have to sacrifice anything for your trip?
Time, health, and relationships with family, friends, and the society. Just imagine in three years you cannot see your family and friends, as well as the moments you have to celebrate Tet holidays and birthdays alone.
Have you become more mature or different than before?
More mature for sure. Following this trip, I think I could become a more responsible man for my family. Before I always wanted to be back on the road again right after I finished a trip. But now I have started to think of a family with children, as during my trip around the world I have seen many happy families, which touched my heart.
I want to get married and have kids soon so I could have another round-the-world trip with my wife and children. That trip may last for one year in a car. I am still eager to discover new horizons.